Grace Episcopal Church
27 November 2014
Life together can be messy. In the old Simon & Garfunkel song I am a Rock the protagonist points out that “a rock never cries, and an island feels no pain,” but each of us has some experience of the truth that when we just try to go-it-alone we do in fact feel pain, and—what is worse—it is pain that cannot be shared. But gathered together in Christ we can share pain, knowing that He will take our burdens from us.
Life together can be messy because people are messy. No one of us is simple. We are each unique, with unique experiences, aspirations, fears and joys. In preaching I recently stated that the opposite of joy is fear, and that if we are to “enter into the joy of [our] master” we must move beyond fear. But any one of us can only move beyond fear when we give voice to what it is that we fear, when we give voice to what it is that makes us angry or hurts us. This process involves sharing; it involves us making ourselves vulnerable. To do this we must experience God in each other. We must experience that when fear or anger or hurt the response we meet in those who incarnate Christ with us is a response of love. This does not mean that we will always agree—far from it—but it means that in Christ we can be bound in love despite the fact that we disagree.
In our adult education forum last week we began by speaking about heresies, and about how heresies are simple. As guided by the Holy Spirit the conversation took a very different direction, because one person was brave enough to give voice to what was bothering him, then others found their voice, and throughout the discussions voices were met not with argument but with something that somebody else had to share. The world around us wants to keep things simple, as in “You are either with me or against me.” The world around us is divided into party factions and economic interests, but in Christ we are made one in holiness, and this holiness is filled with tension.
Heresies are attractive because they are simple. Dividing into factions is attractive because it is simple, and it allows us to step back from exposing our own vulnerabilities. But just as the faith as taught for millennia by the Church is not simple—it is complex, mysterious, held in tension, requiring active engagement and the denial of self—so life together in faith is not simple. Life together in the tensions is powerful witness to what faith looks like, that when we disagree we can still come together in Christ to partake of the Blessed Sacrament of His Body and His Blood.
May God be praised that He has given us His Spirit to live together in love, even when it is messy!
Grace abounds: Please thank:
§ Bob and Anne Hanlon, and Leslie Kohler, for the Sunday coffee hours. Julie Davidson for clean-up.
§ Bryan Stenz and Thomas Sanders for putting up the columbarium stone in the rain!
§ Bev Evans and Nancy Yurk for organizing the parish effort in the Salvation Army giving tree for the annual Christmas Castle.
§ Colleen Darling, Julie Davidson and Pat Sather for the grace with which they have each shared, within the past week, the gift of spiritual encouragement.
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.
Puzzle Pieces While reading the book, "Crash Course, The Life Lessons My Students Taught Me", by Kim Bearden, I came across the following passage and thought this is something we can all read and reflect on about who we are and where we fit in this life. Good symbolism that we can all understand and easily remember. I quote:
This all came to light for me one night when my daughter Madison and I put together a jigsaw puzzle. As we laid each piece out on the table, I thought about how every piece was jagged, misshaped, and even ugly when studied in isolation. However, as the picture began to take shape, I thought about how every piece had its own purpose and place. When each piece was placed where it belonged, it became a beautiful, integral part of a big picture, and its flaws were much less visible.
We are like those puzzle pieces; each of us is uniquely created to be part of a bigger picture where we can bring beauty to the world around us. None of us is perfect, but when we find where we fit, our sense of purpose begins to take shape. Often the biggest problem is that we are trying to fit into the wrong place or to connect to another piece that isn't meant for us. Some of us don't even get started making the puzzle-we are still rattling around in our boxes, afraid to see the wonder that we can help create. We must seek to nurture our gifts and use them to their fullest. There is no one on the planet exactly like you. Each of us is a one-of-a-kind limited edition. (Ed Clabots)
Holiday Parade: This Sunday will the be annual Holiday Parade in Sheboygan, and it goes down 7th St. right past Grace. The last few years we have sold warm foods and hot drinks to parade-goers and have become rather popular. If you would like to see the parade, complete with marching bands and lots of lights (and even Santa). We will be there selling food and drinks to raise money to be used as outreach by the youth of Grace. The parade starts at 5:00 pm. If you are able to help setup, tear down, or sell food please join us. We will start setting up at 4:00 pm, and should be done tearing down and cleaning up by 7:00 pm. Thank you for supporting the youth of Grace Church.
Grief and Love. Loss and Life.
In my years of youth ministry, I have been fortunate enough to only need to attend two funerals of students, and through those two experiences I have found that there is so much life at a funeral. I'll explain what I mean.
First of all, there is almost always an overwhelming number of people. When there is standing room only, the energy of the church starts to be more frenetic than contemplative. The sea of youth who come out to honor one of their own, and their march of grief as they pay homage is held up and supported by each other. They as a community will grieve together, and as the community they will heal. The rest of us, non-student-types, also pour out en masse. We come to support a family who is having to do a thing we fear, and pray never happens again: bury the younger generation. We don't know what it is like, but our hearts ache with groans that reach deeper than we knew possible. And something in us prays that the chasm can be healed even before we know it's there. To quote Romans, "... 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. And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit..." (8:25-26)
The second kind of life I mean, is found in the witness of the life lost. Everything seems to have been all forward motion and promise. The wonderful things that students do, to make themselves stronger, to build up their friends with wisdom deeper than their years, to hold families together by being a glue on which to attach our memories, and hopes, and prayers. When parents speak of who this young person is, and was, and was to be. From their vantage you see an arch pointing to the future; like an arrow shot far, but stopped by an unexpected target. Peers speak of the present, who they are, and who they say they will be. And we glean a picture of this person through the eyes of love.
At this funeral one of the scriptures used was the famous passage regarding faith, hope, and love (1Cor 13: 13), it says that the greatest of these is love. Love breeds hope, hope builds faith, faith opens for more love, and the cycle continues. Love is expanding, not limiting. We do not run out of love because we gave it all away. Love grows with us, and will fill us in every nook-and-cranny. With hope and faith, we love.
My prayers continue for all who grieve. May the Christ who wept for the loss of His friend, find you in your grief and comfort you. And may the God who broke the bonds of death to open the gate to eternal life, hold you in His embrace and lift you when you can't lift yourself. And may the Holy Spirit fill you with comfort, grace, and peace. And the love of the Triune God expand in you always.
Ministry Opportunities: At a recent parish forum questions were raised about how people are asked to serve in specific ministries. The long and short answer is that people are not asked; rather, they ask to serve. A complete list of parish ministries is found on the parish website, www.gracesheboygan.com. Ministry opportunities are listed under the following headings (found in the pull-down menu in the top banner):
- Worship: Ministry Opportunities Descriptions include those of lector, acolyte, altar guild, greeter, lay eucharistic minister, usher, verger.
- Outreach: Separate headings are found for Our Community, Our Nation, and Our World. Under each heading ministries are described, such as work with The Salvation Army. Contact information is provided, or, if it is left undefined you can always contact the parish office.
- Grace Ministries and Spiritual Gifts: A lengthy menu allows you to explore an inventory and description of spiritual gifts and how these gifts relate to ministries of the parish.
Don’t forget the choir! Singers are needed. You can contact Dr. Benjamin Dobey for more details about the music ministries of the parish.
What’s not on the list? What is not on the list is what Our Lord is calling you to offer as a ministry. If you believe you are called to a ministry not listed, please come forward so that we can recruit others to serve with you.
Rector’s Forum: As a follow-up to discussions held on 23 November, our next Sunday’s adult education hour will be dedicated to an open forum facilitated by Fr. Karl. This is an opportunity to talk about what’s on your mind about the parish and/or the Church, and to ask questions. Questions can relate to issues or can be just the sort of question that focuses on “Why do we ...?” or “What is the origin of ...?”
Faith and Paradox: There is a new book out about faith, in which the author attempts to characterize the debates between believers as the so-called New Atheists as often focusing on the wrong questions and the wrong outcomes. David Skeel argues for how God reveals Himself in the paradoxes of human experience. An informative review is found in The Wall Street Journal here: http://online.wsj.com/articles/book-review-true-paradox-by-david-skeel-1416607499?KEYWORDS=Skeel
Music this week: The First Sunday of Advent
Prelude Unto thee, O Lord, do I lift up my soul Vintner
Trisagion S-102 Archangelsky
Entrance Hymn 58 “Lo, he comes with clouds descending”
Offertory Hymn 61 “Sleepers, wake! A voice astounds us”
Sanctus S-114 Willan
Agnus Dei S-158 Willan
Communion Motet Come, thou Redeemer of the earth arr. Willcocks
Communion Hymn 615 “Thy kingdom come! on bended knee” St. Flavian
Closing Hymn “Come, thou long-expected Jesus” Stuttgart
Postlude Sleepers, Wake! Bach
§ Holiday Parade: The Parade begins at 5:00pm, Grace Church will be selling cocoa and coffee, brownies, apple crisp and hotdogs, before and during the Holiday Parade Sunday, November 30th. The money raised goes to outreach projects both near and far. Please come by the front of the church and enjoy a warm treat as you enjoy the parade, be sure to bring your friends!
§ Emmaus Meal: December 6th from 10:30am-1:00pm at the Salvation Army, the Tripartite Covenant Parishes are providing the Emmaus Meal at Salvation Army. We are still in need of 2 pans of bars to be served that day. Please sign up on the sheet in the narthex. Thank you for your service.
§ Advent Lessons and Carols: On Sunday, 7 December, a festival of Advent Lessons and Carols will be offered at Grace Episcopal Church, beginning at 4:00 p.m. The festival prepares us for the coming of the Messiah by following the scriptural record through nine lessons, each followed by a seasonal carol offered by choir and congregation. The choir will also offer seasonal anthems, and music will include Dr. R. Benjamin Dobey on organ. The service is followed immediately by a High Tea reception.
§ Youth and Children’s Choir: Youth and Children’s choir rehearsals for the Christmas Eve service are at 5:30-6:00pm beginning Wednesday December 3rd, downstairs in the choir room. Additional rehearsals will be on December 10th and 17th these will be just before the Pageant rehearsals. The final rehearsal will be Sunday, December 21st at 9:00am. The choir is open to 2nd graders through high school, and will sing for the 4pm service on Christmas Eve.
§ Christmas Pageant Rehearsals: will be on Wednesday December 3rd, December 10th and 17th starting at 6:00p.m. The rehearsals will begin in the church and then go downstairs for costumes. Participation is open to youth of all ages. The Pageant will take place during the 4:00 p.m. Christmas Eve Mass. Please sign up on the sheet in the Narthex. If your child would like to participate but cannot make rehearsals please note that on the sheet or call the office.
§ Meals On Wheels Christmas Cookies: “Every Christmas season Meals On Wheels delivers a box of homemade cookies to those receiving meals. (For some this is the only gift they will receive.) We have the boxes and the tissue paper, now all we need are the cookies! If you would like to donate some of your home baked goodies the Sheboygan donation drop off site is at Meals on Wheels, 1004 S. Taylor Dr. (across from Aldi’s), December 15th from 9:00am-3:00pm and December 16th 9:00am-Noon. If you have questions please call or email Maureen at Meals On Wheels at 451-7011 (ext. 102) or firstname.lastname@example.org. Your response in the past has been overwhelming and we cannot thank you enough for your continued support.
§ Christmas Joy: is scheduled to meet on Monday, December 22 at 11:00am in the church kitchen. At that time we will assemble winter greens and flowers and bag cookies, and then make deliveries (there is a sign-up sheet in the narthex.) We need helping hands and money (to buy for packaging supplies and flowers.) Can you bake, make a delivery or help arrange? Please join us for this fulfilling and fun ministry to our shut-ins. They will appreciate it. If you have questions please call Barb MacEwen at 467-6909.