Grace Episcopal Church
26 December 2013
We remember, this day, St. Stephen the Protomartyr. Stephen is remembered for his witness and martyrdom, recounted at Acts 6 & 7, and is called “protomartyr” (which means “first witness”) for being the first person killed for witnessing to the lordship of Jesus Christ.
In this Christmas season, looking a little more closely at Stephen’s story reminds us of what we are called to witness to. Stephen is brought to trial because he is doing God’s work. This reminds us that if what we are doing in God’s name is pleasing to the world around us, we have to ask whether it is pleasing to God. At his trial, Stephen’s defense is to recount the entire history of salvation, to testify to how God has acted throughout creation to bring about His purpose, and how this purpose finds its fulfillment in the salvation offered by and through Jesus Christ. This testimony is the testimony we must ever be ready to give!
Stephen did not testify to people without faith. He testified to people who did not believe in Jesus Christ—that God has acted uniquely and universally through Jesus Christ. We are not surrounded by people who do not have faith, even though many profess not to. But to be a confirmed atheist, or materialist—or to believe “that it is all just random, that chaos is chaos”—requires an enormous leap of faith in each case. It requires the atheist or materialist to believe that things “just are,” without any first cause. It requires the atheist or materialist to believe that he or she can aspire to be a “good person” in the absence of any standard outside of him/herself. (In other words, it requires supreme faith that “It’s all about me.”) We are called to point others to the truth (in fact to the truth that you cannot believe anything at all to be good unless it is measured by Truth).
Stephen was not surrounded by people lacking faith, but many who surrounded him had faith in no more than what they knew. They were going through the motions of religion without having a real relationship with the living God. We, too, know many who claim to be religious, but do not understand that we are called to know God, and not just to give lip service to belief in Him.
Testify. Testify at all times, but particularly during a holiday season in which people are drawn to celebration without really knowing why. Now is the time to be as clear as Stephen: When God came among us and became one of us, all Creation changed. We are saved by God’s action in Jesus Christ. There is none other.
Grace Abounds: Please thank:
§ Paul Aparicio for fixing the Ontario Avenue east wing entrance doors. The doors were not locking properly, and Paul has saved us hundred of dollars in effecting repair.
§ Bill & Deb Gagin, Leslie Kohler, and Mary Snyder for service during the recent funeral provided to a member of the community.
§ Bob and Anne Hanlon, and Steve and Katy Larson, for the Sunday coffee hours.
§ Jim Gardner for help in snow removal this past Sunday.
§ Nicci Beeck, Pat Ford Smith and Jessica Ambelang for organizing and directing the childrens’ Christmas Pageant.
§ Scott Fabiano, Bernie Markevitch, Bryan Stenz and Jon Whitford for decorating the church for Christmas!
§ Ben Dobey and the choir for our Christmas music. Sutton Cecil, Lindsay Fischer, and Sandie Palmer for instrumental offerings.
Call for Contributions: If you have a spiritual reflection to share, or want to point your fellow worshippers toward a resource, submit your contributions to Fr. Karl (by email) by Wednesday in the week of publication.
Episcopal Youth Community:
Music this week:
Music for Sunday, December 29th, 2013: First Sunday after Christmas
Entrance Hymn 102 “Once in royal David’s city”
Offertory Hymn 82 “Of the Father’s love begotten”
Communion Hymn 115 “What child is this”
Closing Hymn 100 “Joy to the world”
§ Interested in joining a local CHURCH VOLLEYBALL LEAGUE ?
Several area churches are involved in a volleyball league made up of church members age 14 and above. Play is Sunday afternoons, 1-4 p.m., Jan 5 - Feb 16, exclusive of Feb 2, at the Sheboygan Falls YMCA. Teams can have up to 10 players, team cost is $100. Sign up deadline is Dec 31st. Anyone interested in playing or wanting more information contact Ed Clabots, 762-0500 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
§ Office Closed: The office will be closed December 26-28 and January 1-3. If you have a pastoral emergency please call Father Karl at 889-7190 or Deacon Michele at 918-1230.
§ The Feast of the Epiphany: We will celebrate the Feast of Epiphany Monday, January 6th. Parishioners and their guests are invited to Solemn Mass beginning at 6:00 p.m. followed by a Potluck Dinner. Please sign up in the narthex or by calling the church office at 452-9659.
§ The Annual Financial Meeting: This year’s Annual Meeting will take place on Sunday January 26, 2014. We will have one Mass at 9:00am followed by the Annual Meeting held in the Nave 10:30am. The agenda of the meeting will include, 2013 financial review and 2014 budget, election of new Vestry members, and an overall review of the 2014 calendar. Please make every effort to attend and participate.
§ Flower Schedule for 2014: Giving the gift of flowers is a wonderful way to remember a loved one or to offer thanksgiving for your blessings. If you wish to sign up for a specific Sunday, the Flower Schedule is available on the table in the narthex. More than one person can sign up for each Sunday.
§ End of Year Pledge Reminder: Please make every effort to pay the remainder of your pledge before the end of the year. If you need to know your balance, please call the office at 452-9659. If you want tax credit for your pledge paid in 2013, you must have the payment in the office by Monday, December 30th. A check dated the 30th, but arriving later cannot be counted as paid in 2013. All payments received after the 30th will be credited in 2014. Thank you so much.