Grace Episcopal Church
23 February 2017
Today is the feast of St. Polycarp of Smyrna (d. 155), a Church Father martyred in his old age. Polycarp refused to renounce Jesus, stating that he had served Jesus for eighty-six years, and that his Lord had never failed him. This means that either Polycarp was 86, or that he was even older, and reckoned the eighty-six years from the date of his conversion. The account of Polycarp’s martyrdom circulated widely in the early Church, and is the first “life” of a martyr to gain wide currency following the account of the death of Stephen in Acts 7.
Polycarp was bound to a stake, burned, and clubbed to death. If he was then 86 years old, he was born before the writing of Matthew, Luke and John. If he was older, his life may predate Mark’s gospel, and even some of the later letters of Paul. (1 Thessalonians is the book of the New Testament written earliest, probably about A.D. 50. Mark’s gospel was probably recorded around A.D. 64—67.) He was killed despite the Roman consul’s effort to release him. He refused to burn incense to Caesar, to proclaim the emperor as divine.
To what does the world seek that we “burn incense” to in our day and age? We rarely think that what we might do might involve making God secondary, but the reality is that if we ever invest greater value in anything or any person other than God, we are making an idol. In the imperial cult of Rome, few citizens may have actually thought that the emperor was divine. They burned incense to be good citizens, and pay lip service to the cult deemed to be essential to imperial identity. One of the chief complaints about Christians was that they were not patriotic! They would not honor the emperor in the way specified. In our society, the pressure brought to bear are more subtle and less official, but if we invest greater value in something that competes with sabbath worship, we are “burning incense”. The most common idol to which we might thus offer homage is ourselves. Whenever we are tempted to just skip worship and enjoy ourselves in some other activity, we have said the we are ourselves owed greater honor than God.
Polycarp was willing to die for his faith. As a young man he knew the apostle John. He was a link in the chain of eyewitness testimony so important in the life of the early Church. How will you be a link in the chain of testimony? You can only do this on the basis of your own encounter with God. Gather for this encounter!
Grace abounds: Please thank:
§ Bob and Anne Hanlon, and Bobbie May for the Sunday coffee hours.
§ Bobbie May for work in the parish library, and for furniture repair.
Call for Contributions: If 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 Last Sunday after the Epiphany (Quinquagesima)
Organist: Ben Dobey
Prelude: Prelude on the Plainsong Hymn Coelestis Gloriae
Entrance Hymn: 7 “Christ, whose glory fills the skies” Ratisbon
Offertory Anthem Christ whose glory fills the skies T. Frederick H. Candlyn
Communion Motet Christ upon the mountain peak Sidney H. Nicholson
Communion Hymn 137 “O wondrous type! O vision fair” Wareham
Closing Hymn 122 “Alleluia, song of gladness” Urbs beata Jerusalem
Postlude: Paean on Divinum Mysterium John Cook
§ Adult Education: On Sunday, February 26, 2017, at 9:00 a.m., we will conclude the four-week course on Sacramental Identity. 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.
§ Lenten Booklet: Copies will be available on Sunday, February 26, 2017 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.
§ Shrove Tuesday Feast before the Fast: Shrove Tuesday is February 28th. We will be having a picnic on a plate (brats & burgers, potato salad, baked beans, and coleslaw) following a 5:30pm Mass. Please mark your calendars and plan to attend this festive occasion. There is a sign-up sheet on the table in the Narthex. A donation of $5:00 per person is suggested.
§ Ash Wednesday: March 1st, Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent, is a day of fasting and penitence. We will observe this day with Mass and Imposition of Ashes at 12:10 p.m., and Solemn Mass with Imposition of Ashes at 6:00 p.m. This is a holy day and a wonderful way to begin your Lenten observance.
§ 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.
§ Bible Challenge: Videos for all 52 weeks of the year are now available on Grace Abounds. If you take this challenge, you will find that in one year you will read all of the Bible! This will require less than an hour of your time, six days a week. A schedule of readings is provided on the parish website, along with weekly study summaries and a weekly video summary of the readings. If you need a good study bible for the challenge, contact the parish office. When we immerse ourselves in Scripture, the mantle of the Lord does fall upon us. We are equipped to discern God’s will and to lead others to know and love and serve the Lord.
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