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Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Transformation, not Calculation

Grace Episcopal Church
Sheboygan, Wisconsin

Grace Notes
16 March 2017

In Lent we remind ourselves of the ways in which we fall short of who and what God calls and equips us to be.  We remind ourselves that God will transform us when we turn to Him.  This process of transformation can appear to be quite “passive”, particularly from the perspective of the broader culture, a culture which counsels that we are to make of ourselves whatever it is we will become.
What is our answer to the criticism that relying on God is passive?  What do we say to those who think we are just throwing our hands up, and that we need to better “self-actualize”?
For purposes of brevity, I’ll characterize the position from which transformation in Christ is questioned as “Secular Humanism”.  This isn’t entirely fair, but let’s just use it to keep the argument focused.  It is the weakness of Secular Humanism to fall short in the imagination of ecstasy, of new life, or union with the divine.  At its best Humanism is noble.  It is reasonable, but also cold.  However optimistic a Humanistic perspective may be about balanced happiness in this world, it is pessimistic about or dismissive of a rapturous eternity.  A confirmed Humanist may be wistfully aware that others claim the experience of positive bliss, but the Humanist can neither accept this supernatural reality by faith, embrace it by hope, nor abandon himself or herself to it is charity.  How to live remains a calculation about how I can make myself better, and help to make the world around me better.
There’s certainly nothing wrong in my seeking to be a better person, and seeking to make the world a better place.  The problem is that when I limit this “project” to human imagination the scope is too limited.  I cannot, on a purely rational basis, bring myself to the level of altruism which begins to look like real love.  More dangerously, when I begin to explore how to really make the world around me “better”, I find that this must involve the imposition of my will (or the will of some collective group), and even as a purely rational soul I’ll at some point admit that any imposition of will shall not remain disinterested and altruistic.  Some of the greatest tyrannies of the past century arose from the rational desire to make society “better”, a desire which was corrupted into practices in which society was “improved” by the elimination of “problems” (e.g., “undesirable” or “counterrevolutionary” people).
Love doesn’t make sense.  “Sense” involves some level of self-interest.  But love transforms, and when we focus on God we focus on love.  We are transformed.  In Lent, let’s remember that we aren’t trying to figure out how to better.  We are seeking to abandon ourselves to God by stripping away the barriers we have erected in our lives, to experience the reality of new life.

Grace aboundsPlease thank: 
§  BSA Troop 801 for the Sunday pancake hours!
§  Elaine Dinstuhl and Jennifer Pawlus for the Friday Lenten supper.
§  Dale Massey for help in the office.
Special “Thank You’ s” :  A supply of Thank You note cards can be found on the table at the back of church nave.  When someone in the parish does something special, take the time to write them a personal note.  Also, from time to time, think about who you might want to thank for ongoing service, and let them know you have noticed!

Call for ContributionsIf you have a spiritual reflection to share, or want to point your fellow worshipers toward a resource, submit your contributions to Fr. Karl (by email) by Wednesday in the week of publication.

Don’t forget “Something Extra for Grace”:  Supplemental giving envelopes can be found in pews.  If you want to give something extra, please use an envelope to ensure that you are credited.

Taking God’s Mercy and Delight into the Neighborhood:  The Diocese has a new website (www.diofdl.org).  One link you can find is for the 13 May conference which will take place in Waupaca, at http://www.diofdl.org/sc.html .  Please check out the details and register.  We will plan to carpool.  With enough people we’ll take a van.  Limited scholarship funds are available for registration.
This is a conference focused on equipping you to reach out.  For details, please ask Fr. Karl.

Music this Week:          The Third Sunday in Lent
                                      Organist:  Ben Dobey

Prelude                          Chorale Preludes on Lord, keep us steadfast by thy Word 
                                                                 Johann Pachelbel & Dietrich Buxtehude
Entrance Hymn  401     “The God of Abraham praise”                                 Leoni
Sequence Hymn  658    “As longs the deer for cooling streams”          Martyrdom
Offertory Hymn 149     “Eternal Lord of love, behold your Church”         Old 124th
Communion Motet        Like as the hart                                         Healey Willan
Comm. Hymn: 684        “O for a closer walk with God”                           Caithness
Closing Hymn 344         “Lord, dismiss us with thy blessing;”        Sicilian Mariners
Postlude                        Prelude and Fugue in G Minor                    J. K. F. Fischer
                            
Parish Notices

§  Adult Education: On Sunday, March 19th, at 9:00 a.m. we continue the course on Sacramental Identity – Holy Eucharist.  This course follows the scheme set forth in the 2008 book of David A. deSilva, Sacramental Life: Spiritual Formation Through The Book of Common Prayer, exploring how liturgies of The Book of Common Prayer give us a language and a context for encountering God. 
§  Sunday School Snacks: We are in need of some healthy snacks for our Sunday School classes. Each class has a moment of prayer followed by fellowship with snacks and a drink. The kids have fun serving each other as well. If you are able, we would appreciate donations of snacks and juice boxes to be placed on the desk of our craft supply room in the basement. We have some children who have gluten allergies so including a few options without gluten would also be appreciated. Thank you!
§  Stations of the Cross, Simple Suppers and Teaching:  We will meet each Friday at 5:15 pm for a Prelude of Lenten Organ Music and Stations of the Cross at 5:30 p.m., followed by a simple supper and Christian formation. Our formation program this year will be Bishop Matt’s Lenten series for parishes focusing on the Diocesan Vision for us to be communities of God’s mercy and light. This is not a study but rather a time of listening to God and one another; a time for storytelling and reflecting on our stories; a time of beginning or continuing discernment, both for ourselves and for our community of faith. Please sign up on the sheets in the Narthex so we will know how much food needs to be prepared.
§  Cooking on Friday Evenings in Lent: If you are interested in cooking and hosting a dinner on the Fridays during Lent, April 7th is still open - please sign-up on the sheet in the Narthex. Thank you for your willingness to serve in this manner.
§  Happening #73: Happening #73 will take place Friday evening, March 31 through Sunday afternoon April 2, 2017 at All Saints Appleton. This is a unique Christian experience for youth who are in grade 9 through 12 - a weekend of singing, fellowship, surprises, prayer, fun and friendship. Deadline to register is March 24, 2017. Pamphlets regarding this event can be found on the table in the Narthex. For more information or to discuss financial assistance go to happening@diofdl.org.
§  Easter Flowers and Music: Please donate for Easter Flowers and Music. We enjoy the Beauty of Holiness in both the flowers that adorn the church and the special music which includes strings at the Solemn Mass on Easter morning. Please be generous as you are able. Please call the office or fill out the slip found in the mass booklet to indicate your wish for memorials and/or thanksgivings. The deadline is Monday, April 10th at noon.
§  Easter Vigil Dinner: The first Mass of the Resurrection is on Saturday, April 15th, at 7:00 p.m. The Easter celebration then continues at Trattoria Stefano, 522 South 8th Street, at 9:30 p.m. The actual cost of the meal is a gift to the parish, so you not only get a delicious meal but you help the church by purchasing a ticket for the dinner. Tickets can be bought in the parish office or in the narthex after mass for $50 a person. Everyone is invited, but seats are limited. There are scholarships for anyone wishing to attend but are unable to donate.
§  Volunteer needed to organize the Annual Bake/Plant Sale: This annual event takes place, in conjunction with St. Luke United Methodist Church Rummage Sale, on Friday, April 28th (noon – 3:00 p.m.) and Saturday, April 29th (9:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.) – the first weekend after Easter. As well as an organizer we will need volunteers to bake brownies (Jessica Ambelang will provide pans, ingredients and instructions), and help set-up and take down. Anyone interested in organizing or helping in this event, please call the office at 920-452-9659 or call/text Jessica Ambelang on 920-918-5667.
§  Rummage Sale: In the past, a rummage sale has always taken place in conjunction with the Annual Bake/Plant Sale. If anyone is interested in organizing a rummage sale, please call the office at 920-452-9659 or call/text Jessica Ambelang on 920-918-5667.
§  Like Grace Episcopal Church on Facebook: @gracesheboygan
§  Follow Grace Church on Twitter: @gracesheboygan
§  Follow Grace Church on Instagram: @gracesheboygan
§  We Are on Itunes! Check out the new podcast!!!




Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Earthly and Heavenly

Grace Episcopal Church
Sheboygan, Wisconsin

Grace Notes
9 March 2017


If I have told you about earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you about heavenly things?” (Jn. 3.12).   In the gospel lesson for this coming Sunday we encounter what is probably the best-known verse in all of Scripture, Jn. 3.16.  But let’s encounter this verse having first focused on Jesus’ question in the same discourse (highlighted above).  Jesus asks this question of Nicodemus in the context of speaking about new life, of new life in the Spirit.  At first blush, Nicodemus’ questions are not unreasonable, and for Jesus to characterize being born into new life in the Spirit as an “earthly thing” is puzzling.  It is certainly puzzling for Nicodemus, and for us as well, unless and until we perceive that what Jesus describes as earthly is what can be experienced.  We can, in fact, experience new life, and in this experience of new life we can participate in the heavenly things of which Jesus then speaks, such as the love of God being so all-encompassing as to merit the infinite price of His only Son.
A heavenly thing involves what God reveals—how He reveals Himself and His will.  In Jesus’ words, we cannot believe in this revelation if we do not first experience God at work in our lives.  Is belief, then, a “chicken or the egg” problem?  Let’s go back to those two verses from the gospel lesson.  3.12 is above.  3.16 is “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”  The heavenly things to be believed in in this revelation include God’s love, His will to salvation, and His call to all persons to respond to Him in order to participate in eternal life.  What are the earthly things that I must first believe in order to respond to this revelation?  I must first believe:  (1) This life is not all there is.  (2) My life is not lived in a vacuum.  (3)  I am not “in charge”.  I cannot determine the trajectory of my life just through my own willpower. 
The earthly things of which Jesus speaks all involve experiencing life as a miracle, as a whole which is far greater than whatever part I might seek to define and have pretended dominion over.  I must “turn,” i.e., away from the conviction that I am sovereign.  I must be born into a new awareness.  I must be open to the reality that I won’t just “figure out” life.  It is then that I can be open to the heavenly things God reveals.  I can participate in and respond to this revelation.  I can believe in heavenly things. 
Let’s get practical in Lent.  If I can come to understand the three earthly things numbered above, I can be open to turning.  I can be open to God’s love, and in this love—in this relationship—I can come to experience and know how much greater life is than whatever I can imagine or fantasize about.  The greatest love that Jesus reveals is a reality I can truly believe in, because I will begin to experience it.

Grace aboundsPlease thank: 
§  Kevan and Traci Revis, and Leslie Kohler for the Sunday coffee hours.
§  Bobbie May for help in the library.
§  Dale Massey for help in the office.

Last Sunday before the class between masses started, I asked Jim Gardner his opinion about a procedure for scanning family photos.  It was an either/or question.  He promptly gave me the answer, and I was happy to have that information.  A while later Jim handed me a page of information he had jotted down—information about scanner settings to use to get the best results.  Jim gave me very beneficial information I hadn’t even known enough to ask for. 
I was quite taken aback by Jim’s generosity.  And my mind went to the thought that God wants to give us so much more than we even know or dare to ask for.
Thank you, Jim, for very helpful information and for the reminder to be open to God’s abundance.  (Pat Sather)

Call for ContributionsIf you have a spiritual reflection to share, or want to point your fellow worshipers toward a resource, submit your contributions to Fr. Karl (by email) by Wednesday in the week of publication.

Don’t forget “Something Extra for Grace”:  Supplemental giving envelopes can be found in pews.  If you want to give something extra, please use an envelope to ensure that you are credited.

Music this Week:          The Second Sunday in lent
                                      Organist:  Ben Dobey

Prelude                         Exc. from Seven Sketches on Verses from the Psalms
                                                                                                      Percy Whitlock
Introit                           Call to remembrance
Tract (choir)                   Psalm 106.1—5
Offertory Hymn 448      “O love, how deep, how broad, how high”     Deus tuorum
                                                                                                          militum
Communion Motet        Dear Lord and Father of Mankind        C. Hubert H. Parry
Closing Hymn 142         “Lord, who throughout these forty days”          St. Flavian
Postlude                        Fantasia in C Minor รก 5 cinque voci                    J. S. Bach
                            
Parish Notices

§  Please join us for a Scout Appreciation "Pancake Breakfast": We invite you to stay a few minutes after each service on Sunday. March 12th, to savor a down home Pancake Breakfast prepared by the Boy Scouts. Maple Syrup will be supplied by the Drewry Farms of Plymouth. This award winning Maple Syrup is served at all the major restaurants in the area and beyond. The Scouts will also have available Maple Syrup gift assortments.
§  Adult Education: On Sunday, March 12th,  at 9:00 a.m. we continue the course on Sacramental Identity – Holy Eucharist.  This course follows the scheme set forth in the 2008 book of David A. deSilva, Sacramental Life: Spiritual Formation Through The Book of Common Prayer, exploring how liturgies of The Book of Common Prayer give us a language and a context for encountering God. 
§  Compline: On Sunday, March 12th we will meet at 6:30 p.m. in St. Nicholas Hall for a potluck supper followed at 8:00 pm. with Compline sung by the Schola Cantorum. This is a beautiful restful service full of candles and music. A sign-up sheet for the supper can be found on the table in the Narthex.
§  Sunday School Snacks: We are in need of some healthy snacks for our Sunday School classes. Each class has a moment of prayer followed by fellowship with snacks and a drink.  The kids have fun serving each other as well.  If you are able, we would appreciate donations of snacks and juice boxes to be placed on the desk of our craft supply room in the basement.  We have some children who have gluten allergies so including a few options without gluten would also be appreciated.  Thank you!
§  Lenten Booklet: Copies are available on the table in the Narthex and on our parish website www.gracesheboygan.com For each of the forty days of the Lenten season, this booklet contains a Gospel lesson taken from the Eucharistic lectionary for the weekdays in Lent, plus the Sunday Eucharistic lectionary. Following each Gospel lesson is the Collect prayer for the celebration of Eucharist on each day. Then follows the meditations written by parishioners. After each meditation, space is allowed for you to note your own reflections.
§  Stations of the Cross, Simple Suppers and Teaching:  We will meet each Friday at 5:30 p.m. for Stations of the Cross, followed by a simple supper and Christian formation. Our formation program this year will be Bishop Matt’s Lenten series for parishes focusing on the Diocesan Vision for us to be communities of God’s mercy and light. This is not a study but rather a time of listening to God and one another; a time for storytelling and reflecting on our stories; a time of beginning or continuing discernment, both for ourselves and for our community of faith. Please sign up on the sheets in the Narthex so we will know how much food needs to be prepared.
§  Cooking on Friday Evenings in Lent: If you are interested in cooking and hosting a dinner on the Fridays during Lent, please sign-up on the sheets in the Narthex. Next week, March 17th and April 7th are still open. Thank you for your willingness to serve in this manner.
§  Happening #73: Happening #73 will take place Friday evening, March 31 through Sunday afternoon April 2, 2017 at All Saints Appleton. This is a unique Christian experience for youth who are in grade 9 through 12 - a weekend of singing, fellowship, surprises, prayer, fun and friendship. Deadline to register is March 24, 2017. For more information or to discuss financial assistance go to happening@diofdl.org. Also see the brochures on the table in the Narthex.
§  Volunteer needed to organize the Annual Bake/Plant Sale: This annual event takes place, in conjunction with St. Luke United Methodist Church Rummage Sale, on Friday, April 28th (noon – 3:00 p.m.) and Saturday, April 29th (9:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.) – the first weekend after Easter. As well as an organizer we will need volunteers to bake brownies (Jessica Ambelang will provide pans, ingredients and instructions), and help set-up and take down. Anyone interested in organizing or helping in this event, please call the office at 920-452-9659 or call/text Jessica Ambelang on 920-918-5667.
§  Rummage Sale: In the past a rummage sale has always taken place in conjunction with the Annual Bake/Plant Sale. If anyone is interested in organizing a rummage sale, please call the office at 920-452-9659 or call/text Jessica Ambelang on 920-918-5667.
§  Like Grace Episcopal Church on Facebook: @gracesheboygan
§  Follow Grace Church on Twitter: @gracesheboygan
§  Follow Grace Church on Instagram: @gracesheboygan
§  We Are on Itunes! Check out the new podcast!!!



Thursday, March 2, 2017

Bounded Humility

Grace Episcopal Church
Sheboygan, Wisconsin

Grace Notes
2 March 2017

St. Chad of Lichfield (d. 672) is remembered this day.  Far be it from me to in any way question Chad’s holiness, but let’s consider how Chad may set a negative example in ministry.
As bishop, Chad made all of his rounds by foot, until at some point the Archbishop of Canterbury provided him with a horse and ordered him to use it.  The record of the reasoning behind Chad’s choice and the archbishop’s order is unclear.  Perhaps (in concert with a deep vein in Celtic spirituality) Chad preferred to walk in order to be in better tune with his surroundings, to be “grounded” in the places to which ministry called.  Perhaps the archbishop was thinking like a good manager, and wanted Chad to be more efficient in his rounds.  In the absence of real details, we can only speculate, and so must exclude Chad being in reality a negative example.
But consider how he might have been.  If his decision to walk was an exercise in humility, or an reflection of his own spirituality, it is possible that the archbishop (if, in fact, he was seeking to promote wider ministry), then this history illustrates how any spirituality—no matter how genuine and no matter how holy—must be lived out in the context not only of my relationship with God, but my relationship with others around me.  Very few are called to the life of a hermit, and for the rest of us who are not, we must always be conscious of the boundaries of our spiritual space.  Being conscious of such boundaries is, in fact, humility.  Humility involves my first recognizing my utter dependence upon God, but the how this dependence is manifested on my dependence of my fellow believers.  With the rare exception of the rue hermit, there are no Lone Rangers in faith.
Our culture certainly promotes individualism in faith.  In the history of the church, however, God has revealed that we are part of each other.  My personal, individual response to God—my acceptance of Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and Savior—is bedrock, but my faith remains incomplete if it remains personal.  Faith is to be lived in the “context” of the Body of Christ, of the community of believers.  Chad certainly understood this.  That’s why he declined being consecrated Archbishop of York, in the face of some factionalism (not related directly to Chad) within the English church.  He was not willing to allow himself to be an instrument of further factionalism.  His spiritual boundaries involved looking first to the health of the whole.  (See, he was not a negative example!)

Grace aboundsPlease thank: 
§  Kevan and Traci Revis, and Steve and Katy Larson for the Sunday coffee hours.
§  Bernie Markevitch and Mary Snyder for organizing the Shrove Tuesday supper.
§  Suppliers of food/drink to the Shrove Tuesday supper:  Cory Bouck, Bobbie May, Elizabeth Schaffenburg, Steve and Polly Schmeiser.
§  Set up/cleanup for the Shrove Tuesday supper:  Paul Aparicio, Steve and Katy Larson, Jennifer Pawlus, Pat Ford Smith, Nick and Jennifer Whitford.
§  Paul Aparicio and Randie Barrows for Shrove Tuesday set-up.

Call for ContributionsIf you have a spiritual reflection to share, or want to point your fellow worshipers toward a resource, submit your contributions to Fr. Karl (by email) by Wednesday in the week of publication.

Don’t forget “Something Extra for Grace”:  Supplemental giving envelopes can be found in pews.  If you want to give something extra, please use an envelope to ensure that you are credited.

Music this Week:          The First Sunday in lent
                                      Guest Organist:  David Bahrke

The Great Litany           (chant)                                                             Plainsong
Mass setting                 Plainsong, adapt. Wayne Wildman
Offertory Hymn   143    “The Glory of these forty days”              Errhalt uns, Herr
Communion Motet        Lord, for thy tender mercy’s sake             Richard Farrant
Communion Hymn 343 “Shepherd of souls, refresh and bless”              St. Agnes
Closing Hymn 150         “Forty days and forty nights”           Aus der Tiefe rufe ich
Postlude                        O Traurgkeit (O Darkest Woe)                       James Biery

Parish Notices

§  Adult Education: On Sunday, at 9:00 a.m., we begin a new course on Sacramental Identity.  This course follows the scheme set forth in the 2008 book of David A. de Silva, Sacramental Life: Spiritual Formation Through The Book of Common Prayer, exploring how liturgies of The Book of Common Prayer give us a language and a context for encountering God. This second unit will focus on Holy Eucharist, and will be facilitated by Leslie Kohler.
§  Lenten Booklet: Copies are on the table in the Narthex and on our parish website www.gracesheboygan.com. For each of the forty days of the Lenten season, this booklet contains a Gospel lesson taken from the Eucharistic lectionary for the weekdays in Lent, plus the Sunday Eucharistic lectionary. Following each Gospel lesson is the Collect prayer for the celebration of Eucharist on each day. Then follows the meditations written by parishioners. Then space is allowed for you to note your own reflections.
§  Stations of the Cross, Simple Suppers and Teaching:  Beginning on the second Friday in Lent (March 10th) we will meet each Friday at 5:30 p.m. for Stations of the Cross, followed by a simple supper and Christian formation. Our formation program this year will be Bishop Matt’s Lenten series for parishes focusing on the Diocesan Vision for us to be communities of God’s mercy and light. This is not a study but rather a time of listening to God and one another; a time for storytelling and reflecting on our stories; a time of beginning or continuing discernment, both for ourselves and for our community of faith. Please sign up on the sheets in the Narthex so we will know how much food needs to be prepared.
§  Cooking on Friday Evenings in Lent: If you are interested in cooking and hosting a dinner on the Fridays during Lent, please sign-up on sheets in the Narthex. All of the Fridays are open. Thank you for your willingness to serve in this manner.
§  Volunteer needed to organize the Annual Bake/Plant/Rummage Sale: This annual event takes place, in conjunction with St. Luke United Methodist Church Rummage Sale, on Friday, April 28th (noon – 3:00 p.m.) and Saturday, April 29th (9:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.) – the first weekend after Easter. As well as an organizer we will need volunteers to bake brownies (Jessica Ambelang will provide pans, ingredients and instructions), help gather and sort rummage, and set-up and take down. Anyone interested in organizing or helping in this event, please call the office at 920-452-9659 or speak with Jessica Ambelang after the 10:15 a.m. mass today.
§  Like Grace Church on Facebook
§  Follow Grace Church on Twitter: @GEC_Sheboygan
§  Follow Grace Church on Instagram: @GEC_Sheboygan
§  We Are on Itunes! Check out the new podcast!!!