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Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Victory over Hell

Grace Episcopal Church
Sheboygan, Wisconsin

Grace Notes
4 April 2019

In the 1986 Oliver Stone film Platoon the protagonist describes his life in a letter, in which he states “Someone once wrote, ‘Hell is the impossibility of reason …’”.  The quotation sounds like something written by Friedrich Nietzsche, but no source has ever been identified, and the “quotation” is probably the product of Stone’s own thinking.  Consider, however, the reality the statement describes.  If that which makes us uniquely human includes our ability to reason and communicate, then an environment in which no real argument shall be weighed, and where reality becomes “stimulus and response” writ large, is hellish by virtue of how it reduces us to something not quite human.  In such an environment we would become the sum of our appetites, of our desires, of our fears, and of our ability to project power. 
If we were to become no more than sum of appetites, desires, fears, and power, we would, in fact, inhabit an existence as described by the 17th C. English philosopher, Thomas Hobbes—the existence of humans in a state of nature without government, described as “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short" (Leviathan, 1651).  In 21st C. America we do not live in a state of nature; government is an ever-present force, and a common complaint is one of over-regulation.  And yet it is in this environment that we do find an emphasis in daily life on appetites, desires, fears, and power.  We do find this societal and personal anxiety lived because our ability to listen to and reason with each other is much diminished, and the easiest retreat into “safety” is into the echo chamber provided by people with whom we agree and with whom we share interests in our own small circles or our own social media platforms.
The opposite of the life described by Hobbes, and the opposite of the hell described by Stone, is the life promised by Jesus, life lived “abundantly” (Jn. 10.10), lived as those gathered with God and with each other.  This gathering is named in the Bible as ekkles√≠a, Greek for “gathering” or “assembly”.  There is no word in the Bible for church, just gathering.  There is no concept in scripture for membership in a church as an institution.  A believer is defined to be a member of the gathering/assembly precisely because he/she has gathered/assembled with those who follow God.
When we do gather we find, of course, others in the assembly with whom we do not share other interests.  We find others with whom we don’t have common histories or sympathies.  We find others who may frankly annoy us, and we certainly find others with whom we disagree about many things.  We may even disagree about how to follow Jesus, and about where He calls us to.  But provided that we can each endeavor to truly seek to follow Jesus, God’s grace is more than sufficient to allow us to live in tension together.  The “pasture” of life described by Jesus at Jn. 10.10—life lived abundantly—is the very opposite of the hell described by Stone or Hobbes.  It is a place in which appetites, desires, fears, and power are subsumed in common life.  It is a place in which reason is responded to because we listen to each other and care about each other, even when (precisely when) we don’t agree.
Jesus declares victory over Hell in this world and in the next.  Live into this victory now in how you participate in His life, in how you gather.

Grace abounds:  Please thank: 

§  Wayne and Pat Sather, and Sandie and Jasmine Palmer for the Sunday coffee hours.
§  Bobbie May for janitorial help.

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.

Music this Week:  The Fifth Sunday in Lent
                              Dr. R. Benjamin Dobey, Music Director

Prelude                  Chorale Prelude on O Lord. Turn not thy face from me      
                                                                                                 C. Hubert H. Parry
Sequence H. 488   “Be thou my vision O Lord of my heart”                            Slane
Offertory H. 149     “Eternal Lord of Love                                              Old 124th                           
Communion Motet Lord for ever at thy side                                 Orlando Gibbons                  
Comm. Hymn 474 “When I survey the wondrous cross”                       Rockingham                      
Closing Hymn 441  In the cross of Christ I glory”                                    Rathburn                         
Postlude                Quasi lento: teneramente (from Six Short Pieces)                                                                                                                           Herbert Howells
Parish Notices:
§  Retirement and Farewell Save the Date: On Sunday April 28, we come together for ONE MASS at 10:15 as Fr. Karl celebrates his final service as the Rector of Grace Church; this will be a day of celebration at Grace!  A reception lunch will be held after Mass in St. Nicholas Hall to show our appreciation for the many years of service by Bill May as our Sexton, as well as celebrating the 7 ½ years of service and friendship by Fr. Karl and Elizabeth Schaffenburg. Stay tuned for details.
§  Adult Formation: Growing a Rule of Life: Adult Formation participants meet for the final class today, using a tool from monastic spirituality and the Society of Saint John the Evangelist to develop their own personal Rule of Life.
§  Sacrament of Reconciliation: Lent is a time of self-examination preparing for the death and resurrection of our Lord. The Sacrament of Reconciliation will be offered by appointment. Please contact Fr. Schaffenburg to set up an appointment to make your confession.
§  Lenten Program: On Friday nights during Lent, we will have Stations of the Cross at 5:30pm, followed by a simple Lenten supper at 6:00pm. At 6:30 the program will be Entering the Passion of Jesus: A Beginner’s Guide to Holy Week, author, professor, and biblical scholar Amy-Jill Levine explores the biblical texts surrounding the Passion story. The six-session DVD features Dr. Amy-Jill Levine offering a fresh, timely reinterpretation of the Passion of Jesus. The video segments are approximately 10-12 minutes each. The program will be facilitated by Fr. Karl and Mother Michele.
§  Cooking on Friday Evenings in lent: If you are interested in cooking and hosting a dinner on the Fridays during Lent, there are sign-up on sheets on the Narthex.
§  Easter Flowers and Music: Please prayerfully consider donating for Easter Flowers and Music. Please be as generous as you are able and call the office or fill out the slip found in the pews to indicate your wish for memorials and/or thanksgivings.
     The deadline for returning to the Parish Office is Monday, April 8 at noon.
§  Parish Spring Clean-Up Day: Next Saturday, April 13 has been set for clean-up of the Grace Church buildings and grounds.  We will begin at 8:30am and work until noon. Many hands will make light work. Refreshments will be provided. A sign-up sheet is on the Narthex table and a list of projects will be available for organization of duties.
§  Maundy Thursday Foot Washing: The Gospel of John (13:1-17) records that Jesus washed the feet of the disciples at the Last Supper. Jesus urged the disciples to follow his example of generous and humble service. Jesus' washing of the disciples' feet was a live expression of his teaching that "whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all" (Mk 10:43-44). Everyone will have the opportunity to have their feet washed and to wash someone else’s; please wear socks and shoes that are easily removed.
§  Vigil before the Altar of Repose: Please sign up to watch and pray for an hour at the Altar of Repose beginning immediately following the Maundy Thursday Mass on April 18 and concluding Friday, April 19 as the Good Friday Liturgy begins. There is a sign-up sheet on the table in the Narthex; more than one person may sign up for any given hour.
§  Easter Vigil Dinner: The first Mass of the Resurrection is on Saturday, April 20 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 challenged by the cost.
§  Easter Gala Reception: We will continue our Easter celebration with a Gala Reception after the 10:15 a.m. Mass on Sunday, April 21. A sign-up sheet is on the Narthex table.
§  Summer Camp registration for camp sessions are now open: The Diocese of Fond du Lac Summer Camp is for kids age 4 through graduating 12th graders.
The registration process is now completely online and includes availability to make payments. *Scholarships are available; inquire at the Parish Office.
§  Save the Date-Chrism Mass: On Tuesday, April 16, at 11:00 a.m. at the Cathedral Church of St. Paul, Fond du Lac.
§  Annual Bake and Plant Sale: This annual event takes place, in conjunction with St. Luke United Methodist Church Rummage Sale, on Friday, April 26 (noon–3:00 p.m.) and Saturday, April 27 (9:00 a.m.–2:30 p.m.) We need volunteers to provide baked items, staff tables, set-up and take down. Look for a more detailed list and sign-up sheet in the upcoming weeks.
§  Good News Jail & Prison Ministry Banquet: The annual banquet in support of ministry in the local jail is scheduled for Tuesday, May 7 at 6:00 p.m. (Blue Harbor Conference Center) Nicci has 8 tickets available. There is no charge, but the cost of the meal to the ministry is $28.00; donations in support are accepted. There will also be a silent auction.  For more details, contact the Parish Office.
§  Save the Date-Eucharistic Festival, Saturday June 29: The Festival will be followed by the Bishop’s Picnic; there is no cost for the Picnic which include hot dogs, brats and ice cream. For more details, visit
§  Ushers Needed: Ushers are often the first people seen by newcomers, visitors, and even regular parishioners when coming to Grace Church. People enjoy being greeted by a smile; become a part of this ministry today!
§  Meeting of Lectors: Following the 10:15 service and some short time after the start of coffee hour on April 7, Bob MacEwen will lead an informational 20-minute meeting in St. Mark’s Room, Lower Level, for current Lectors and those interested in becoming a Lector.
§  Reservations Required: Grace Church has been blessed with many assets used for hospitality. Parishioners are welcome to use rooms and these items. This is a gentle reminder that Grace’s policy is to complete a form listing the items being borrowed and rooms being used. This form can be obtained from the parish office.
§  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; please write your name on the envelope.

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