Archives for April 2016

Limiting Love, Day of Pentecost (C) – 2016

[RCL] Acts 2:1-21 or Genesis 11:1-9; Romans 8:14-17 or Acts 2:1-21; John 14:8-17, (25-27); Psalm 104:25-35, 37

“Have I been with you all this time, Phillip, and still you do not know me?” This question, asked to Phillip in the Gospel today, jumps out at me, staring my doubt in the face. I would like to think that I know Jesus, that unlike the disciples I would be able to recognize Jesus. That my faith (unlike that of so many others) is unshakeable. This would paint a flattering self-portrait – but it would be one full of pride, arrogance, and denial. In reality, I know that this question is being asked of me – “Have I been with you all this time and still you do not know me?”

One of my favorite hymns lyrics is – “But we make God’s love too narrow, with false limits of our own”. I think, in part, this is the culprit for why I might not know God, in God’s fullness. I am guilty, of making God small enough to fit into the confines of my life and into the confines of my mind, instead of allowing myself to enter the breadth and depth of God.

In some ways, the Pentecost story of flaming tongues is about this very same breaking down of barriers. God will not be confined by a certain language and so becomes transcendent of it. Suddenly, the words we are using are one and the same. And this is not an erasure – it is not a homogenous system imposed by an empire on another people. Rather, it is a wide-open embrace – God meeting us, exactly where we are.

And in this way that God meets us, language seems particularly significant. We speak of our “mother tongue” not just because language is learned from our parents, but also because there is something about language and the culture it perpetuates that is soul-deep. It connects us to our mothers, and grandmothers – it connects us to our ancestors.

When I was nine years old, we moved from England, my father’s country, to Hawaii, my mother’s. My mom had tried to explain to us for years that we were kanaka maoli, indigenous people, but from an ocean away her words didn’t have meaning to me. I understood myself solely as British – I was in Brighton College, I wore a uniform, I was just like all of the other English children. Shortly after we moved to Hawaii, Leilani, my younger sister, was enrolled in a Hawaiian immersion pre-school. This became a family experience, complete with gardening every Friday, expectations of cleaning the classroom once a month, and Wednesday night language classes.

Sitting in that classroom, on the too-small chairs in the lingering heat of the afternoon sun, I first heard the language of my mother’s people. I heard it all at once, strung together in sentences, vowels cascading over each other in ways that sounded rich and full-bodied. I had only ever heard pieces before – like the drips from a kitchen faucet, and all of a sudden I was swimming in a salty open ocean, not understanding the cool blue water that enveloped me. Something in me was soothed, and at peace. Something in me was connected. Something in me felt like I had finally come home.

This is the way God speaks to us, and longs to have relationship with us. In God’s fullness, we are swimming in an open ocean, connected to something that feels like home. In the ways that are soul-deep, that connect us to who we have been, who we are, and who we will be. In this moment of Pentecost, when tongues of fire appeared over the heads of the disciples, God breaks down the barriers between what is divine and what is worldly, between what is sacred and what is profane, between what is me and what is you.

Suddenly, we can understand each other perfectly. Suddenly, I see you for who you really are, for the perfect image of God in which you are cast and there are no barriers. You are God, and so am I and we are talking to each other, sharing in this transcendence. Because we have allowed God to be big and deep and wide and broad, God is doing a new thing.

“Have I been with you all this time and still you do not know me?” I miss God because I do not expect or look for the new things that God does. I do not look for creation anew. I expect to find God in church, maybe, but forget to see the breath of the Divine in the dewy spring grass. Or, I expect to meet God during my daily moment of prayer, maybe, but forget to see Divine fingerprints in the kindness of a stranger. I miss the ways that God is always with me, because I confine God with limits of my own. I stop seeing God travelling with me, because I build walls around where God “should” be. I dictate where I think God “belongs”.

Instead of building up these walls, we are challenged by today’s Gospel lesson to be open to seeing the Beloved in new ways. Jesus asks us to open our eyes wider, and see anew where God is in our lives. In doing so, we must heed Jesus’ advice, “Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.” I find a certain irony in having the lectionary pair together a reading about flaming tongues of fire with a reading that commands us not to be afraid. Sometimes, the new movement of God can be scary. It can be unfamiliar, and it takes us outside of who we think God to be, to open us up to who God is. As our barriers are broken down, we must hold on to the promise of God, “Peace I give to you – my peace I leave with you.” When our barriers and limitations are broken, there will be an element of the unknown. And yet, in this unknown, we will be embraced – swimming in an ocean of God, feeling as if we have finally come home.

Download the sermon for Pentecost C. 

Written by Jazzy Bostock

Jazzy Bostock is a sun-loving, big-dreaming, laugh-adoring, God-praising Native Hawaiian woman, in my first year at seminary. She believes deeply in the power of kindness, compassion, gentleness, and most of all love. Jazzy is grateful for the opportunity God has given her to be here, and for all that God is. Mahalo piha. 

 

Bible Study, Easter 7 (C) – May 8, 2016

 

[RCL] Acts 16:16-34; Psalm 97; Revelation 22:12-14, 16-17, 20-21; John 17:20-26

Acts 16:16-34

The story may be a familiar one: Paul sets a slave girl free of the spirit that possesses her. He does so because of his own annoyance with her acting as a nonstop herald for him and Silas. This doesn’t sit well with the slave girl’s owners and even ends up landing Paul and Silas in jail. The earthquake comes and leaves them an avenue of escape, and indeed sets all of the prisoners free. What’s surprising, though, is that they don’t seem to leave. They’re still there when the jailer sees his own predicament, and are able to stop him from taking his own life in despair, and as a result of this, he and his entire household are baptized.

  • What might it mean that Paul and Silas and the other prisoners did not leave when a way out was provided?
  • Are there moments in your life when you’ve felt like the jailer?
  • When have you seen God at work and marveled?
  • When have you felt like your life had been saved?
Psalm 97

Psalm 97 exalts God as the one who brings justice to the world. God’s majesty is so great that the coastlines rejoice, God’s adversaries are consumed in fire, and even the mountains are so humbled that they are said to melt like wax. The earth trembles before God’s glory, yet Zion and Judah rejoice in God’s judgments. The righteous have nothing to fear, we’re told, their lives are protected and they are able to rejoice in God; for God loves those who hate evil. God’s majesty is described in terms terrifying and awe-inspiring, and this awe leads directly to praise and thanksgiving.

  • What are the ways in which God inspires awe in you?
  • What does it mean today to hate evil?
  • How do we discern God’s justice?
  • How might God’s justice differ from our own sense of justice? 
Revelation 22:12-14, 16-17, 20-21

In this text from Revelation, the angel speaks to John the Divine the words of Jesus. This passage is full of rich imagery which we often make use of in our tradition, though sometimes without exploring fully. Jesus refers to himself as the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the root and descendant of David, the bright morning star. After hearing these descriptors of Jesus, all who are thirsty, all who desire the water of life are bid by the Spirit, the bride (an image often associated with the Church), and everyone who hears to come and drink. This, John is told, is a gift; this is the same way it’s described a chapter earlier when John is told that the one seated on the throne is making all things new. The passage ends with Christ’s promise that he will come again soon, and a fervent wish that it will be so.

  • What does thinking of Jesus as Alpha and Omega, as the root and descendant of David, or as the bright morning star tell us about Jesus?
  • How can these images enrich our understanding of who Jesus is and what he means?
  • What are the ways in which we thirst?
  • What are the ways in which the water of life can quench our thirst?
  • How can we wish for Jesus’ coming again without losing sight of the here and now?
John 17:20-26

In this famous prayer from John’s Gospel, Jesus prays that his followers, both the disciples and those who come to follow Jesus after them, may be one just as he and God are one. This unity is evidenced in the glory and in the love which God gave to Jesus, and which Jesus gave to his followers. This prayer takes place right before Jesus’ betrayal and arrest. He prays for unity at a time when even his inner circle is about to be divided, for glory as he is about to suffer condemnation and shame, and for love as he is about to be despised.

  • What must it have taken for Jesus to pray this prayer in light of what is to come?
  • What are the ways in which we as Jesus’ followers could be more unified?
  • How can we share the glory and love that Christ shares with us?

Download the Easter 7C Bible Study.

Written by Ian Lasch

Ian Lasch is a senior at Virginia Theological Seminary and a candidate for Holy Orders from the Diocese of Georgia. His wife Loren is an Episcopal priest and member of the VTS Class of 2008. Their joyful son, Elias, was born in December 2014. Ian previously worked as an Arabic translator, and has a deep love for Cleveland and Charlotte sports.

Being God’s Glory, Easter 7 (C) – 2016

[RCL] Acts 16:16-34; Revelation 22:12-14,16-17,20-21; John 17:20-26; Psalm 97

Imagine thousands of people dressed in white clothes for the Feast of the Epiphany singing, praying, and waiting with anticipation outside a church near the Red Sea in Ethiopia. The faithful sway side-to-side singing praises to God in thanksgiving for Jesus Christ. There are shouts of jubilation when the bishop exits the cathedral holding a replica stone tablet of the Ten Commandments taken from the cathedral’s altar. Those gathered exhibit ecstatic exuberance because the bishop carries the Ten Commandments stone tablet that consecrates the cathedral into the crowd of people, and in doing so consecrates and makes the people holy. It is a symbol of God’s presence and glory dwelling with the people.

Raymond Brown in his book, The Gospel According to John, reminds us that the ark is an important biblical symbol. Those sealed inside Noah’s Ark survived the flood. The Hebrew people journeyed to the Promised Land following the Ark of the Covenant, holding the Ten Commandments written on stone tablets. Early Christian writers referred to Jesus as the Tabernacle or Ark of God since Jesus embodied God’s glory.[1]

Jesus prays to God in John 17:22, “The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one.” The recognition of God’s glory occurs early in scripture. For the Hebrew people, God’s glory was the visible manifestation of God’s acts of power.[2] The people saw the invisible God in God’s visible actions: parting of the Red Sea; crumbling the walls of Jericho; building Solomon’s Temple.[3] Jesus is the embodiment of divine glory. God becomes visible in Jesus Christ and his followers see his acts of power. The disciples witness God’s chief act of power in resurrecting Jesus from the dead.

Today is the Sunday after Ascension Thursday and the last Sunday before Pentecost. Jesus leaves the disciples to return to God on Ascension Day. The disciples wait for Jesus to send the promised Holy Spirit who is the manifestation of God’s glory. Waiting for the Holy Spirit gives Jesus’ followers the opportunity to reflect on “seeing his glory.” Jesus prays in John 17:24 that his followers see his glory. To see Jesus’ glory, his acts of power, goes beyond observing his ministry. “To see” in this sense means to contemplate on, to look deeper.[4] Perhaps the disciples asked themselves if others would see in them the same glory the disciples saw in Jesus.

Do people in the world look at the Church, the Ark of Salvation, and see the glory or the deeds of power God gives us? Jesus Christ’s earthly ministry was dynamic, expressive of love and expressed in love.[5] The Holy Spirit brings the indwelling of that love to those who follow Jesus. God calls us to share Christ’s love with the world. 

A visible example of God’s love is a Diocese of North Carolina ministry, A Moveable Feast: Food for the Body; Food for the Soul. This ministry happens in and around a 28-foot mobile “food truck” covered in neon dry erase marker graffiti. The food truck contains a prayer chapel and a small kitchen for heating chili or warming beverages. Guests use markers to write prayers and blessings on the inside walls and on the food truck’s exterior. A Moveable Feast drifts and zooms around the diocese as a ministry to young adult communities sometimes ignored by traditional campus ministries—community college students, young adults in rural areas, and those transitioning directly from high school to the workforce. The food truck is not a permanent fixture. Staff members and volunteers work to engage young adults, helping build relationships with local Episcopal churches to help minister to and support young adults through their experience of the food truck. When the food truck leaves, the Episcopal presence remains. This truck offers food for the soul. [6]

The Moveable Feast is an example of modern day disciples embracing the glory and the works of power, Jesus gives his followers. Connecting young adults with churches models Jesus by engaging the world to make a difference. Holy food for holy people is a part of our Eucharistic prayer, with the clergy presenting the consecrated bread and wine to the congregation before the invitation to receive communion. Can we as followers of Jesus Christ be God’s visible glory in the world through our words and actions? The Body and Blood of Christ transform us. God’s glory dwells with us. Be a holy presence in the world. Jesus did not ascend to leave us alone. The Holy Spirit will come and guide us.

Download the sermon for Easter 7C.

Written by The Reverend Jemonde Taylor

The Reverend Jemonde Taylor is the eleventh rector of Saint Ambrose Episcopal Church, Raleigh, NC. Jemonde serves the Diocese of NC by being co-chair of the Nominating Committee for the XII Bishop Diocesan. He also served as a member of Diocesan Council. He is a consultant to the Office of Black Ministries of The Episcopal Church. Prior to serving Saint Ambrose, Jemonde was priest missioner at Saint Michael and All Angels Church, Dallas, TX as a part of the Lilly Program. Jemonde studies the spirituality, worship, and history of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church and leads pilgrimages to Ethiopia for Epiphany.


[1] Raymond E. Brown, The Gospel According to John: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary, vol. 29 of The Anchor Bible (New York: Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1980), 779.

[2] Ibid. , 503.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid. , 502.

[5] Ibid. , 776.

[6] “Caitlyn Darnell and A Movable Feast Win Special UTO 125th Anniversary Grant.” The Episcopal Diocese of NC. July 2015. Web. 25 April 2016.

Episcopal Relief & Development Disaster Relief

Episcopal Relief & Development is responding to the recent earthquake in Ecuador and the flooding in Houston. This bulletin insert raises awareness of how the organization is working with these communities and provides an avenue to respond to these disasters. Thank you for you prayer and support. For more information go to: http://www.episcopalrelief.org/what-you-can-do/donate-now/individual-donation.

Bulletin Insert: Seventh Sunday of Easter

Celebrate World Refugee Day

May 8, 2016

This family was welcomed by Episcopal Migration Ministries to Miami, in the Diocese of Southeast Florida

In 2000, the United Nations General Assembly established June 20 as World Refugee Day to recognize and celebrate the contribution of refugees throughout the world and to raise awareness about the growing refugee crisis.

  • There are nearly 60 million refugees, internally displaced people and asylum seekers worldwide – the largest number since World War II.
  • In just the past four years, more than 4 million Syrians have fled the violence in their country.
  • More than 50% of refugees are under 18 years old.

This year, the Episcopal Church, in partnership our network of 30 local affiliate offices, will welcome more than 5,000 refugees to the United States from countries across the globe – places like Democratic Republic of Congo, Burma, Afghanistan, and Syria. To make this happen, Episcopalians work together with community leaders, local businesses, and organizations to make sure every refugee has the warm welcome, food, housing, and support they need to make a new start.

You have an important role in this Gospel ministry of welcome. Here are just a few of the ideas for celebrating World Refugee Day in your congregation. Be sure to join Episcopal Migration Ministries and Episcopal Public Policy Network on May 12 at 7 pm Eastern for a #RefugeesWelcome World Refugee Day planning webinar: http://bit.ly/WRDMay2016.

For more information, visit episcopalchurch.org/emm or contact Allison Duvall, Manager for Church Relations and Engagement, aduvall@episcopalchurch.org, 212-716-6027.

Prayer for World Refugee Day

Written by #ShareTheJourney pilgrim Alyssa Stebbing, Outreach Ministry Director and Contemporary Music Director at Trinity Episcopal Church, The Woodlands, Texas

Gracious God, we pray for our newest neighbors, that those families who have sought refuge from the ravages of war and violence may find not only shelter and sustenance, but also a loving and supportive community in which to create a new beginning with dignity. Amen.

 

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Spanish bulletin inserts are available on the Sermones que Iluminan website.

Bulletin Insert: Sixth Sunday of Easter

The Feast of Catherine of Siena

May 1, 2016

On April 29, The Episcopal Church celebrated the Feast of Catherine of Siena, a fourteenth-century mystic and spiritual writer.

Born in 1347, Caterina Benincasa was the youngest of 25 children born to a wealthy cloth dyer of Siena. According to Holy Women, Holy Men (Church Publishing, 2010), at six years old, she had a vision that would determine her life’s work. While walking along a road to her home, she looked upward and “beheld our Lord seated in glory with St. Peter, St. Paul, and St. John.” In this vision, she would later report, Jesus blessed her.

After this vision, Catherine committed herself to a life of prayer, meditation, writing, and worship. Her family, desiring her to behave like her contemporaries, attempted to have her married to her sister’s widower. Refusing, she cut off her hair (according to Holy Women, Holy Men, this was the chief symbol of her beauty) and instead joined the Third Order of the Dominicans. Here, she would be afforded the opportunity to serve the poor and convert sinners, without living in a monastery (An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church: A User Friendly Reference for Episcopalians, 2000).

Throughout her career, Catherine was closely associated with serving those on the fringes of society: those afflicted with the Black Plague, prisoners condemned to death, and the desperately poor of Siena and Rome. At the same time, and possibly because of this work, she was well-regarded by the elite of her time, arbitrating feuds and attempting to end the church schism caused by the dueling popes at Rome and Avignon.

A prolific writer, Catherine’s greatest work is undoubtedly The Dialogue of Divine Providence, based on her vision of a soul rising up to meet God. Reflecting on the mystery of the Trinity, she wrote, “You, eternal Trinity, are a deep sea. The more I enter you, the more I discover, and the more I discover, the more I seek you” (Dialogue 167). She would go on to say to her readers, “You are rewarded not according to your work or your time, but according to the measure of your love” (Dialogue 165). One of her best-known quotations, as translated by the Rt. Rev. Richard Chartres, Bishop of London, is remembered as “Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire!”

Catherine of Siena died in Rome on April 29, 1380, at the age of 33. Pope Pius II canonized her in 1461.

Collect for Catherine of Siena

“Everlasting God, you so kindled the flame of holy love in the heart of blessed Catherine of Siena, as she meditated on the passion of your Son our Savior, that she devoted her life to the poor and the sick, and to the peace and unity of the Church: Grant that we also may share in the mystery of Christ’s death, and rejoice in the revelation of his glory; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen” (“Holy Women, Holy Men,” p. 351).

 

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Spanish bulletin inserts are available on the Sermones que Iluminan website.

Bible Study, Easter 6 (C) – May 1, 2016

[RCL] Acts 16: 9-15; Psalm 67; Revelation 21:10, 22 – 22:5; John 14:23-29

Acts 16: 9-15

Hospitality in the first century Roman Empire was risky. It was not simply inviting someone over for dinner or even offering them a place to stay for the night. Instead, it carried with it an offering of protection and provisions for the journey ahead. It signaled a commitment to enter into permanent relationship with another. A family would offer hospitality to people like them, social equals who could be trusted to reciprocate when needed.

So it is significant that throughout Acts, the apostles receive hospitality from people who are not like them, including Gentiles and businesswomen like Lydia. The power of the Holy Spirit explodes the dividing walls between strangers and knits them into a community of friends and co-workers for the spread of the Gospel. After Lydia and her household are baptized, she urges the apostles to stay with her and provides for Paul and Silas after they are released from prison (Acts 16:40).

  • Where have you seen the Holy Spirit create surprising community?
  • What are the dividing walls separating people from each other in your neighborhood?
  • Lydia and the apostles were open to God’s Word and their lives were radically changed. What practices help you stay open to the Word?
Psalm 67

Psalm 67 is a communal song of petition and praise, calling on God to bless Israel so that the whole world will know the Holy One’s justice, power, and guidance. We see this in the symmetrical structure of the psalm. Verses 1 and 7 begin with a petition for God’s blessing, while verses 2 and 6 concern the earth. Verses 3 and 5 are identical, and our attention is drawn to verse 4, the only three line verse in the psalm: “Let the nations be glad and sing for joy, for you judge the peoples with equity and guide all the nations upon earth.” God’s blessing is not just for Israel, but for the whole earth. The petitions voiced in this song are universal rather than contextualized.

  • Given the world as you know it today, what might these blessings look like?
  • Where is God’s saving health needed?
  • Where is God’s justice and guidance needed?
  • Using Psalm 67 as a model, write your own song of petition and praise, being as specific as possible.
Revelation 21:10, 22 – 22:5

The book of the Revelation to John is addressed to “the seven churches that are in Asia” (Revelations 1:4) and was written in the second half of the first century C.E. The beginning chapters of the book describe the various challenges those churches are facing, from imprisonment and death to spiritual complacency. John exhorts these Christians to “be faithful until death” (2:10b) and to be persistent in seeking a transformed life (3:18-20). Life in the Roman Empire held out visions of many different objects of worship, including multiple gods and the emperor. In Revelation, John records larger visions, reminding the churches of God’s sovereignty.

This particular passage offers the promise of the new Jerusalem, where God’s glory is the only light needed and the nations will dwell together in safety and wholeness. When the lectionary leaves out many verses, I like to find out what is missing. In this case, the compilers omitted several verses describing the new Jerusalem’s opulent walls and gates. Take the time to read these verses. Imagine the vision John is describing— a glorious city more radiant than anything the Roman Empire could construct.

  • How does this city, the river, and the tree of life appear in your imagination?
  • Which aspect of John’s description offers you the most powerful sense of hope for your life, your community, or the world?
  • How might you live into that hope with faithful courage?
John 14:23-29

Jesus’s words to Judas (not Iscariot) are part of a larger conversation at the Last Supper. Jesus is preparing his disciples to live faithfully after he has gone from them physically. They are understandably disturbed by this talk, but Jesus repeats his words of peace and assurance. Jesus has brought them into an abiding love relationship with God that has implications for their lives whether they are in Jesus’s physical presence or not.

The Advocate, the paraclete, is the Holy Spirit, sent to abide with the disciples (14:17) and to remind them of Jesus’s words and teaching. He is not leaving the disciples orphaned (14:18), and yet we can imagine how upsetting this conversation would be.

  • Jesus’s promise of the Holy Spirit and his gift of peace are intertwined. How have you experienced the Holy Spirit’s abiding presence in your life?
  • Where do you sense a need for Christ’s peace today? Take a few moments to pray for peace now.

Download the Easter 6C Bible Study.

Written by Charlotte Wilson
Charlotte is a postulant for Holy Orders from the Diocese of California and a third year seminarian at Church Divinity School of the Pacific. As a spiritual director and minister, she delights in accompanying others as they encounter God in expected and unexpected places. Charlotte finds joy in reading, hiking, knitting, and hanging out with her family and friends.

Bible Study, Easter 5 (C) – April 24, 2016

[RCL] Acts 11:1-18; Revelation 21:1-6; John 13:31-35; Psalm 148

Acts 11:1-18

In this passage we here an account of the apostle crossing what were social and religious boundaries of the day. There were many social conventions regarding what sort of people could interact with others sorts of people. Jesus came to break down these barriers, and his apostles followed in these teachings. Peter challenges us in our scripture this week. Who are we to decide what is clean or unclean; good or bad; right or wrong. God makes all things clean. Through God we can know truth and have a just life. By stepping aside from what hinders, we can build a relationship with God that will lead us into life.

  • What has God made clean for you?
  • What in your life hinders the way God can act through you?
  • How can you learn to let go of these things that hinder you?
  • How can you let go of your conceptions of what is “clean”?
Psalm 148

Praise! God made all things that they might praise God’s goodness. All things belong to God and God is a mighty caretaker. God raises up strength in us that we have the courage to take on any challenge that we are faced with. Knowing that we are God’s beloved we can rest easy and find comfort through all times. And people are not the only beings who honor God through praise. In this psalm we hear of the multitude of creation, from sun to moon to tree to wind. If even the fire and fog offer praise unto God, then we are in great company.

  • What does praising God look like in your daily life?
  • How do you join the chorus of praise?
  • How has God raised up strength in you?
Revelation 21:1-6

In Revelation we are reminded that God makes all things new. In each completion we can find newness of life. It is through God that transformation happens. When we experience harm or hurt, if we take these things to God they can yield life. In this passage we hear that God is the Alpha and the Omega. God is with us in our beginning and in our ending. Each time we start down a new and unfamiliar path God is alongside us. Each time we come to an ending God is also there.

  • What needs to be made new for you? How might you bring this to God?
  • When have you experienced an ending in which you found a wonderful new beginning?
  • What is a story of resurrection in your life?
John 13:31-35

This passage defines Christian life for us in a largely straightforward way. “Love one another.” And even though this commandment is simple at first, we know through human experience that this can be challenging. Jesus calls us to love without exception. When we see so much difference and diversity in the world this sort of love can be difficult to grasp in its complexity. It takes a great deal of effort to truly love those who cause harm, spread hate, or simply follow different belief systems from our own. Jesus teaches us that others will know that we are disciples of Christ by the way we speak, act, and move through the world. If we spread a narrative of love and if our actions align, God will be glorified.

  • Where have you experienced the complexity of truly loving all people?
  • When have you been loved by another regardless of your differences?
  • How do you engage in a posture of loving kindness in your life?

Download the Easter 5C Bible Study.

Written by Samantha Haycock

Samantha Haycock is the Director of Children and Youth Ministry at Christ Episcopal Church in Alameda. Her passion in ministry is spreading Jesus’ call for social justice and in helping people to make connections between their daily and spiritual lives so that they can bring their whole and authentic selves to the world. Samantha is a banana slug, holding a BA in Psychology from UC Santa Cruz and has a Certificate in Youth and Family Ministry from Bexley Seabury and Forma Faith Formation Academy. She is a participant in the Collaborative for Church Vitality, serves on the Forma Advocacy Working Group, and assists The Episcopal Church DFMS with the youth, young adult, and Sermons that Work online presences. When she is not working Samantha enjoys concocting strange things in her kitchen and hiking all over the place.

Bulletin Insert: Fifth Sunday of Easter

Easter Season of Prayer

April 24, 2016

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry has called for an Easter Season of Prayer for regions in the Anglican Communion experiencing conflict and strife. Beginning on April 3, the Second Sunday of Easter, and continuing throughout the season, members of The Episcopal Church are asked to lift up in prayer parts of our world experiencing extreme violence and unrest. This Easter, Episcopalians will focus on Burundi, Central America, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Middle East, Pakistan, and South Sudan.

In calling for the Season of Prayer, Presiding Bishop Curry wrote, “In this season of Resurrection, I call on everyone to pray for our brothers and sisters in areas where there is much burden and little hope.” Citing Galatian 6:2, “Bear one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ,” this season of prayer is an opportunity to learn more about what the churches in these regions are doing to be sources of support and hope, and to join with our brothers and sisters around the world in prayers for peace.

This Sunday, we join in prayer for the Middle East including Syria, Iraq, Yemen, and Israel/Palestine. You can find detailed information on how the Anglican Communion networks are working for peace in the Middle East by visiting the Easter Season of Prayer website.

Learn more: http://www.episcopalchurch.org/page/easter-season-prayer

Contact Elizabeth Boe, Global Networking Officer, at eboe@episcopalchurch.org for more information.

Eternal God, in whose perfect kingdom no sword is drawn but the sword of righteousness, no strength known but the strength of love: So mightily spread abroad your Spirit, that all peoples may be gathered under the banner of the Prince of Peace, as children of one Father; to whom be dominion and glory, now and for ever. Amen. (Prayer for Peace, p. 815)

 

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Spanish bulletin inserts are available on the Sermones que Iluminan website.

Bible Study, Easter 4 (C) – April 17, 2016

[RCL] Acts 9:36-43; Revelation 7:9-17; John 10:22-30; Psalm 23

Psalm 23

There is an odd practice of referring to psalms like this one as evidence of the obstinacy or sinfulness of humanity. “Humans are like sheep,” goes the argument, “stubborn, unintelligent, and in constant need for a shepherd (God) to prevent them from hurting themselves.” Psalm 23, however, doesn’t naturally lend itself to such a disparaging view of humankind. Instead, the metaphor of sheep and shepherd is meant to evoke the kind of contentment among its hearers that enables them to confess with the Psalmist, “I shall not want”; the providence of God for his flock puts them at ease, they are not lacking anything. The imagery shifts from God as shepherd to God as host, one who “prepares a table” and provides more than enough to drink. This God’s care for his people engenders the author’s hopes for the future, and encourages his commitment to continually worship in the Temple “all the days.”

  • Would you be able to characterize your relationship with God in these terms?
  • How does God’s providence empower you to live today, if you were to really begin to believe it?
Acts 9:36-43 

It shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone when I say that we are living in an age that has thoroughly rejected miracle stories (unless, for some reason, they involve a child, a near-death experience, and a heavenly vision!). Perhaps in encountering Peter’s miracle as moderns, our belief might be aided by zooming out a bit and to see part of what the act might mean, instead of merely trying to grit our teeth and believe it’s resurrection claim (though this may be where some of us have to start). In Tabitha’s very real resurrection we see the revolutionary restructuring of the social order that the Church is called to perform and embody in the world. Tabitha has given her life to supporting a group of widows, those on the bottom rung of the strata. She dies, and the world carries on as it normally does. But that is not how things go in the kingdom of God. God cares for the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. He exalts the lowly and meek. Like the prophets of old, Peter demonstrates that care for the “least of these” is among God’s chief concerns. Pope Francis recently hit the nail on the head, “How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points?”

  • In what ways has your parish been called to show forth God’s power and care for the marginalized around you?
  • In what ways have you personally been called to show forth God’s power and care for the marginalized around you?
Revelation 7:9-17

Like Psalm 23, this apocalyptic picture features God in the role of shepherd, where God “shelters” God’s people, eternally assuaging their hunger and thirst, protecting them from the scorching heat of the sun, wiping away every tear from their eyes, and leading them to the springs of the waters of life.

Unlike Psalm 23, those whom God shepherds have “come out of the great affliction,” they have endured the sufferings common to those living under the reign of the beast in John’s vision. Christians reading this weeks lectionary texts together (Ps. 23, Rev. 7:9-17) are reminded that God’s provision for them (and God’s ultimate defeat of their oppressors) does not necessarily exempt them from suffering in this life. Most of us will not face the kind of societal ostracization or violence as John’s audience on account of our faith in Christ, but whatever our circumstances, it should come as a great comfort to us that God’s restoration of all things has already begun.

  • Since our lives will not always be as comfortable as Psalm 23 or as tumultuous as Revelation 7, how do we go about trusting in God’s provision for us in the in-between?
  • If you have faced one or both of these extremes, how was the Lord present to you in those seasons of life?
John 10:22-30

Like Psalm 23 and Revelation 7, John once again shows us a picture of the Divine Shepherd, but this time, that picture includes Jesus, who is one with the Father, from whom he received his “sheep.” Jesus’ opponents on Solomon’s Porch do not belong to his flock (they don’t believe in him), and thus cannot understand his words or deeds. Jesus’ flock hear his voice, know him, follow him, receive eternal life from him, will never perish, and cannot be snatched out of his hand. “Wolves” may come, but the Good Shepherd protects them; God fights off their enemies. This is not to say that Christians are immune from apostasy (leaving the flock of their own accord), but it does emphasize God’s protection for God’s sheep, be they persecuted for their faith in the first century, or “swayed by every wind of doctrine” in the twenty-first.

  • Where in your life do you struggle to believe that God protects you in these ways?
  • If you have ever been tempted to “leave the flock,” how did you overcome that temptation?

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Written by Ryan Pollock

Ryan is a postulant for Holy Orders from the Diocese of Dallas, TX and a middler seminarian at Nashotah House, where he is a choral scholar and a refectorian. When not engaged in seminary business, these days he can be found alchemizing in the kitchen or attempting to play heavy metal guitar in the basement. He is married to Jessica, an artist and photographer who is studying astronomy at the University of Wisconsin.