Archives for February 2017

Bulletin Insert – March 12, 2017

Young Adult and Campus Ministries Grant Applications Now Being Accepted

The Episcopal Church invites applications for grants to assist with ministries with Young Adult and Campus Ministries throughout the church.

We have adapted the application process to include discernment and planning for writing your grant application. We hope it is an invitation for you and your community to consider how Young Adult and Campus Ministry in the Episcopal Church can minister with young adults on and off college campuses, including Community Colleges and Tribal College Campuses, non-traditional degree programs, in the military, and those who are not in college.

This new process is designed to help you discern where and how God is calling your community to serve young adults and whether now is the right time to apply for a grant.

Amount, Duration, and Categories of Grants

A total of $128,000 is available for this cycle, with a total of $400,000 available this triennium. These grants are for the 2017-18 academic year. Deadline for submitting grants is April 10. There are three categories of grants:

  1. Leadership Grant: to establish a new, restore a dormant, or reenergize a current campus ministry. Grant will range from $20-30,000 and can be used over a two-year period.
  2. Campus Ministry Grants: to provide seed money to assist in the start-up of new, innovative campus ministries or to enhance a current ministry. Grants will range from $3-5,000.
  3. Young Adult Ministry Grants: to provide seed money to assist in the start-up of new, innovative young adult ministries or to enhance a current ministry. Grants range from $3-5,000.

Applications must be received on or before April 10, 2017 by 10 pm Eastern time and be submitted online. Each proposal must show how the diocese, congregation, and/or campus ministry will support the ministry at the end of the grant term and be approved by the bishop of the diocese in which the ministry is to be located. Each diocese that receives a grant shall appoint someone to oversee the grant and make appropriate financial reports to The Episcopal Church and the Office of Young Adult and Campus Ministries.

Details about the application and discernment process is available here: http://bit.ly/YACMGrants2017.

If your congregation is not submitting an application, you are invited to join us in prayer for ministries across the church that will be entering this process of discernment and planning.

If you have questions, please contact The Rev. Shannon Kelly, Officer for Young Adult and Campus Ministry at skelly@episcopalchurch.org or Valerie Harris, Formation Associate at vharris@episcopalchurch.org.

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Bulletin Insert – March 5, 2017

Episcopal Relief & Development Sunday

Episcopal Relief & Development is an international relief and development agency and a compassionate response to human suffering on behalf of The Episcopal Church.

Their work to heal a hurting world is guided by the principles of compassion, dignity and generosity. Episcopal Relief & Development collaborates with local church and ecumenical partners in nearly 40 countries on longterm community development strategies.

Episcopalians across the church are invited to commemorate Episcopal Relief & Development Sunday on the first Sunday in Lent, March 5.

At the 2009 General Convention, Lent was officially designated as the time to encourage dioceses, congregations, and individuals to remember and support the life-saving work of Episcopal Relief & Development.

Join Episcopal Relief & Development today and throughout the Lenten season in praying for people fighting poverty, disaster, and disease in their communities and for those around the globe leveraging local resources and expertise to address disparity and inequality in the world.

2017 Lenten Meditations

Written by a collection of Episcopal Church and faith leaders and published by Forward Movement, Episcopal Relief & Development’s 2017 Lenten Meditations explore how faith is fed and enriched through spiritual relationships and communities.

These Lenten meditations will deepen your faith in the risen Christ and strengthen your connection to a community that walks together with others around the world.

As we consider Jesus’ life of healing and sacrifice during this Lenten season, Episcopal Relief & Development asks you to reflect on your faith and how you might take action in responding to a hurting world.

Find out more on Episcopal Relief & Development’s website, www.episcopalrelief.org/Lent.

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Strengthened to Reach Forth our Hands in Love, Palm Sunday (A) – April 9, 2017

[RCL] The Liturgy of the Palms

  • Matthew 21:1-11
  • Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29

The Liturgy of the Word

  • Isaiah 50:4-9a
  • Philippians 2:5-11
  • Matthew 26:14- 27:66 or Matthew 27:11-54
  • Psalm 31:9-16

Today we take part in the Gospel story more than on other Sundays. While, there never is an audience in a worship service, that distinction is made clear on Palm Sunday. It may seem that there is no distinction between a congregation and an audience, but there is a vast difference. An audience gathers to watch a performance. A congregation is a group gathered for worship. Some of us have roles as readers, acolytes and even as preacher, but all of us are active participants.

On Palm Sunday, churches raise the congregations’ participation level. We begin this service reading of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. We proclaim “Hosanna in the highest.” Then we take up palm branches and sing and process our way into church. The congregation plays the role of the crowd that welcomed Jesus into Jerusalem. That was the easy part. But Palm Sunday is also known as Passion Sunday, for on this day we recount the story of Jesus’ suffering and death. And the crowd that welcomed Jesus into Jerusalem also took part in the betrayal, which followed that Friday.

Each week the congregation takes part in the worship. This happens in your hearts, and also in the words of the liturgy. Easy words usually. Words like, “Our Father who art in heaven” and “Thanks be to God.” Today, the liturgy puts some very different words in your mouth:

“Let him be crucified.”

“Let him be crucified.”

And the most daunting of all, “His blood be on us and on our children.”

Harsh words. Painful words. Words that seem to tempt God to take us seriously in a way we don’t want God to act.

On that Friday we now call Good, Jesus’ betrayal was complete. He had been deserted by his disciples and rejected by the Jewish leadership, as well as the crowd that had welcomed him so enthusiastically with palm branches and cloaks spread on the road. Mocked, beaten and finally crucified by the Roman officials, the man we call the King of Peace was put to death as a threat to the peace of Jerusalem. In starkest contrast to his welcome into the city gates, Jesus was taken outside of the city to be killed. Like all criminals, they did not want his death to desecrate the city. Jesus’ cross stood by the road leading into town as a warning to any other trouble makers not to follow in his footsteps.

Darkness covered the whole land from noon to three. Then Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani? My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” In his humanity, Jesus’ betrayal was complete. In these words from the cross, we see how far the love of God extends. God the son loved us so much, that he would not give up on that love even when the cost was death on a cross. At Easter, the love of God is confirmed further, but on this day, we wait in an in between time in our readings, after his death and before the Good News that would follow.

Yet, our worship continues. It is traditional that there is no public confession of sins on Palm Sunday, because we already confront our sins so fully in the service itself. Instead of a confession and absolution, we read the words,

Lord Jesus Christ, you said to your apostles, “Peace I give to you; my own peace I leave with you:” Regard not our sins, but the faith of your Church, and give to us the peace and unity of that heavenly City, where with the Father and the Holy Spirit you live and reign, now and for ever.

Then during the Great Thanksgiving, which is the second part of our communion service, the celebrant says,

For our sins he was lifted high upon the cross, that he might draw the whole world to himself; and, by his suffering and death, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who put their trust in him.

And we continue not merely with words, but there are more actions as well. For even after we remember Jesus’ passion, especially after we remember Jesus’ passion, we are invited back to the table once again for bread and wine, the body and blood of Jesus Christ.

There are the words, “Take, eat” and “Drink this, all of you.” These words of invitation to get out of your seats and come partake of Christ’s very real presence as we remember his suffering and death. The story loops back from the passion to the table of The Last Supper with an invitation to join Jesus once again. We are given a chance once more to join our voices to that of the Centurion who proclaimed, “Truly this man was God’s Son!”

Like the crowd that Holy Week, we can go from singing God’s praises to denying his presence and his power, and we can do it in much less time. The words and actions of this Sunday show something of our words and actions throughout our lives.

In subtle ways, we betray the faith that is in us. We deny Jesus by not speaking or acting when we are given an opportunity to say or do the right thing. Sometimes we deny him by saying and doing things that deny the Christ in us.

For while judgment and hate would have put Jesus’ to death, neither judgment nor hate get the last word in this liturgy as in our lives.

Jesus stretched out his arms of love on the hard wood of the cross that everyone might coming within the reach of his saving embrace and those of us who have enjoyed Christ’s presence in Word and Sacrament leave our worship this day strengthened to reach forth our hands in love.

May God empower us to bring others into the knowledge and love of Jesus.

Amen.

The Rev. Canon Frank Logue is Canon to the Ordinary of the Diocese of Georgia. He is also a member of the Executive Council of the Episcopal Church and serves on the Advisory Group on Church Planting.

Download the sermon for Palm Sunday (A).

 

Sermons for the remainder of Holy Week can be found here:

Monday in Holy Week

Tuesday in Holy Week

Wednesday in Holy Week

Maundy Thursday

Good Friday

Great Vigil of Easter

Bulletin Insert – February 26, 2017

What is Lent?

Memorial at Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., 2008 (Photo by Craig O’Neal)

Today is the Last Sunday after the Epiphany, which means this week the church will begin observing Lent. The beginning of Lent is marked by Ash Wednesday, which falls on March 1 this year.

The Lenten period of 40 days, which, traditionally, does not include Sundays, commemorates the “40 days and 40 nights” (Matthew 4:2) that Jesus fasted in the desert and then resisted temptations from Satan.

The season now known as Lent (from an Old English word meaning “spring,” the time of lengthening days) has a long history.

Early Christians observed “a season of penitence and fasting” in preparation for the Paschal feast, or Pascha (BCP, pp. 264-265).

“The Temptation of Christ,” illustration circa 1411 by the Limbourg Brothers

Originally, in places where Pascha was celebrated on a Sunday, the Paschal feast followed a fast of up to two days. In the third century this fast was lengthened to six days. Eventually this fast became attached to, or overlapped, another fast of forty days, in imitation of Christ’s fasting in the wilderness.

The forty-day fast was especially important for converts to the faith who were preparing for baptism, and for those guilty of notorious sins who were being restored to the Christian assembly.

In the western church the forty days of Lent extend from Ash Wednesday through Holy Saturday, omitting Sundays. The last three days of Lent are the sacred Triduum of Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday. Today Lent has reacquired its significance as the final preparation of adult candidates for baptism. Joining with them, all Christians are invited “to the observance of a holy Lent, by self-examination and repentance; by prayer, fasting, and self-denial; and by reading and meditating on God’s holy Word” (BCP, p. 265).

The Episcopal Church invites us to observe Lent “by self-examination and repentance; by prayer, fasting, and self-denial; and by reading and meditating on God’s holy Word” (Book of Common Prayer, p. 265).

How will you observe a holy Lenten season this year?

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In Trust and Hope, Lent 5(A) – April 2, 2017

[RCL] Ezekiel 37:1-14; Psalm 130; Romans 8:6-11; John 11:1-45

 These long readings from John’s Gospel during Lent have a depth and a power to them that can reach to the very core of our lives. Today we hear about death and new life, about the end of some things, and, perhaps, the beginning of others. Death is always a topic close to home, one that seems to get closer every year. On the eve of Palm Sunday and Holy Week, it’s particularly immediate.

So it makes good sense to hear Ezekiel preach to the valley of dry bones, and to listen to Jesus command, “Lazarus, come out”—and to wonder what all that means, and whether it matters.

We Christians have some very distinctive, and some very special, things to say about death—about both real, physical death and about the other deaths, the little deaths, the endings and changes and losses that we seem constantly to be experiencing. In fact, we say much the same thing about both types of death. What that is can be found in both Ezekiel and John.

The valley of dry bones Ezekiel is looking at and talking to is Israel. The great nation God had raised up to be a blessing for all the world is gone. There are a handful of exiles in Babylon with a few memories, fewer hopes, and a lot of hate for the people they’re blaming for their problems. And there are a few folks left in Judah that the Babylonians figured weren’t worth the effort to haul off. That was it. Israel was dead. Never in the history of mankind had, or has, a nation (or a faith) so defeated and so scattered ever been rebuilt. Ezekiel knew that, the Babylonians knew that, everybody knew that. Death ruled Israel when Ezekiel preached, and death ruled supreme.

So with Lazarus. Lazarus, like Israel, was dead. Really dead. Graveyard dead. In fact, Lazarus was dead past three days and the rabbis taught that after that long, all that was left was corruption. Maybe Jesus could have helped if he’d arrived earlier, but not now. Death ruled over Lazarus.

So, Ezekiel looked over the valley of dry bones, and Jesus looked at the stone in front of the cave where his friend’s body lay. When we Christians are at our best, we look at death with the eyes of Ezekiel, and of Jesus; and we see what they saw.

They first thing they saw was the reality, the force, the sheer power of death. Ezekiel was struck mute (a rare event!)—and ended up babbling about how dry the bones were. And Jesus was shaken; he was deeply troubled; he wept. There is nothing lighthearted or glib here. Death is the final word creation has to say to us. It’s a really big deal.

At its worst, Christianity has tried to deny this, and has been ashamed of the tears of Jesus. At its worst, Christianity has said that our faith means that death isn’t all that important, that it really doesn’t matter, and that grief, the real life-shattering, gut-tearing grief that hurts so terribly, that this is somehow not fully Christian.

We’ve taught this to our shame, and we have been wrong. Death is very real and it’s very powerful, and if we don’t say this first, then we’re not telling the truth. The tears of Jesus sanctify every tear, and his deeply troubled spirit makes holy our own grief, pain and fear in the face of death.

There is nothing in this world stronger or more final than death, and there is nothing in this world that can rebuild what death tears down.

When Ezekiel looked at those dry bones, and when Jesus stood at Lazarus’ tomb, they didn’t see death naturally blossoming into new life—they didn’t see butterflies coming out of cocoons, or bunnies popping out of eggs. If Ezekiel had kept his mouth shut those bones would have stayed dry. If Jesus had not called, Lazarus would have stayed in that tomb. There is nothing natural about anything stronger than death.

All of this is the first thing Ezekiel and Jesus saw; and it’s the first thing we see. Death is real and it is powerful and it hurts and it destroys. They saw that. And they saw something more.

What Ezekiel saw, and what Jesus saw, was that God was Lord, Lord even over the dead. God was Lord even over a dead Israel—and so God, and God alone, could call Israel back, and give it new life, and new direction. The wonderful part of this story is not that some dry bones could move—the wonderful part is that the spirit of the Lord would not be stopped, and that even death could not destroy the purposes of God.

So with Lazarus. The real point to this story is not that Lazarus come back. Before too long, Lazarus died again, and Jesus wasn’t there, and Lazarus stayed dead. So that’s not much of a point. The real point is that Jesus is Lord of the living and the dead. The real point is that the voice of Jesus carries—it carries even through the walls of the grave, and his word is the clearest word, and the strongest word, and the last word. That’s the good news, that’s what we Christians see that the world does not see.

We see that the word of God, and the purposes of God, and the love of God cannot be stopped, and will not be stopped. Not even by the strongest, and the worst, that the world has to offer.

At the same time, notice that these stories give us absolutely no information about the mystery of death itself. Nor do they promise that everything will be all right as we count such things.

Lazarus doesn’t become a celebrity and go on some first-century Oprah tour talking about tunnels and bright lights and four days worth of even-nearer-than- near-death experiences. There’s none of that.

What’s more, John’s Gospel tells us that Lazarus’ life got quite a bit messier—less pleasant and more complicated—after this miracle. He really didn’t live happily ever after, not as we count such things.

And Israel never again became what it used to be or what it wanted to be. The dry bones formed into something very different, something less powerful, and less successful, but truer to its mission, than Israel had wanted, and hoped and prayed for. The promise of new life is not a promise that we are in charge and that we will get what we want. The promise is better than that.

The promise is that God, in Jesus Christ, is Lord even of the dead, even of death itself. And that what he says, goes. That’s what we Christians see. Alas, we can see no farther—we can see no more. But we can see that far. We want details, we want guarantees, and we want some power and some control in all of this. We want to know what it’s like. But we don’t get any of that, not in the face of physical death, not in the midst of the other deaths, the little deaths.

Instead, in the face of all the deaths that make up our lives, we are told first that death is stronger than we are and that we have no knowledge about and no power over death. And then we are told that Jesus is Lord, Lord of all—Lord of life and of death.

So we must choose. Whatever deaths are before us, we must choose.

We must choose to despair or to trust; to give up or to go on; to abandon hope, or to let go in faith. That choice is not made for us, but it is offered to us. And that choice can be terribly hard. More than at any other time, the reality of death—death in whatever form—is a call to trust.

We see what the world sees, and yet we see more. We see that the dry bones, even our dry bones, can live once more. And we see that the word of Jesus has power. “Come out” the Lord calls. “Come out” into different life, into new life. “Come out” into life unknown and unexplained. “Come out” in trust and in hope.

Amen.

Written by The Rev. James Liggett, who has recently retired as Rector of St. Nicholas’ Episcopal Church in Midland, Texas. He is a native of Kansas and a graduate of the University of Houston and the Episcopal Divinity School. He has served parishes in Kansas, Texas, and Oklahoma.

Download the sermon for Lent 5A.

Bible Study, Lent 4(A) – March 26, 2017

[RCL] 1 Samuel 16:1-13; Psalm 23; Ephesians 5:8-14; John 9:1-41 

1 Samuel 16:1-13

Those anointed and called to do God’s work don’t always look and act as we’d expect them to. In this passage from Samuel, Jesse brings forward several candidates for the next king of Israel, all of whom are rejected with the phrase, “Neither has the Lord chosen this one.” Instead, God calls the youngest son, the least likely candidate; the one who is busy with other tasks. The one who no one thought was in the running. The passage demonstrates that God anoints and sends messengers not as mortals see, but as God sees.

  • When have you heard the Good News from a source you didn’t expect?
  • How does a glimpse of a person through God’s vision of the heart change our own assumptions about who is called to do God’s work? What does this tell us about God?

Psalm 23

Something as familiar as the 23rd Psalm can start to feel almost rote. But, there is so much richness in the theological depiction of a caring, nurturing and providential God contained in the poetic imagery of this psalm. God is our trust, our sustenance, our protector, our benefactor, our ever-present companion and shelter in life. A wonderful lyrical setting of the 23rd Psalm is Marty Haugen’s Shepherd Me, O God. Haugan’s translation turns this familiar psalm into a prayer for our committed lives of faith, “Shepherd me, O God, beyond my wants, beyond my needs, from death into life.” Not only is the setting beautiful, but it moves the words from passive comfort to an aspirational commitment to living fully into the life into which we are called and shepherded by God.

  • When has God provided for you in your time of need? How did this change your understanding of God’s presence in your life?
  • Where do you experience the shepherding of God in your life…either away from harm, or towards a place where your soul can be revived?

Ephesians 5:8-14

If you’ve ever had the chance to watch a sunrise unobscured by city lights and buildings, one of the most amazing things happens. First, before one even sees the sun emerging over the horizon, the whole sky begins to glow with a pastel, luminescent presence. This pre-dawn beckoning tells us that the night is ending and day is about to dawn. The sun’s movement over the horizon is stunning, and often melts the light glow of the pre-dawn into sharp color where it seems that every hue is exposed to its fullness, available for us to use for whatever the new day brings.

This passage from Ephesians can be seen in the same way. The early Church in Ephesus was still emerging. This world had experienced the dawn of the risen Christ and yet wasn’t entirely sure how to blend the vibrancy of that light into a world that at times seemed unaware of its brilliance. Paul, writing to the church, encourages and exhorts them to rise from that pre-dawn uncertainty and into the brilliance of the resurrected Christ by seeking all that is good and right and true which the light has exposed. Once bathed in that light, the way becomes visible with God’s help.

  • What are your first thoughts when waking? What might happen if you focused your waking energy on that which is good and right and true?
  • In what ways does the Light of Christ expose work that needs to be done: in your church, in your community, in the world at large?

John 9:1-41

It seems like whenever something bad happens, our human reaction is to try to pin-point a quick, unilateral cause: Was the person with a cancer diagnosis a smoker? Was there a family history of depression? Who had someone crossed in order to be treated so badly? We can’t help jumping to conclusions, mostly because all of us harbor a fear of something tragic happening to us, or to those we love. Having someone or something to blame gives our rational brain something to hang onto so that our emotional heart doesn’t have to break a bit more standing in the raw empathy of another person’s pain. In short, “blame” can take the place of “love.” Today’s Gospel is a story of misplaced blame: blame of the person who is blind, blame of his parents, blame of people who seem different; blame of Jesus for extending healing on the Sabbath, rather than following the letter of the law. But, where in this story is love?

The first person to show love in this story is Jesus, who heals the person who was blind, “so that God’s works might be revealed in him.” Healing occurred so that love could be set free. Isn’t that really what healing really does? The second show of love is from that very person who was once blind and now sees: he gives his testimony, and gives glory to God simply and with conviction, “Lord, I believe.”

This week’s lectionary readings are filled with metaphors of light, love, and belief from unexpected places. As this Gospel shows us, we have to ask ourselves the same tough question that the learned Pharisees ask: “Surely we are not blind, are we?” When we allow Jesus Christ to open our eyes, we are healed by the love that is set free. Jesus becomes the light that shines in the darkness, illuminating the path on which we are shepherded, step by step, in God’s grace.

  • When did you “see the light” about a situation in your own life, or in the world around you? What differed between your first assumptions, and the eventual recognition of truth? Where is God in your own story?
  • Jesus sees the potential for God to be revealed in the person who was blind. Drawing on the reading from 1st Samuel from this week, how might God be revealed in those whom we least expect? Through what actions of love might this be revealed?
  • Placing ourselves in the position of the person whose sight has been restored, how might the world look through newly opened eyes? Where might God be revealed in this new vision?

Written by Sarah Kye Price, a postulant for the priesthood in the Diocese of Virginia, seminarian in her second year of the low residency program at Church Divinity School of the Pacific, and Professor of Social Work at Virginia Commonwealth University. Her scholarship, teaching, and formation for ministry are firmly rooted at the intersection of faith and social and economic justice.

Download the Bible Study for Lent 4(A).

Bible Study, Lent 3(A) – March 19, 2017

[RCL] Exodus 17:1-7; Psalm 95; Romans 5:1-11; John 4:5-42

Exodus 17:1-7

The Israelites are weary and thirsty in the wilderness, and in their desperation, they demand divine providence in the form of water. Moses is, perhaps, a bit frustrated by their rancorousness, but God rushes forth to nourish the people with a stream from the rock at Horeb. What do we make of these cranky Israelites and their successful demand? Should they have kept their heads down and trusted their leaders, or were they right to cry out for God’s quenching mercy?

Our faith has a long tradition of humans quarreling with God: Jacob wrestled with an angel of the Lord; the Syrophoenician woman challenged Jesus to honor her plea for healing. Ours is a God of great mystery, but also one of relationality. “I will be standing there in front of you on the rock at Horeb,” God promises, and so it was. Where else might streams of mercy flow forth, if we but have the audacity to demand it?

  • Recall a time when God responded to your petitions. Was the result what you anticipated?
  • As people of God, how do we balance patient, trusting faith with the urgency of human need?

Psalm 95

Psalm 95 is a play in two acts, first celebratory and then admonishing. God is honored as the creator of the caverns, the seas, and the hills; it is a power of inconceivable majesty. All are invited to “kneel before the Lord our Maker,” offering up a grateful submission to divine authority. 

But hold on! We are then reminded of those naughty “forebears…at Meribah, and…Massah”—those same Israelites who demanded water from the rock at Horeb. God seems offended that they were unwilling to trust in His ways, and their generation was “detested.” So much for pleading your case to the Almighty. We can take away a simple moral lesson from this, if we choose: putting God to the test is not going to win any celestial bonus points. But don’t forget: God still showed up at Horeb, the water flowed, and the Israelites continued their journey. We may fight with God, we may ask too much of God, but the covenant remains. We are still on the road home.

  • Where do you see God in the created order and in nature?
  • Was there a time when you were offended by a request from someone you loved? How did you maintain the relationship?

Romans 5:1-11

Paul’s reflections on suffering, endurance, and hope are a timely reflection during the Lenten season, when many of us take a hard look at the brokenness of ourselves and our world. In this passage he makes a bold statement: we are able to boast of a hope in “sharing in the glory of God.” When we consider our flaws and foibles, both large and small, such hope seems almost ludicrous. How could we ever approach God’s glory in our human weakness and fallibility?

The key, of course, is in Christ. His love unites us to the glory of God, and just as Christ’s suffering justified us on the cross, so too does our own suffering draw us ever deeper into Christ’s reconciliation. This is not a call to gratuitous penitence or a suggestion that we can save ourselves by loudly proclaiming our sins. God already knew what we needed, and it has been done, through Christ. We acknowledge our sin as the precondition of acknowledging grace, wherein “we will be saved by his life.”

  • What is your relationship with the concept of sin?
  • How has God called you to reconciliation in your own life?

John 4:5-42

You never know who you might encounter while going about your daily business. When the woman at the well encountered a man asking for a drink, she could have ignored him, or even complied silently, but something compelled her to engage. In doing so, she took part in a conversation that would alter her life and the lives of those in her community. How many times do we unwittingly pass by the face of God in the street because we are preoccupied with our own trivial concerns? What might we learn if we would be so bold as to ask “where do you get that living water?”

Again, we are drawn back to the Israelites in the wilderness. They asked for water, too, and were sated, at least for the needs of the moment. In Christ, we are asking for something far more enduring—a new fount, that of life itself, which will never run dry. But ask we must.

  • What thirst would you ask God to quench right now?
  • Where might you find Christ in the ordinary routines of your life?

Written by Phil Hooper, a first year M.Div student at CDSP and a postulant from the Diocese of Nevada. A lifelong spiritual seeker who found the Episcopal Church as an adult, he is drawn to ministries of hospitality, public witness, and contemplative spirituality. A nonprofit fundraiser and administrator in his former career, Hooper is dedicated to building faith communities of radical love, engaged discourse, and deep solidarity.

Download the Bible Study for Lent 3(A).

Bible Study, Lent 2(A) – March 12, 2017

[RCL] Genesis 12:1-4a; Psalm 121; Romans 4:1-5, 13-17; John 3:1-17

“For God so loved the world…”

The etymology of “Lent” comes from the old German word for “long,” and it is believed to refer to the lengthening days of the spring season. So, Lent can properly be interpreted as a time of lengthening, or stretching. It is a time to stretch our faith, and in this week’s readings, we see multiple examples of ways in which God is calling us to stretch ourselves and our faith. But in asking us to stretching ourselves, God also demonstrates God’s massive outpouring of love for all of us. God is ready to help us along our Lenten journey. God’s love is waiting for us to stretch ourselves enough that we can truly see how big God’s love can be.

Genesis 12:1-4a

The Lord is pushing Abram. “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house.” He is challenging Abram to leave everything that he knows behind, and to form a new nation. It is a tremendous promise from God, but it is also meant to stretch Abram. Now, Abram really has to show God if he really believes God. Abram is about to put his faith into action.

  • How might God be calling us to stretch ourselves during this Lenten season?
  • How might we put our faith into action?

Psalm 121

After reading Genesis, Abram most likely had a lot of questions for God. The Psalm seems to be answering Abram’s questions. Abram probably worried about where he was going and how he would survive in this new land. The answer to all Abram’s questions is the Lord. The Lord will watch over Abram as Abram embarks on God’s new plan for Abram. The Psalm is showing the breadth and depth of God’s love for us. “The Lord shall watch over your going out and coming in.” God’s love for us is bigger than we can humanly imagine.

  • What questions do you have for God?
  • Where is God calling you to trust in God’s love?

Romans 4:1-5, 13-17

Even as we stretch ourselves, this week’s reading from Romans points out that we are not saved by our own works, but purely by God’s righteousness. Therefore, as we think about the sacrifices that we are making for Lent, we need to understand our rationale for those sacrifices. Are we doing them to win God’s favor? That would be unnecessary. We have already won God’s love. God loves us because God has made us lovable. Rather, we might consider our Lenten practices as ways to draw us closer to God, to lengthen our faith and to more fully appreciate God’s love for us.

  • Are you giving something up for Lent? Why?
  • Is your Lenten practice likely to lengthen your faith and draw you closer to God?

John 3:1-17

Nicodemus is understandably confused. He was a Jewish leader, and yet Jesus is offering a theology that is entirely new to him. Jesus is stretching Nicodemus, and Nicodemus is willing to be stretched. He is trying to keep up with Jesus. But, then, Jesus offers the most hopeful message of his ministry. “God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” Jesus is offering God’s salvation. As in the Romans reading for this week, Jesus is providing another explanation of the breadth and depth of God’s love for humanity. God created this world and all the living things in this world. Therefore, God has no interest in condemning it, but in loving it. There is nothing that any of us have done to warrant such an unconditional love, but God provides it, nonetheless. It requires us to stretch our minds and hearts to contemplate a love as broad as the love of God. In this Lenten season, we are stretched to start to appreciate God’s love for us.

  • What does God’s “unconditional love” mean to you?
  • Like Nicodemus, how do you with integrate God’s unconditional love into your life?
  • How might we focus on the breadth of God’s love as part of our Lenten practices?

Written by Brendan Barnicle, a Candidate for Ordination in the Diocese of Oregon, and Senior in the Masters of Divinity program at the Church Divinity School of the Pacific. Prior to the seminary, Brendan spent over 20 years working on Wall Street as a corporate finance lawyer, investment banker, and research analyst. He worked primarily with software companies, particularly Software-as-a-Service companies. He has a strong interest in economic justice, stewardship and organizational development.

Download the Bible Study for Lent 2(A).

Bulletin Insert – February 19, 2017

‘Do Not Be Afraid to be People of Love’

Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

The old church tradition of the revival received new life in the Diocese of Pittsburgh February 3-5 with a distinctly Episcopal feel.

The emphasis was on both sparking individuals’ faith lives and a commitment to show the love of Jesus beyond the four walls of their churches. Anchoring Episcopal revivals in the needs of the world was a constant theme of the weekend.

“Episcopal Church, we need you to follow Jesus. We need you to be the countercultural people of God who would love one another, who would care when others could care less, who would give, not take,” Presiding Bishop Michael Curry said during his Feb. 5 sermon at Calvary Episcopal Church in the Shadyside neighborhood of Pittsburgh.

For those who think the words Episcopal and revival don’t go together, the size of the crowds, the depth of their emotion and Curry’s insistence begged to differ.

His prayer for this and subsequent revivals, he said during one of his four sermons, is that they will be the beginning of “a way of new life for us as this wonderful Episcopal Church, bearing witness to the love of God in Jesus in this culture and in this particular time in our national history.”

Curry’s Pilgrimage for Reconciliation, Healing and Evangelism in Southwestern Pennsylvania is the first of six revivals being planned with diocesan teams in different cities around the country and the world this year and in 2018.

“I want to suggest this morning that we need a revival inside the church and out – not just in the Episcopal Church. For there is much that seeks to articulate itself as Christianity that doesn’t look anything like Jesus,” Curry said in his Feb. 4 sermon during an Absalom Jones Day Eucharist at the Episcopal Church of the Holy Cross. “And if it doesn’t walk and talk and look and smell like Jesus, it’s not Christian … and if it’s going to look like Jesus, it’s got to look like love.”

Curry said the revival of the church, centered in God’s love, is not about a church rejuvenated for its own sake. The church’s revival must spill God’s love out into the world “until justice rolls down like a mighty stream,” he said, echoing Micah.

The other revivals are planned for May 5-7 in Diocese of West Missouri; Sept. 23-24, Diocese of Georgia, Nov. 17-19, Diocese of San Joaquin (California) and April 6-8, 2018,  Diocese of Honduras. A joint evangelism mission is planned in July 2018 with the Church of England. Most will be multiday events that feature dynamic worship and preaching, offerings from local artists and musicians, personal testimony and storytelling, speakers, invitations to local social action, engagement with young leaders, and intentional outreach with people who aren’t active in a faith community.

Read the full article and more about upcoming revivals on Episcopal News Service: http://bit.ly/2kKelmz.

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Bible Study, Lent 1(A) – March 5, 2017

[RCL] Genesis 2:15-17, 3:1-7; Psalm 32; Romans 5:12-19; Matthew 4:1-11

Genesis 2:15-17, 3:1-7

On Ash Wednesday, God’s people were exhorted to begin the observance of a Holy Lent. The discipline of Lent is to be more than merely giving up a favorite dessert or trying to exercise more. Rather, the church is called to a self-reflective season of contrition and confession, of turning again to God, and submitting wholly to God. The first lesson from Genesis gives a name to the enemy we are likely to encounter as we attempt to meet the demands of Lent: temptation.

In the character of the serpent, this lesson paints a portrait of temptation. The lesson not only teaches us that temptation is crafty, but also in what ways it is crafty. Two stand out. Perhaps the most pernicious aspect of temptation is highlighted when the serpent says to Eve, “You will not die, but your eyes will be opened.” Temptation can be recognized because in its craftiness, it will mix a truth into its lie to make the lie more palatable.

The lesson also teaches us that it is the quality of temptation to spread. No sooner has Eve eaten of the forbidden tree than does she tempt Adam to sin as well. The sin of temptation is not content to sit still, but, like a plague, thrives when it spreads from one person to another until it has infected everyone. To resist temptation, we should be able to recognize when we have been tempted, and resist when we feel the pull to tempt others.

  • Where have you faced temptation in your life? How have you helped to spread temptation?
  • Where do you recognize truths and lies being mixed together in your spiritual life? How will you resist?

Psalm 32

Psalm 32 is about one of the central disciplines of Lent: confession. For those of us who are used to confessing our sins in the generic words of the general confession we say each Sunday, the concept of naming our sins out loud before God may seem somewhat foreign. But as the psalmist says: “While I held my tongue, my bones withered away.” The weight of unconfessed sin becomes unbearable until finally we have no choice but to shout it out before God. Only then, according to the psalmist, is the guilt of sin forgiven.

  • Reflect on the particular sins you might need to confess.
  • Why do you think the psalmist claims that confessing sins leads to their forgiveness?

Romans 5:12-19

In this passage from Romans, Paul makes the claim that “Adam was the type of the one to come,” meaning Christ. However, in Christ, the type is turned on its head. Just as many have died through the sin of Adam, in Christ, many have been afforded the free gift of grace. Just as through one man’s trespass, death gained dominion over the world, one man’s act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all. If Lent is to be a season of turning again to God, of reorienting ourselves, then this epistle passage provides a sort of road-map to that reorientation. Through the demanding spiritual disciplines of Lent, we look away from our old life in the world of Adam’s sin, to the new life that is afforded in Christ. We travel through the dark season of Lent, in the hope and expectation that new life in Christ waits on the other side.

  • How might it be possible to observe the demands of the Lenten season without losing sight of the hopefulness that waits on the other side of it?

Matthew 4:1-11

This passage from Matthew provides the rationale for the Lenten season. As Christ went into the wilderness for forty days and forty nights, we are exhorted to spend forty days and forty nights in earnest prayer, contrition, and confession. We are reminded that even in the midst of our own struggles and temptations, we are in Jesus’ company, and that is a very heartening thing indeed. We cannot escape the darkness of the Lenten season, or the agony that will come on Good Friday, but we can move forward in the confidence that Jesus is with us in all of it. Just as angels came and waited on Jesus in the wilderness, Jesus waits on us as we undergo the forty days of Lent that are the preparation for the Easter celebration.

  • In what ways do you sense Jesus ministering to you throughout the trials not only of the Lenten season, but of your life?

Written by Richard Culbertson who is from Episcopal Church in South Carolina and currently a ‘middler’ at the University of the South.

Download the Bible Study for Lent 1(A).