January 9th, 2018

A few of you have asked for ‘more’ concerning the wise men and their journey. I will tell you what I know…

The name wise men or ‘magi’ seems to be the ubiquitous moniker for the group of men who traveled “from afar” and presented the “baby” Jesus with gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

First, let’s talk about the word magi. Transliterated directly from the Greek “μάγος”, the word becomes magos. Magos is how the English language transliterates, but the word translates from magos to magus in our understanding rather than just our way of speaking (comprehension vs. phonetics). Magus, as defined by good ol’ Webster (okay, not really, but defined by lexicons), is defined as:

a.     the name given by the Babylonians (Chaldeans), Medes, Persians, and others, to the wise men, teachers, priests, physicians, astrologers, seers, interpreters of dreams, augers, soothsayers, sorcerers etc.

b.     the oriental wise men (astrologers) who, having discovered by the rising of a remarkable star that the Messiah had just been born, came to Jerusalem to worship him

c.     a false prophet and sorcerer

Let’s set aside the notion of these men being sorcerers and false prophets and concentrate on their capabilities as scientists and astronomers (not to be confused with astrology—no horoscopes were harmed in the writing of this article). These men were likely held in high esteem as educators and thus became emissaries of the Kings in their region. This is why they’re sometimes referred to as “The Three Kings”; they were ambassadors of their monarchs. It is important to note that nowhere within scripture are these men named outright—the names Caspar/Gaspar, Balthasar/Balthazar, and Melchior are those attributed to the men, but without reference. Being of Eastern descent, they would travel great lengths teaching and showing people of other nations their science—alchemy, their understanding of the stars, etc…

Next, location, location, location. It is widely held in current cultural nuance that these men were present at the birth of Jesus. That is not accurate. If we take a closer look at scripture, Matthew 2:11 states, “And going into the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.” Notice that, in reference, Jesus is a ‘child’ not an infant. Weird. Most likely these men had departed their homeland—that of Persia (common-day Iran and Iraq)—as they saw the ‘new star’ in the sky which heralded the coming of the Christ-child. (Note: These men were also likely to be of the Zoroastrianism religion, of which one of the tenets was to pursue and discover the champion, or destroyer of evil. This is an ancient and obscure monotheistic religion that helped shape some of the Abrahamic religions). As the star appeared, they departed their lands. Traversing such a great distance would’ve most likely been impossible with only three people; dangers such as robbery, injury, or sickness loomed heavily, making it necessary for multiple people, or a caravan, to make the journey rather than a few dudes on camels. Just sayin’. This trip was well over nine thousand miles and would’ve taken, at minimum, a little under two years’ time to complete. Thus, upon arrival, Herod does the math quickly—after asking them when they left—and orders the murders of every infant in the region aged two years and under.

As you are aware, modern nativity scenes show three wise men present at the time of Jesus’ birth. This is an impossibility, but one that—given the amount of time between the nativity narrative and present day—has been widely accepted and left unquestioned. I hope this answers the curiosity some of you had regarding my momentary mention of the magi. What else have we not questioned? What else is there that you’d like to know? Would a bible study be beneficial for you—one that concentrates on reading for spiritual growth AND for better understanding of the written Word?

Feel free to email me with any questions or comments, I’m always happy to nerd out a little on Bible talk! Take care and have a great week.

Faithfully,

Fr. Sean+

 

 

 

 

January 2nd, 2019

Happy New Year!

The holidays can be a joyful time, full of wonderful moments and encompassing love. However, they can also be exhausting. We run the race, go to the parties, make the drives, cook the turkeys, … it can get overwhelming! January is a great time to sit back and relax, to throttle down and allow the busy nature of the past season to wash away. I urge you to take the time to do just that: Take time to sit back and be thankful for all the blessings in your life.

It’s easy to forget how much God impacts our lives amidst all the ‘stuff’ we do. It’s not intentional but it still happens. How did Advent affect you, this year? Did the services help? The reflections? Did you feel closer to God this year than in the last, further away, or the same? The answers matter, yet the questions matter more. Because faith is the one thing that we don’t ‘throttle down’. Faith should be a burning desire, a sense of seeking and wonder that fuels us through life’s seasons. We should be able to rely upon faith when things seem impossible and rejoice in faith when all is well. But to be able to understand our faith, we have to question where our faith IS. Constantly. It may seem exhausting, but really, it doesn’t have to be. If done well, this process turns into a constant conversation with God—an open-ended dialogue that never ceases. Sometimes the conversation is difficult, sometimes it’s mysterious and confusing, but most of the time it’s a sense of beautiful revelation. Revelation of things known, revelation of faith not yet encountered, revelation of grace unearned yet joyfully received.

This year, try to start that conversation if you haven’t already. And if you have, think about what the next level of dialogue with God sounds like. In a few short months, we’ll be on our way into Lent and Easter; my hope for all of us is that this current conversation leads us into those seasons filled with hope and desire for the constant companionship of God. And of course, with one another.

God bless you all. I look forward to another joy-filled year with you; and I eagerly anticipate the growth we’ll undoubtedly experience together.

Faithfully,

 

Fr. Sean+

December 12th, 2018

DON’T YOU DARE START SAYING MERRY CHRISTMAS YET.

Whatever. Stop that. Seriously.

Why? What’s the point of Advent and why have we (as clergy, especially) allowed it to become more important than the almost overwhelming joy that wraps us up during December?

We (the church) started out with good intentions, methinks. Too much of secular goings-on seemed to overtake the general anticipation of the incarnation of Christ; yet, in our attempts to hoist Advent up and hold it as a sacred season, many clergy and stodgy parishioners have morphed ‘the hoist’ into a strangle-hold, virtually choking the life out of Christmas before it even arrives. This isn’t the intent, and it was never meant to be. If we can’t see our need to become closer to Christ, our need to retrain our desires to seek God, THEN gifts and holiday bustle, we’ve already lost. But the cost paid to right the wrongs of ignoring God during Christmas is a little high, right now. We overshot. We placed Advent on an unreachable pedestal, worshiping it rather than practicing it. Well, knock it off—both figuratively and literally.

I want to encourage you to embrace the Christmas spirit, wholly; I also want EQUAL encouragement to be shared for your anticipatory practice during Advent. It IS important. But it isn’t so much so that I desire you to forgo the Christmas joy around you so that you feel better about liturgical life. Let’s face it: People NEED joy, especially now. They need to hear and feel that someone out there loves them; that a stranger could hold the keys to unlocking their caged isolation just by virtue of saying two simple words…Merry Christmas.

…Annnnnd I just read Deacon Dion’s article for today. Turns out, that’s the Holy Spirit at work, folks. My article was going to end with the previous paragraph, but I feel like adding just a bit more.  I agree with him, completely. My own Advent ascetism has been so strict the last few years that I (GUILTY) have not let the words, “Merry Christmas”, depart from my lips prematurely. So let me say this, and please hear me: Practice Advent because you desire to come closer in contact with Jesus Christ, and because you feel the need to delve into scripture and listen to others’ points of view. But at the same time, don’t forget the joy that is waiting to be let into your hearts if you would only allow yourselves to let it. Be not afraid of spreading holiday cheer. Be not afraid to listen to Christmas music, wear Santa hats, and dress in red (Here’s lookin’ at you, Tawana Ruder). And be not afraid to remind your local priest (if needed) that Advent and Christmas are but two parts of a whole year—a year in which we step one foot closer to the presence of God.

I wish you a blessed Advent.

…and a very Merry Christmas.

Joyously,

Fr. Sean+

December 19th, 2018

Tis’ the season.

There’s so much happening right now!!! I want to write you about a few things coming up, AND about some opportunities in the new year.

First, this evening is our Wednesday night community meal followed by youth, choir, and young adult formation. We’ll begin eating around six, but don’t worry about being ‘on time’—we’ll see you when you get here. Tonight’s menu: Pizza.

Next, there’s a service tomorrow evening called, “A Service of Remembrance”. While its main point is to allow those with holiday grief an opportunity to remember their loved ones, it can also serve as a point of support from those of you who may not have emotional difficulty during these weeks. The service starts at seven and all are welcome; please come and join us for a contemplative mass.

Advent four is Sunday at the regular time, but with one new class prior to service: Confirmation class. Have you been confirmed in the Episcopal Church? If not, do you know what that means? Even if you HAVE been confirmed, how long ago was it and could you use a refresher course? All are welcome to attend these classes, and I believe that we’ll all benefit from the conversations had—including myself. I usually walk away receiving new insight—and even if I don’t, I always walk away feeling a deeper connection to my personal faith. Please let me know if you’d like to be confirmed, received, or would just like to attend the class (even those of you that attended this time last year).

IMPORTANT! Following church on Sunday, we’ll be decking the halls! It’s a mighty job so we’ll need ALL the help we can get to create the Christmas atmosphere you’ve all been anticipating. With lots of folks, it will make the work more fun and quite a bit quicker, plus, we’re gonna feed you! SO please, if you can spare the time, plan to hang out after church and decorate for Jesus’ birthday party!

Additionally, there will be services on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. CE service begins at 9:30 with a music program (you’ll get to sing some carols, too) followed by Midnight Mass at 10:30pm. Please come and take part in what is one of the most beautiful services in our liturgy. And bring your family and friends! Santa might be able to make it, too, for a brief cameo whilst on his way down to South America, so don’t miss the chance to see him. Christmas day service begins at 9am. If you haven’t ever attended one, AND you have the chance, come and be with us as we celebrate Jesus Christ on his official (yet probably not actual) birthday. I hope to see you there—I’ll be the one in the loud and obnoxious Christmas suit.

Life and vitality means being busy; we must be full of both! Thanks for being a part of this family, and for walking together in faith, hope and love as witnesses of Jesus Christ. Bless you all and I’ll see you sometime soon at an event near you!

Faithfully, Fr. Sean+

December 5th, 2018

Happy holy Advent!

I hope you’ve each experienced the daily reflections posted on the website, facebook, and delivered by email. With so many medias, it’s almost impossible to miss! As for myself, I’ve enjoyed the writings immensely. Thank you to those who graciously submitted their thoughts.

Acclimating to ascetics (practices) of Advent, during the first week, is much like the first week of a new diet: difficult. There are many other tasks and priorities that have been cemented, many of which are almost impossible to work around. But there it is, the reason for the change: we become intentional about setting time aside in order to engage our spirituality and faith. Delving into daily scripture and reflection can have a profound impact on the soul; it always has that impact when supported by prayer. It isn’t simply just glossing over the musings of someone ‘other’ but rather hearing the story of their soul as it appears on the page. The same with scripture. The bible is unique in that it is a living, teaching love letter from God to the rest of us. Yet, we idly cast it aside as something archaic, unimportant, or irrelevant to our context.

Not all the time, but too often.

That’s one of the major tenets of Advent; the return to scripture and allowing ourselves to be vulnerable to its ongoing message to humanity. What speaks to you this week? What insights or ‘aha’ moments have you experienced? Have you engaged in Advent practice at all? Ask yourself these questions and I guarantee you’ll feel a pull toward the Holiness of this season. 

Tonight, I’ll be speaking to the youth about their thoughts on the reflections and scriptures offered thus far this week. I almost always learn from their perspective, as they (hopefully) do from mine. Are you engaging with anyone else during this time? Have you reached out to a spouse, partner, friend, or neighbor who may be reading the same material concurrently, just to hear what they’ve encountered? If not, try. You might be surprised.

The new Advent diet pangs go away quickly, I promise. Before you realize it, you’ll be hungering for a new food; the diet of scripture, interaction with your fellow faithful, and spiritual curiosity will begin to replace your need for the art of secular busy-ness. Keep reading, keep praying, keep listening. That longing voice inside you—the one that seeks God and the presence of His Holy Spirit—will be answered in short order by the cry of an infant that breaks the silent night; the infant who will save the world again.

Faithfully,
Fr. Sean+

November 28th, 2018

It’s almost Advent! There are a few changes coming to a bulletin near you that I thought you’d like to know about.

First, we’ll be changing the liturgy from Rite 2 to Rite 1 for the entire season. The reasons for this are many but I’ll highlight some of my own for you. The main prompt for the change is that we celebrate in Rite 2 language for the majority of the year. Let’s face it: contemporary language is easier to understand and visitors to the church can more readily participate when there’s one less barrier to break. Having said that, Rite 1 is in our DNA as Anglicans and I’d like to keep it that way. The service folds deeper into the traditional worship style of our denomination when spoken in the words of that time; I love it, and I hope that if you don’t, then you’ll at least give it a closer look this year. Another reason for using Rite 1 is to have the opportunity to recite the “Prayer of Humble Access” prior to receiving communion—“We do not presume to come to this thy table…” It is arguably one of the best prayers in the whole of our liturgy. And then finally, I want to offer this Rite for some of the people who grew up in the church prior to 1979—before the BCP was changed from the 1928 version. It is dear to many of our long-time members and I want to share that moment with them. I hope you do, too. We can never know where we’re going without knowing where we’ve been.

Second, the blessing at the end of the service, “Be at peace…”, will go on hiatus until December 24th. This allows us an opportunity to anticipate that ‘peace’ that comes from the incarnation of God, the birth of Jesus Christ. Instead, we’ll be using an Advent blessing, so keep an ear open for it!

Third, we will be saying Alleluia. The whole time. There’s nothing in the BCP that stands against using the word during Advent, therefore I am not against it. Honestly, I think it’s about time we understood Advent for what it is: A penitential season of anticipation and joy. Our hearts should barely be able to contain themselves within our chests. We should be so excited about the incarnation of Christ that we not only want to say Alleluia, but we want to SCREAM it from the mountaintops. Remember that penitential seasons call us to look inward and do some naval gazing, so don’t lose that chance to make some changes in your life. However, Advent should be approached with wonder, eagerness, and a sense of the Holy that can’t quite be explained. Say Alleluia. Scream it. Or silently whisper it to your own soul as a gentle reminder that the Savior of humankind is coming once again to free you from darkness.

I look forward to this, and every, season with you. I hope you have a blessed Advent experience and I hope that the liturgy speaks to your souls as it does to mine.

Faithfully, 

Fr. Sean+

 

November 21st, 2018

This Sunday we’re going to walk up to the altar and pledge. We pledge our time, our talent, and our treasure as part of our piety, but that message comes on Sunday—not today.

I want to take a moment to say thank you. The faithful giving of this church throughout the last year has been remarkable; we have been able to address multiple areas of the building wherein new spaces have been transformed. Instead of wasted or unused space we now have portals: there’s a space for young people to run around the room and play games; there’s a space for all people to go and sit quietly with a book; there’s a space for groups to meet and discern the next step in their faith or in the life of this church; the halls breathe warmth and the floors echo the returned joy and laughter of days’ past. So the giving of which I speak is not just financial, but spiritual and heartfelt. It’s a giving of entirety, a handing over of self that is transformative and life-giving. And how sweet it is…

This year I’m thankful for our community. Not because I am supposed to say it, but because every morning I look forward to going to church. I eagerly anticipate being with you all throughout the week, whether that be in joy, sorrow, business or shenanigans. You’ve become an integral piece of me, and of Nicole. And of each other. I see it in the way you interact with folks, new and known. I witness it during moments of vulnerability in classrooms and in thin spaces during worship. The heartbeat of resurrection beats within us all, because we are its bearers. In truth we don’t go to church; we are the church.

 As we head into a spiritual season of Advent, Christmastide, and Epiphany I simply desire to give you thanks, especially considering tomorrow’s feast day. Thank you for bringing us here, and thank you for being part of this beloved and now-thriving community. You make this ‘work’ beautiful, worthy, and fulfilling.

Tomorrow, look forward to food, fellowship, football and family. And know that wherever I am, there you will also be. I pray for each of you to have a restful and wonderful holiday, and I look forward to our Thanksgiving feast on Sunday wherein we’ll eat the bread of life and drink the cup of salvation, giving thanks to God for the innumerable benefits of His present kingdom at Episcopal Church of the Resurrection.

Faithfully and Thankfully,

 Fr. Sean+

November 7, 2018

Watching the talking heads on Tuesday was borderline entertaining at the onset. Then, it became somewhat troubling. And then completely exhausting. It was the same scene every hour: people would get introduced by the anchor(s), smiles would be exchanged, and then everyone started talking at once. Literally. One person would begin by stating their opinion and then the rest of the panel would chime in uninvited, creating a cacophony resembling schoolyard recess at elementary schools.

 This is what we’ve become. We’re increasingly unable to hear others, simply shouting down our neighbors in the name of being right, in the desire to be authoritative, and in the hope that our opinions will be valued over others. I’m guilty of it, too. Try as I might, sometimes I just lack the willpower to listen, to allow others their say and respect the space between us. I wonder how we could be better equipped to do this? Better yet, I wonder if—once equipped—we would have the courage to begin the movement, ourselves? So much discourse today is predicated upon whether or not we agree. It shouldn’t be. Differences of opinion shouldn’t be answered with footsteps leading the other direction; at least not always. When did we lose the ability to hear one another? Did we ever have it?

 Listening is hard. But we must. We have to be able to treat one another with dignity, with respect, and with a modicum of self-awareness that ours are not the only opinions worthy of being heard. Whether it’s the small stuff or the great debates, we have to reclaim our ability to listen past the anger to hear the hurt; see past the masks of superiority to view the naked insecurity in our neighbor. People are inherently good, for the most part. We want desperately to belong with one another, we want what’s best for each other. But this world doesn’t set us up for that. Society tells us to dig in, prepare for the onslaught, and use our words and actions as weapons rather than salves. We. Must. Stop. Hurting. Each. Other. 

We. Must. Start. Listening.

 Christ compels us to turn the other cheek, to take the tree out of our own eye, to abstain from arguing about who is the greatest and to engage in raising up the ‘least of these’. In our current climate, we would do well do tune back in to that message. People are hurting. What can we do to alleviate that? People are feeling forgotten. How can we help them to feel beloved? People are walking away. How can we divert their path and bring them back home?

 The masters of this world would have us believe that it is spiraling out of control. I refuse to believe that. I hold hope that we can keep carrying the light of Christ into our communities, that we can keep holding that light for each other, and that we can shine. I believe in God. I believe in us. I believe we can make a difference. Listen to one another; take a moment to have a conversation about what REALLY matters rather than prognosticating the decline of humanity. We’re going to be alright if we open our ears, eyes and hearts to each other and share the love we were so perfectly created to share in our own imperfect ways.

 

October 31st, 2018

This coming weekend, we’ll be celebrating All Saints’ Day. Every year, All Saint’s is a moveable feast (we can celebrate it the Sunday that follows its actual day) so we won’t be hearing the planned gospel of Mark. It’s a shame, really, because this weekend we would have heard about the two great commandments: Love God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength; Love your neighbor as yourself. Jesus actually says the following words, “There is no other commandment greater than these.” But some folks—well, actually, quite a few folks—have a difficult time putting this into practice.

 I know that it may seem like I talk about this a lot. Well, that’s because I do. Of all the commandments given to us, all the instructions left by the disciples and Christ himself, God desires for us to love him and then to love each other. But what does that mean, in practice? Do these two rules mean that we are supposed to make peace with our enemies and then go out for coffee? Does loving God with all our being entail never being frustrated, hurt or confused by that relationship?  

In a word: No.

If any of you (I imagine all of you) have experienced love in your lives, then you know that it’s not always sunshine and rainbows. Love requires commitment, work, dedication, and no small amount of compromise. To be able to love is an inborn trait—humanity is created with the ABILITY to love, not necessarily the desire. Put quite simply, to love someone and to love God is a choice; unfortunately we make those choices predicated upon that which has been done for us by the other. That’s not love, that’s a transaction of two beings mutually benefitting one another ALL THE TIME.

That’s also not possible. Well, at least on our part. 

What if God said, “You know what, Sean? You didn’t pray this morning, you didn’t thank me for yesterday’s good weather, and you mailed-in  last week’s sermon. Since you didn’t do that, I don’t love you.” I’m fairly certain if God had that outlook on our relationship, we’d all be in deep trouble…and we’d all have one less being that loved us. Thankfully, God is perfect. God’s love for us isn’t transactional, it’s eternal. God’s love comes without strings, and with a grace that is abundant and free. Also, there’s that thing about God becoming incarnate in the form of Jesus Christ, only to be crucified painfully, mocked openly and punished endlessly by those with whom He tried to engage.

Then there’s us. We are over-the-top transactional with our love to God, AND to one another. Instead of asking, “How can I pray for you, pray with you today, or (to God) how can I thank you and be with you today?”, we find ourselves asking, “What have you done for me, lately?” But God can take that, because God is…well…GOD. It doesn’t make it okay, but God loves us anyway.

 Unfortunately, we lack the perfection to love unconditionally. When someone hurts us, we don’t want to love anyway—we want to grab the nearest stick and bash them over the head with it, or the nearest harsh word and fling it in their direction. That’s the human condition. And it’s sad. We don’t have to be this way. We don’t have to react in order to interact. Sometimes, if we were to take a page out of God’s book (pun intended), perhaps love could prevail and hurt could be dismissed. But don’t mistake me—love does NOT equal like. That’s where we get in the most trouble. We think that to always love someone is to always like them.

 Sometimes we just don’t like each other. And that’s okay, folks. It’s not what the ideal situation is, but again, we’re not perfect. This doesn’t give us license to take advantage of grace; we still owe it to our neighbors to TRY. Try and see their hurt through their words—even if those words hurt us. Most of the time the actions people take against us aren’t out of desire to inflict pain, they’re out of a place of pain, itself. (Note: This is not always the case; tragically, some people have refused to engage their inner created love, choosing instead to inflict senseless pain and violence on others. I’m not talking about them. I’m talking about US).

 Loving your neighbor, loving God—these are the actions of Christians. Always liking each other and always understanding God? These are impossibilities that require us to have faith to see us through. I will never stop talking about the love God asks of us; it is the entire reason for our creation. Ever asked, “Why are we here? Why did God create us?” To love. We have to be better. We have to stop seeing the Jew, the Muslim, the businessman, the poor person, the homeless, the loud child, the grumpy elder; and we need to start seeing the created, beloved, fallible, and wonderful person created in the image of God.

 This week, love well, and like whenever is humanly possible. In most cases, the first will lead to the second. But remember: To love is not always to like. So love God, love your neighbor, hang out with your friends, and pray for your enemies. The rest will fall into place.

 

Faithfully,

 

Fr. Sean+

 

October 24, 2018

Have you been to a Wednesday evening meal? Throughout the past month, we’ve had a great crowd on Wednesdays and everyone seems to enjoy the fellowship. If you haven’t been able to come, no worries—you’re missed but we can’t all make it to everything offered. But if you’re not coming because there isn’t a class or activity in which you’re interested, I hope you know that we still want to enjoy a meal with you. You don’t have to stay for the whole evening; just being with you for a half an hour is a blessing in and of itself.

 

Having said that, I also want to ask for some help. The last five meals have been prepared by just a few folks, and the cleanup has been done by even fewer. We really do need some folks to offer themselves to this effort. If we have six or eight people offer to join in on the dinner prep and cleanup, everyone would only be tasked once every six weeks. As it is, now, June has been overseeing the majority of the cleanup. While I’m grateful for that, I’d like to see some more folks jumping in and helping out. The Wednesday night fellowship meal is a fantastic way in which to come together mid-week, and I’d like to see it be sustainable. Please consider helping out if you can!

 

Next, I want to remind everyone of the Trunk or Treat that’s occurring on Sunday evening. PLEASE call the office if you are planning on bringing your vehicle down on Sunday to help out; I’d like to know that we have enough cars! The evening begins at 6pm and ends at 8pm, so I’d love to see the volunteers arrive around five or five thirty to setup.

 

As always, I appreciate all that you do; this place is amazing because of your faith, your contribution of time, and your generosity. I’ll see you tonight, and if not, then I’ll see you Sunday. Take care of yourselves and know that you are beloved.

 

Faithfully,

 

Fr. Sean+