All Saints' Episcopal Church
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Sundays -  Low Mass 8:00am;  Solemn Mass 10:30am 
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This Sunday and Beyond    Weekly Reflections:


“And I will raise him up at the last day”

This Sunday and Beyond - August 12, 2018
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Over the last few weeks I have been considering and re-considering what music I would appreciate if I were sitting at my own funeral. Before I sat down to write this reflection I was doing the same thing, and I’m still listening to some of the music as I write.

Over the years I have learned how valuable it has been to families in their fresh grieving over the loss of someone close to have had that loved one plan out some of the details of their Requiem Mass. Call it what you will – funeral, memorial service, Burial Office, celebration of life – but the kind of forethought for this service of life closure is an incredible gift to the family. And it is quite the gift to your priest or pastor, too!! It would be good right now to call up or email or text your spiritual director, whomever they might be, and make an appointment to do just that. If you walk into that appointment prepared with at least a couple of pieces of music/hymns/songs, and perhaps ready to consider some of what could be read from the bible, it won’t take you more than an hour to walk out with some peace of mind.

And while you are there, don’t hesitate to have an even more vulnerable conversation about who you are in God, in Christ, and perhaps who you need to be! We do indeed want to be able to commend your soul into the hands of God.

The reading from the Gospel for this coming Sunday, August 12, lends itself to this reflection. Jesus said, “All that the Father gives me will come to me; and him who comes to me I will not cast out…... For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in him should have eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day." In fact, that last line is part of a refrain from a hymn and popular song used often at Requiem Masses, “and I will raise them up on Eagle’s wings…”

And this becomes the central point of what we do and say and read at our funerals, that we DO know what our relationship with God is exactly. We want to make our last and final testimony to the One to whom we have given our lives, and who has rescued us from this fateful world. Our funeral is best when pointed to the grace and glory and beauty and mercy of this God who saves us. I always encourage families to make sure that more than half of what we do at such a gathering is about our celebration of the life of Jesus Christ, without whom we would have no life at all! In the same Gospel for Sunday, Jesus would go on to say again this very thing, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him…..I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any one eats of this bread, he will live for ever."

I believe fully, based on this scripture of promise alone, that we CAN know if we have been rescued from the wages of sin by Christ by faith in him, by our devotion, by our being in Communion with him, even in receiving the Body and Blood of Jesus. These all go together, of course, but together they provide an assurance to that old lie, “You can’t really know if you are going to heaven.”

The gathering then at the death of a loved one is a moment of SEVERAL considerations, emotions and certainties. We are grieving, in that we are sensing in many cases a loss, perhaps abandonment, just sadness. We are recognizing that it has been in THIS world we grew to enjoy, and appreciate, and love this person, despite a world of unfairness and pain. We recognize the victories and strengths of THIS life in the image of God found in this person as we have come to know them, setting aside whatever flaws, inconsistencies, and hurts that may have been engendered. And we are recognizing these same qualities and characteristics and empathies in God our Father himself, as he has both considered us as his creation, and as he has brought an amazing victory over death itself, that we might rise with him, Jesus being the first fruit of that victory over death.

All of that goes into our planning. You can have a hand in assisting your family by thinking through all these things now. You will have something to say about your humility as one of God’s children, about your love for those being left behind, about your own perhaps quirky personality, but ultimately that you want others to know at that service that nothing in this life will ever match up to the glories of being in that new life with Christ forever.

Let me share briefly what music I was listening to. I was considering some choices I had already written down last week, like Samuel Barber’s “Agnus Dei”, the vocal version he wrote later after having found a great public appreciation for his “Adagio for Strings” -- that would be nice just before the administration of Holy Communion. Also the movement named “O Nata Lux”, from a larger Requiem work by Morten Lauridsen. But then I noticed a link to the music of Erik Satie on the source to which I was listening. I remembered then the influence early on in my life from his “Trois Gymnopedie” that formed my musical thinking (listen to it, it’s very simple and melodic), and thought that might be a nice way to provide some prelude music before my Requiem Mass gets started officially. Still brings a tear to my eye. And I like what “Oh when the saints” does for people at a funeral. Oh, this won’t be easy making a few choices!

I’m still thinking about how to get Pharrell Williams’ “Happy” into it – maybe as people are walking into the reception afterward!

Father Robert Eaton, Interim Rector

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“Don’t Miss it” (regarding the Gospel of John, chapter 6, verses 22-51)

This Sunday and Beyond - August 5, 2018
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Even when you are trying to be alert to something happening, it’s possible you can miss it. Driving right by an exit off of the Freeway is common, even though you knew it was coming up. What was it? A momentary diversion caused by another driver getting into your lane? Looking over at the radio or CD player to change the station or disc, and then looking up only to see the exit going by?

How about something much less momentary that you miss, even though you really don’t want to, like a celestial event, such as the variety of moons we’ve had this year. You wait until dusk, keep watching for that Super Moon, the one that only comes around every 100 years, don’t see it at all, and then realized you are in the wrong place looking at the wrong spot in the sky!

Or that movie you wanted to see; that sale you wanted to take advantage of; that person you wanted to talk to, and then you find out it or they has come, and gone right under your nose, and you missed it.

One of my least favorite activities is trying to discover where all those ants came from on my kitchen or bathroom counter. Just when I think I’ve got it figured out, cleared out all the other ants, and just standing there watching and waiting, and then nothing happens. So then I turn around looking at other places they might have come in, and come back to where I had been looking – and there’s another ant seemingly out of nowhere! Sneaky little things.

I don’t think at all that Jesus was trying to be sneaky, but something of the same “miss” happens in the Gospel lesson for this Sunday, August 5, 2018.

22 On the next day [after the feeding of the 5000 ] the people who remained on the other side of the sea saw that there had been only one boat there, and that Jesus had not entered the boat with his disciples, but that his disciples had gone away alone. 23 However, boats from Tiberias came near the place where they ate the bread after the Lord had given thanks. 24 So when the people saw that Jesus was not there, nor his disciples, they themselves got into the boats and went to Capernaum, seeking Jesus.

25 When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?”

They thought they knew where he would be, based on the previous day’s event, but Jesus had moved on overnight. They missed him. Not satisfied with that, though, they kept looking, actually making a crossing of the Sea of Galilee in boats, and they found him. Then a strange thing happens. They demanded to know how Jesus had escaped their detection. Jesus, though, never misses a beat, he doesn’t miss a thing; he knows what’s going on in heads and hearts. And his response to them speaks to what he saw in them. “You missed it; the whole point.”

He was referring to something even the apostles couldn’t quite yet grasp. So the crowd was in good company in that sense. Remember, he had just fed 5000 men from a few loaves of bread and a couple fish. What Jesus hears from their hearts in this encounter about how he got there without their knowing, and their second quite astounding question in the face of the huge miracle, “What sign can you give us?” is their desire to control him and make use of him for their purposes. Yes, Jesus, the Son of God, the promised, empowered Messiah is right in front of them, and they missed it. They missed his purpose and mission. Still, His final response to them – quite on mission - will be “Don’t miss this: “I am the bread of life; he who comes to me shall not hunger, and he who believes in me shall never thirst. ”

There is good news here. First, by not “missing it”, that being Jesus is the bread of life, we are promised an eternal life with him. But second, our Father in heaven promises that He is not and will never simply overlook us, like we do him. Every question, every hurt, every miss, He does not overlook, which is because He is God, after all, but also because He loves to show mercy. If you do “miss” Him somehow, at least do what the crowd did, even if with less than selfish motives, and go find him. He will allow himself to be found.

Father Robert Eaton, Interim Rector

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“No Doubt should exist: it was a massive miracle of feeding”

This Sunday and Beyond - July 22, 2018
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Don't let ANY one tell you - ever - that the feeding of the 5000 people by Jesus was anything but a straight-up MIRACLE of feeding that many people starting with only 5 loaves and 2 fishes. Anybody in their right or left mind knows that is impossible. And that is why it was a miracle. Sometimes people, who just can’t handle the idea of any miracle, whatsoever, change the meaning. Pastors and Priests alike. It’s like suggesting that the crowd wouldn’t possibly have gone anywhere without food in their cloak, calling it the “Miracle of Sharing” instead. No, sir. As well, in another Gospel there are TWO miracles of such: 4000 and 5000. (By the way, although our Sunday reading is from Mark’s Gospel, the story of the 5000 is found in all four of the gospels.) Are we supposed to think that is some kind of ancient literary device to force us to believe in Sharing rather than Creation? No, sir. And it is demeaning to make it otherwise, because to do so means that God is less powerful than the creation He made in the first place. No. He made it; he can manipulate it. And that is good news for us as we pray for so many things that need opposite outcomes, like healings.

The following comes from a Roman Catholic lay woman, Amy Wellborn. As I was doing some research on that “miracle of sharing” teaching, I discovered she had already, placed it into her own blog. She has said most everything else I wanted to “share” with you on this Gospel lesson coming up on Sunday. So, with kudos to her, I yield the reflection floor to her. Fr. Rob Eaton, Interim Rector

“An acquaintance of mine recently wrote to share an unpleasant Mass-going experience. The priest in his small hometown parish was preaching on the Gospel…account of the miracle of the loaves and the fishes from Matthew. His interpretation of the event was not exactly comforting to this acquaintance, for the priest suggested that perhaps what “really” happened had nothing to do with miracles as we know them. Perhaps Jesus so moved his listeners that they took out the food they had hidden in their cloaks and shared it with those around them. The miracle, therefore, is not any “magical” multiplication, but the miracle of the previously selfish being moved to generosity.

“Who knows how the rest of the congregation received this interesting news, but one of them (my correspondent) couldn’t just walk away without questioning the priest. After Mass, he asked him to clarify. The priest explained that no, he wasn’t denying the miracle, but that the miracle was – yes – the generosity of the people. He said he didn’t have time to go into it further.

Read the rest of Amy Wellborn's blog

Father Robert Eaton, Interim Rector

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“I know where I’m going, and I know who’s going with me”

This Sunday and Beyond - July 15, 2018
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The Collect (theme prayer) for the Sunday closest to July 13

“O Lord, mercifully receive the prayers of your people who call upon you, and grant that they may know and understand what things they ought to do, and also may have grace and power faithfully to accomplish them;, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.”

The Gospel for the Sunday closest to July 13 in Year B (of A, B,&C) --Mark 6: 7-13

“Jesus called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. He ordered them to take nothing for their journey except a staff; no bread, no bag, no money in their belts; but to wear sandals and not to put on two tunics. He said to them, "Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave the place. If any place will not welcome you and they refuse to hear you, as you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them." So they went out and proclaimed that all should repent. They cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.”

Don’t you agree that, before you go and do something, it’s always a good thing to know and understand what things you OUGHT to be doing? AND, that you have the means to actually accomplish whatever it is that you want to go and do?!

I think its interesting that different people, well, really, different kinds and types of people will respond to that question differently. Some kinds of people are those who will jump or race forward, shouting “Seize the Day!” Some kinds of people will take a step back and say, “Count the Cost.” And there are many other variations in between.

Jesus was One who could see and understand both the big picture, where he was ultimately going and what it was ultimately all about, and he understood the objectives and goals along the way. He also knew that others would want the same, and would instruct his followers about what their objectives were, and the details of what they should do while they were carrying out their objectives.

As important as such consideration is for each life here on earth -- by the way, what are YOU doing with yourself and your life right now, and do you know if that is what you OUGHT to be doing? -- there is another aspect to this question that needs to be pointed out. The Collect for Sunday, printed above, and the Gospel lesson for Sunday both point to it, and that is the power and authority you need to accomplish what you need to accomplish!

In the Gospel lesson, Jesus “gave them authority” for their objective, which was to cast out demons, as well as effectively proclaim repentance from sins.

In the Collect, we pray that God will grant us – just as Jesus on earth instructed his disciples – the understanding and direction we need, AND, just like Jesus did with his disciples on earth, provide the “grace and power” to faithfully accomplish those objectives in ministry.

When you are wondering about your life, where you need to go, what you need to do, and how you are ever going to get there, Go to God, in the Name of Jesus, and ask for the Holy Spirit to guide and empower you to get there. If you have time, you can ask why you are where you are! But the main thing is to figure out where he wants you, if not where you are.

Father Robert Eaton, Interim Rector

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"What an Amazing Story"

This Sunday and Beyond - July 1, 2018
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What an amazing story is the one where Jesus heals, or, rather, performs the miracle of raising from the dead, the 12-year-old daughter of one of the Jewish synagogue leaders. I was going to say, “what an incredible story,” but I don’t want to give the impression that the story is in fact in-cred-ible – which means unbelievable (“cred” from the Latin word credere, as in the first words of the Creed, “Credo in unum Deum,” that is, “I believe in one God”). I do believe that this is an authentic story of one of the healings of Jesus Christ. Despite that little concern for our positive and negative terms, though, we do sometimes use those negative expressions as a way to show a deeper sense of awe.

“Jesus took the dead girl’s hand and said to her, Little girl, get up! And immediately the girl got up and began to walk about (she was twelve years of age). At this they were overcome with amazement. He strictly ordered them that no one should know this, and told them to give her something to eat.”

Just before this part of the story from the Gospel of Mark though, came the mockings of disbelief, as Jesus foretold what would take place to the group of family members and mourners that had gathered. I am going to presume that some of them said in some form of Hebrew or Greek, “That was unbelievable!” when in fact they did actually see the little girl becoming alive again, with their own eyes.

So, a negative is used to describe a positive. Sure, they didn’t think it was possible, so now they are just catching up to the real power of God. It’s just a simple note, but I think that when it comes to talking about the mighty acts of God – both historically, as well as in our own current lives – we should be speaking the positive, since the world tries to eke out hope from their own negativity, their unbelief.

So, for example, if you are telling someone about how your car just suddenly died on Interstate 5 somewhere, and there was nobody around, and it is dangerous being on the narrow shoulder, and it’s not even turning over; then you share that you decided to pray over your car engine, and you did, and it started as soon as you turned the key after your prayer. You might continue your sharing by saying something like, “It was absolutely unbelievable!”, and, by the way, your audience is probably already thinking the same thing! But instead perhaps you could say in your story, “It was such a powerful moment.” Suddenly your comment is not about you, whether or not you can absorb the moment. It now becomes an affirming statement of Praise and Faith. Perhaps you are thinking that my illustration of a car dying on the Interstate is a rather pedestrian way of pointing to the wonderful, powerful event of raising someone from the dead!

But it does serve to show a common feature of how the raising of the 12-year-old was set in motion, and how we can do the same for so many situations in our lives, too. If you’ve read the stories of Jesus’ healings, exorcisms, and raisings from the dead in the gospels, you know there are a lot of them. A study of each one shows that there is always some element of faith that is involved, but never quite the same in each. Yes, there are some larger categories. But the point is that a basic question to be used in the study of these stories is “Where is the faith element?”

In the healing of the little girl, it’s not the little girl that shows faith in Jesus. She’s “at the point of death” at the beginning of the story, and then by the time Jesus has arrived at the home, she is already dead. The story also does not begin with Jesus’ initiative, as he did in a couple of other healings. In this case it is the father who, as a synagogue ruler, overcomes whatever resistance he might have had to go publicly to Jesus, and goes and finds him, and asks him to come heal his daughter. “….and seeing Jesus, he fell at his feet 23 and implored him earnestly, saying, My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well and live.”24 And Jesus went with him.”

The father goes and makes his request, and that is the initiative of Faith in this story. And the end result is the daughter is made whole. In the illustration of the car, the driver “Goes to God and makes his request” (making the engine come to life), and it does.

Do not be afraid to go find Jesus and implore him to bring something or someone to health. Do not let your internal, mental or emotional, or even physical resistances stop you. He has already made his promise, “Come to me, all you who travail and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” That verse is Jesus calling to us wholeness in him.

Father Robert Eaton, Interim Rector

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"Have You No Faith?”

This Sunday and Beyond - June 24, 2018
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Coming to church this Sunday at All Saints, 6th and Pennsylvania Ave, San Diego, you will hear a very familiar story of the almost scary display of power over creation by Jesus Christ.

It is a short enough story that I’ll just include the whole thing here:

When evening had come, Jesus said to his disciples, "Let us go across to the other side." And leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. Other boats were with him. A great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him up and said to him, "Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?" He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, "Peace! Be still!" Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. He said to them, "Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?" And they were filled with great awe and said to one another, "Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?"

Let me take you on a little diversion – or so it might seem at first – and then on to a couple of reflective thoughts. Thanks.

“Jesus said to his disciples….” So, they are in a boat. This scene is almost impossible for artists to walk away from without providing their own depiction: Jesus, scared disciples, a small boat with a sail (probably), dark sky, choppy waves, water coming over the sides into the boat. Rarely, though, do you see this depiction with the “other boats” mentioned that were part of this flotilla. And that little exposition of the Word I just did points to another part of the usual but depleted depiction: 12 Apostles with Jesus in the one boat. But there are “other boats!” Sometimes “the disciples” refers to the Twelve. But often “the disciples” or “his disciples” refer to a much larger body of people who are following Jesus. So, when in this so familiar story we read that “other boats were with him”, I think it is most likely a large movement of a larger body of disciples besides the Apostles.

Now consider this story. Jesus may have said to those in his boat, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?” These words, though, are only spoken after he has “rebuked” (“Stop it right now!”) the wind and said essentially the same to the sea. As the story tells us the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. You know that when you are on a boat out on a lake and there is a dead calm, whatever you say to someone else in the boat will be heard by people in other boats nearby—sometimes across a great portion of a lake, even on land. The conversation in the boat may have in fact been only between Jesus and his closest disciples, but everyone else out there on the Sea of Galilee would have been having the same problem of a sudden and overwhelming storm that was sinking them, and then, looking to their Master, Jesus, across the waves, would have seen him stand up and perhaps say something sternly and maybe point. Maybe they wouldn’t have been able to hear him in the midst of the storm. But they certainly would have immediately benefited from whatever just took place. And then they would have heard his voice, and his words. “Have you no faith?”

By the way, I fully believe the authenticity of this story of Jesus and the storm. With that in mind, you know, personally, I think they made the right choice to wake up Jesus! He saved them. I think that is always the right choice when life’s issues are so overwhelming that we are scared out of our wits…..we should right then turn to Jesus and ask for help. “Whenever I am afraid, I will put my trust I the Lord” is from Psalm 56. But you see that is not the end of this reflection. Jesus did in fact save them, and it was witnessed by all those in those other boats, as well. Amazement, awe, fear of the Lord. But then Jesus brings the rest of it to them. “Have you no faith?” I do not see this as a statement of condemnation, nor is it “I am so better than you all.” No, this is a part of what Jesus expected them to be able to handle. They had already seen incredible miracles, healings, exorcisms, answers to prayer. And then THEY had been given authority to do the same, and they had rejoiced because….it worked! No, I think this is Jesus teaching. And the lesson is this: you have had faith to proclaim and witness healings and exorcisms in the people right in front of you. Now you need to see that same faith is good for the larger issues of life, as well. The sometimes intangibles, the sometimes mega and meta problems and concerns, even over what we so often consider to be “just is, that’s all”, like the weather, the earth, the culture, the civilization. A little closer to home, Jesus is also talking about your life over the last 20 years, or making scary decisions about your life and career and relationships to come to make sure that you are in line with God’s will -- bringing things to a dead calm so the forward progress “across your own lake” is unimpeded. Or at the very least, so you have the confidence to know that whatever comes up against you, you have the power and the authority of God to rebuke the life-challenging, and glide through the lesser challenges.

This weekend my wife and I will mark something both expected on our parts, but also such a glorious thing, our 40th wedding anniversary. I am amazed at how many people have said to me over the last couple of weeks after they heard about it, “Wow.” Or just shake their heads in acknowledgment of a great feat. Recently, when purchasing a gift for my wife, the salesperson asked what it was for in friendly curiosity, and I said it was a small token of appreciation to my wife after 40 years of marriage. The salesperson went silent. They then said, “I’ve been married for two years. It’s been pretty much ok. But another 38 seems almost impossible to conceive.” Don’t you think this story about the battering waves, and the storm, and the disciples afraid of what comes next, sounds like a perfect application of God’s word? Indeed (as one of my favorite bishops used to say), sometimes the marriage boat collapses. But in the face of what they consider an awesome thing, an overwhelming sense of strength and commitment, what those still in their marriage have to hear is encouragement. “It does take focus. And a lot of prayer. And stand together against the big things; live to enjoy the little things. And have confidence in God for you. And for goodness sake, make sure you have some fun together. I know you will make it.”

With the Holy Spirit’s help, perhaps that will be enough for that salesperson to gain hope and confidence, and know not to sit and wait for a storm. But for absolute clarity in Christian teaching, here’s what we know and are called to do: Believe in this Jesus Christ – through whom all creation was made and thus has authority over it – and trust in him; and then, stand up to the storms yourselves as believers and do the same: pray, rebuke the storms, and reclaim the peace that is meant to be ours, now and forever. You don’t have to be one of the Twelve Apostles to do that. If you are a disciple of Jesus, then you are in those boats, and a witness, and a hearer of his word, “Have you no faith”, and so you, too, in great awe are able to stand and say, In the Name of Jesus Christ.

Father Robert Eaton, Interim Rector

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It’s the Father’s Kingdom: Ask for help to bring it about …

This Sunday and Beyond - June 17, 2018
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Something that Christians have heard over and over in their bible reading, and in good teaching and preaching that comes from the Church, is that if we are going to do the good works that God calls us to do, and that WE WANT to “make this world a better place”, among other key tasks and objectives, is that these things will not – even cannot – be accomplished and maintained on our own strength. It is the strength of the Lord working in and through us that will actually be accomplishing what “needs” to be done. God does, though, choose to work through us for His purposes. Now, THAT is a mystery, as they say. But given that it is His decision as the Ruler of all Creation, and the Lord of the Church, we then choose to work with Him, just as He has chosen to work through us. Our two primary symbols of our side of it are 1) our knees, and 2) our hands. Just like the old song written by Sammy Cahn and music by Jimmy Van Heusen, and introduced to the world by Frank Sinatra, “Love and marriage, love and marriage, go together like a horse and carriage…..try to separate them, it’s an illusion..” , the work for the sake of the Church and the World will need us on our knees in prayer to God for His continuous flow of strength and recalibration along the way, as at the same time we are putting ourselves (our hands) to work – physically, emotionally, mentally – to also get the work accomplished. Otherwise, it won’t work. We will be deluding ourselves.

From the Gospel of Mark reading from this Sunday (Proper 6) Jesus said, “The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground, and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how. The earth produces of itself, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head. But when the grain is ripe, at once he goes in with his sickle, because the harvest has come."

Do you hear? The parable points to the work that we do for the kingdom – in this case sowing and reaping – and yet some other force is at work to both germinate and to grow what has been planted! That would be God. The listener who is listening will want to accentuate that relationship with God by talking with Him and inviting Him and relying upon Him from the moment he considers sowing until the harvest is in the barn!

This should help us to understand a real problem. It is a problem the world has yet to grasp. Christians though should understand this, as I said, because they should have learned from scripture and teaching already. And this is what the Theme Prayer for Sunday, we call the Collect (the accent goes on the first syllable as we say the word for Church use: coll-ect), tells us to do and informs us of what happens if not:

Keep, O Lord, your household the Church in your steadfast faith and love, that through your grace we may proclaim your truth with boldness, and minister your justice with compassion; for the sake of our Savior Jesus Christ…. Amen.

We see so much anger and frustration and destruction in the world, even in our own neighborhoods because of this very result: if you try to proclaim Kingdom truth with boldness, and if you try to minister justice with compassion, but do not rely on the Grace of God through Jesus Christ, you will fail, and you will become bitterly frustrated. And you may try to take things into your OWN hands without the reliance that comes from being on your knees. You may even cry out, “Where is that loving God!?” And the answer is, you forgot to rely upon Him.

Do you see some injustice in the world around you? Do you see some falsehood that needs to be addressed by truth? Then come to the foot of the cross of Christ first, on your knees. Look up and see what it looks like when true compassion and true boldness have been given to Truth and Justice. And knowing that this same Jesus on the Cross has brought VICTORY over untruth and injustice through that same compassion, boldness and grace of God’s, now rely on Him to help you work for the same. Look for His answers. Look for the answers already given! Look for His direction and guidance. And patiently wait for the strength you NEED to finally be given to you. It is His Kingdom we want to build.

Father Robert Eaton, Interim Rector

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Doing Good For YOUR Sake

This Sunday and Beyond - June 10, 2018
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It never fails. Someone shows up to be helpful, or offer a plan for the betterment of a community, a city, even a nation or the whole earth, or actually does begin to make a difference in the world around them, and the first thing you know someone else comes along and wants to prove there are ulterior motives, such as buttering you up in order to take advantage of you in some way.

The story of Spiderman is like that, isn’t it? It takes a while of doing good for people in general to accept the presence of a superhero. Even then, the local newspaper editor continues to constantly look for Spiderman’s weaknesses to unmask him and show the world, you know, “who he really is.” It’s not NEARLY that bad, but I have on occasion on a morning walk stopped to pick up every piece of large litter along the way. I get looks from some of, “what the heck is that guy doing? Who does he think HE is? Better than US?” And I’ve done the same thinking, watching someone else on their walk stopping to pick up pieces of litter on THEIR way.

What is it in me that would think that, even when I have done the same good deed just as a good deed? What makes the newspaper editor in the Spiderman story an ongoing antagonist? What made certain teachers of the Law proclaim that Jesus was actually working for “Beelzebub” (the Devil) as the reason that he freed people from being demon possessed!? At the same time, people around him said he was insane for all the ministry he was doing without rest. And then even Jesus’ own family, alerted by other people, came to restrain him from doing the ministry he was doing. With all the exorcisms and healings he was actually working, why weren’t the people, and the teachers, and the family crying out, to the contrary, “Thank you, Jesus!” “Way to go, Jesus.” “Can we get you some food, Jesus?” “Would you like to take a rest Jesus?” “How can we help you Jesus do this good work?”

I can only imagine, but I do so from experience in life -- some are jealous, some are ignorant, some have been hurt badly by someone (perhaps a parent or other religious leader?) who said they were helping them only to find out that were selfishly doing something for themselves, some have just had so many failures in their life (or a few major ones) that they don’t want to trust anymore. Then there are those who are doing exactly what they are condemning Jesus for doing, that is, putting their own agenda first perhaps from control issues. Into that mix are a lot of people who could care less – they just want to be healed and free (and if they don’t get it they get mad at JESUS for not getting to them).

Somewhere in there are people who are truly appreciative, who see the Good, Merciful Heart of Jesus, and offer thanks and praise. Jesus decides, though, to direct his calm response to the teachers of the Law. It is a simple argument. He said, "How can Satan cast out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but his end has come.”

Jesus thus says, “What you are judging is not possible. This battle is kingdom against kingdom; not from within.” And then he proclaims the impending end of Satan’s kingdom. That’s good news. And I love the next bit of good news when he says, “But no one can enter a strong man's house and plunder his property without first tying up the strong man; then indeed the house can be plundered.” By saying this – and by showing it that very day – Jesus is telling us that there is no stronger man than Jesus, than God.

Not even Satan (who likes to portray himself as the Strong Man, so to speak) can withstand the ministry and the power and the authority if God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

In the middle of all that, Jesus speaks pastorally to those pressing in on him, and for all of us today. He says that if YOUR kingdom – your own being, your family, your prayers, your church, your community -- seems to be at odds within itself, then the Strong One you need to turn to immediately is Jesus Christ. Don’t come up with an excuse to not look to Him for assistance. He will meet you in your turning. Why? Because He loves you, and wants the best for you.

Alleluia.

Father Robert Eaton, Interim Rector

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God, a Young Woman and a Vision

This Sunday and Beyond - June 3, 2018
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Have you ever experienced a vision of something about God? We are celebrating the feast of Corpus Christi on Sunday, and it all started with God, a young woman, and a vision.

Way back in the 1200’s, 1208 to be exact, in the town of Liege, in what we now know as Belgium, a young woman by the name of a Juliana had a vision. Actually, two. Her life story reports that the primary vision was first given in 1208 of Jesus Christ himself telling Juliana to work to bring about the institution of a feast day honoring by adoration and devotion the Body of Christ. And this vision was underscored by a vision of the Church under the appearance of the full moon having one dark spot, which signified the absence of such a solemnity. The vision from Christ was repeated for 20 years before she made it known to her priest confessor, and it was so moving and extraordinary he shared it with his bishop. A good testimony is always highly valued!

Although women’s devotional groups in and around Liege were already focusing on the adoration of Jesus Christ present in the Holy Communion service, the local bishop eventually gave honor to Juliana’s series of visions themselves by declaring a church festival for Corpus Christi, or The Body of Christ, in 1247. Within 20 years the celebration had gone “viral” and was no longer contained to Liege or the surrounding diocesan churches. In 1264, Pope Urban IV, who had spent some of his church clergy career in Liege, proclaimed it a feast of the whole Western Church, after Trinity Sunday. In that same year, St. Thomas Aquinas, presumably inspired by the Pope’s declaration and by the devotion itself, wrote the office of Evening Prayer on the feast day, the famous hymn Pange Lingua which translated means tell out (sing) my tongue. Here is a more literal translation of the hymn:

Tell, tongue, the mystery / of the glorious Body and of the precious Blood, / which, for the price of the world, the fruit of a noble Womb, / the King of the Nations poured forth.

Given to us, born for us, / from the untouched Virgin, and dwelt in the world / after the seed of the Word had been scattered. His inhabiting ended the delays / with wonderful order.

On the night of the Last Supper, / reclining with His brethren, once the Law had been fully observed / with the prescribed foods, as food to the crowd of Twelve / He gives Himself with His hands.

The Word as Flesh makes true bread / into flesh by a word and the wine becomes the Blood of Christ. / And if sense is deficient to strengthen a sincere heart / Faith alone suffices.

[Tantum Ergo:] Therefore, the great Sacrament / let us reverence, prostrate: and let the old Covenant / give way to a new rite. Let faith stand forth as substitute / for defect of the senses.

To the Begetter and the Begotten / be praise and jubilation, greeting, honour, strength also / and blessing. To the One who proceeds from Both / be equal praise. Amen, Alleluia.

As far as our Episcopal church is concerned, and the Church of England, and Anglicans around the world, Corpus Christi was dropped from the days of the Reformation in England, and was not included in the 1662 Book of Common Prayer (still in use in many places). But it began to be restored in various Provinces, sometimes officially, sometimes not. In the United States there has been a set of bible readings and prayers “for the Holy Eucharist”, which can be made use of at any time. This has given devotional groups, especially Anglo-Catholic Episcopalians such as All Saints' Church, the freedom to celebrate Corpus Christi, as well. And we do, and we are this coming Sunday.

You know, the hardest part of sharing such a spiritual phenomenon of a vision, or any “word from the Lord” is the fear of being completely rejected by others, and even mocked. Juliana was willing to set aside her fears eventually – 20 years later! – and as a result, the direction from Christ in the vision was accomplished.

If you have had a vision, or a word, something that would benefit the church in its devotion to Christ, please share it.

Come worship the Lord; receive His strength by receiving His Body and Blood. All who are baptized in the Name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit are welcome to receive. If not baptized, perhaps you would consider doing so.

Father Robert Eaton, Interim Rector

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The Trinity — of God and of Man

This Sunday and Beyond - May 27, 2018
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When you come to Church to worship God you will always find prayers where the language speaks of what is known as The Trinity. It refers to who God is. We say “is” because Trinity refers to the very “being” of God. If we were to talk about YOUR “being” – who you “is”, if you will -- we won’t be able to simply describe you as “a baseball player”, or “a mother”, or “a father”, or “a priest”, or “straight”, or anything else as if that were the core of who you are, your “being.” Yes, sometimes those things are so very strong in you that you might FEEL it is your very being. But they are simply things “about” you.

I’ve come to think that one of the reasons it may be so difficult to really understand what it means for God to be Trinity, is because we have such a hard time simply trying to figure out who WE are. On this Sunday, try your hardest to listen and comprehend the language being used to describe God as Trinity. It is not easy, and never has been since the early Church began to realize this identity of God. Your hard work in this, along with your worship of the Tri-une God may actually assist you in understanding more of your own “being.” And why would that be? Because we are made in the image of God.

That word, Trinity. It certainly has been made use of around the world and throughout history, hasn’t it. In the same way that land and lakes, cities and islands, so also has the word – and specifically the word referring to God – graced the names of magazines and book publishers, companies and even names given to children. I’m pretty sure that things were not always named “Trinity” because someone was actually proclaiming their understanding of how God is Three -in-One. Trinity. Tri-unity. Often, the name has been given for other reasons. One of California’s oldest namings – at least from the time of European discovery – is when the Spanish Navy was anchored off the northern California coast, just off what is the small town of Trinidad. That would be “Trinity” in Spanish. The reason the bay and the early community was called Trinidad is because the official possession and naming ceremony on land took place on this very Sunday, Trinity Sunday (June, 1775). The area was thus named “la santisima Trinidad” (the Holy Trinity). And, of course, from that naming came not only Trinidad, but Trinity County, the Trinity Alps, the Trinity River, the mysterious Trinity Wilderness, etc. Not because of its “being”, but because of the specific Church calendar day the land was claimed for Spain.

You and I, too, may have been named for a whole host of reasons. As much influence as a name can have on an individual and their future, it is still not a person’s Being. But we are created in the image of God, and we can see in ourselves something of this being of God called Trinity. You and I have a body, we have a spirit, and we have a soul. If we were to lose one of those we would no longer be alive. We can talk about each, but they cannot be separated from who we are. One of the disciples’ first inklings of what this meant in terms of God is when Jesus said, “I and the Father are One. If you have seen me, you have seen the Father.” As well, the Holy Spirit is often described as the Spirit of Jesus, and the Spirit of God. You can see them, even “touch” them, but you cannot separate God out of His very being. And the same way with us, whereby you cannot simply say that my human trinity is simply facets, “faces”, of something deeper. No, more than facets. Distinct parts. And now you know why it is so difficult to describe the identity of God in terms of Trinity.

It is very important to try, though. It will help us understand more of who God “is”, and thus it will help us understand more about who we “is.” And as the bible points out, our understanding will always begin and end as we come and worship Him.

Would you like to know more about God and who He is, in His Being? To start, then, Come and Worship.

Father Robert Eaton, Interim Rector

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Indiana Jones — The Chalice of Life

This Sunday and Beyond - May 20, 2018
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You may remember some of those myths about the “Fountain of Youth”, and the last I heard it was supposed to be somewhere in Florida. Or at least it was when the Spaniards were in New World discovery mode. Is that why so many retirees go to Florida? Maybe, if they could find the Fountain there, it would give their retirement age and activities some more time just to enjoy life!

That same kind of quest and idea was brought into the scene from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, when Professor Jones and a variety of sinister persons were looking for the Holy Grail, the Chalice, the Cup that Jesus used with the apostles at the Last Supper. Christians believe that the Holy Sacrament of the Body and Blood of Jesus does in fact allow us to share in the eternal life and strength of Jesus Christ, Son of God. It’s a stretch theologically, but you could say that the Blood of Jesus brought to us in the Communion service in a chalice is a fountain of life. Of course, that’s the foundation for this scene, and the movie. So back to the movie…..

Upon discovery of the cave where the chalice was kept, the explorers were encountered by a Crusader Knight, left behind centuries before to guard the chalice. The strategy to keep it safe was large, long rock ledge that had a hundred different chalices on it. And only one, of course, was the correct chalice. The problem was if you chose the wrong one, put water into it and drank from it, you would die. Indiana, being the movie’s protagonist, chose correctly, and to the benefit of his father who had been shot. The water in the Lord’s chalice would be poured onto the mortal wound and his father would be miraculously healed. But all that happened AFTER the greedy antagonist picked the wrong chalice, drank water from it, and died on the spot, gruesomely. You may remember the ancient Knight’s famous line, “He chose... poorly.”

This coming Sunday is when the Christian faith celebrates what is known as “Pentecost” (pente is a word referring to the number “50”, as in 50 days after Easter). It is the day the promised Holy Spirit of God would come down from heaven and fill to overflowing the gathered disciples, waiting for something to happen for them as Jesus had said. They had prayed together for 10 days after Jesus ascended to heaven. And now, on this Jewish feast day celebrating harvest and new life, here comes the Spirit. The Spirit came to do several things for those believing in the risen Jesus as the Messiah, the Anointed one, the savior of the world. One of those things was to give Life.

We believe in God the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the Giver of Life. THERE’s your fountain of life! Not just of Youth, but of eternal life no matter how old you might be! Here, we believe it is the work of the Holy Spirit at the invitation of the prayer of people and priest that the bread and wine do become somehow the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ at the Mass. Thus, again, the Holy Spirit is the giver of life. AND, He is the giver of the Life you will need to be an effective follower of Jesus here on earth before you go to heaven.

This fountain is not for sale. And all may come to it. And you do not have to produce a life of perfection to receive it. And you cannot horde it. There is no arbitrary need to figure out which Spirit, like the multiple chalices in the movie, or some kind of divine shell game. For there is only one Holy Spirit, and God the Father allows the Spirit of life to be given as a loving Father would at the request of His child.

Do you need Life?! Is Life slipping away from your grasp? Does a direction and goals for your life seem clouded in gray? Do you feel more like the walking dead than the joyful person full of living? Good News! The promise given through Jesus is that if you will turn away from the things that bring you death because you are serving only yourself rather than God and others. Believe in Jesus, be baptized. Seek the Holy Spirit as the disciples did before Pentecost and you will be filled with this Holy Spirit to overflowing! You will have found and received the LIFE you seek and need.

Pray this: “Come, Holy Spirit!”

Father Robert Eaton, Interim Rector

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Lord Protect My Children As I Go

This Sunday and Beyond - May 13, 2018
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There is a very powerful, reflective, insightful, nurturing, intimate prayer spoken by Jesus himself in the 17th chapter of the Gospel according to St. John. Part of that prayer is the Gospel reading for this year’s 7th Sunday of the Easter season. And it falls on Mother’s Day this year. Or is it that Mother’s Day falls this year on this particular Sunday? Well, one way or the other, as devoted followers of Jesus Christ attend worship at All Saints, like churches of so many other denominations, they will be listening to hear if what the bible readings have to say can be immediately connected to the cultural holiday. Or the other way around! And the answer is yes.

There has always been an argument in the life of the Church about what happens, or what is the focus, in the worship on any given Sunday. For instance, if Easter were to ever be the same as Mother’s Day, how would you celebrate the Church’s greatest feastday – the Resurrection of Jesus Christ – at the same time as the immense sentimental pressure to celebrate our Mothers? Fortunately, that scenario will never happen, as long as Easter can be in the calendar no later than April 25th, and Mother’s Day stays in place on the second Sunday of May. Whew! But you get the point. If it did happen, people would be coming to celebrate Jesus, with the high priority of their mothers on their minds.

With that in mind, what about this lesson from the gospel? We are witness to a prayer whose motivation no mother wants to have to face. Departure. And yet every mother knows in her heart that there will come a moment when she will be gone and her children left without her. And most mothers would want that moment to be one out of their control, so, death; but certainly not a decision on their part to leave, like moving across country, leaving adult children (and perhaps grandchildren – even worse) behind. Even so, mothers who DID have to depart, and still be living, will find a way to bring some kind of benefit for their children, if only to help assuage any unnecessary but real-feeling guilt on their part.

I believe much of this kind of emotion is also woven through this prayer of Jesus which is prior to his departure. That means mothers will be able to relate when they hear it read, and they will then be able to ask the questions, what might this mean for me? And, is there something here that I can use in my own prayers for the sake of my children and theirs? First, as Jesus has finished teaching he now turns to his Father in heaven and – most likely with the disciples having no choice but to listen in – places them into the Father’s hands. He teaches them the proper relationship between them and God by showing them what HIS priority relationship looks like. As if they hadn’t figured that out already. Second, Jesus models for them the critical importance of being in prayer itself. Part of that lesson is for kids to their mothers: in the same way a mother is to have her highest relationship being in God, so children will bless their mother who has shown them the way to the Father. The other part of that lesson is simply the mother’s belief in the critical need for intimate prayer with her Lord.

The third thing I want to point to, with the understanding that the entire prayer of Jesus will not be read in church, is just what is it that we are listening to from the prayer. Somebody had to have chosen this specifically. And yes, that is the case, with both the end of the Easter season, and the focus of NEXT Sunday’s celebration of the coming of the Holy Spirit to take Jesus’ place. Here’s the center-piece of the prayer:

Jesus prayed for his disciples, saying, "Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me….. I am not asking you to take them out of the world, but I ask you to protect them from the evil one.."

This is critical. One of the fears of a mother departing is that she won’t be there to protect her children if they get into troubles of any sort. That’s an awareness that troubles will always exist. Jesus does the same thing and makes the same allowance. There will always be trouble. We can’t escape it. So, Jesus, Son of God, asks God the Father to protect the ones he leaves behind; and he knows full well that his departure is necessary. It will be a double-whammy for them. First, he will be killed and depart by death. But then, after he is risen from the dead, he will need to leave again. This time, though, he will live forever.

So, mother’s, just as you hope your children will be there for you, and you also hope no troubles will ever visit your children, and just as you can relate to this lesson in all of its fullness, be inspired by the reality of life to be on your knees in prayer for your family—not that they be excused from living in this world where there is trouble or pain, but that you will trust in God, and that he will protect them where you cannot.

Mother’s will hear these connections; yes, they will.

Father Robert Eaton, Interim Rector

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Is Your Joy NOT Complete?

This Sunday and Beyond - May 6, 2018
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Sitting at an outside table at an Outlet Mall recently, I noticed quite a few little birds skitting about, chirping happily (it seemed happily) and occasionally landing at one of the small piles of leftover or tossed food on sidewalk and drive. What caught my eye was the behavior of little birds landing at one of these compressed food sources, taking a little teeny bit and then flying off. And then return a little while later. From a human and economical perspective it seemed a waste of energy to take a peck, fly off using up their energy, only to later fly back in and taking another little bit. Or, as I also observed, birdies taking a little bite at one food spot, flying off, and then landing at a different food spot and taking a bit from that one. And again.

What, the first spot wasn’t gourmet enough?

Well, that’s the life of little birds. Skittish -- and probably a genetically learned behavior in order to avoid becoming a food source themselves for a larger bird!

The observation does lend itself, though, to see a bit of Jesus’ teaching about what it means to “abide”, and by inference, what it means to NOT abide.

The birds are definitely not “abiding” in one food source. Does this have something to say, too, about how we relate to God? You know, the word “relate” is the root of “relationship.” Jesus wants us to relate to him - and only Him - in a constant way, not having a skittish relationship.

He desires that we relate to him in accepting him as the life we need. The relationship, then, should be a devotion to him and the life he provides through the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the Giver of Life. Jesus asks that our relationship with him be defined as “abiding.” And it’s not just a desire; it is a promise he makes. If we will “abide” in him, our life will be full and meaningful, no matter what the circumstances of our lives here on earth are comprised.

Here’s the quote. “Jesus said to his disciples, "As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love. I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.” (Gospel of John, Chapter 15, verses 9-11)

That sounds good to me. My concern, though, is when I find myself relating to God more like those little birds and leftover food sources. That is, there are times when I find that I’m flying in to God for a quick bite, like a needed prayer request, and then flying back off without just staying there and feeding! It might be important to ask yourself why this skittishness on your part.

We have our lives, of course, but Jesus would like us to bring our prayers and concerns, and just stay awhile with thanksgivings and praise, and adoration, and longer conversations in prayer, giving time for us to listen to him as much as we talk at him, as in some momentary feeding!

Abiding means constancy in relating; not a skittish drive-by feeding bite. What sign might there be for you to observe and pay attention to? That, taking Jesus’ abiding consequences at that end of that quote, if your “joy” is NOT “complete,” perhaps it is time to do some abiding! To use a different word to describe “relating”, abiding means to be “connected.” I encourage you whole-heartedly to find Jesus as your food and life source, and stay there!

Father Robert Eaton, Interim Rector

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Threats and Ultimatums from God?

This Sunday and Beyond - April 29, 2018
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“Look. You either increase your sales by 25%, or you are fired.”

You could call it a threat. You could all it an ultimatum. Some people would call it a “conditional” manipulation. One way or the other, I’m sure you’ve heard it before, either in your own life in work, or in a different form being spoken by someone with whom you were in a relationship. Or are still in a relationship.

You know, there are pros and cons. A positive is if you are working in sales and you increase your sales by 25% you are going to increase your personal income from commission by 25%. The negative may be that you are already working at your personal capacity, trying to keep everything in your life in balance. Adding 25% more may mean forcing you to neglect your personal relationships which you value. And then you might get some pushback, something like, “If you don’t cut back your work time away from home by 20%, then this relationship is over.”

This may be splitting hairs if you’ve got some personal hurt right now, but I see the first statement as usually a manipulative threat, and usually generated by greed. And I see the second statement as a “conditional” statement, usually based on a prior agreement. I could be wrong on the first one. It is quite possible it is also a “conditional” warning. Perhaps coming into that sales job you agreed to sell 1000 widgets every month, because you were quite sure you could do it. But over 6 months so far you’ve averaged 800 . That means you’d have to increase by 200 widgets to get to the agreed upon 1000, or a 25% increase. So is that a threat? No. Ultimatum? Probably, based on the prior agreement. Conditional? Absolutely. Your employment, to which you agreed, was conditional on that level of sales.

Well, those are a lot of ethical considerations. Nothing is simple, I suppose. In the Bible, with the teaching of Jesus, many people have criticized Jesus’ teaching as containing all of these things: threats, ultimatums, conditional.

I’m going to go at this, though, from the idea of having or establishing a relationship with Jesus. There certainly are the consequences explained by Jesus for those who choose not to believe. But, you know, at some point in our lives -- bullying aside -- we have to understand that when we make decisions we also choose the risk of certain consequences. I say risk because there are lots of people who do things or don’t do things they shouldn’t or should, and have never had to suffer consequences. That’s when we say the world is not fair! Yes.

In this case, too, consequences are part of the decision, not payment for the decision. Jesus tells us these two things in particular: if you will [repent and] believe in me, you will receive eternal life. And then he said, also several times, what we hear in the Sunday Gospel reading for April 29, 2018, “if you love me you will obey my commandments, and my Father in heaven will bless you for it.”

First, the relationship with God is not conditional in the sense of you having to become sales-worthy, or sales-competent, or sales-proven. If you will believe that he is risen from the Dead, then you have made exactly the right choice, and the relationship is eternally made. The blessing of eternal life with God awaits you. And second, the relationship with God is enhanced (not proven) by your following his commandments. The clear implication from the text is a desire to follow his commandments BECAUSE you love him. Sure. If you say you love him, but you are not following his commandments, you are not showing him that you love him. But you are not being asked to love him or follow him 25% more, or else.

And believe me, if you show God you love him by following his commandments and were to do that with even more of a desire to show your love, the people and the job and the relationships you have are only going to benefit, not become deficient. And the consequences are all out of this world.

Father Robert Eaton, Interim Rector

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Jesus said, "I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” (John 10:11)

This Sunday and Beyond - April 22, 2018
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Sometimes, in some places in the bible, it is difficult to easily grasp the connections, the words, and the illustrations being used. I think most people understand why that’s the case: we are hundreds of years, even two thousand years apart in culture and language. I kind’a feel that as God’s plan was to have the bible continue on as the most important collection of writings and books and letters EVER, He knew that a whole bunch of different ways to describe the Savior of the World would be absolutely essential. Just speaking about Jesus, the Messiah, the Son of God, the Anointed One, the Bright Morning Star, the King of Kings, and Lord of Lords, the Prince of Peace….well, you see, there are lots and lots of names and ways to describe just Jesus alone.

This coming Sunday, the Fourth Sunday of Easter (April 22, 2018) is known as Good Shepherd Sunday. It is known as that because for probably 1600 years the lessons about The Good Shepherd have been read to congregations on that particular Sunday. Even if we have a hard time understanding what it is to be a shepherd these days, or even what it means to be a sheep in these illustrations, the imagery is simple enough because it is described enough, for us to get some of the meaning.

Yes, if today we were to use words and phrases such as Jesus is our Human Resources Director, or something about networks, or software engineer, Community Relations Officer, or even just The Good Case Worker, it might have more IMMEDIATE meaning. Still, we read about Jesus, the Shepherd, and the Sheep, and mercenary flock keepers, and we can after a while begin to hear what is being talked about: someone who protects, solid healthy relationships, and un-healthy relationships!;, caring, nurturing, trust, someone bigger and more powerful than me; leading, guiding, feeding, teaching, watchful.

You don’t have to have grown up on a ranch or farm to see it. On the other hand, you cannot presume that just because Jesus used that imagery with the disciples 2000 years ago meant that THEY understood. Jesus had much to offer in sharing about shepherds and sheep in relation to him, but half-way through his talk, Jesus was finishing up one of his thoughts on this by saying, “his sheep follow him because they know his voice.” And then John gives us this insight with which we can be sympathetic with the disciples, “Jesus used this figure of speech, but they did not understand what he was telling them.”

Well, then, we shouldn’t feel so bad if we don’t get the teaching of Jesus even in simple illustrations (maybe because most of them were fishermen, not herdsmen). But Jesus needs them to understand so he continued on saying it again, and saying it in another way, until they heard what it meant for Jesus to be not A Good Shepherd, but THE Good Shepherd. In the same way, when WE hear Jesus speaking, you gotta know it’s important! So, it’s good to ask, “Lord Jesus, please keep talking to me. And help me to hear you.” And the purpose? So you can put even more trust in who he is, and who he is for you.

To finish this reflection, lets here more of what Jesus said to them, and what we are supposed to hear, too. He said to them “that the Good Shepherd lays down his life for his sheep.” And Hired Hands run away. What are we supposed to hear about God’s relationship and desire to be in relationship with us?

The shepherd would bring the flock home to the fold at night. He would then lay down in the gate physically to protect the sheep from wolves coming into the sheepfold. He literally put his life on the line for the sheep. Jesus is not only talking about real wolves, but also human beings who can also be described as “wolves,” then just as now.

The wolves who try to enter the fold make themselves look like sheep. They talk like sheep, they pray like sheep, they make themselves look ultra-holy, they say "Lord, Lord", they claim often to be doing God’s work ... but by their fruit you will know them ... the fruit of lying, of false works, false prophecy, false teaching, and trying to be justified by their works. The Shepherd sees through their ruse and calls them what they are ... evildoers (they can be redeemed, too, but they will need to be repent of being wolves!).

Doesn’t that protective relationship sound like the kind of relationship you would want to have with God? God who lays down his life in order to protect you from the viciousness of life and those who act, and from those whose purpose it seems is to take advantage of you?

Then come to the Good Shepherd, Jesus, and join his flock. He will lift you up and care for you. “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me.” (from Psalm 23)

Father Robert Eaton, Interim Rector

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“I Can’t Believe I Missed It”, and the Reprieve

This Sunday and Beyond - April 8, 2018
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Coming up on Sunday is a wonderful story of the Risen Jesus making an appearance to the disciples, AND in the same story, another visit in the same place a week later. It's found in the Gospel according to John, chapter 20, verses 19-31.

So Peter, and James, and John, and Andrew, and Philip, and Thomas, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, James, son of Alphaeus, Jude, and Simon the Zealot, and all those others saw the Lord. And when they talked about rising from the dead, there was no doubt in their minds and hearts that he actually had.

It doesn't happen like that all that often in the Bible. You might read, “the next day Moses went to see Pharaoh again”, or “three days later Jesus left that place.” Without the Chapters and Verses dividing up the Bible (as a helpful bible study and memorization tool, completed to most everyone's satisfaction in the 1500's), there were simple, natural endings of one story and beginnings of another which often didn't mention how much exact time there was between one and the other.

But in this story of the Risen Jesus coming into the Upper Room, with the Gospeller John having the apostle Thomas as the focus, there is a lesson to learn. At the first visit, they were all there, but, John the eyewitness says, Thomas wasn't. The second visit, Jesus came again to them, and this time Thomas was there. But wait! There's more! In between these two visits by Jesus the disciples saw Thomas and shared that they had seen him. Thomas's reply is most famous: "Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe." Just as famous is Thomas' remark to Jesus when he did see him that next “Sunday” and Jesus had said, “Put your hand here in my wound..” Thomas, without the story saying that he actually went ahead and touched his wound, said, "My Lord and my God!" (Personally, I like to think he sank to his knees and said that with great humility.)

So here's what I'm reflecting on. After the sun goes down, on the same day that Jesus rises from the dead – the first day of the Jewish week, and what we now call Sunday – he appears bodily to the disciples in the Upper Room. And then, based on what the story tells us in just a few verses, a week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them. This leads me to consider two implications. First, Jesus left them after a short visit that evening. And then Thomas gets to the Upper Room on that same evening but after Jesus had left. In other words, Thomas shows up, and his fellow disciples, with great excitement say to him, “You just missed him!!” That had to hurt. You just missed him.

You come running up to the bus stop, but its not there. Somebody says, “you just missed it.” And with it maybe your new job interview; getting to your best friend’s birthday party on time;. your favorite sports hero's signing autographs at Kmart. You drive like a maniac to your son's school for the annual school play. He's got a solo part in the school play. You find your family and your saved seat, and they lean over and say, “You just missed it.”

Perhaps you have been in that situation at some time in your life. Maybe you found a way to not get left behind; perhaps it was the cause of the end of a relationship. Maybe you found a way to make it up. In any one of these possibilities, it would seem the most common response, in some form or another is, “I can't believe I missed it.” I say in some form or another, because too often our hurt, pain, anger at ourselves is turned outward or unhealthily inward, rather than immediately accepting the situation and moving toward some new solution. What do those outward forms look like? Like verbally trying to express control, like Thomas did. He blurted out his attempt to be in control by publicly stating his superiority by withholding approval. Or we can do the same by blaming somebody else, “That dang traffic.” Or even more violent, like slamming your fist down on a table, or throwing your brief case. Or forms of verbal and emotional abuse towards others. .

Here's the good news: Jesus came back. He came back to the same room, and the same disciples, and in the same Resurrection manner, and this time Thomas was there. And Jesus spoke directly to Thomas' hurt. Thomas' response was the correct one. He could have responded incorrectly (see all of the above discussion on responses).

This Risen Jesus Christ has not changed. That is, he will meet you, even if you've missed him in your responses to the world that have been energized by hurt and pain and anger (well, anger comes from hurt and pain, doesn't it). And even if you missed believing in Jesus the first time around -- or the second, or third – it is the nature of the Son of God, Jesus, to keep coming to you with the hope you will believe. Wise counsel says that since you may have missed him once before, you might choose to miss him again. So, counsel says, “You. Put yourself in the right place to both find him, and be found by him.

And don't forget to love others as yourself. “And love one another,” Jesus said, “As I have loved you.” And forgive. And you will be forgiven.

That's a lot of what Jesus doesn't want you to miss out on.

Father Robert Eaton, Interim Rector

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"I didn’t see it, but I believe it!"

This Sunday and Beyond - April 1, 2018
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“There is no way around it. You have to go into it and through it.”

This statement is about Easter, and Jesus rising from the dead. It can only be a modern statement. The reason this is true is because the Resurrection of Jesus took place over 2000 years ago. That is, it did not happen within our own sight. I have wished many times that I had been there on the third day to have been able to witness Jesus’ body laid in the tomb; to witness the stone being rolled into place in front of the opening; to hear those who had either seen him or an angel telling of what has taken place; to have seen the tomb empty with only Jesus’ burial cloth left behind for myself; to have been one of those groups who saw Jesus after his resurrection, such as on the beach eating fish together; to have been able to realize then that Jesus was not an ethereal illusion or holograph; to have witnessed the touching of his wounds; to have witnessed his voice, his touch, his physical presence; to have been able to count myself as one of the 500 remaining, as St. Paul mentioned in one of his letters, who were still alive who had witnessed the Lord Jesus being alive.

So Peter, and James, and John, and Andrew, and Philip, and Thomas, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, James, son of Alphaeus, Jude, and Simon the Zealot, and all those others saw the Lord. And when they talked about rising from the dead, there was no doubt in their minds and hearts that he actually had.

We do not have that opportunity today. And that’s where the quote above comes in, and what makes it a contemporary or modern statement. For us today to believe in Jesus we can’t rely upon anything else except a decision on our part – somewhere and somehow in our lives – to believe without seeing. And isn’t this the reason for witnesses!!

A jury will convict from the evidence of one eye witness. There should be more, of course. So the list of those who are witnesses from then is immense, and also convincing, so much more so. The strangest thing is this: there were those 2000 years ago who witnessed the empty tomb, and even then chose not to believe! There is no hard guarantee of belief even as a physical witness!

But let’s be open to investigate. Listen to the witnesses, trust their testimony. Enter into the proclamation of Jesus Christ risen from the dead. Then see if he does not present himself to you as the Savior of the World - even of you.

Here is our prayer for this Sunday, the Day of Resurrection, Easter, the Paschal Feast

. Almighty and everlasting God, who in the Paschal mystery established the new covenant of reconciliation: Grant that all who have been reborn into the fellowship of Christ’s Body may show forth in their lives what they profess by their faith; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Listen to that petition, even as you might pray it out loud. “Grant that all who have been reborn into the fellowship of Christ’s Body may show forth in their lives what they profess by their faith.” The petition asks for God’s help – that is what a petition is all about, right? – that He would “Grant” His grace, call it His strength, call it His power, call it His mercy to actually accomplish our true rebirth, and do it not by sight, but by your faith in him. Alleluia! May your petition be granted. May you see the Lord.

Father Robert Eaton, Interim Rector

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"Who leaves their bike untied?"

This Sunday and Beyond - March 25, 2018
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One of the two stories on Sunday about Jesus was when he went up to Jerusalem with his disciples and asked a few of them to go into town, find a donkey tied up, and bring it to him so he could ride it through the Jerusalem city gate.

It reminded me immediately of the bike share program that San Diego has had in operation If you've been reading the news, though, about the bike share, and the dock-less bike businesses, you know its starting to be a problem of control. For instance, Coronado didn't want them in the first place, and now they've got them all over the place, impeding sidewalks, left undocked, you know. It’s nice to know you can get to Coronado by bike from around the San Diego area - the colors of the bikes tell the story where the bikes were supposed to be and stay!

But here's the thing – as far as we know, there was no foal-of-a-donkey ride share program in Jerusalem, not even a hint of just an adult-donkey ride share (which sounds a little dangerous to me anyway!). No membership fee, no ATM card to offer for a 30 minute ride, no public, free-standing, feed docking system set up. And that means, unlike the bike program with no real control plan so no one feels compelled to stop you when you wanted to take a bike, you didn't just walk up to a donkey and un-tie it and take it!! Unless you are a brazen thief, that is!

But here is, in fact, that similarity that caught my eye to make the comparison between the two. Like a dad telling his two kids to go get bikes somewhere out on the sidewalk to ride, Jesus tells his disciples to go get the donkey that they would find out on the street, tied up. And, behold!, there was a colt tied up, just like he said there would be.

The similarities would end there. First, there didn't seem to be any other colts around tied up, unlike mounds of bikes. Second, when they started untying the colt, bystanders saw this initially as stealing by strangers, men that they didn't know from the neighborhood, and said something to the effect of, “HEY! What are you doing with that colt??!” And third, whereas the bikes can be dropped off anywhere, like Red Box movies back into any Red Box machine anywhere, Jesus had told his disciples to tell anybody asking questions that they would return the donkey immediately, right back where they found it.

The story goes on from there to the foal of the donkey used by Jesus to ride triumphantly into Jerusalem in a huge, joyful procession, where people threw their ponchos and branches from nearby trees onto the ground as the donkey and Jesus processed through the gate into Jerusalem. Thus the name of the celebration around the world is known as Palm Sunday. The colt or foal of a donkey is very important in Jewish prophecy for the Messiah riding into Jerusalem as it symbolizes the entrance of a KING.

Besides that VERY important aspect of Jesus as the King and Messiah, there are two smaller things taking place here that also speak to how special is this Jesus. He knew things before they appeared. He foretold the donkey. He knew what the bystanders would do after hearing what Jesus had told the disciples to say to them, that is, let them take the donkey!

Everybody ended up being amazed by it all, except Jesus, apparently. He knew what needed to be done to fulfill words spoken hundreds of years before, and because he is the Son of God, he knew it would all be accomplished. In fact, he knew who he was and why he was here. All the rest of the special things from this story were signs pointing back to Jesus as special, the anointed one, the savior of the world.

THIS is the Jesus to follow into Jerusalem, no matter what would happen. It is still the case: Jesus can do things that we could not even conceive of as possible, including the provision of our lives, and following him into heaven – the new Jerusalem – which still means setting ourselves aside to follow and receive and partake and be filled by every ounce of His life in us. It is very good, in our case now, though, to know the end of the story already! He has entered Jerusalem to die for us, and to rise from the dead victorious over all those sins of ours for which he died. Come lay down some palm branches for the king.

Father Robert Eaton, Interim Rector

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“A Reminder of Who Still Provides”

This Sunday and Beyond - March 11, 2018
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A wonderful, hopeful story is read on Sunday, March 11, right in the middle of the season of Lent - that church year season of repentance, self-examination of any disobedience, the call to get back on track with God. It is the miracle story of Jesus' provision of food for the thousands following him. And no questions asked! Just compassionate provision. It is the telling of the Miracle of the Loaves and Fishes. It is one of two miraculous feedings recorded in the Gospels. We hear that there were 5000 men there (and quite possibly, adding in women and children attending, up to 10,000 or more).

Unless you were there, such stories of miracles are hard to relate to. Let me share a small miracle story that has happened many, many times in people's lives. Perhaps you can understand how huge that feeding miracle was, and for now, a reason for putting this story into the middle of Lent. Say your life is falling apart in some or many reasons. You are very stressed, trying to figure out some solution, some kind of answers. You know you can’t blame everybody else; you come to honestly realize that you yourself have created many of the situations for which you are now seeking some answer. One of the immediate needs you have is financial. In any case, you decide to go walking and praying, and on the path of your walk you intend to walk around the outside of a local church. “If I can just hear from God somehow.......” As you walk around the side of the church you see something on the sidewalk with a note on it. It's an envelope, and it has your name on it. First and last. It’s for you. Inside the envelope is exactly what you needed for that financial need. What is your immediate and natural response? Joy? Relief? Disbelief? Renewed hope for all the other concerns you have? Drop to your knees in thanksgiving? Keep walking around the church – maybe another envelope will appear?!

You might say after reading this story, “Oh, well, that would never happen – so don't try to apply that here!” – of course, you would not say that if you had actually found that envelope!! And the experience over 2000 years, and even longer, is of this God, the God and Father of Jesus Christ, providing many, many such “envelopes”, many miracles of provision

In the story of the miraculous feeding you hear God's provision. Missionaries especially have been relaying stories of God's provision since Jesus walked on the earth, and this new century is no different. After a very quick search on the internet for something recent, comes this testimony of a small miracle of provision (sometimes people will believe smaller miracles more readily than unthinkable ones). A missionary group from a Nazarene congregation in the US Northwest went to a foreign nation to do Vacation Bible School kind of ministry with kids, show the Jesus movie, and to provide shoes. In preparation, and then upon arriving, several counts and recounts showed 100 expandable rubber shoes (GREAT idea for giving, by the way). A line was formed, and it was clear there were more children in line than 100. For some reason, one of the missionary team members decided to go back and look in the bags again where they had just removed ALL of the shoes. Miraculously, they found another 21 pairs, one for each of the children still in the line. If you want to read about it and contact them to ask whatever questions you need to ask go to http://nazarene.org/article/ww-team-experiences-miraculous-abundance-during-myanmar-trip .

So here are these stories being presented to you right in the middle of Lent. Why? Because as we do the hard work of Lent it can become overwhelming, even depressing, considering our separation from God and wondering whether we can get ourselves into his graces, or back into his graces. In the midst of us thinking that WE have to figure everything out, or that if we DONT figure it all out our lives are over, the Church assists by taking time to remember the promises. That is, God's mercy and compassion are still the ways that he shows his love. THIS is what our self-examination is for; not for condemnation. It is for seeking God's help and his mercy toward us. And as we continue on for a couple more weeks in this man-made Lent, we are reminded of that repentance leads to resurrection. Our self-examination and repentance prepares us to receive what God's mercy has sent -- by his hand, and by his power alone, a wonderful, joyful, hopeful, encouraging event that changed everything. In Lent we are looking forward to the celebration of the Great Miracle, known to most of us as Easter, the resurrection of Jesus from the Dead.

So, why did Jesus feed 5,000? It is an event to literally believe, an action of the power, the mercy and the compassion of God in Jesus, because Jesus knew people would be hungry. It was also to be a sign: God fed the 5,000 to show you that God ALONE can satisfy the spiritual hunger of anyone who seeks him and his righteousness. And even provided those extra 21 pairs of shoes out of “nowhere” to proclaim to those children who God is as their provider.

Jesus would say later, "As it is written in the Scriptures, “They will all be taught by God. Everyone who listens to the Father and learns from him comes to me... I tell you the truth anyone who believes in me has eternal life. Yes! I am the Bread of Life!" (John 6:45- 48).

Father Robert Eaton, Interim Rector

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“Beyond a Handshake”

This Sunday and Beyond - March 4, 2018
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An old lament still exists among people who carry on some kind of business, or personal agreement, or any kind of agreement, which is, “It used to be that a man’s word and a handshake was good enough.” It may still be that way between two friends, but it is so much harder to see that happen in today’s world of knee-jerk litigation; law suits galore mean extensive contracts, and if you are not careful, tricky small print. There was a very funny movie starring Tim Allen along that line, called “The Santa Clause.” Watch it some time.

I think it is worth considering the Ten Commandments in this same way. Usually, this reflection is focused on something from the Gospel reading for the upcoming Sunday, that is, something regarding the life and teaching of Jesus Christ, so that by reflection you might come to know who he was (and is) better. But this week I want to consider the Ten Commandments, which will also be read. And to consider them in terms of what God intended, and why these ten were brought into being.

Let’s consider them to be the necessary contract for establishing a relationship between God and his People, the Hebrews, the descendants of Abraham. We’ve been reading about Abraham, too, for a few weeks. If the Ten Commandments are like the necessary contract, then the handshake and mutual verbal agreement was between God and Abraham.

What we know about God and Abraham (first known to God as Abram) is that God decided at a point in time of his choosing, to speak to Abraham and asked him to believe in him and trust him. Just like that. And Abraham did! That trust and belief was considered by God to be the Faith needed for an everlasting relationship between He and Abraham. The deal was this: you do and believe and trust in me as I ask of you, and I will be your God forever -- AND I will give you “ALL THIS” pointing to Canaan (that was then referred to as The Promised Land) and you will have as many descendants as the grains of sand on the seashore. Abraham agrees, and that is the word and the handshake.

That word and handshake is renewed then with Abraham’s son, Isaac and then his son, Jacob (whose name was changed to Israel). The story then gets picked up after the Hebrew people had migrated into Egypt at Pharaoh’s invitation due to his respect for Jacob’s son, Joseph. And they were there for over 400 years.

At this point, with Moses being sent to pull them out of captivity, the Israelites were not trusting anybody. They were considered contentious and stubborn, and far away from the handshake and word between God and Abraham. But God decided, especially through further intercession by Moses, that he would agree to a new covenant. This time, however, the matter of faith in God would have to be made concrete by an agreement. Yes, he would be their God and they would be his people, and he would get them to the promised land, but they would have to abide by these ten commandments, and the first one would be that they have no other gods but Him.

In a sense, their faith in God was still the handshake. But the word of truth between them would be God’s words of right living with him, and their word would be to agree to make him theirs. The ten commandments were not salvation. God was salvation. But this is how they would stay in that relationship.

Even then, God knew that people like you and me were never going to be able to completely fulfill the contract. And so he would let certain other leaders, prophets, speak out about one who would come to bring fulfillment through his own sacrifice. That is why a new and better and eternal contract was established through the Messiah, Jesus Christ. By his sacrifice on the cross, and then his victory over death in rising again, he fulfilled every bit of the ten commandments for being right with God. The contract was not only satisfied but now completed.

God still wants his people to follow his commandments as his standard for our lives while here on this earth. But it is faith in and baptism in and following Jesus that makes us the new descendants of Abraham.

There is so much more to the Ten Commandments than this reflection allows. But perhaps just this will encourage you to decide now to spend time in church during the first week of March as we are reminded of the work of Jesus in providing us all an opportunity to be in covenant with him, and to celebrate as well his victory (niki) over death and unrighteous living.

Father Robert Eaton, Interim Rector

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“Proof for Believing”

This Sunday and Beyond - February 25, 2018
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I've heard it said, “Too bad Jesus didn't wait to show up until, like, last week. We could have had videos on YouTube gone viral and really proven who he was!”

But, hey, too bad for all those people between 2000 years ago and now who believed in him, right? That sentiment is kind of a sign of our society’s times, a “me first” thing. Still, the sentiment is not new, in the sense of what seems underneath to be asked, “Was Jesus for real?” And, compared to the technology of communication between now and then, “then” leaves a lot to be desired! At least from “now's” perspective. I mean, they thought back then that they did pretty well. And we do still have four different records of the life and ministry and claims of this Jesus of Nazareth. And they are part of what is still a world best-seller, the Bible.

But back to the sentiment of the contemporary proofing of Jesus, which, really, has been with us in every generation since, not just in our own times. On Sunday, in so many churches around the whole world, including on Sunday at All Saints Church, there is a reading taken from the Gospel according to Mark, which goes much to the proofing of the reality, both divine and human, of this Jesus.

But before we get to that, yes, there are sources OUT-side of the Bible; and sources outside of the Christian faith itself that tell us of the man Jesus of Nazareth who lived at that time as a preacher, and had a cultural effect in the lives of people at that time. For some people, that's enough of a proof along with the Gospels to become believers. For some that is not enough, and they need to look with a much more critical eye into the internal evidence of the Bible itself. Very famous and very brilliant people, among so many others, have taken that route and come face to face with the reality of Jesus himself. And they accepted the truth, and became believers. So that works, too.

So what is it about this Gospel reading from Mark chapter 8 that has some proofing of Jesus? Well, it comes out with a HUGE prediction by this Jesus himself in verse 31, as the author tells of how Jesus told the disciples in their small gathering of what he saw happening to himself in the near future. FYI, the Church considers this a prophecy, the telling forth of something to happen as that person is informed by the Holy Spirit. In the same way, the great Prophets Isaiah, Daniel, Jeremiah and others spoke out what God wanted the world to know about the coming of the Messiah --- 400 to 600 years before he arrived being born! Anyway, what Jesus prophesied was his rejection by most of the Jewish leaders and rulers, his being killed by their condemnation, and then that he would rise again from death on a third day. This is a major and incredible way he was saying he was – and would continue to be – who he said he was, and is. And it happened that way! The real deal.

The second major proof in this Sunday's gospel was what was the viral video of their day – the wildfire spread of what Jesus was doing by “word of mouth”. And as a result, huge crowds of people were coming from everywhere. Every one of them was a witness. And the word continued to be spread because they heard his authentic teaching and preaching, and saw and perhaps felt for themselves the power of God he had to share.

It demands your consideration to believe. Try it. You have nothing and everything to lose. May you find and embrace and hold fast the unchangeable truth of the Word, Jesus Christ, the living Son of God.

Father Robert Eaton, Interim Rector

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"God’s Directions might be Difficult”

This Sunday and Beyond - February 18, 2018
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The Bible is filled with promises from God. There is only One God, so it is important to absorb into your thinking and praying that Guidance from God that we really like, and the guidance we really don't want to follow, are not two opposing forces. In the One God there is not a dark side and a light side. What God tells us in his promises is that he wants the BEST for us, AND he will act for the establishment of His kingdom. And, actually, to turn that around, the way God has chosen to build up his kingdom in heaven and on earth is to guide us into maturity. And the development of our maturity will most likely include God leading us into places and adventures that we really like doing, and places and adventures that really test us to our core. And, of course, in the testing is the refining, and thus strengthening. There's a song that says, “Some of God's greatest gifts are unanswered prayers.” That's the idea.

We are now into the season of Lent. Lent is an ancient period of time leading into the celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus. This year Easter is on Sunday, April 1. Although Lent has been shorter (as when the first priest or bishop decided to have a time of vigilant prayer probably 1900 or 2000 years ago), and though we know it’s been longer (as the tradition took on a life of its own), it settled down to 40 days of praying, fasting, and instruction. The number 40 is not coincidental. It appears in many places in the story of God and his People in the Bible. The story that makes it so easy to continue a strong tradition of 40 days of fasting and praying is the period of time that Jesus spent in the wilderness following his baptism by John the baptizer.

And that brings us back to the beginning thoughts. It may be difficult enough to comprehend the death of someone for the sake of others, but especially GOD, that is, the Son of God, Jesus. So Jesus is condemned to death, and sentenced to crucifixion, and it is all in God's plan. As human beings we have been owned by sin. Jesus is the ransom. God has bought human beings back through the death of Jesus Christ. His life, through the currency of his precious Blood, was the price to be paid. And so he did. The final act of reconciliation for us comes as we choose to repent of that into which we were bound, believe in Jesus, and follow him. His rising from the dead proved that God is greater than death, and that we now had a way into eternal life. Although still uncomfortable, even sorrowful, to realize what it would take, it is possible to comprehend debt and redemption.

At the beginning of Lent, though, as the 40 days begin, we are confronted with a Gospel reading that says that “after his baptism, the Spirit of God DROVE Jesus out into the wilderness.” Why? And here is a very incomprehensible action of God -- “to be tempted by Satan.”

For all the outpouring of love and mercy, the self-sacrifice of the suffering Servant, which can fill us with joy and completion as disciples of Christ, and all led by God, how is it that we can understand the Spirit of this same God driving Jesus into harm’s way. You know, it’s hard enough to fast for 40 days, much less have to end those days with a major battle of temptation from the devil.

I'm not going to try to explain this for you in this reflection. What I want to encourage you to do, though, is understand this is, in fact, the same, One God who has poured out his spirit at the baptism, and now driven Jesus out to be tempted by Satan. Even more so, as we consider that Jesus did not sin, and this is not a matter of enforced punishment or payment. But for us, as we have sinned, if that is the case for the sinless Jesus, which I believe it is, then we must consider that this same God, who desires not the death of a sinner, but rather that they turn from their ways and live”, may do the same blessing and “driving” in the lives of sinners he wants back.

So, with all that in mind, here is a spiritual discipline, a Lenten exercise for you over these next 40 days, think about your life and how GOD has blessed you, and make a list to keep. Then think about your life and how GOD has driven you into situations that demanded every ounce of your faith, your perseverance, your devotion to serve the Lord, as dark and difficult as they may have been, and whether you came through it successfully (as Jesus did), or you did not. Jot down God's assistance during those times. Who was there? What did you learn about yourself? How did you grow in the maturity of your faith? What “circumstances” assisted you? Or, what weaknesses did you discover? What was missing? How did you come back to an assurance of faith if you didn't “make it” through those times? Keep your notes and thoughts for another time, which then might be helpful.

Finally, just remember this: not every dark place in which we find ourselves is of God's making! And not everything we might count as abundance and blessing is of God, either. Lent is a season to help us discern the differences, and then grow into further maturity in Christ. Always, always keep your eyes upon Jesus.

Father Robert Eaton, Interim Rector

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“All Glory or None, Some Say”

This Sunday and Beyond - February 11, 2018
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Fairly soon in Jesus' public ministry in the north of Israel, he took James and John and Peter up a mountain or high hill and there took place what is known as “The Transfiguration.” The name comes from the translation of the word to describe what happened, and in the English it comes out “and he was transfigured before them.” What it was was the literal Glory of God shining through Jesus and all of his clothing. That Glory moment affected everything and everyone there. Just the four of them, well, until Elijah and Moses appeared (they had left this earth centuries before), and there they were talking with Jesus. It was so much that the 3 disciples either “fell asleep”, or some say “fainted”, or even “knocked over by God's Spirit.” And then the voice of God the Father spoke from a cloud which enveloped all of them there on the mountain top!. Kinda wish I had been there, too, you know?

So much to reflect upon. God's glory. An occasion for a testimony from heaven itself about who Jesus was as the Son of God! An absolutely unforgettable moment, not only for Jesus as the Son of Man, but also for those three disciples.

Although the bible has certain “moments of God's glory”, they don't always seem to come about just because someone prays, “Lord, give me a glory moment!” There are wonderful stories of God's glory being manifested in worship services, and in the lives of the saints, and personal moments of God's revelation of his Presence (such is the story of the taking up into heaven the prophet Elijah by fiery chariot!) And certainly, we have the capacity to indeed pray, “Lord, send forth your Spirit, and renew the face of the earth” (which includes renewing us ON this earth)! I don't have a problem with that prayer. But the transfiguration of Jesus, that one's not going to be repeated – at least not until we see Jesus, the Son of God, the Lamb of God, the Lord of Lords, in heaven.

Still, there is something we can learn for ourselves here. On the other side of this story is the very practical matter of the disciples and Jesus coming back DOWN the mountain and to the valley below. The reality is that even though God's Glory was seen and felt and experienced, it is in fact for the moment, and then comes the valley below. Most of us realize this as the courses of life itself, and that a balanced life, especially a balanced devotional life in prayer, bible reading, and fellowship, will take the glories and the valleys into consideration for their daily lives. If that is you, then, wonderful. Keep your eyes and ears on Jesus, and you can be considered to be “running the race” as St. Paul said, of faith in Christ.

There are, however, the extremes to which Jesus would also have been speaking. These would be those who are thinking that their entire life was meant to be one glorious ride; and there are those who cannot see that there ever has been any glory, and expecting there never to be any glorious moments for the rest of their lives. If those sound familiar, then allow me to gently warn you. I'm not going to warn you that your salvation is in jeopardy, so let that one be set aside. No, the warning is that both of these extremes lead those persons to lives of depression and desperation – if you haven't already gotten there. This depression and desperation is insidious. It not only affects the person in question, but it also- as they used to say – comes out sideways, and eventually quite often very directly, towards others, and in every life gathering. That person's demeanor infects their job community, their family, their friends, their social groupings, and their church fellowship.

Jesus' life is our model. Here is the Son of God, also equally the Son of Man, who knows the Father in Heaven, hears from him, is moved directly by his Spirit, receives revelation no one else does. At the same time, he has people who want to kill him, crowds and individuals who make enormous and outrageous demands on his energies and time, strong leaders who are constantly challenging and confronting him. And of course, an inglorious death on a cross. I do not see any expectation from Jesus that he expected a constant cloud of Glory to be attending and visiting him 24/7. Neither should we.

And on the other hand, this same Jesus spends time with God the Father in reflection, quiet time, prayer alone wherever, and even in the Garden with sweat like drops of blood, knows and expects Him to be present to him. Even when he is dog tired, he will pray for crowds of individuals and expect that when he touches them or speaks to them they will be healed and demons leave them. The key promise that he even says out loud gives us his insight, “My Father knows me.” Yes, and the Father knows you, too.

To bring yourself back into a balance of devotional life as a Christian, let me suggest to you these solutions to these two extremes (as simplistic as they sound) when you are in the valley; look for the Glory of what has been, what is now, and your hope for things to come; when you are expecting nothing as the matter of course for your life, look for God's ear, and his presence will follow; get somewhere alone and start talking to God about you and what you need from him. Just give him some time to talk to you. These are matters to practice and practice again. Soon, though, the extremes can be modified as the Holy Spirit works his glory in you.

Father Robert Eaton, Interim Rector

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“TRANSITION”

This Sunday and Beyond - January 21, 2018
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The Gospel lesson that we will hear being read at church on Sunday has a lot to do with what can be called “transition.” Not just “change”, but all the things that can happen when change takes place. You could say you changed your favorite color from white to green. You could say that your boss changed your work assignment from this to that. You could say, “Then we changed pastors.” All those describe the “what”, and maybe the “when.” But they don't describe the “how” or “why” or the details of moving from one to the other. That would be “transition.”

In the first part of the Gospel (the Good News) reading, we hear that John the Baptizer was arrested, and that after that took place Jesus came to the region of Galilee (up by the Sea of Galilee) proclaiming the good news of God. He is quoted as saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near....” Here is a massive change in the voice proclaiming Good News. It was John, and now it is Jesus. Jesus makes it clear that the change was planned, and that this was the time. John knew it was coming, and said so publicly; Jesus knew it was coming, and went to where John had been baptizing in order to, if you will, pass the baton. You should know that it wasn't just change for Jesus and for John. This change affected each and every one of John's followers.

Don't you wish that every time change took place in your life you could have seen it coming and planned on it? Even if, as in the case of John, the transition wasn't so nice? And what about those disciples of John the baptizer, who mostly didn't seem too happy about this change up, even if John warned them it was coming?!

And that is the meaning of the phrase, “change can be hard.” There is a transition. How have you handled such moments? Especially the times of change that you DIDN'T see coming, or didn't WANT to see coming?

The second part of the reading is again about change and transition. In one sense it is a happy part of the transition for John's disciples. In this case Jesus is calling men to follow him, and some of those in the story used to be John's disciples. So there is the story of transition for them, from sad and perhaps confused regarding John's ending up in prison, but now following exactly the person John pointed to in the kingdom's relay. Again, though, there are others in the story. John and James will leave their fishing boat – with their father in it – and immediately begin following Jesus. There's a huge change for Zebedee and the family business! Unfortunately, we don't hear the rest of that transition story for Zebedee. We do know that their mom followed along later with them, as they followed Jesus. That was part of her transition story.

Change can be difficult for us. This simple Gospel story helps us know that these same issues and concerns and emotions and difficulties are not new, that God knows of them in our lives. And yet God calls us to make changes, and to move through the transition to match his will for us. That means that we somehow end up being in line with what he wants for us, not necessarily what WE think is where we should be or end up. And that would be a successful, Godly, transition.

The question then becomes how we traverse that transition, no matter what kind of change is taking place in our lives. We have to ask “the how” because - I think you'll agree-- not all change is good. And not every transition is without risk. The answer from the entire Bible, including this short and simple story from the Gospel of Mark, is to keep our eyes upon Jesus:. John the baptizer did, with Jesus foremost in his mind and soul even when he was in prison; the disciples did at the sea of Galilee as they made a change that would mean moving away from their father.

The second part of the answer is while you are keeping your eyes on Jesus, you are evaluating, considering, challenging who you are as God would want you to be. The purpose of this is so that in transition from one thing to the next you are setting things aside, and taking things on, that bring you in line with what God wants from you and for you when you get to that new place. As difficult as it might be in transition, then, it will still be a successful one, and to God's glory, and your maturity as one of his.

Father Robert Eaton, Interim Rector

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“Following Jesus is Good”
(A Sunday reflection on John 1:43-51)

This Sunday and Beyond - January 14, 2018
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Isn’t it quite amazing when other people absorb your actions into theirs? I don’t mean your bad or wrong actions. No one will want to take any credit for your bad actions! Just your good ones, or if not “good” ones, the things you do that at the least assist them in some way. We hear about this kind of thing so often in business, or even in education circles. Actually, anywhere there are groups of people who have a common task at hand, and where there is a leader or smaller group leader, we hear this taking place. Its quite simple – you have an idea, or you accomplished something, and rather than give you all the credit, that supervisor or group leader or boss simply absorbs that by telling others what THEY did. You may have had that happen to you. Or, back to the “bad” stuff, you got fired, or dismissed, or ignored without much allowance for mistakes!

Those moments, either way, “good” or “bad” things on your part, hurt your feelings. Now, we could talk about coping skills, not taking offense, “letting it go”, facing the reality of an unfair world, maintaining a strong self-identity (leading to personal confidence), knowing and setting personal social boundaries, establishing friendships and community networks, and more. But that’s not where I’m headed on this one.

On Sunday morning, January 14, we are going to hear in Church a reading from the Gospel according to St. John, from the first chapter. Of course, you don’t have to be in church to hear it or read it on your own ( I invite you, however, to come to church so you can hear it while enjoying the company of others with the same purpose). In that reading, we will hear about a man named Philip, whom Jesus came to and said, “follow me.” And Philip did. Can we go back to my first thoughts for a moment? Often this same kind of scenario happens when we hear the voice or story or vision of someone that we want to work with or work for. In some fashion, we hear “come with me”, and so we sign up. So what happens in the rest of the story of Jesus and Philip is going to break that stereotype of poor leadership I started with. You see, Philip gets excited about who he believes Jesus says he is, and who he is going to be, that is, the Messiah, the Salvation, of Israel. So he goes and does some recruiting. In that part of the story comes the difference. Nathaniel, Philip’s recruit, has just had Jesus point out something about him that he couldn’t possibly have known. And Jesus answered, "I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you." He didn’t say, “Yes, I know you, and always have.” He brought Philip into the equation. He gave credit to Philip for doing the recruiting that brought about the face-to-face between Nate and Jesus.

This is the God we believe in. The One who knows us by name, the One who chooses to work with us, the One who values our devotion and work for His benefit; He does not dismiss us, and will never forget us. This is the One in whom to believe.

One more thing from what I started with at the beginning: the proof of God the Son’s valuing and loving us is when what He knew to be our solution for eternal life was going to be carried out. We had to be redeemed – as in someone had to pay for us to be released from the captivity of doing bad things – and Jesus did this for us. In other words, when we did something bad or wrong God provided a way for us not to be dismissed or fired for ever. Thanks be to God.

There are two major reasons, why God gets it right, because that is God’s plan and He is faithful to it and thus to us. We may continue having our difficulties here on earth (and we need to do what we can as we have the opportunity to identify such un-Godly behaviors), but we can be assured that the most helpful thing we can do is Follow Jesus, the Great Leader of all. It is good.

Father Robert Eaton, Interim Rector

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