Meditation on John 11:1-27John 11: 1-27
Now a man named Lazarus was sick. He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. (This Mary, whose brother Lazarus now lay sick, was the same one who poured perfume on the Lord and wiped his feet with her hair.) 3 So the sisters sent word to Jesus, “Lord, the one you love is sick.”
When he heard this, Jesus said, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days, and then he said to his disciples, “Let us go back to Judea.”
“But Rabbi,” they said, “a short while ago the Jews there tried to stone you, and yet you are going back?”
Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Anyone who walks in the daytime will not stumble, for they see by this world’s light. It is when a person walks at night that they stumble, for they have no light.”
After he had said this, he went on to tell them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up.”
His disciples replied, “Lord, if he sleeps, he will get better.” Jesus had been speaking of his death, but his disciples thought he meant natural sleep.
So then he told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead, and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.”
Then Thomas (also known as Didymus) said to the rest of the disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”
On his arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. Now Bethany was less than two miles from Jerusalem, and many Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them in the loss of their brother. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, but Mary stayed at home.
“Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.”
Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”
Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”
Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”
“Yes, Lord,” she replied, “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.”
Jesus promises that we shall have anything we ask through Him. All things are possible if it is the will of the Lord. Even the seemingly impossible. When we believe in Jesus, we trend towards life rather than death. Through him we are granted eternal life. Without we are assured death, and firmly believe it to be the end of our existence. Bad things or situations that present themselves are an opportunity if we remember the teachings of Jesus, these can become times for miracles to happen.
Jesus we pray that, in our daily lives, we remember not only the image and idea of you, but the lessons you taught and miracles you performed, that we have faith to ask for the outlandish and humanly impossible if it is within your plan, in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen.
Submitted by Jonathan Lynn Wallingford, St. Augustine of Canterbury Episcopal Church
In the name of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
What a joy it is to be with you again. Saint Augustine’s, under Father Joseph’s pastoral leadership, is one of our most vibrant congregations in so many ways: number of confirmands, worship attendance, and impact in your community. Not to mention most colorful vestments!
And you were one of our most generous donors to the Bishop’s Appeal last December to benefit Historic Vernon A.M.E. Church in Tulsa. You are living out the faith as disciples of Jesus Christ here, and I am grateful for you.
When I was here last, for Father Lance’s ordination to the priesthood, I was so blessed to be with many of you, and to be in this holy place for the first time.
And today marks my first official Sunday visitation, with confirmations. And what a day this is in the Church year, as we celebrate Pentecost, the end of the 50 day Easter season, and the day on which we remember the giving of the Holy Spirit and the birthday of the Church.
Pentecost is always a special day, a day of great energy and excitement. But this year has a particularly joyful feel, as it seems we are moving out of the COVID pandemic. We are seeing life returning to something closer to normal. In our congregations, COVID protocols are gradually being reduced, and our former practices restored.
I don’t know about you, but I’m excited to be visiting extended family this summer for the first time in two years. Megan’s and my three boys will see their grandparents and cousins. It feels like we are turning a corner, in our congregations and in our families, after more than a year of pandemic.
And so, I bring to you this Pentecost day a message both of encouragement, and of challenge. And this is it: the Holy Spirit is not a gentle breeze.
My friends in Christ, the Holy Spirit is not a gentle breeze.
We see this in the Acts story that forms the core of our Biblical theme today. On the day of Pentecost, a Jewish harvest festival fifty days after Passover, the apostles are all in one place. Then, suddenly, from heaven, there comes, not a gentle breeze, but something like the rush of a violent wind. And it doesn’t just stir the curtains, and kick up a little dust, it fills the entire house.
And then, tongues as of fire rest on each of them, and the Holy Spirit gives them the ability to speak in languages they do not know.
In typical scriptural economy, the event itself is but briefly described. Instead, the focus is on the reaction to the miracle. In the packed downtown of Jerusalem, buzzing with religious pilgrims, a crowd quickly gathers at the sound of these Galileans, these country hicks, speaking languages from near and far. Predictably, some are awed, and others skeptical.
“They are filled with new wine!”
In a sign of just how profound a change has occurred, it is Peter, the one who denied Christ three times, who, in his new voice, empowered by the Holy Spirit, boldly proclaims what has happened in the words of the prophet Joel for all to hear.
You know, as Episcopalians, we sometimes don’t know what to make of the Holy Spirit. This third person of the holy Trinity is harder to grasp than Jesus, the Savior, and God, the Father, the creator. Our Pentecostal brother and sisters embrace the Holy Spirit, but we genteel Episcopalians are sometimes a bit more reluctant.
But our readings and our prayers and our glorious music today give us an idea about who the Holy Spirit is and what the Spirit means for us, if we have ears to hear.
The Holy Spirit is not a gentle breeze.
The Holy Spirit is powerful, in at least four different ways. The Spirit creates. It brooded over the waters at the beginning of creation. It creates everything that been, everything that is, and that will be.
The Spirit communicates. It spoke through the prophets, anointed Jesus at his baptism, and led him into the wilderness. It speaks through the Holy Scriptures, and through prayer. The Holy Spirit is God’s communication to us, guiding and comforting us. And prayer is how we communicate our deepest feelings, sometimes too deep for words, to God.
The Spirit changes. By the power of the Holy Spirit, Jesus fed the 5,000 and turned water into wine, healed the sick and cast out demons. And by that same spirit, God is present to us through the holy sacraments, transforming bread and wine into body and blood, and through water bringing us into God’s family.
And the Holy Spirit challenges us with the truth. As much as Jesus, the Christ, taught his followers then and now, he knew that there was so much more to be revealed to us by the Holy Spirit, the Advocate. “I still have many things to say to you, Jesus said, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth.”
Truth can be hard to hear, but the Holy Spirit challenges us with the truth of God, as we are able to bear it.
Creation, communication, change, and challenge: these are four powerful aspects of the Holy Spirit.
But what does all this mean for us today?
To our confirmands: confirmation is not a genteel, stuffy tradition. We are asking you to reaffirm the promises you made (or that were made on your behalf) at your baptism. And then we are asking the Holy Spirit to come down, as on the day of Pentecost, to strengthen and empower you to bring the light of Christ into the world.
This confirmation ceremony should make us a little nervous, because the Holy Spirit is not a gentle breeze, but a rushing wind. The Holy Spirit is powerful, and unpredictable. Like the lion Aslan in C.S. Lewis’ Narnia books, the Holy Spirit isn’t safe, but it is good.
You have no idea how the Holy Spirit will work in your life after today. You may be led by God down paths you cannot now imagine.
A few weeks ago, my ten year old son, Thomas, got a birthday present he’d been asking for, for several years: a trip with a couple of friends to iFly, the indoor sky-diving simulator here in Oklahoma City. I saw on your church Facebook page that some of you went there recently as well. One of the things the instructors told the participants is that they need to relax in the powerful wind. If you’re too tense, you can go off course.
Our job, as those who are baptized and confirmed, is to be, as Saint Julian of Norwich said, like feathers on the breath of God. Not only praying but living the words of the Lord’s Prayer, “thy will be done,” is not easy.
Confirmands: don’t be frightened, but do realize that we are inviting the power of the Holy Spirit into our lives today, and that Spirit may have plans for us, beyond what we can even imagine.
And to all of us here today: let’s embrace the power of the Holy Spirit to create, communicate, change, and challenge. This end of the pandemic, God-willing, is not a chance to sit back and relax.
It is a call to get back to church, remake and reinvigorate our ministries, reach out in new ways to our neighbors, build on what we’ve learned, and get to the work of spreading the gospel of Jesus.
The Spirit of the Lord is upon us. It is a sweet, sweet spirit, as the song goes, and also a spirit that is being poured out upon us. Poured out on us, so that we might spread the good news to every race and nation to the ends of the earth, beginning in Oklahoma City!
The Holy Spirit is not a gentle breeze, but a mighty and unpredictable force. It isn’t safe, but it is good.
Come, Holy Spirit, into our hearts today, and families, into this congregation, into this city, into our state, and country, and into our world. Rush in and surround us with your presence.
Come Holy Spirit, as agent of creation, communication, change, and challenge. Speak to us, inspire us, and set us on fire with your transforming love. Amen.
~Bishop Poulson Reed, Sermon Given at St. Augustine of Canterbury Episcopal Church, Pentecost Sunday, May 23, 2021
REFLECTIONS ON CONFIRMATION IN THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH...FROM A FORMER PENTECOSTAL! TESSA YEAKLEY, ST. AUGUSTINE OF CANTERBURY EPISCOPAL CHURCH
On Sunday, May 23rd 2021 as Bishop Paulson preached his sermon, The Holy Spirit is Not a Gentle Breeze, I looked around the nave. I caught sight of the red, yellow, and pink balloons whipping through the air outside. I noticed the chandelier swaying and wondered if the wind was blowing against the bell tower.
“Pentecostal to Episcopalian?” they ask. “That’s quite a jump.”
I don’t have the words for it all, so I say something like “looking for a change” and “in love with the traditions” because both are true and both are enough.
I think of Aslan in the Narnia books and hear once again “He’s not a tame lion.”
Jesus never promised a comfortable journey. He promised He would be with me when He called me, a beggar, from the curb. He continues to open my eyes wide to the beauty and diversity of His Kingdom. I’m blessed, thankful, and Episcopalian as of today!
~Tessa Yeakley, St. Augustine of Canterbury Episcopal Church
THE FEAST DAY OF ST. AUGUSTINE OF CANTERBURY - DR. GIL HAAS, ST. AUGUSTINE OF CANTERBURY EPISCOPAL CHURCH
During Roman occupation, England had converted to Christianity. However, following the Roman withdrawal, Anglo-Saxon paganism was forced on the populace. It is against this background that Augustine was sent by Pope Gregory the Great to re-Christianize England beginning in Kent in southeastern England. The ruler of Kent was King Ethelberht, who had married a Christian French princess, Bertha. Although Bertha restored an ancient Roman church, the king and his subjects remained pagan. Scholars disagree as to whether Bertha or Ethelberht (following Bertha’s urging) requested a missionary from Gregory. Bede, an 8th-century monk, recorded that Pope Gregory saw fair-haired Saxon slaves in the Roman slave market, and he was inspired to convert them. After Augustine established a mission in Bertha’s church, King Ethelberht was baptized on Whitsunday, 597. Following the king’s conversion, Augustine wrote that over 10,000 Christians were baptized. Augustine was named the first Archbishop of Canterbury in 601. Although Gregory planned to move Augustine’s archiepiscopal see to London, the move from Canterbury never occurred. Although there are many quotes attributed to Augustine, one of my favorites is “Pray as though everything depended on God. Work as though everything depended on you.” Augustine died on May 26, 604, which is his feast day.
~Dr. Gil Haas, St. Augustine of Canterbury Episcopal Church
HISTORY, ORIGIN AND OBSERVANCE OF WHITSUNDAY OR THE FEAST OF PENTECOST - DR. GIL HAAS, ST. AUGUSTINE OF CANTERBURY EPISCOPAL CHURCH
Pentecost is listed on page 15 of our Book of Common Prayer as one of the seven principal feasts of the church year. Anglicans have traditionally labeled Pentecost as, “Whitsunday”, a shortened version of “White Sunday”. The term reflects the custom by which those who were baptized at the Vigil of Pentecost (i.e., the Saturday evening before the Sunday service on Pentecost) would wear their white baptismal garments to church the next day. Our Book of Common Prayer provides directions for a Vigil of Pentecost on page 227. On page 312, Pentecost is listed as one of the five Sundays of the church year that are “especially appropriate” for Holy Baptism. In spite of the traditional association with the color white, the liturgical color for Pentecost is red. The term, pentecost, means “the fiftieth day”. Its celebration of the gift of the Holy Spirit occurs on the fiftieth day after Easter. Pentecost in the old testament refers to the wave, peace, burnt, and sin offerings offered to God on the Feast of Weeks (Leviticus 23:9-23) fifty days after Passover in late May/early June. This feast originally celebrated the grain harvest but later commemorated the giving of the law on Sinai.
~ Dr. Gil Haas, St. Augustine of Canterbury Episcopal Church
Page 18 of the Book of Common Prayer states that “The Ember Days, (are) traditionally observed on the Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays after the First Sunday in Lent, Holy Cross Day (September 14), December 13 (St. Lucy’s Day), and the Day of Pentecost (next week).” The name is a corruption of the Latin, quattuor tempora (meaning “four times”). In third century Italy, the times were associated with sowing, harvest, and vintage, for which the faithful prayed, fasted, and gave alms. However, beginning in the twelve century, the days became occasions for the ordination of priests and deacons for whom the Christian community prayed, and the candidates for ordination prepared themselves by prayer and retreat. Our Book of Common Prayer lists prayers “For the Ministry (Ember Days)” on pages 205-206. These prayers are divided into “For those to be ordained”, “For the choice of fit persons for the ministry”, and “For all Christians in their vocation”. Three lectionaries for these days are listed on page 929. In recent times, Roman Catholics and Anglicans have been far less strict in linking “Ember Days” and the ordinations with which they are associated with specific days of the church’s year.
~Dr. Gil Haas, St. Augustine of Canterbury Episcopal Church
JESUS' LOVE IS LIKE THAT OF A MOTHER - REV. JOSEPH ALSAY, ST. AUGUSTINE OF CANTERBURY EPISCOPAL CHURCH
Excerpts of a Sermon Delivered
by the Reverend Joseph C. Alsay
Sixth Sunday of Easter
May 9th, 2021
Acts 10:44-48 & John 15:9-17
“Jesus’ Love is Like That of a Mother”
I heard a story about a family of sharecroppers living in Georgia during the 1950s. The family was very poor and there just wasn’t money for extras. One year the family had a bumper crop and with the money they had left over they decided to buy something for their home. After looking through the mail order catalogue they decided to order a mirror. When it arrived, they all took turns looking at their reflection. The youngest son who had been badly burned in a fire when he was a baby looked into the mirror and then looked over at his mother.
“Ma,” he said, “you knew I was this ugly and yet you still loved me all these years.”
The child may have been burned, but he was still beautiful in the mother’s eyes.
Sometimes it is difficult to relate Mother’s Day to the assigned readings for the Sunday.
That is not the case this year.
“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” “Greater love has no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” Does it surprise you to hear the words “love” and “commandment” together so much in these sentences?
I don’t think it should. In the major commitments of our lives, love is an obligation we take on which must push us on even when emotional love will not.
I think when you take marriage vows--you promise to do the hard work that marriage requires and not just expect to reap the benefits. For many people, when the going gets tough they get out. Don’t hear me wrong, I’m not endorsing staying in an abusive relationship. But a mushy, sentimental view of marriage can’t hold up over the long haul.
And then we come to mothers, and fathers for that matter, but mothers have a special bond with the children who are literally bone of their bone and flesh of their flesh. But it is not all sitting in the rocking chair cuddling with a baby, or making chocolate chip cookies for your child’s class at school, or beaming with pride at graduations and weddings. Being a mother means saying “no” when other mothers are saying “yes” sometimes. It means not automatically siding with your child who complains about how mean the teacher is. It means dusting your child off from a painful experience and giving a gentle prod to get back in the action and try again.
Later on, being a mother may mean having to forgive harsh words said in anger, foolish actions taken to assert independence, choices which you know will end up poorly. It may mean having to let your child have the humiliating and dangerous experience of spending a night in jail or going to rehab because you would no longer enable a habit.
It may mean dealing with alienation that you can do absolutely nothing about. It might be seeing your son participating in a riot and going out and grabbing him by the ear and taking him home. That might not be the way you or I would do it, but it is an example of a mother taking a difficult action to show love for her child.
This is what true love is. It’s going to be there through thick and thin, through good days and bad, through devotion and rejection.
In our gospel reading for today, Jesus speaks to us about tenacious love ~ love that will not let you go. “Remain in my love”, Jesus says, keep my commandments and abide in my love.
If we were to think of one expression to capture the spirit of most mothers it would be … tenacious love. Tenacious is a wonderful word that captures a desire to retain, preserve, protect, and hold together. In fact, we have coined the term “Grizzly Mother” or “Tiger Moms.”
Our Lord calls all of us to precisely that kind of determination as his baptized followers. We are all to be mother-like in our faithfulness, fortitude, and determination to make a difference.
Rudyard Kipling captured this image of tenacious love in this wonderful poem …
If I were hanged on the highest hill, I know whose love would follow me still.
Mother of mine. Mother of mine.
If I were drowned in the deepest sea, I know whose tears would come down to me.
Mother of mine, Mother of mine.
If I were damned by body and soul, I know whose prayers would make me whole.
Mother of mine, mother of mine.
On this Sunday when our Gospel lesson encourages us to think about love and obedience, how appropriate that we are also joining with people throughout this nation to give thanks for our mothers. No one casts a longer shadow across your life and mine than our mother and whether our mother is alive and sharing life with us or is with the Lord in heaven, today is our day to remember how blessed we have been by our mothers or whoever it is that played a formative, mothering role in our lives.
~Fr. Joseph C. Alsay, St. Augustine of Canterbury Episcopal Church
A Meditation Written by
The Rev. Joseph C. Alsay
on the Occasion of the
Tulsa Metropolitan Ministry & Interfaith Alliance of Oklahoma
2021 Day of Reflection
“Let Freedom Ring”
When I was a kid in school, our music teacher taught us a song written by Trini Lopez in the 60’s entitled “If I had a Hammer.” The lyrics were quite simple “If I had a hammer. I’d hammer in the morning. I’d hammer in the evening. All over this land. I’d hammer out danger. I’d hammer out a warning. I’d hammer out love between my brothers and my sisters all over this land.”
Then the second verse substituted the word “hammer” for “bell” and the third verse substituted the word “bell” for “song.”
Finally, the song stated, “Well, I’ve got a hammer And I’ve got a bell And I’ve got a song to sing All over this land. It’s the hammer of justice. It’s the bell of freedom. It’s the song about love between my brothers and my sisters all over this land.”
We are constantly surrounded by the sight, sound and effect of bells.
Think about, when someone arrives at your home, walks up to your door, they immediately look around for that conspicuous button and then without much thought, reach their hand out to ring the door_ _ _. Or what about when it’s been a long day at work and you just want to go home relax, forget about the pass eight hours and then out of nowhere the kids begin to hound and hassle you that they are famished beyond belief and you don’t have the strength and energy to prepare a five-course meal for the crew and say to yourself “Where I am ever going to find something to feed this ravenous bunch?” Then you realize that a mile and half down the street is your salvation. “Hey gang, let’s all go to Taco _ _ _.” Ah yes, saved by the bell.
From time in memorial and yes, to this very day, the sound of bells have been used in a vast variety of faith communities around the world, to call the faithful to worship the Divine. It matters not if the bells are rung in Tibetan monasteries, or from cathedral spires. The sound of the bell reminds us in the midst of our hectic and busy lives to stop and if just for a moment to pray; to help us to rejoice at momentous events like weddings, baptisms, and Feast days. The sound calls us to mourn for the souls of the departed at the end of a burial rite, and help us realize how fleeting life is and to ponder the immortal words, “For whom does the bell toll?”
Indeed, we are constantly surrounded by the sight, sound and effect of bells. Bells both great and small From London’s Big Ben to the Liberty Bell in our own fair land.
On this Day of Reflection in which we seek to engage in the august and momentous task of letting freedom ring one cannot help but flip through the annals of time and recount the story of the Liberty Bell.
History tells us that the Liberty Bell’s existence has not been absent of tragedy. The bell was commissioned in 1751 and arrived at what is known as Independence Hall in Philadelphia in 1752. It was soon after that, due to the poor mixture of the metals that the bell cracked for the first time during a test ringing. The bell had to subsequently be recast two more times before a short-lived success occurred. It was on July 8th 1776, the bell rung out in celebration at the first reading of the Declaration of Independence.
Interestingly enough in 1830, the bell was dubbed the “Liberty Bell” due to the fact that it was the chosen symbol of the abolitionists of that time.
Yet, within 16 years of the naming the “Liberty Bell” it cracked yet again. Never to repaired to this very day.
How symbolic, that symbol of American freedom developed an unrepairable crack in it. That crack is so symbolic not only because rendered the bell unplayable; not only because it bespeaks of the promise of freedom, life and liberty not realized for millions; but it also adequately depicts who we are as a nation and people. Dare I say, the cracked Liberty Bell “rings” of our human condition- - -cracked, flawed, and sinful.
That historic bell cracked due to the fact that there was a poor mixture of alloys. I would submit to you that maybe the sonorous sounds of religious freedom still fail to ring true for every person in our land; due to the fact that the amalgamation of hatred, prejudice and pride is still boiling in the “foundry of intolerance” and daily casts “bells of bigotry” to be rung by those taut a message of exclusivism.
But my beloved siblings, the good news is that each and every time we rang our bells this evening, we created cacophonous sound waves of love, acceptance and unity that traveled across this great country of ours. Though we may no longer hear them, due to their make-up, those sound waves have a way of affecting, if only in subtle ways everything and everybody they contact on this planet.
Today, through our bell-ringing we created harmonies of healing; rang out reconciliation between races and religions offered a peal of peace among all people of goodwill.
Magnificent music, that begins to bring into reality the words of that iconic speech deliver by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, at the Lincoln Memorial on August 28th, 1963.
There he said, “This will be the day when all of God's children will be able to sing with a new meaning, ‘My country, 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim's pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring.’
And if America is to be a great nation this must become true. So, let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania!
Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado!
Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California!
But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia!
Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee!
Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring.”
~Fr. Joseph C. Alsay, St. Augustine of Canterbury Episcopal Church
CONNECTED - SERMON AND REFLECTIONS ON JOHN 15:1-9 - REV. JOSEPH C. ALSAY, ST. AUGUSTINE OF CANTERBURY EPISCOPAL CHURCH
Excerpts of a Sermon Delivered at
Eucharistic Choral Evensong
The Reverend Joseph C. Alsay
Fifth Sunday of Easter May 2, 2021
The story is told of a grandfather who took his two-year old granddaughter out for ice cream. As they were beginning to cross a busy street the grandfather offered the girl his thumb. “You have to hold it tight until we’re inside the ice cream shop, okay” he told her. “This is a busy street.” The girl took one look at the outstretched hand wrapped her left fist around her right thumb, and said. “No, thank you. I can hold my own.”
No, thank you. I can hold my own. A perfect slogan for our rugged individualism. No wonder we distrust institutions. Religion: we say is our won spiritual journey.
“I am the vine, you are the branches. Apart from me you can do nothing,” Jesus says.
Edgy and tattooed Lutheran pastor and writer Nadia Bolz-Weber says that Christianity is a lousy religion for the “I can hold my own” or “I can do it myself” set. We are meant to be connected-to be tangled up together. We need the church. When your mom dies, your Yoga teacher isn’t going to bring you a casserole.
Rabbi Lawrence Kushner says, “If everything is connected to everything else, then everybody is ultimately responsible for everything…. We find ourselves in a luminous organism of sacred responsibility.”
Even nature testifies to this fact.
I couldn’t help but think about the wonderful image of the vine and branches. It had me thinking about how during the fifty days of Easter in most places, nature has sluffed off it wintry shells and awaken. The wonderful vibrant and vast array of flowers and trees are in full bloom. If you suffer from allergies, you know that all too well.
I found out, that when we look at a tree, we usually see a single entity. Yet some foresters suggest that trees are social beings. One German forester observed that trees help each other when they are sick or in need, pumping nutrients to each other. Forest, then, are super organisms with interconnections much like ant colonies. Trees communicate with each other and their own kind of social security, sharing water and nutrients so that each tree can be the best tree it can be.
What does it mean to truly thrive and live?
We are grafted to the vine, yes, but we are bound to one another in love.
In some ways, these days we’re more interconnected than ever with other people. Remember when we had to wait for a letter to arrive in the mail? Now we have email.
Yet, studies are showing that constant connectivity has a downside. Social media is causing greater isolation, depression, and loneliness among so many. Our devices are designed to addict us to them. Soon we are more responsive to our “smart” or maybe “stupid phones” than we are to other people.
We are all interconnected. Yet being tangled together is downright hard. Where will we draw the vital nourishment, the eternal energy, the hope to flourish?
I am the vine, you are the branches. We draw our very life from Christ the vine. At this table we are nourished to bear fruit in and for the world.
This vine is also a tree, the tree of life. For us, the branches of this tree-- the cross--reach out to us and all in welcome. Lord Jesus you stretched out your arms of love on the hard wood of the cross, so that all may come within your saving embrace. The sap of the tree is healing and new life.
~Rev. Joseph C. Alsay, St. Augustine of Canterbury Episcopal Church
Today is the feast of St. Gregory of Nazianzus. Gregory, along with St. Basil the Great and and St. John Chrysostom, are revered as the Three Holy Hierarchs of the Church. Gregory was born in Greece around 240 AD. During Gregory’s life, the Arian heresy was splitting the Church. Arianism held that Jesus was not co-eternal with God and is distinct from God. Instead Gregory, and the Nicene Creed’s supporters, held that the only distinctions between the Trinity’s three Persons are those which refer to their origins: the Father is unbegotten, the Son is begotten, and the Holy Spirit proceeds. Gregory also taught the complete humanity and the complete divinity of Jesus Christ. In 381 AD, Gregory was asked to chair the second Council of Nicaea which confirmed the beliefs which we espouse during every Eucharist in the Nicene Creed. In response to those who refuted the Holy Spirit’s divinity, Gregory offered this argument: “Christ is born, the Spirit is His Forerunner; Christ is baptized, the Spirit bears witness; Christ works miracles, the Spirit accompanies them; Christ ascends, the Spirit takes His place. What titles appertaining to God do not apply also to (the Spirit).”
~Dr. Gil Haas, St. Augustine of Canterbury Episcopal Church
Various Clergy and members of St. Augustine contribute to authoring the blog on a variety of topics.