The Rector’s Diary
+ IN the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Of all the books of the New Testament, the ones I find the most difficult to read are Paul’s letters to the Corinthians.
It’s not because of any difficult moral or theological teachings we find St. Paul teaching in those letters, but rather, it because of what we learn from those letters about Saint Paul’s relationship with the Corinthian Christians and the Corinthians Christians’ relationship with St. Paul and their own faith.
I hate conflict. Its, I think some people would say, one of my weaknesses that I avoid conflict like the plague, even I really should face the problem head on. When we read the letters to the Corinthians, we find St. Paul facing head on the problems of the Corinthian Church. As I read the letter, I find my anxiety building and my desire to set the book down growing.
But there’s a reason why Paul was willing to write to the Corinthians in such strong, powerful terms. Terms that he knew would upset his readers and terms which even brought him to tears.
And I think we find that reason in a verse today:
“If we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. For the love of Christ urges us on, because we are convinced that one has died for all; therefore all have died. And he died for all, so that those who live might live no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised for them.” 2 Cor. 5:13-14
Paul was willing to enter into a painful season in his relationship with the Corinthians rather than walking away because he believed that they were worth it. He could have walked away, but instead, he knew the reward for his labor, which was for him a labor of love. The reward was that those to whom he had delivered the faith would be in Christ, and if in Christ, the old would pass away and there would be a new creation: “everything old has passed away. See,” he says, “everything has become new”
But this new life in Christ meant that the cornithians had to change. They had to died with the one who had died, and live no longer for themselves, but for Christ who had died with them.
Paul told them they had to live no longer for themselves but for another. What does that mean? If you’re anything like me, as someone who, to my own shame and humbling, too often lives for himself rather than for another, you too will probably find it easier to say what it means to live for ourselves rather than for another.
To live for myself means to be self centered and to be full of selfishness. It means to structure things around me for my own gain and advantage, rather than to be about self-giving and self sacrificing love. It means all my energy is focused on my own priorities, my own will, my own desires, and how I think things should be. It means I become angry when I don’t get my way, it means I refuse to forgive those who I think have wronged me. It means that I’m not willing to empty myself and humble myself and to forgive as I have been forgiven.
Living for oneself is a way of life that is deeply engrained within us. It makes up part of the fabric of our human nature, it seems. Its no wonder why, then, that Saint Paul tells us that we must die.
The old self must pass away – everything must must must be made a new Creation. We are convinced, Saint Paul would say, that one has died for all, and if we are to be a new creation, then we too must all die. We must die and be given a new heart, a heart of flesh in place of this heart of stone. The Love of Christ urges us on to this hope, this expectation of the faithfulness of God’s love for us.
Dying to self – and being raised to new life in the Kingdom of God – as a new creation. That’s what you and I were made for.
The difficulty we face, however, is this criticism from the outside world which looks at the Church and expects us to be, here and now completely and totally holy and perfect.
The truth is, that even when we have given ourselves over to Christ and died and been reborn by water and the Holy Spirit, we are still imperfect. For all of us who are baptized, we are baptized into Christ’s death. We have had the seeds of new life planted in us.
But that seed of new life under God’s reign is small. Small like a mustard seed. And it takes time to grow. But you and I aren’t the ones who can make it grow. The parable of the sower this morning tells us that. The farmer plants the seed, but then he has to wait for the growth to occur.
But that doesn’t mean we are free from all responsibility. It is God who gives the growth, yes. But we must allow the seed of new life planted in us to be fed and nourished by the rain and the sunlight. We have to till the soil to provide for it a good place to grow.
In real terms, the water, the sunlight, and the good soil are our faith and our response to God’s will for our lives.
We must be willing to cultivate our faith and grow in the knowledge and love of God. It is perhaps, only in that way that we can live no longer for ourselves, but for the one who died for us that we might have that new life.
The love of Christ – that’s Christ’s love for us – urges us on because one has died for all, therefore all must die, so that we may have new life – and be a new Creation in the Kingdom of God’s new reign on earth.
To him be the Glory, now and forever. Amen.
+In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Jesus said “I am the Vine, my Father is the vine grower.” And again he said, “I am the Vine, you are the branches.”
Like last week, when Jesus taught us the Good News using the images of the Good Shepherd and his Sheep, we again find our Lord using analogy and metaphor to describe his relationship to us his followers. And again, he uses an image that the everyday folk of Palestine could understand.
In his day, Jesus could take for granted that his listeners knew about vines and vineyards. In our day, though, there are a few things which it might be helpful to point out.
- The branches receive their nourishment from the vine.
Jesus tells us that we need to be and remain connected to him in order to have life. Getting connected to Jesus and staying connected to him is perhaps the most important thing we can go in our lives. Through him we receive grace upon grace to carry us through this life and to bring us to the salvation which he offers us. We can never underestimate the love and the power that God wants to pour into us in our times of trouble. His grace is sufficient to overcome all the negative powers of fear and anxiety and hurt, pain and suffering that come against us to snatch us away. Over and over again, indeed, we read in scripture, that God allows these times of trouble, not creates them but allows them, to test and to purify our faith in him. But the only way we can tap into that grace is by remaining connected to Jesus the vine, through whom we receive that Grace infused to us by the awesome power of the Holy Spirit.
And how do we get connected? Well, first off, through baptism. In our first lesson, we read of St. Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch. In this little vignette, Philip approaches the chariot of the Eunuch who is reading through the Scriptures. And he asks Philip about the meaning of the passage he is reading – the Fourth Suffering Servant Song in Isaiah 53. Philip in answer to the eunuch inquisitive spirit, gives him the Good News of Salvation in Christ. And when Philip is done the eunuch asks to be baptized. He asks to be made part of the vine of Christ and an inheritor of the Kingdom of God. And so Philip baptizes him – making him with you and me a child of the Kingdom of God.
And so in the first place, our baptism in Christ connects us to the vine. But how do we remain in the vine?
First, we must have a desire to remain connected. Our hearts, inspired by the Holy Spirit, must want to be connected to Christ.
Secondly, the Church offers the space to worship God in spirit and truth through the hearing of his Word read and proclaimed and the receiving of the sacraments– outward and visible signs of God’s promise of Grace – and sure and certain means by which he gives us that grace into our hearts.
But we must approach and receive these sacraments rightly – we must receive them with hearts that seek the grace of God, so that we may bear fruit and give glory to him.
- The Second thing we need to remember about vines and branches is that the branches are only good to the gardener is they bear fruit.
So, if we receive these gifts from God’s altar any other reason than bearing fruit for the Kingdom so that we may give glory to God and remain connected to him, then in a real sense we fail to take heed to Saint Paul’s warning to discern the Body before we receive the Blessed Sacrament.
God’s purpose for us is that we bear fruit – and if I may expand a little on Jesus’ metaphor, the bread which we break and the cup which we share here today, are spiritual means keeping us connected to the vine and the food which nourishes us to produce good fruit.
But there is another process in the bearing of fruit- and that process happens in our day to day lives as we go out from this place fed and nourished by God’s Word and Sacraments. And that process is the process of pruning the branches. That process happens to us out in the world. It is the process of God removing from us all that is not of him: Pride, arrogance, hypocrisy, envy, hatred, malice. All those negative parts of our lives, those negative attitudes and behaviors which are not the way which God wishes us to live our lives.
Sometimes that process of pruning can hurt a little. As our Lord told Saint Paul when he began pruning him on the road to Damascus: it hurts to kick against the Goads.
Each of us can probably think of times in our lives when we were straying from God’s will and God trimmed us back a bit. Maybe it was a taste of humble pie. Maybe it was an even more emotionally tumultuous event. But I’m sure if we look back on some of those events, maybe not all, but at least some, in hindsight we can see how God was pruning away some of the branches so that the Good Fruit bearing parts of our lives could grow and flourish.
Jesus said- Those who abide in me bear much fruit. In his letter to the Galatians – Paul tells us what those fruits are: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
May we turn our hearts to him in worship today, seeking to be grafted in and remain branches of the vine, producing the fruits of the Kingdom of God. Amen.
- Got the hymns to John B. for Sunday.
- Worked on the CS Lewis class for tonight. Considering switching to a book of the Bible for Lent.
- Mass at noon
- Class tonight
- Meeting with Kerry B. (and his finance?) at 8 p.m. tonight to discuss wedding.
Mass this morning at 7 a.m. with 5 in attendance and receiving communion.
- Snow overnight last night, only about an inch or three.
- Worked this morning and finished the leaflets for Sunday. Waiting on organ music now before printing.
- Updated website. Typed up Ash Wednesday sermon for website publication.
- Evening Prayer and Benediction tonight at 6:15
- Mass with Imposition of Ashes @ 7 a.m. (15 in attendance)
- Brought ashes to our shut-ins throughout the day. Made to:
- Doris Countrman
- Mildred McKee
- Jane LeCount
- Pat Olden
- Ruth Baker
- Marie Fisher
- Gertrude Griffin
- Caroline Langworthy
- Helped on scene of an ambulance call for about 1/2 hour
- Mass with Imposition of Ashes @ 5:00 p.m. at Christ Church Pottersville (10 in attendance)
- Sung Mass with Imposition of Ashes @ 7 p.m. at HCW. (20 in attendance)
- Bed at 9:30, quite tired.
- Got a later start than usual this morning. No matter. MP in the office.
- Work on Sermon
- Went to a help on the scene with the ambulance for a man fallen off the roof.
- Saw one of Ruth B.’s aides at Stewarts when i went for coffee. She’s still not feeling 100%. Said she would probably cancel today. I told her to tell R that I’ll be over at noon on Ash Wednesday.
- Back here, working on Sermon and leaflets.
- Leaflets for Sunday all set for printing except waiting on Organ music.
- Printing the leaflets for the Funeral of Sarah Combs tomorrow at 10 a.m.
- Stopped by the Funeral Home and talked with John & Dave. All set for tomorrow. They’re going to put out the Funeral Markers on the curb tonight so we have space in the morning.
- Have to call Audrey W. to schedule a visit today.
- Today’s deanery was cancelled. Still no mass today – have plans to make a few visits today to Linda M. and Marie Fisher.
- Had good visits with both Linda and Marie. Marie was alert, awake, and in good spirits. Still unsure of Linda’s prognosis. Will visit her again next Tuesday. Added Marie to the long list of Shut-ins to visit on Ash Wednesday.
- CS Lewis class tonight – worked on the lectures for class this morning and just finished them up. For Book 4 chs. 2 & 3. We’ll see if we make it through all of that!
- Mike Dalaba was here working on the roof this morning. didn’t get to chat with him before he left. Will find out what’s going on.
- We’ll need to be looking into insulating the Chapel Roof in the near future (after winter, though). The water/ice build up is coming from snow melting off that roof. For the rest of the winter we’ll just have to keep that roof clear of snow.
- Funeral for Sarah Combs on Thursday at 10 a.m. Arrangements are all set.
- Ordered Flowers from Church for the Altar.
- Going to try to get my sermon together today for Sunday. In addition to our regular activities, its ‘Scout Sunday’ so we’ll have the scouts and scouters from Troop 100 doing the readings and leading the prayers of the people.
- Mass this morning at 7 a.m. for the Martyrs of Japan.
- Out for a coffee and donut. On way back saw there was mail in the box – thought i got yesterday’s mail – my passport arrived! Excited to be all ready (tickets, passport) to go to Northern Ireland in March!
- Worked this morning to finish up the mailing for the newsletter. Have been going through the mailing list and data base to try and match up everything and get the mailing list to be more complete. Added several of our new folks.
- Made visits/PHC/Pastoral Calls this afternoon to: Gertrude Griffin, Linda Moulton, and Caroline Langworthy.
- Had inductions for the Society of Mary last evening. Inducted 5 members. Plans to form a formalized chapter are underway. Our first Mass together will be on March 25 for the Annuciation.
- Had to re-send the newsletter to the printer in PDF form this morning. They didn’t have the formatting settings right on the Pub. file i sent last week and only discovered that when I went down to pick them up yesterday afternoon. They hope to have the new printings done by noon today.
- Working on Calendar insert for newsletter. Found out they should be here early this afternoon.
- Both Shut-ins cancelled today. Will call Ruth B next Wednesday. Will call Audrey W. tomorrow to check calendar. Her Neice, June M. had bypass surgery this week. Seems to have gone well but she is waiting a call. Prayers requested for June’s recovery.
- Re-Worked the Leaflets this morning for Scout Sunday. We’ll have scouts and scouters leading the readings and prayers of the people.
- Attempting to find supply priest for March 15 when I’m away in Northern Ireland.
- Ordered candles for shrine and altar. We were down to the last two.
- Evening Prayer and Mass – Kept Cornelius the Centurion today- First gentile (i.e. Not Jewish) convert to the faith.
- Got the leaflets folded, labeled and sealed ready to be sent out tomorrow!