This week’s memory verse: For at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light — Ephesians 5:8

  • 11/12 – Psalm 119:105
  • 11/13 – Psalm 27:1
  • 11/14 – 1 Peter 2:9
  • 11/15 – Ephesians 5:14
  • 11/16 – 2 Corinthians 4:6
  • 11/17 – Psalm 119:130
  • 11/18 – John 1:4

Pray the week: Lord Jesus, fill me with your light. Grant that I may always walk in Your light and spread it to all I encounter.

Being
prepared.

Jesus told his disciples this parable: “The kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise. The foolish ones, when taking their lamps, brought no oil with them, but the wise brought flasks of oil with their lamps.”

As we worshiped last Sunday our brothers and sisters in Christ, men, women, and children, were being killed in Texas as they came together to worship God and declare their faith in Jesus. They held their lamps up brightly, filled with the oil of faith, ready to meet the Lord.

Many of us grew up in a time when coming to church was considered a light thing. Maybe our parents or grandparents had faced persecution as faithful National Church members, but not us so much. That was in the past. But, as is said, everything old is new again…

Today’s lesson from Jesus dispels the myth of faith as a casual endeavor. Jesus tells us, ‘always be at the ready,’ with our lamps prepared and with an extra stock of oil at hand. We do not know the day or the hour.

Prepared lamps and extra stocks of oil are not just about coming to church on a chilly Sunday morning. It is not about waiting for a moment to come someday. It is about actively preparing and living out our faith. If we are not watchful, if we are not making ourselves more and more ready, if we are not becoming more and more – like unto the Lord – what use is there to even having a lamp?

Violence, tragedy, and suffering are a raw truth. This truth is visited more and more upon Christians. From martyrs in the Middle East, Asia, and Africa to homegrown terrorists right here, to media, hate groups, and government casting people of faith as silly, backward, and ignorant, we might be tempted to extinguish our lamps, pour out our oil, and sit in the dark. Ssssshhhhh, be careful, snuff out the lamps, someone might see us. Is that who we are?

St. Paul tells the Thessalonians: do not grieve like the rest, who have no hope. Wise words about how we are to face the challenges of our time. The followers of Jesus, the faithful, will not allow their lamps to even grow dim. Don’t tone it down! Rather, illuminate this dark time, cast a bright glow not just inside the walls of this church, neighborhood, or city – but across this world. Let our light not only glow outward, but also illumine us inwardly. Do not grieve, offer hope.

Let us picture our lamps at the ready, held up before us. Feel the warmth – it is the warmth of faith. See the glowing faces, they are the face of Jesus in the world. See the light before us, calling the people of our neighborhood, city, and the world to come to Jesus – the only way. The faithful: wise, prepared, ready.

This week’s memory verse: Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. — Philippians 2:3-4

11/5 – James 4:6
11/6 – Luke 14:11
11/7 – Proverbs 22:4
11/8 – 1 Peter 5:6
11/9 – Colossians 3:12
11/10 – Romans 12:3
11/11 – Proverbs 11:2

Pray the week: Lord Jesus, take all pride from me. Teach me my place so that at the appointed time I may be exalted.

Getting
ready.

“The greatest among you must be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled; but whoever humbles himself will be exalted.”

The Church dedicates the month of November to remembrance and prayer. This month, we recall our faithful departed and offer up prayer for their benefit on their journey to heaven. But what about us?

Unfortunately, in this day and age, we have forgotten or have lost the notion of humility. In the past, no one thought that a person who had died simply floated off into heaven. It’s a nice notion, but far from the truth. The Church rightly teaches that such thinking is false and destructive. Yet now, everyone, regardless of their life or their faith goes to heaven. This is a human invention, and not of God.

In the early Church, such notions were declared a heresy. It is the heresy of universalism – no matter what you do or believe, you get to heaven. God has no requirements, Jesus taught nothing, we are good enough no matter what we do. No faith in Jesus – no matter. Heresy is a belief or opinion contrary to God’s revealed truth and universalism is a prime heresy, especially today.

Universalism teaches that we have no need to put our faith in Jesus or to be humble before God. We have no need of following Jesus’ teaching. When Jesus told us the He is the Way – He was either lying or kidding. Let’s be real – He is either the Way or what we do here is foolishness; Christianity is just a waste of energy.

We are here to call to mind and to integrate the fact that none of us is worthy of instant entrance into heaven. Our organizer, Bishop Hodur himself offered prayers and supplications for the departed. He spoke of “a life of torture, limitless pain, doubt, loneliness, and remorse” for those who have wasted the opportunities given, “who have trampled God’s gifts.” He noted that “Spiritual death is our own doing.” No universalism there.

This month we should especially focus on prayer to God for salvation from such a death – that we be sanctified and remain faithful.

We have something to rightly fear if we do not follow God’s way, if we let anything come between us and the praise, worship, and dedication rightly due God. If we fail to put faith in Jesus and set aside God’s Church and its teachings – we are in trouble. Time is short.

Jesus calls all to a spirit of humility. He calls us to recognize our unworthiness. He commands us to faith, servanthood, and humility. He destroys false notions, this one or that one will reach heaven because of what they are, not who they are. Let us recognize that it IS who we are that counts, our call to humility: Lord, I am not worthy… If we declare our faith and live those words, we will be exalted.

He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.

The Church dedicates the month of November to the memory of the faithful departed. This is a wonderful tradition through which the prayers of the faithful living help to guide those that have died to eternal life into heaven. The words above, from Revelation 21:4, give us a glimpse of what is in store for those already journeying to heaven after death, and for us – the faithful living. Frankly, it will be beyond wonderful, exhilarating, and amazing. Pure, eternal, constant joy and glory for the faithful. Reflecting on all these things should cause us to consider our faithfulness more fully. The rewards for faithfulness are great, yet sometimes it can seem so hard to remain so, especially in the face of significant challenges.
These challenges are like small ‘deaths’ in our lives. It can range from sickness to breakups, economic challenges to interpersonal conflicts. Sometimes, these small ‘deaths’ make us feel alone – and that is the enemy’s work. The enemy wishes to separate us, to accuse us (I’m not good enough; No one will understand; No one will like me now; I am unworthy of God; I can’t possibly go to church; It’s better if I stay away). A funny thing happens when we let faithfulness – born out of prayer and perseverance – overcome our fears, overcome the enemy, the accuser. When faithfulness prevails, when we step back into church, we find the start of healing and the comfort of fellowship. The sacraments bring us the special graces we need for strength and renewal. The key to faithfulness is to not allow small ‘deaths’ to separate us from God’s house and family. This month, as we commemorate and look to the example of the faithful departed, let us redouble our faithfulness so that we too will be prepared to enter that place where all ‘deaths’ end and where there is no more mourning, crying, or pain.

Join us in November as we celebrate our thanksgiving to God and continue our Fall activities. We so look forward to seeing you.

You may view and download a copy of our November 2017 Newsletter right here.

This week’s memory verse: I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. — Psalm 139:14

  • 10/29 – Philippians 2:3
  • 10/30 – Psalm 15:1-5
  • 10/31 – Acts 2:44-45
  • 11/1 – Matthew 18:10
  • 11/2 – 1 Peter 1:18-19
  • 11/3 – Luke 6:31
  • 11/4 – James 1:22-27

Pray the week: Lord Jesus, grant that I may truly know how much I am valued and live valuing others as You value me.

I will see
and hear.

“Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” He said to him, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.”

We have reflected on this gospel reading throughout Ordinary Time as it is read during Matins before Holy Mass. Who do we consider a neighbor? Really at the heart of the question, who matters? Jesus quickly answers the questioner: God matters and each and every person matters.

Doesn’t it make us happy and comforted to know that God thinks we all matter? So many try to draw circles around people, those inside, those outside. The good versus the bad, those like me and everyone else. Our lesson – once again, everyone matters.

Setting aside the view of others, and the labels they place, we also have to be careful about how we view ourselves. Sometimes, and likely all too frequently, we are our own worst enemy. We forget our inherent dignity – the goodness of our creation. The fact that God has his laser focus of care on us. We think ourselves less than worthy. Oh, I failed, I’m not good enough, I didn’t meet expectations, I don’t pray, read scripture, reflect on God enough, I sin too much, I fall over and over into habits that are harmful to myself and others. It’s easy to come up with a list of our own shortcomings because we forget God’s view.

God sees, hears and knows everything. Nothing is hidden from Him. Does He see where we fall short – sure. Yet, He doesn’t take his gaze from us. When we fully grasp and understand that His eyes are on us, His care is over us, His love and His Son’s sacrifice were for each of us, then we will allow Him to declare our value, and we will see that each and every person matters in the same way.

God does not operate like man. His thoughts and ways surpass that of man. They are way higher. Knowing how God is, we need to step up to see and hear as He does, to live valuing and counting ourselves and all people as those who matter.

We face challenges in this world, the naysayers, the put downers. We may even put ourselves down. As His people, we need to confront that head on with God’s truth, with the fact that He sees and hears and wants it different, “I will surely hear. I will hear; for I am compassionate.

Indeed, our compassionate God sees and hears. No division or label (even our self-labeling) can last before Him. We all matter. Let us take up God’s great commandment, let us live it loving Him and everyone. To live like He does, to be men and women with God’s vision.

This week’s memory verse: Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. — 1 John 4:7

  • 10/22 – Galatians 5:22-23
  • 10/23 – 1 John 4:16
  • 10/24 – Romans 13:9-10
  • 10/25 – 1 John 3:1
  • 10/26 – Romans 12:10
  • 10/27 – John 3:16
  • 10/28 – Romans 5:8

Pray the week: Holy Spirit, grant that I show forth the love and gifts You have provided in prayer, word, and power.

How do you
say it.

We give thanks to God always for all of you, remembering you in our prayers, unceasingly calling to mind your work of faith and labor of love and endurance in hope of our Lord Jesus Christ, before our God and Father, knowing, brothers and sisters loved by God, how you were chosen. For our gospel did not come to you in word alone, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with much conviction.

I was looking at a list of songs about love – I must have been in one of my romantic moods. From Stevie Wonders’ I Just Called To Say I Love You to Whitney Houston’s I Will Always Love You, song writers and poets have crafted thousands of ways to say, ‘I love you.’ Hallmark makes money on helping people say, ‘I love you.’

Today, St. Paul in writing to the Church at Thessalonica, opens with a lovely introduction full of thankfulness for the people of the Church. He commends the Thessalonians prayerfulness, their work for the faith which is a labor of love, and their endurance in the face of persecutions. He calls the people of the Thessalonian Church the ‘loved of God.’ He remembers how the gospel, God’s word, came to them. It wasn’t merely by hearing, but in a powerful outpouring of the Holy Spirit.

When did we ‘receive the word?’ When was the Holy spirit poured out on us? This question has lots of opportunities for good storytelling: I remember that day at Kurs Youth Camp, at our Biennial Youth Convocation, at a Mission and Evangelism conference, at Synod, on a quiet hillside, at a time of crisis, during an unexpected encounter, or one Sunday in church. In that moment, we joined the loved of God.

In joining the loved of God, we accept the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. We recognize that He clothes us as He clothed the Thessalonians. We too are clothed with His gifts. He looks to us to be the new prayerful, the new workers for the faith, new laborers of love, the strong and enduring for the sake of the kingdom.

We often think that the Epistles of the first century marked something extraordinary – and we would be right in thinking that. We would however be wrong in thinking that the people, the loved of God of the first century were the last of the line. Indeed, they were the first.

Now we stand in their place, and hopefully we are not just standing. We, from Schenectady, Albany, Troy, Saratoga like the Thessalonians have been chosen to live out the gifts of the Spirit. Our receiving of the word is made evident by our work of faith and labor of love. The word in us is shown in the way we say, ‘I love you’ and help others to do so. We may do it in music, we may do it in poetry, but most of all we must do it in prayer, word, and power.

This week’s memory verse: Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience — Colossians 3:12

  • 10/15 – Nehemiah 9:21
  • 10/16 – Psalm 104:1-2
  • 10/17 – 1 Peter 3:3-4
  • 10/18 – Romans 8:5
  • 10/19 – Matthew 6:25
  • 10/20 – Ephesians 4:22-24
  • 10/21 – Isaiah 61:10

Pray the week: Lord Jesus, grant that I may dress myself in the garments of salvation, prepared and ready for your Kingdom banquet.