Called to Live Anew.

Therefore, my beloved brothers and sisters, be firm, steadfast, always fully devoted to the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.

Anew – Life Anew in Christ is exhibited especially when we live to know, love, and serve the Lord and when call people to also know, love, and serve the Lord and His Holy Church right here at this parish.

Today we enter the final half-week of this Pre-Lenten season. This season is specifically designed so we might prepare ourselves for the rigors of the Lenten season to begin in just three days. Between now and Easter we endeavor and strive at the vast changes we need in our lives.

St. Paul reminds the Church at Corinth, and us, that we have been made new, we have put on the eternal, the incorruptible. The definition of life anew. He reminds us that we are not to be those hypocrites Jesus warns against, but rather those who bear good fruit, producers of good.

In baptism we were consecrated to the Lord and that makes us different, new. We have entered the Kingdom and its life. We have victoryTherefore, we must be firm, steadfast, always fully devoted to the work of the Lord. As such, we must live as the Kingdom people we are now, not the people we were then.

Being fully devoted to the work of the Lord means calling ourselves to necessary repentance, to fasting, prayer, and charity. Being fully devoted to the Lord means constantly reaching for the next rung on the ladder to heaven and helping others up the ladder.

By growing in this new life, we show our beauty – our attractiveness – to those who do not know the Lord. Between our Kingdom life example and the gentleness of our words we call others into the Kingdom life.

Last night’s Grand Ole Opry introduced a group appearing for the first time, We The Kingdom. It was a great example of people, family and friends, living out their faith in Jesus Christ publicly, with joy, and celebration. So, we should be We The Kingdom for indeed that is what we are – as we live out our life anew in Jesus Christ publicly, with joy, and celebration. As they sang, calling others to meet Jesus by their artistic example, so must we by the means and opportunities that are in our paths.

Imagine a community of people where others are welcome without criticism and judgment, where words and music are sweet balm for the hurting, where the inhabitants are steadfast, devoted to the work of the Lord, where each person helps the other to climb the ladder to heaven. Yes, that place is here because we are the Kingdom and we grow evermore as we endeavor and strive at the changes we need in our lives – living anew each day, and welcoming others to the same.

Called to Live Anew.

“Give, and gifts will be given to you; a good measure, packed together, shaken down, and overflowing, will be poured into your lap. For the measure with which you measure will in return be measured out to you.”

Anew – Life Anew in Christ is exhibited especially when we call people to know, love, and serve the Lord and His Holy Church right here at this parish.

Today we enter the second week of this Pre-Lenten season. This season is one in which we prepare ourselves for the rigors of the Lenten season because it is between now and Easter that we endeavor and strive at the vast changes we need in our lives.

Jesus certainly speaks of vast changes, a true upheaval in our lives. Jesus calls His followers to radically different lives. If we were once silent and demure we must now speak up boldly.

In this discourse on living radically different lives Jesus alludes to measures – the weight of our obligation and the generous weight of God’s response.

Certainly, many of us have baked. Perhaps it is only out of a Betty Crocker or Duncan Hines box. Perhaps it is from scratch.

If we have cooked from scratch, consider how the measurement and handling of flour can result in such different weights. A cup of sifted flour seems light while a packed down cup of flour can be quite dense and heavy. As we shake that cup down, we can always seem to add more.

Consider how those weights might represent our call to life anew, to the inner changes we need and our call to drawing others into worship and fellowship right here. 

It is a serious obligation to live as Jesus says we must: loving people who hurt us, giving our all and without expectation of repayment, foregoing judgment and accusation, and forgiving.

We draw people to Jesus because our lives are so different from that of the world. Jesus is saying the cup of our work can always be shaken down more – and that we must put more into it.

In return, Jesus makes an awesome statement. We will be repaid equally. As radically different as our lives are, so radically will God give unto us. What we pack in will be poured into us.

Our Kingdom lives are so vastly different and so amazingly blessed. As St. Paul tells us, the image of the earthly and worldly man in us – the place we came from – is vastly changed because we now bear the image of Christ Jesus. We therefore must give our all and still more for the advancement and growth of the Kingdom because we are the image of the heavenly.

Put the image of God’s generous outpouring into our mind’s eye and pour into the places we go a heavy, not a sifted, weight of our own life in Jesus.

Called to Live Anew.

“Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude and insult you, and denounce your name as evil on account of the Son of Man. Rejoice and leap for joy on that day! Behold, your reward will be great in heaven.”

Anew – it is a word we will focus on for years to come. Now is the time for our next great step together, to call people anew to knowing, loving, and serving the Lord and His Holy Church right here at this parish.

What better way to connect with the word anew than to enter this new season in our Church life, the Season of Septuagesima, Pre-Lent.

This Pre-Lenten season is one in which we prepare ourselves for the rigors of the Lenten season because it is between now and Easter that we endeavor and strive at the vast changes we need in our lives. To live anew we set to the hard work that is a re-valuing of our priorities, and the doing of God’s work.

Let us start with the one beatitude that is very hard for most of us: Accepting the fact that we will be hated, excluded, insulted, and denounced as evil because we proclaim the name of Jesus. We know it happens to those who follow and speak Jesus’ teachings, because those teachings call worldly people to repentance and change. Who really wants to change and live anew anyway? We know it can and will happen to us as we live anew and call people to know, love, and serve the Lord and His Holy Church

We all want to be liked, we all want to be fabulous, funny, accepted, spectacular, and spoken well of. But there is a cost. The cost is the truth of God’s word and our place in the Kingdom. So, we set out in this season and the season ahead to re-value what is important and to live the way we must – not should – but must. Life anew.

If we are to live lives anew, things must change in us. We each have those inner issues we need to overcome. We each have attitudes, really bad-i-tudes, that must be rooted out and replaced with Jesus’ beatitudes. We must weigh the cost of silence versus the loss of souls on the scale of eternity and do all we can to speak about our God, our faith, and our Church and how they hold forever promise for each person we encounter.

Knowing we live in the Kingdom of God we must be willing to accept polite and not so polite no’s when we invite people to meet Jesus, to join us in fellowship. We must be willing to speak truth in the face of worldly values so that hearts might be converted, and people might be saved.

So let us start now, living anew in each encounter and invite others to that same new life for Jesus’ sake no matter the outcome. If we do, we hold onto our forever promise and await the day we rejoice and leap for joy as we accept Jesus’ great reward in heaven. 

Blessed is the one who trusts in the LORD, whose hope is the LORD.

The text above is from Jeremiah 17:7, the Old Testament reading at the start of Pre-Lent. The next verse goes onto say about the one who hopes and trusts in the Lord: They are like a tree planted beside the waters that stretches out its roots to the stream: It does not fear heat when it comes, its leaves stay green; In the year of drought it shows no distress, but still produces fruit. As you will read herein, the Pre-Lenten season of Septuagesima is one of preparation. So the question, Preparation for what?

We could say that Pre-Lent is preparation for a better 40 day Lenten journey. That we might make time and schedule our fasting, prayer, giving  – that is certainly true. We could mark the time off on the calendar as days until Easter: 70, 60, 50 – that is true as well. Notice how both of these thoughts on preparation are time-constrained. I must set time to do these timely things according to the time on the calendar. However it might be better if we did not consider our preparation or even our lives as time constrained, as limited. We have, through our baptism, been  added to the great cloud of witnesses – disciples of Christ – who already reside in His eternal Kingdom. We are no longer time-bound. Rather we are freed to be as Jeremiah states. Then, let us prepare to be fully engaged as a people who trust in the Lord – having a real and active faith that Jesus does as He promised to do. We are to have full-time hope in Him – and that trust and hope leads to a courage when speaking about Jesus to others. If we focus on trust and hope and who we are in the Kingdom we turn out (bloom) like that tree. We are planted in Christ Jesus Who nourishes us. We do not fear the negatives, the “heat,” for Jesus has us safely in His care. We remain alive in Him, so prepare to bear fruit full-time by timeless lives that draw others unto Jesus.

Welcome to our February 2022 Newsletter. It is packed full of info on the season of Pre-Lent / Septuagesima, the two-and-a-half week time of preparation for the Great Lent (which starts late this particular year). We have provided materials linked herein for your study. We are holding our annual meetings this and next month, part of our ecclesial democratic tradition. The Valentine’s Raffle is here, SouperBowl Sunday, and Epiphany house blessings continue – schedule your time soon. March 6th is Scout Sunday and Scouts coming to church in uniform can get their Scout Sunday patch for 2022.

Also, read up on things to say in church, the meaning of “Lord have mercy,” College Stipends and Scholarships, free healthcare opportunities, and the BASKET SOCIAL is back. All this and more in our February 2022 Newsletter.

Cleaning out.

  • First reading: Hosea 2:16,17,21,22
  • Psalm: 103:1-4,8,10,12-13
  • Epistle: 2 Corinthians 3:1-6
  • Gospel: Mark 2:18-22

“No, new wine is poured in new wineskins.”

We are in the final half-week of this short season dedicated to preparation for our Lenten journey. It is a season of ‘cleaning out the old’ to make room for the new thing God has waiting for us.

In the first Sunday of Pre-Lent we recognized our likeness to the leper in the Gospel. We acknowledged the fact that we need Jesus to make us clean, clean from old idols and rebellion against God. We were asked to trust that He will indeed cleanse us.

Last week we saw Jesus forgiving sin and showing forth this authority to do so through the curing of the paralytic. Jesus came to cleanse us at an entirely different level – like with the paralytic a cleansing so deep it is complete. St. Paul reminded us that God’s promises are sure and firm. He will do what He says, providing us complete cleansing, forgiveness, and healing. We need only trust.

Today we focus on the room we have made by cleaning out the old and by trusting in God to cleanse us. The room we have made prepares us for the new thing God has waiting for us.

Have you ever reflected on how amazing God is at doing something new? Who else but our God would do new amazing things like lead His people dry shod through the midst of the sea on their way to freedom? Who else would cause the walls of the world’s strongest city to fall before His people? Who would allow His servants to walk safely through the hottest oven ever built? Who would give victory to His armies in the face of overwhelming opposition? Who would send His Son to save us? Who would love a prostitute?

Wait, what? Yes, who else, beside our amazing God, would be bold enough to do what no one else would do, love a prostitute.

The story of the Prophet Hosea is exactly that, God’s next new thing. Hosea was commanded to go out, find, clean up, and marry Gomer the prostitute. Hosea was commanded to go after her, even when she chose to leave him so she could go back to prostitution. In this relationship, God shows forth the depth of His love, a love ever new and renewing. A love deep, complete, and powerful to do new for Gomer and for us.

Jesus speaks of clothes and wineskins. Imagine your oldest most threadbare clothes. God’s ever new way is not to fix up your old clothes with patches, trying to cover the holes that leave us exposed. Rather, He has prepared new brilliant white clothes for us to wear into the kingdom. He does not want to fill the old us with His new wine, His word and His very self. If He did, we would burst. Rather He makes us new, in and out, and ready to receive His next new thing this Lent. 

Cleaning out.

  • First reading: Isaiah 43:18-19,21-22,24-25
  • Psalm: 41:2-3,4-5,13-14
  • Epistle: 2 Corinthians 1:18-22
  • Gospel: Mark 2:1-12

When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”

We are in the second week of this short two-and-a-half-week season dedicated to preparation for our Lenten journey. It is a season of ‘cleaning out the old’ to make room for the new thing God has waiting for us.

Last Sunday we recognized our likeness to the leper in the Gospel. We acknowledged the fact that we must throw away the old idols within us and clean ourselves of the rebellion against God that is in us. We must ask Jesus to cleanse us of our ẓaraʿat, and trust that He will cleanse us.

Jesus pointedly brings that message home to us today. We must trust that He can and will cleanse us.

The story of the paralyzed man and his friends is dramatic. A crowded street and entryway to a home. People pressing in on all sides, the man and his friends unable to get to Jesus. They get up to the roof and tear it open to lower their friend to Jesus. It is miracle time. Jesus is going to cleanse him of his paralyzing condition.

Jesus had been sitting there speaking the word to them. He was proclaiming the gospel message, repent and believe, the kingdom of heaven is at hand. I have come to free you from your handicaps, from your blindness and captivity. He was alluding to the words of Isaiah: The past is forgotten; a new way is being made. No matter how obstinate you have been, no matter how sinful, for My own sake I wipe out your offenses, and remember not your sins. I have come to cleanse you at a whole different level – completely.

Some in the room were listening, others not. Along (or down) comes the paralyzed man. The room goes silent. What will happen next. Will he walk? Will Jesus fail?

Jesus looks up and says: “Son, your sins are forgiven.” I am hereby cleansing you of every sin, every failing, every fault. 

The Scribes (read lawyers) were shocked. Jesus cannot cleanse that way. That is blasphemy. So, Jesus confronts them. He asks them what is harder, the cleansing of forgiveness or of healing.

Jesus shows that His cleaning is God’s cleaning and that His cleaning is at a different level – it is so deep it is complete.

St. Paul got our doubt about the completeness of Jesus’ cleansing. How could God free me, heal me, cleanse me. That is why Paul told us that Jesus is YES and AMEN. In Greek “yes” means “sure” and “amen” means “firm.” All of God’s promises are sure and firm. They are unchanging, unwavering, and unmovable. He will do what He says. He will provide us complete cleansing. Jesus has forgiveness and healing waiting for us. Yes, we can trust in Him.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

December 2011, a stage jam packed with artifacts, boxes, materials, technology, bric-a-brac, and everything else. A counting room, two sacristies, choir loft, closet, and an odd side room off the parish hall similarly situated. It took months, but much of it was reorganized, labeled, filed, sent to the diocesan and general Church archives, and some simply recycled or discarded. But some of it… it ended up in that odd side room off the parish hall awaiting a decision. Here we are in February 2021, nearly ten years later and the time is now. That, my brothers and sisters is what Pre-Lent and our walk through Lent is all about. It is about assessing what we have, the stuff in our lives that stands as clutter between us and God. The amazing thing about our Lord and God is that He has no clutter, no obstacle – He is ever available to us. We, on the other hand tend to have stuff that gets in our way to Him. Over years of Pre-Lenten and Lenten seasons we have worked to remove those obstacles. Yet we still have those set aside rooms where there are lasting issues, stuff remaining between now and paradise. It is time to diligently set to cleaning out those things that stand between where we are and where we must be as Jesus’ disciples. Once we identify the clutter, let us take steps to clean it out and discard what gets in the way. Those things in us await a decision. They nag at us, will you cling to me, the clutter and mess, or will you give me up? Now is the time to clear out.

February is here and we are celebrating the Pre-Lenten season of Septuagesima and preparing ourselves for the beginning of the Great Lent. 

Lent in our 100th year as a parish gives us amply opportunity of reflect on what we must clean out so there is room for what Jesus has prepared for us.

We have an incredibly busy month ahead.

This month we focus on Jeremiah the Prophet and the Spiritual Works of Mercy in our discipleship journey. We hold our annual meeting, a tradition and obligation instituted by those who organized our parish – honoring each person’s voice and vote in the governance of the parish and the management of its funds. We hold our annual month long Valentine’s Raffle event. We celebrate Scout Sunday and also encourage you to apply for music scholarships, and share a reflection on “Being a Light in a Dark World.” Don’t forget about our weekly “Together in Faith and Love” Zoom get-togethers.

Check out all this and more here in our February 2021 Newsletter.

Cleaning out.

  • First reading: Leviticus 13:1-2,44-46
  • Psalm: 32:1-2,5,11
  • Epistle: 1 Corinthians 10:31 – 11:1
  • Gospel: Mark 1:40-45

He remained outside in deserted places, and people kept coming to him from everywhere. 

Just prior to Holy Mass I noted that we enter the Pre-Lenten season of Septuagesima today.

This short two-and-a-half-week season is dedicated to preparation for our Lenten journey. It is a season of ‘cleaning out the old’ to make room for the new thing God has waiting for us.

The Hebrew term ẓaraʿat is traditionally rendered “leprosy” because of its Greek translation as “lepra.” The Greek word for leper covers a wide range of diseases that produced scales including many non-contagious types. Greek lepra may have included true leprosy but was not limited to it. It is likely that the banished, like the man who approached Jesus in today’s Gospel, were lifelong sufferers.

Leprosy was most often attributed to the sufferer’s sin. In scripture, whenever a reason is given for an attack of ẓaraʿat, it is in connection with a person challenging duly constituted authority. Miriam challenged the prophetic supremacy of Moses (Numbers 12); Gehazi disobeyed the will of his master Elisha (2 Kings 5); and King Uzziah challenged the exclusive prerogative of the priests to offer incense (2 Chronicles 26).

In this first week of Pre-Lent, let us consider our ẓaraʿat, the leprosy we carry from our challenges to God’s duly constituted authority and that imparted to His Holy Church by the Holy Spirit.

Did our spines and muscles tense just then. What do you mean I have to listen and follow, give up my way of doing things and do what God and that Church are telling me to do? Are you kidding me? I am free to decide! And there is our ẓaraʿat. It lives in our rebellious natures.

From Lucifer to Adam and Eve to the people of Babel and Abraham, to Miriam, Gehazi, and Uzziah, rebellion was the ẓaraʿat that needed to be cleansed in them. 

Rebellion is the leprosy that needs to be cleansed in us. Rebellion is bitter, angry, violent, corrupt, and stubborn. It is contention and dispute, pridefulness. Rebellion defies God’s will and is the enemy’s bad fruit. It is the refusal to turn ourselves over to God.

We choose rebellion because we fear placing our complete trust in God. To solve rebellion in us, we must be wholeheartedly His. We must take the courage to step out and hand over everything to Christ.

Like the leper in today’s Gospel, we must ask Jesus to cleanse us. We must throw away the idol within our heart that says, ‘You cannot have me.’ Yes, we must come to Him from wherever we are, with our whole being, and beg to be cleansed of our ẓaraʿat.

You have heard
it said.

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life”

As we discussed over the past two weeks, this Pre-Lenten season’s readings are taken from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. Jesus’ teaching takes the Commandments of God and instruct us in the way we are to understand and live them. Jesus commandments, His way, His fulfillment of the old Law, His right interpretation is for us, so we can truly live.

We have been reminded, in this season of preparation, that we are to turn and focus on living in the way Jesus defines. This great opportunity moves us not just into unity with life as God designed, for unity with that way of life is not enough. Rather, we are called to dive headlong into the fulness of God’s way.

At the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus demands more of us than His words alone describe. He calls us to complete integrity of life. If we live His call to integrity, the reward is great. The reward is fullness of relationship and inheritance. It is a joy without compare or equal. However, if we do not surrender to Jesus’ way, if we are not all-in, the caution is, we grow ridgid and cold. Sin creeps in and puts the frost on. The cold goes deeper and deeper and we lose touch with God and with our very selves.

This season of preparation, with only today plus two more days to go, has been a wakeup call. In the Orthodox Churches the Sundays before Lent are days of clean out. The home is cleansed of earthly things like meat, fish, dairy, and eggs. This clean out symbolizes the call to detachment from distraction, from the things that may hold us back from jumping in headfirst.

Hearing Jesus’ words today remind us of this necessary detachment.

Jumping in headfirst requires an act of faith and trust, complete trust in God. It requires trust that says nothing we have, nothing we desire or value outside of God, is of any consequence. They are things here today, gone tomorrow. Seemingly beautiful in the now but only fuel for the fire, or the dumpster, or the landfill tomorrow.

Faith and trust in God, in His word: “do not worry about your life,” is a surrender. As we enter into the Great and Holy Lent this Wednesday let us recognize that proclamation is not enough, worship is not enough, setting aside food, and place, and wealth for a time not enough. Rather, we are to value God above all, setting aside what the world says for what Jesus says, and surrendering fully.

You have heard
it said.

Do you not know that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?

As we discussed last week, this Pre-Lenten season’s readings are taken from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. Jesus’ teaching there take the Commandments of God and instruct us in the way we are to understand and live them. 

Jesus commandments, His way, His fulfillment of the old Law, His right interpretation is for us, so we can truly live. Yes, it is for us, as we heard last week: to make us great in the kingdom!

In this season of preparation, we are to turn and focus on living in the way Jesus defines. We are to live His way without limit and in striving to do so, wash away the ways we fall short. As we will hear in today’s closing prayer, we are to move toward committed love and faithful work for the Kingdom.

Living in a genuine way is not easy. Of course, it is easy to say we are genuine, I’m the ‘real me’ when we go about doing whatever we want, what we choose. Unfortunately, that is the power of sin, it blinds us to the way we are to strive for; the way ‘just being me’ isn’t good enough for the Kingdom. My being me should never be good enough for me. It should not be good enough for you, the people around me.

As faithful and devoted Christians, we know that we fall short in ways big, small, and perhaps in ways only known to ourselves. As such, let us take this season to evaluate where the fixes are needed, where I fall short of the Kingdom life I am to live.

God told the Israelites to: “Be holy, for I, the LORD, your God, am holy.” That is a super high standard, but indeed, as the lessons from the Sermon on the Mount tell us, we have a gap to cover, a ways to go, but that we can do it.

It is important that we not despair in our frequent failure to live up. Where despair is called for is in any lack of trying, and lack of self-assessment, any attempt to ignore the blindness sin instills. 

Committed love calls for faithful work. Bringing the ideals of the Kingdom life to reality in our lives will not kill us. In fact, they will inoculate us so we can enter the Kingdom with heads held high, so we can enter as the great in the kingdom!

As we enter this new week, let our self-examination focus on the ways revenge, hate, resistance, ‘opionatedness,’ or limitation exist in our lives. Let us remember that to be great we must see and rise above (recall this is a year of politics) and live the Kingdom life.