Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?

I see tons of advertising every day. Of course it comes through television and radio – old school advertising. Being so involved in life online between emails, social media, work and websites I feel inundated! Looking at something on Amazon is typically followed by months of emails and online targeted ads pushing that product I happened to stumble on. February 2nd brings the celebration of all advertising, the Super Bowl. I think more people watch for the ads than for the game. One of my clergy friends used to say that if he won the lottery we would all see an ad for our Church in the midst of the Super Bowl. I hope he wins really big because it now takes $5.6 million for a thirty second ad spot. Yesterday, I received another one of those Valentine’s Day ads coming through almost every minute. Its point: ‘It is not too late. Jim, you’ve still got time to pull off a great romantic dinner at one of the local spots that couples love.’ Well, I’m glad for that chance. We luckily already have a plan for that day. We worry about being too late all the time. Even St. Paul recalled sadly that he was one born untimely, too late, out of time as the least of the Apostles, and as one who had done wrong before that moment of conversion. He saw himself as diminutive and weakly. If St. Paul left it there, constantly worrying about being too late, we would only see a sad and pathetic figure. Instead, he finds confidence and reassures us in saying “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace to me was not without effect.” In this ‘month of love’ and month that begins this year’s Great and Holy Lent, St. John reminds us that the message and trick in advertising – you’re going to miss out – is untrue. St. James and St. Paul both tell us that we cannot be too late. Our victory is assured because we believe in Jesus, the Son of God, and because His grace is alive in us to great effect.

February starts with a celebration of Jesus, Light of the World. We then enter the Pre-Lenten season of Septuagesima. The close of February takes us into the Great and Holy Lent. Light. Preparation, and reflection give us the opportunity to enter deeply into life with Jesus as His disciples.

Learn about February’s discipleship initiative. Celebrate Scout Sunday. Get together for adult religious education. Partake in our Valentine’s Raffle. Celebrate Black History Month with a special event focusing on historic Black Gospel Music on February 29th. All this and so much more!

Read about all this in our February 2020 Newsletter.

So that I may make it clear, as it is right for me to do.

Watching New Year’s Rockin’ Eve at the turn of the year and our entry into a new decade was interesting. The team running the show kept playing Barbara Walters, the former cohost of the news show 20/20, saying over and over: “This is 2020.” 20/20 has been on ABC since 1978. It was meant to present in-depth reporting on human interest stories. The name of the program was meant to denote clearness of vision, a goal of providing clear information for the show’s audience’s thinking. The verse above is from the end of Paul letter to the Church at Colossae. Paul was in prison at the time and he was asking for the Church’s prayers so that he might “proclaim the mystery of Christ” clearly and that the door might be opened “for our message.” As we begin this new year and decade it is opportune for us to focus on a message that is 20/20, a clear speaking and teaching on the message of Jesus, the mystery of His coming to earth, passion, death, resurrection, ascension, and imminent return. We people of faith have been given a clearer vision and understanding of these things, what they mean for us in our life journey. We also have a clear task in front of us – to make what we know known. The world is a place of confusion and distraction. It is a place of shadows and unclear thinking. That’s just in everyday life. Think how much more confusing the message of sacrificial love found in the Gospel of Jesus is to the world; how hard it is to love as we should. These things are mystery, or foolishness, or even stupidity to those who do not know the power of Jesus’ clear message. So we must set to work. We are called to present in-depth reporting on the greatest human interest story of all time. We are to call people, by our teaching, words, prayer, and way of life to a clear vision of what life is, providing clear information for all around us to hear and follow. Paul’s prayer of purpose must be our prayer too. Lord, open the door for me so I may proclaim Your mystery clearly, 20/20.

January and celebrating through the entire forty day season of Christmas. We are gathering funds for SouperBowl Sunday, completing our clothing collections for those in need in our local community, and working together to reveal Him who binds up and re-ignites us. Music Scholarship Sunday is January 26th and applications for scholarships are now available. Learn about this year’s discipleship initiatives. Our Valentine’s Raffle is coming up, get your tickets now. We are prepping for our annual meeting. Above all, we are thankful for you.

Read about all this and a reflection on generosity in our January 2020 Newsletter.

Peace.

Advent is here and Christmas is less than four weeks away. As we enter this season of expectation, thoughts turn to where we should be versus all the anxieties found in our daily life. As we enter this season and approach Christmas, let us consider peace. Peace is mentioned more than 429 times in the Bible. In the Bible, peace is taught as the Shalom of God. Being of God, Shalom, peace, encompasses many meanings including totality or completeness, success, fulfillment, wholeness, harmony, security and well being. Shalom is an ordering of life ordained by God through creation and established with God’s people in the covenant. Shalom is a place of being where chaos cannot exist. Chaos is those things we all abhor – sickness, war, social strife, any violation of the covenant and God’s law of love. As we enter Advent, let us consider the place of peace in our lives. Where are we in terms of the totality or completeness, success, fulfillment, wholeness, harmony, security and well being God desires for us? Where are we in relationship to Him and each other? Are we living His Shalom or are we enveloped by chaos? The Church presents Advent as that time to re-enter the Shalom of God. We have this short period of time, set aside – really separate – where we can retreat and pray, worship (communally in church), study (Biblical reading), fast, share (get rid of the excess we have), re-connect, and holistically enter into God’s peace. To do otherwise is to allow ourselves to slip into the abyss of chaos that is screaming around us. Jesus is inviting us into his peace. He is constantly doing that. He wants us to be prepared, settled, rested, and ready for His return, both symbolically at Christmas and in reality. As we stand before the manger, at Christmas, throughout its forty days, and thereafter, let us do so in peace.

December, Advent and the approaching Christmas season. So much going on – be part of it. We are reintroducing Candlelit Rorate Holy Masses every Wednesday in Advent at 7am. We have wafers/opłatek available for you to take home. We will bless and light the Advent wreath on December 1st, have our Vigil/Wigilia dinner on December 15th (come and partake) and the greening of the Church on December 22nd (come help decorate). We have our food and clothing collections ongoing for those in need in our local community. Of course a whole schedule of Holy Masses for Christmas, including a true Solemn Midnight Holy Mass, the blessing of wine on the Feast of St. John the Apostle and Evangelist – and so much more.

Read about all this and a reflection on generosity in our December 2019 Newsletter.

And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

Wholeness, completeness – words that present a sense of the ideal, and concepts that are so hard to live on a day-to-day basis. As a Church dedicated to scripture, and considering that we classify the proclamation and teaching of God’s word as a sacrament. let’s take a moment to consider the Bible. I remember classes from grade school on up – and the oft repeated question – what is the Bible? The expected, technical answer, which most kids got wrong? The Bible is a Book of Books. A Book of Books? Makes it seem as if the Bible is a kind of library, and indeed it could be considered that. However, my classmates and I would invariably get the ‘answer’ wrong, blurting out – “It is a book.” But what if we were right? My classmates and I were right because perhaps, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, we were seeing the bigger picture, the completeness, the wholeness of scripture. All of scripture, from its inspired stories, histories, prophecies, and poetry in the Old Testament is one. It points invariably to the coming salvation found only in Jesus Christ. The Gospels give us Jesus in His complete revelation – the call to live life as He lived, the call to be a true sons and daughters of the Father as He is the Son of the Father. The invitation to accept Him as our Savior by confession of our sin and belief by faith. The remainder of the New Testament interprets the Gospel into keys for daily living within the wholeness of the Christian community. We dedicate the month of November to remembering our dearly departed. We have a lesson here. The wholeness and completeness of scripture is life’s model, who we are and where we are going. Life is not a series of separate stories and events, just a book of books, or unrelated chapters. Our life extends from birth to eternity. We are not just separate people and events. We live in a continuum that has, as its goal and end, life in the eternal wholeness and completeness of God Who holds all things together.

November and days of remembrance, days of honor and prayer, days of Thanksgiving. We have an active schedule throughout the month including the most important aspect of our life together – regular worship and fellowships that renews and strengths us for the totality of our life in Jesus.

Read more in our November 2019 Newsletter.

As Jesus walked along the shore of Lake Galilee

Jesus spent a lot of time along the shore. St. Mark’s gospel practically starts with Jesus walking along the shore. Jesus preached by the shore, walked from the shore out to the boat, across the water, and appears on the shore, seaside, after His resurrection. The well known poem, ‘Footprints in the Sand’ speaks of Jesus walking with us along the shore of our life, beside us at times, carrying us at others. All of these references to the shore, and we never see any references to snow or cold throughout Jesus’ ministry. Sure, there was the storm on the sea, but Jesus took care of that. No cold because there is none in God. As we enter the fullness of the summer months, we find yet again, Jesus with us at the shore. We recognize that Jesus doesn’t hang back at home while we head out to the shore. He is ready, and very much happy to go along. After all, the seaside town of Capernaum was His base (ok, enough, I see that Jesus loved the shore and the sea). Wherever we may go this summer, the message isn’t about Jesus’ love of tourist destinations or those quiet secluded places only we and a few of our friends know about, but rather about what Jesus accomplishes wherever He may be. Jesus loved these places, the shore especially, not because He liked to hang out and soak up rays, but because – the key – that’s where the people were. Jesus came to bring a powerful message – The kingdom is at hand, it is about to break open with a sunlight and freedom you have never known, and when it opens, I want you to be ready to enter. Jesus came to bring that message to everyone. We all have access. The lovely song, Lord, You Have Come To The Seashore/Pescador de Hombres/Barka makes the point. He came to seek, to call, to proclaim. Having done so, He expects us to take up with Him, at the shore, anywhere we go, and say: at Your side, I will seek other shores. Let us seek those shores – the opportunity to make Jesus known everywhere.

Summer is here and the calendar is full of the fun, relaxing, family activities that will live on as fond memories and great friendships. We have our annual church-wide Summer camp and celebrate the camp’s 90th anniversary. There’s golf, music, a picnic (everyone is invited), a wedding shower, a free play, prayers for our country, and a few preparatory items for those far off – after Labor Day – activities.

Don’t rush it. Enjoy it! …and hang with Jesus at the shore.

Read more in our July/August 2019 Newsletter.

Jesus’ disciples gathered around him, and he taught them: I tell you not to worry…

Matthew 6:25

I believe we often wonder whether Jesus is really speaking to us. Are those particular words meant for me? The answer is always yes, and reflecting on our passage for this month, we can certainly see how it applies to us. Jesus’ friends and followers got together, and He COMMANDED them: Chill out! Indeed, Matthew 6:25, taken from the Sermon on the Mount, is a direct command from Jesus to His followers. His language was not a suggestion or a recommendation, or an option. If you are following me, you need to relax, chill out, throw out all fear and anxiety. If we experience God, church, family, and everyday life from a perspective of fear and anxiety we are missing the blessings of a true relationship with Jesus and each other. Instead of living in Jesus – life to the fullest – we are just functioning and killing ourselves. Fear, worry and anxiety are a wall, a thick, high, deep, and strong wall that blocks the way between me and Jesus. We look at those walls, and our instinct is not to break through the wall, after all. who am I? Rather, we start immediately to make the wall bigger, stronger, higher, and deeper. We forget the dynamite we really have. The power we have is faith as small as a mustard seed. Go to the local supermarket or spice store. Find a jar of mustard seed, and look how small those seeds are. Buy that jar, and then go find a big ‘ol wall – a brick or stone one, and take one of those seeds. just one, and throw it at the wall. In our minds and hearts, see that wall explode and fall. That’s the power we have in Jesus. That is the order He has given us. With the simplest of faith, the least amount of faith, the wall of fear, worry and anxiety is destroyed. When we come to church, let us use the opportunity to stand up and follow Jesus’ order. He’s speaking to us. Destroy the wall. Relax the shoulders, throw out the obligation, and step over the broken parts of that wall. See Jesus for real, no fear.

Join us in June for the fullness of the Holy Spirit experience. Confirmation and Installation, Father’s Day BBQ, all done in a chill out manner with faith in Jesus who overcomes all. Plus check out all the great upcoming national and local events now and throughout the summer.

Read more in our June 2019 Newsletter.

Mary responded, “Oh, how my soul praises the Lord. How my spirit rejoices in God my Savior!”

Mary spoke seven times as recorded by scripture. While I am sure she spoke more than that, that is all that is recorded. In those seven moments (depending on the Bible translation), Mary spoke a grand total of 189 words. Of the 189 words, 180 were spoken before Jesus was born and through His childhood. Only 9 were spoken when He was an adult, and only as a precursor to His launching His ministry. We tend to place a lot of emphasis on words, and perhaps not enough on action. However, the action is where it is at. That’s where we want to be, taking part in what’s happening. The Magnificat – a fancy way of saying Mary’s Prayer – gives us an example of one who really wants to be part of the action. Mary is proclaiming how her very being, her soul and spirit, are intent on magnifying and rejoicing in the Lord. She is throwing her whole self into God’s way of living, God’s way of being, God’s way of changing everything. She saying – I just don’t want to be part of that, I am fully in, onboard. Throughout the rest of scripture, we occasionally meet Mary. She is there as her Son ministers, she is along the Way of the Cross, at the foot of the Cross, a witness to His burial, and with the disciples on Pentecost. She made herself all-in. She did this by her service, by her willingness to follow, by her letting her Son’s precious words and actions shine forth. As we enter the month of May, Mary’s month, recall that the Holy Church sets her example forth not as some long ago tale, as some stale devotion, or as words for the sake of words, but so we may live her engagement as a disciple. Mary did not sit back and let words come before her action of magnifying and rejoicing in the Lord. This May, as we mow, tend to new blooming gardens, and honor mom, let us redouble our action and engagement, placing our whole selves into Jesus work, like Mary.

Join us in May for the fullness of the Easter Season, great national and local events now and throughout the summer, special thanks, and lots of great fellowship right here in Schenectady.

Read more in our May 2019 Newsletter.

But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices which they had prepared.

They came, so sad, with faces stained;
Behind them the rays of a new dawn flamed.
All about them heaven with glory began to open…

The partial stanza above is from the poem The Resurrection by Fr. Walter Hyszko. This and other poems by Fr. Hyszko can be found in his book, Ode to Great Men and Great Things in Poetry and Prose.

This poem is so appropriate to us. It reflects on the early morning walkMary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women took to the tomb. They were deeply saddened, faces tear stained from prolonged crying. Their hearts were broken.

In their sadness, they set out to commit a final act of love toward Jesus, to anoint His dead body with spices. He was dead.

Fr. Hyszko paints a picture in words. They reflect what we may be experiencing Easter Sunday morning if we have walked with

Jesus throughout Lent, if we actually spent time in church from Maundy Thursday through Holy Saturday. The weight of Jesus betrayal, arrest, torture, death, and the ensuing silence after burial weighs heavy on us. Our sinfulness, our failures, our unwillingness to be there for Jesus, presses on us. We feel death’s press and we miss it.

As Fr. Hyszko points out, the Marys, Joanna, and the other women missed it too: Rays of a new day flamed / heaven with glory began to open. All those things that weigh on us, all the tears and regrets in our lives have been covered in the redeeming blood of Jesus. We have been washed and made new. That day burned forth as new – a new era – rebirth into a time where heaven is open. The doors have been unbarred. Death has been crushed by death. He lives!

The last line of the poem’s first stanza says: Yet the thrall of grief remained unbroken. Do not let your grief remain unbroken this Easter for we are made new. Rejoice!!!

Join us this April for the conclusion of our Lenten and Passiontide journey. Join us in our Lenten retreat on April 6th. Join in directed giving. Palm Sunday is April 14th, then Holy Week – a full schedule of events taking us on a journey through every emotion – by which we grow so close to Jesus. In the end, grief will not win.

Read more in our April 2019 Newsletter.

Who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped

Everything Jesus said and did was for us. He counted properly. In his letter to the Philippians, St. Paul laid out all the things Jesus gave up for us. He made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant. Jesus did not give these things up to demean Himself, to become less than what He was, but rather to take all He is and all He has and offer it up before His Father in the ultimate sacrifice. A sacrifice sufficient to pay our debt of sin. That ultimate sacrifice was the key moment of Jesus’ doing. That act alone is so meaningful for us. We have endless thanks and praise to offer for that alone. Yet there is so much more in Jesus’ time on earth and ministry for us. He not only provided us freedom by His ultimate sacrifice, He left us a storehouse of treasure to be counted and used. This Lent, we are called upon to count, consider, and take up each and every thing Jesus taught and demonstrated for us. We are to assess His way of life, His call to follow Him, find the areas where we fall short, turn from them, and respond with concrete, doable, and practical strategies to live Jesus’ life. That’s right, live Jesus’ life. The concept of discipleship entails a turning away from ‘how we are’ to ‘how we must be.’ Lent provides the perfect opportunity for us to count up all the ways we fall short, all the ways, and to escape from sin into fuller life in Jesus. If Jesus could give it all up, then so must we. If Jesus has called us to discipleship, then so we must accept His call; His way of counting. Philippians says, everything about Jesus is to be grasped, to be counted, too be considered and thought about. But, we must not stop there. If we truly grasp and count all there is in Jesus, we realize what we must do. As Jesus lived, we must live. As Jesus did, we must do. Make Lent matter, delve into Jesus storehouse of treasure and let us make ourselves count as Jesus does.

Join us through March and into April in our Lenten and Passiontide journey. Join us in our Lenten retreat on April 6th. How about a discipleship gathering on March 22nd? Join in directed giving. Then — March 30th our Fire of the Spirit Charismatic Healing Service. March 31st — our BASKET SOCIAL!!!

The initial list of winners of our Valentine’s raffle is included in the newsletter. Information about our upcoming parish census is included.

Step up to, and join with us in, the Spiritual Buffet. Read more in our March 2019 Newsletter.

Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ. Now I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions even as I delivered them to you.

St. Paul commends the Corinthians on maintaining the traditions he taught. I am often pleasantly surprised when a visitor to our parish (someone looking for a new church home, someone visiting for the first time) commends us: I can’t believe you still do THAT. It brings back so many memories.  Those words are never spoken in any negative way, but in admiration, real commendation. What we do in church brings back memories, family, place, belonging, and home. We make it real. Tradition, for us and for our visitors, is more than sets of actions, it is a deep connection to life in Christ’s body. It is wonderful that our connection with traditional liturgical practice, keeping the traditions delivered to us, warms hearts and makes them feel connected to something far greater and much deeper. If you study ‘church conflicts’ you would often see battle lines drawn between tradition and liberalism. The wars and conflicts typically center on things most people would consider minutia, little details that may be important on a technical level, but would not be worth dying over. Yet so much drama… We are spared because we live tradition holistically. What is commendable about what we do is that we maintain what is essentially important. It is not liturgical tradition alone, but tradition in every sense, wholly. We have a tradition of charity and openness that lives in the way we welcome. We imitate the apostles, and are willing to be disciples of Christ. That shows in the way we proclaim Him, make Him known, and invite all to join with us in knowing, loving, and serving Jesus. This year we work to grow in our discipling of Jesus. We try to be more like Him. Then let us appreciate the commendation we have received. We live the very words Paul also wrote to the Thessalonians: stand firm, hold to the traditions that you were taught.

February, and it’s not lent yet? This year Lent begins very late (HINT: Ash Wednesday is March 6th). We spend the month doing all sorts of stuff. Our annual meeting and elections (HINT: We live real democracy in this church). There’s SouperBowl Sunday, our month-long Valentine’s raffle, home blessings continue, we continue our focus on discipleship, and even talk sex and the environment.

There is much going on – and we want to make sure you are well informed and ready to get your discipleship into high gear; to live as His holistically.

What else? Get in on Music Scholarships and start getting baskets ready (HINT: Our annual Basket social will be held March 31st at the Rotterdam Senior Citizen’s Center).

Check out all this and more in our February 2019 Newsletter.