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Thursday, January 31, 2019

Baptism of a Feast

Grace Episcopal Church
Sheboygan, Wisconsin

Grace Notes
31 January 2019

Tomorrow is the feast day of St. Brigid of Ireland (or Kildare, often also known as St. Bride).  The early biographies of Brigid place her birth in 451 and death in 523.  In the last half century it has been common for many historians to dismiss Brigid as legendary, but this ignores that these early biographies refer to at least eleven other persons whose historical reality is attested to by multiple sources.  The principal problem doubters of Brigid’s reality seem to have is that her name derives from that of a legendary Celtic goddess associated with Kildare.
The association of a Christian saint with a preëxisting legend or figure would be problematical if, and only if, the saint’s life and miracles pointed to any reality in a spiritual presence in opposition to the faith.  But the fact that a particular pagan observance has been “baptized” into the Christian faith (for example, that a feast has been taken over and rededicated to the worship of God) should neither surprise us or trouble us, because faith in Jesus supersedes any prior groping for meaning that our human yearnings may lead us into.  Some elements of truth (very often remote) can be found in all religious systems, but this does not mean that truth is in any way relative.  Some elements of truth may be found because in looking outside of ourselves we exercise God-given faculties to observe that there is some order—some rhyme or reason—to creation, and these hints point to the existence of a Creator.
In theology the existence of hints at the truth is classified as general revelation or Reason (sometimes referred to as Natural Law), as opposed to special revelation (found most particularly in Scripture—in the record of how God has chosen to reveal Himself and His will).  Because we are created in God’s image and likeness we have the capacity to observe and classify, but absent the special revelation of Scripture we won’t get very far. 
God has given us brains.  The reality is that when the Word became flesh a new age was inaugurated, and pinning things down to  specifics demonstrates nothing so much as a desire to remain in charge, to “figure things out”.  But this desire ignores the reality that God can and does use all times and places to be among us, and that the “baptism” of a date (or even of a legend)—when received in faith—hallows that day as a day we may turn in special devotion to God.
If the evangelists, as inspired by the Holy Spirit, considered information to be material we would have been supplied this.  Consider, for example, that at Mk. 1.29—31 we encounter a story that refers to Peter’s mother in law, and yet nowhere in any gospel account is Peter’s wife ever named.  The details of the personal lives of the disciples are spare, at best, and only shared to the extent needed to advance the narrative.  The same goes for when St. Brigid of Ireland lived.  What matters is not how we can document a particular event but how we receive the testimony of believers who have gone before.
We are given the powers of observation and reason, to be sure, but the real gift we receive is that of faith:  to encounter and respond to the many ways in which God chooses to reveal Himself and His will.  May we in all things pay the closest attention to this revelation!

Grace abounds:  Please thank: 

§  Bill and Deb Gagin, and Paul and Andrea Aparicio for the Sunday coffee hours.

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.

Emergency Coast Guard appeal:  Update:  An additional $300 was received since last week.  A thank you letter from the Coast Guard commander has been posted to the parish email list serve.

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 Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany (Baptism of Our Lord)
                              Dr. R. Benjamin Dobey, Music Director

Prelude                            Psalm-Prelude (Psalm 139 v.11)              Herbert Howells
Entrance Hymn 598         “Lord Christ when first thou cams’t”         Mit Freuden zart 
Offertory Hymn 444        Blessed be the God of Israel ”                        Thornberry
Communion Motet          O Everlasting light                                      John E. West
Communion Hymn 302    “Father, we thank thee who hast planted”   Rendez à Dieu                           
Closing Hymn 438           Tell out my soul, the greatness of the Lord  Birmingham                      
Postlude                                Trumpet Voluntary in D                       William Boyce

Parish Notices:
§  Adult Formation: The Language of Faith: Class continues at 9:00 a.m. in St. Nicholas Hall, exploring the language of faith. What words do we use to describe faith? How do the words we use shape our own understanding? How do words we use present barriers to those who have no experience of faith, or whose experience is different? All are welcome.
§  Boy Scouts Sunday: Today, Grace Church welcomes Troop 801, Pack 3801 and their families.
§  Signing of the Tripartite Covenant: Today, we also welcome the members of St. Dominic and St. Peter Lutheran Church in attendance for the annual signing of our Tripartite Covenant.
§  The Presentation of Our Lord in the Temple: On February 6 a Solemn Mass will be celebrated at 6:00 p.m. This holy day is also known as Candlemas; all the candles used for the year are blessed. You are welcome to bring in your own candles to be blessed during this service.
§  Candlemas Lasagna Supper: After the Solemn Mass on February 6, there will be a shared supper in St. Nicholas Hall. Lasagna will be served; please bring a dish to pass and share in fellowship. A sign-up sheet is on the Narthex table.
§  Lenten Meditations:  Our book of meditations, written by parishioners, has become a treasured tradition to enter into the Lenten season.
To participate:
Choose from the scripture readings on the Narthex table; you are welcome to choose more than one.
Read and reflect on the scripture for the scripture(s) chosen.
Write a meditation based on what resonated with you, or you feel called to share based upon the readings.
The meditation can be 10 words or 300 words (maximum, please); there are no rules and no right or wrong ways.
Submit your meditation to by February 20 to allow production time. These meditations will be published in print and online before Lent begins. In addition, meditations can be read aloud on Grace Abounds, as part of our podcast series.
§  Diocesan Clergy Retreat, February 25-28:  There will be no Masses or Bible Study on these days.
§  Shrove Tuesday Feast before the Fast: March 5 is Shrove Tuesday. We will be having a Parish Potluck Supper following the 5:30pm Mass. More information will be shared in the upcoming weeks.
§  Ash Wednesday: March 6 is Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent and 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.
§  Lenten Formation:  Beginning on Friday, March 15, our Lenten formation will consist of a 5-part program involving:
Stations of the Cross in the church from 5:30 to 6 p.m.
Simple Supper:  6—6:30 p.m.  Please sign up to host a simple supper (e.g., soup and salad), or to share a dish.
The Public Face of Faith:  6:45—8 p.m.  Fr. Karl will lead a series of discussions about faith which is lively because it is not private. In a militantly secular culture, problems like the dangers of growing up in a family which is not intact, or the psychological damage attendant on the “hookup” culture, or the damages to psychological health caused by the consumption of pornography are finally showing up in the popular media as problems to be named and addressed. But the media have, in general, treated the existence of these problems as “news”, as if we should be surprised.  We’ll discuss real examples of how:
What the Church has always taught now must be “rediscovered”, because a culture hostile to faith has never engaged in wisdom which has been handed down; and
“Rediscovery” is necessary because people of faith have not shared it.  Too many people of faith have bought into the model of faith being only private.
How we share our faith, how we speak to contemporary issues by addressing the cultural amnesia around us will be discussed using examples and interactive small group exercises. Join us!
§  Flower Schedule for 2019: 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.
§  Something Extra for Grace: Envelopes are available in the pews if you are moved
to give an extra gift, beyond your pledge or regular plate donation, toward the life of the church. Gifts are tax deductible if you write your name on the envelope.

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