All Saints' Episcopal Church
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San Diego, California 92103
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Sundays -  Low Mass 8:00am;  Solemn Mass 10:30am 
Adult Christian Formation 9:30am   Sunday School 10:30am
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This Sunday and Beyond    Weekly Reflections:


The Hour has come: Jesus, pray for us.

This Sunday and Beyond - May 28, 2017
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“Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son so that the Son may glorify you” (John 17:1).

John 17 has been called the longest prayer of Jesus. Jesus’ High Priestly Prayer, reveals the heart of Jesus as he prays for himself, the disciples and the world in a great moment of time. This Sunday, we hear a prayer of preparation for the events of Good Friday and Easter. It is also about the glorification of God in His Son Jesus. The glory of God (doxa in Greek) is about to be revealed in Jesus Christ. The brightness of God will shine through the darkest hour of the life of Jesus. Indeed, it will be remembered as one of the darkest hours in human history: the rejection and death of God’s only Son.

It is a powerful decision to use this gospel at the end of the Easter season. Many of the Easter season gospel come after the resurrection and reflection the response to the risen Christ. The disciples see Jesus, eat with him, touch his wounds and respond with joy to Jesus’ victory over sin and death. Darkness is cast out, light has dawned, and new life is celebrated.

In the Easter season, we bask in the glory of God, but we know that Jesus’ time on earth is coming to a close. “I glorified you on earth by finishing the work that you gave me to do” (17:4). On the feast of the Ascension (May 25), we stand with the disciples as they experience the glorification of Jesus as he returns to the Father. Jesus returns to the glory he had from the beginning of the world. But, now the world is different because the Word made Flesh has been among us.

“I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world. They were yours, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word” (17:6). Jesus has completed his mission of revealing God and his love to the world. Now, he prays for his disciples and the church. We are God’s children and receive his love and protection. We should live in the same unity that is God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Jesus returns to the unity of the Holy Trinity, and he calls for us to be united to one another.

In the final hours of Jesus’ life on earth, he prays for us. This gospel reveals his final prayer before going with his disciples to the Kidron valley to face arrest, rejection, and the suffering of the Christ. The Man who prays, “Take this cup from me” (Luke 22:42), embraces the chalice of salvation and redemption.

Whenever we receive the cup of Christ, we remember the sacrificial love of the one who prays for us in his final hour. The hour has come, and we are not forgotten. Alleluia.

Father Stephen L. Schuneman

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JBearing Fruit

This Sunday and Beyond - May 21, 2017
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At this stage of the Easter season, we’ve returned to Jesus’ final conversation with the disciples at the Last Supper, to look with new light on how He’s preparing them for everything that’s about to happen. Jesus describes how their relationship will continue and what this will look like using the relationship of a vine to its branches. Just as branches bear fruit because they’re connected to the vine, we’ll bear fruit based on our connection to Him. This promise of fruit should be a consolation, a sign that Jesus continues living within us, yet many get stuck instead on the picture of the withered branches getting caught off and burned.

We shouldn’t be anxiously wondering whether we’re bearing enough fruit to be saved. God isn’t interested in weighing everything we’ve done to determine our ultimate impact on the world, like calculating the spiritual equivalent of our carbon footprint. Jesus is telling us that what God’s interested in is a relationship, and thinking about our natural relationships will give us an idea of what kind of fruit we should be looking for.

We all bear various kinds of “fruit” that alert the world around us to our relationships. For example, it’s highly unlikely that anyone could talk to me for 15 minutes without finding out that I’m a married pastor with 2 young children. We also bear fruit that’s visible, but not explicit. Imagine following a kindergarten teacher through Target or a busy supermarket; it’s almost impossible for them to walk past the families they encounter without letting you know in some way that kids must be a big part of their life.

In the same way, some of the fruit of our relationship with Jesus is explicit; like going to Church and supporting others by sharing our faith. Jesus wants us to stay connected to Him so that His own divine life is what spills out of us and makes whatever we do radiant. He wants us to be able to look past our selfish desires and say, “thy will be done,” and respond to our circumstances with His patience, gratitude, and generosity. Jesus wants us to be able to say “yes” to His invitations to love our neighbors, even if they don’t know Him, they’ll experience His joy, mercy, and gentleness living in us.

Think about the things that stir your heart, and the gifts and qualities that naturally flow out of you. That’s what Jesus wants His relationship with us to be: an abundance we can’t keep to ourselves. If you don’t see that, ask Him to strengthen your bond so that your whole life can bear the fruitful love that delights Him and glorifies the Father.

Father McQueen

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Jesus the Cornerstone

This Sunday and Beyond - May 14, 2017
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In this Sunday’s passage from his first letter (1 Peter 2:1-10), Peter references several psalms that use the imagery of stones, the most familiar being, “The very stone which the builders rejected has become the head of the corner” (Psalm 118:22). Jesus quotes this verse directly in the gospels, and it’s alluded to frequently in the New Testament and the writings of the early Church Father. But why? What makes this such an important idea?

First of all, there’s a lot of biblical freight packed into that one verse: the worship of pilgrims coming to Jerusalem, Messianic expectations, and way more that I can’t fit into this reflection. Still, you wouldn’t have needed to be a rabbi or even a Jew to appreciate what was being said, because the image of the cornerstone itself would have been universal. You see, if you were building a structure with rocks and mortar, the cornerstone would be the reference point for maintaining its form and all its lines. If you got the cornerstone wrong the whole building would be unsound from the start, and so highly-trained stone masons would read the plans and then scour the quarry for the stone with just the right size and shape.

Jesus as the cornerstone was a staple of early Church preaching because even without the Old Testament context, there’s a powerful practical application. Just like any structure, the only way our lives can be stable is if all our various cares, concerns, obligations, and desires have a solid reference point where they can all come together. The trouble is that exacting as we might be in rejecting potential cornerstones, unlike the stone masons, we don’t have the full set of building plans. As a result, the unexpected changes of life often leave us trying to reinforce something that’s crumbling, and can even reveal that we’ve been building the wrong thing entirely!

Since we’re limited by our own imaginations and resources, the less influence we give God in the construction of our lives, the more they tend to look like everyone else’s. But when we make Jesus the reference point, He will bring all the lines together to form our lives into the uniquely magnificent structure that God intends each of us to be. He has the blueprints, so He knows which stones are good to build with and where to place them. If He seems more ambitious, building bigger and with more costly and precious materials, it’s because He’s already funded the project.

If you’re a believer, ask Jesus to show you whether you’ve made Him the cornerstone or not. Or are there walls or structures whose lines don’t quite line up? If you’re not a believer, does your life have the stability you want? Is it becoming the unrepeatable masterpiece that you believe it should be? Think about what you’re building with and the plans you’re following, and consider whether the “stone that was rejected by the builders” might be the missing piece that will hold it all together.

Father McQueen

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The Abundant Life of Sheep

This Sunday and Beyond - May 7, 2017
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The readings on the 4th Sunday after Easter always illustrate how Jesus fulfills the image of the Good Shepherd that runs through the Bible, and this year’s gospel reading (John 10:1-10) focuses on how the sheep hear his voice and follow. To fully appreciate what Jesus is saying, we need to understand that sheep have an incredibly strong instinct to follow their “friends,” which allows shepherds to move huge herds by getting just a handful moving in the right direction. This is where the popular belief that sheep are dumb comes from, but that’s a misconception – because while they’re not exactly dolphins, sheep aren’t necessarily dumb; they’re just easily distracted.

Consequently, it’s also hard to keep their attention, because if they don’t find what they’re looking for, they’ll stop following. They follow shepherds because once the shepherd gets their attention, they immediately follow up with a sign of their “friendship,” like some food or a treat. Over time the sheep become especially tuned to his voice because they know that he has what they’re looking for.

What is it that Jesus has given that His sheep hear and follow? Life – He tells us that He came that we may have life, and have it abundantly. That’s what we’re all looking for, and since no one else can offer it, Jesus says that all who came before him were thieves and robbers—and He’s not just talking about people here. There are a lot of other “voices” in the world competing for our attention and trying to get us to follow; things like wealth, pleasure, power, honor, family, health, and so on.

Jesus wants us to see that even though these are all good things, they’re not life-giving in themselves. Whatever “life” they feed or offer us, means they’re stealing from some other part of our lives. There are countless examples of people who have become so focused on something that it’s destroyed everything else in their life. When we let Jesus lead us, those same things become life-giving because He infuses them with His own divine life, so instead of having one good thing at the expense of another, we have life in abundance.

Those voices are all still out there, so it’s important that we take time every day to listen for the voice of the Good Shepherd. In reading the gospels or some other spiritual reading, we can let ourselves be drawn to Him and be fed by Him. It’s also helpful to pay attention to the other “voices” that have gotten or tried to get your attention. What were they offering that attracted you? What were they trying to feed you?

Father McQueen

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God-given Love

This Sunday and Beyond - April 30, 2017
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Growing up I loved playing basketball, and played with and against a surprising number of high school and college All-Americans, and even NBA players, as well as guys who were professional athletes in other sports. While that was fun and motivated me to practice harder, it also revealed the reality that those guys had God-given gifts and qualities that no amount of practice was going to give me. Understanding our own unique combination of gifts, experience, strengths, and limitations is an essential human skill, and in the Easter season we see why it’s just as important to recognize where they’ve come from.

When Jesus was raised from the dead, hearts were stirred and minds were opened to things that previously were impossible, and in the Easter season we see the effects of this played out in the readings from the Acts of the Apostles. This Sunday we’re given a picture from the earliest life of the Church; signs and wonders were being done by the apostles, all the disciples were worshiping together and sharing whatever they had with anyone in need. Not surprisingly, the community around them was being transformed by their joyful love and charity, with new people coming to the faith every day.

The beauty of that can inspire us, but, at the same time, anyone who’s tried to cultivate the same kind of joyful love and radical charity finds out very quickly that it doesn’t happen easily. Does that mean that these first disciples were operating on a level that just isn’t available to all of us? Of course not! Jesus calls all of us to love God and our neighbor as He has loved us, and makes that possible by living His divine life in us. Because we’re called to a God-given love, we don’t have to resign ourselves to a mediocre relationship with Him or settle for shadows of the kind of freedom and joy we see in scripture and the lives of the saints.

What’s unique, then, is the way that’s expressed in our lives, and we grow in that God-given love by being willing to offer it wherever we are. For example, instead of giving up all your possessions, you could choose to live more simply by doing without something non-essential or buying a cheaper version of something that is, and then helping the poor with the money you save. Doing things like that makes us more available to the God-given love we’re made for and opens our lives to the inspiring beauty that invites the world around us to share it.

Father McQueen

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From Fear to Faith: The Power of the Resurrection

This Sunday and Beyond - April 23, 2017
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According to John’s Gospel, the evening of the resurrection was not filled with joy and wonder. Instead, the disciples were gathered together in an upper room with the doors locked for fear. The brutal death of their Master had left them desolate.

I imagine the questions on their lips: “What do we do now?” and “What does this mean?” They had come to know and love Jesus with great intensity. They believed in him. They’d seen the healing and miracles, they’d heard him teach with authority and power. But, the events of the last days have turned everything upside down. “Where do we go from here?”

Yes, they’d heard stories from the women who had come from the tomb. Mary Magdalen told them “I have seen the Lord!” (John 20:18) But, her words seemed like idle talk, the disciples didn’t trust the testimony of Mary and the other women. The disciples were not yet convinced.

That’s when it happened. Even though the doors were locked, Jesus was suddenly in their midst. “Peace be with you,” (v. 19) he said. He showed them his hands and his side, the identifying wounds that would prove to the disciples that it was Jesus and he was alive. This turned everything around and the disciples rejoiced with Jesus. The room could not contain their joy, as they celebrated the resurrection of Jesus.

However, Thomas was not with them. We don’t know where he was, but we can imagine that the crucifixion left him with a sense of hopelessness.

I imagine the other disciples made haste to find him and tell him of the Easter miracle. We all know his reaction: “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,” (v. 25). Doubting Thomas. He was given this unfortunate nickname, and still carries it today. Anyone who refuses to believe, or needs extra evidence to have faith is called a Doubting Thomas. It’s helpful to remember that his feelings were no different than the other disciples hiding in fear. They did not take the words of Mary Magdalene or the testimony of the other women. They needed to see Jesus to believe.

One week later, Thomas received the proof he needed. He had rejoined the disciples and gathered with them. Again, Jesus stood among the disciples and spoke immediately to Thomas. “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” (vv. 27-28). This is not a moment of doubt, but of great faith. Thomas’ words to Jesus are among the most powerful declarations of faith in the New Testament.

In this reading the disciples made a dramatic move from fear to faith. They moved from doubt to absolute conviction in the resurrection of Jesus. The resurrection of Jesus gave them the power and purpose to proclaim the gospel and make disciples of all nations.

We all have times of doubt and despair, but the faith of Thomas and the other disciples can call us forward from fear to faith in the power of the resurrection of Jesus.

Father Steven L. Schuneman

Readings for this Sunday - The Second Sunday of Easter
Acts 2:14a, 22-32 Psalm 118:19-24, 1 Peter 1:3-9 John 20:19-31

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Looking for answers in the light of the Resurrection

This Sunday and Beyond - April 16, 2017
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To say that the world must have looked very different to Mary Magdalene, Peter, and John on their way back from the empty tomb would be an incredible understatement. Their hearts and minds must have been filled with all kinds of questions about what it meant for them and the world, and what would come next. Our lives are filled with things that lead us to ask those same questions, and in this Sunday’s short passage from his letter to the Colossians, Paul shows us how to look for answers in the light of the Resurrection.

God is delighted when we share our lives with Him in prayer, but it’s especially important when we’re troubled or trying to figure out what to do. We see a perfect example of why when Jesus rebukes Peter for his earthly reaction to his passion prediction, and says, “Get behind me Satan,” and calls him “a stumbling block” (see Matthew 16:23, Mark 8:33). Earthly thinking is a challenge we all face, which is why Paul tells us to set our minds on things that are above, though he’s not saying that because earthly things don’t matter. A better way to understand what Paul is saying is that earthly things matter so much that we need to make sure that we see them the way God sees them.

In our every moment, God is working to pour the fire of His love more deeply into our hearts and, through us, into the world, but we need for Him to tell us how to cooperate. Without that direction, we can act with the best of intentions, even a genuine love for Jesus, and still find ourselves moving away from Him instead of closer, just like Peter. Learning to totally entrust ourselves and our lives to the Father’s will is difficult, but if we practice coming to Him open hearts, He will enter them and help us.

A concrete way to do this is to begin your daily prayer time by consciously placing yourself in the presence of Jesus, sitting alongside Him and looking at your life from the same perspective. Then, thank Him for whatever has entered your life (even if you don’t feel thankful) and ask Him to show you what to do with it. Whether you’re looking at a past event, in the present moment, or something in the future, it’s amazing how different the world looks when we open ourselves up to the possibilities of God’s loving purpose.

Father J. D. McQueen II

Readings for this Sunday - Easter Sunday
Acts 10:34-43 Psalm 118:14-17, 22-24 Colossians 3:1-4 John 20:1-18

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Truly Enter into Holy Week

This Sunday and Beyond - April 9, 2017
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This Sunday we'll enter into Holy Week, which begins with Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem, takes us through His passion and death, and culminates with the celebration of His glorious resurrection on Easter Sunday. I intentionally say "enter into" because Holy Week isn't just a collection of memorials on the calendar. Just as the Jews' celebrated the Passover as a spiritual participation in the actual crossing of the Red Sea, we participate in the death and resurrection of Jesus whenever we celebrate the Eucharist and Holy Week gives us its proper context.
The special liturgies of Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and the Great Vigil on Saturday all help to draw us even more deeply into that reality, and for that reason they're a great gift of our tradition. To make the most of them, though, we need to bring the drama of Holy Week into our lives. One way is to step up our existing Lenten disciplines. Another is doing as much as possible Monday through Wednesday - running errands, cleaning the house, preparing meals, etc. - so that we can focus on prayer and worship Thursday through Sunday.
Most especially we need to spend time with the gospel readings for the days of the week, so we can follow the sequence of events and watch what's happening in the people involved. For example:

-- Imagine Judas trying to arrange the arrest of Jesus without being found out, only to have it be obvious what he's done when it happens. I'm always struck by how painful it is to watch him try to use Jesus to curry favor with the Pharisees, refusing to see that they're only using him. By the time they explicitly reject him, he's slid so far into sin that he can't accept himself, even though his sin could never be greater than God's mercy.

-- Imagine the 8 disciples that remain apart in the Garden while Jesus takes Peter, James, and John with him to pray. They've left everything to follow Jesus, but he keeps saying that he's going to be taken from them. What are they doing? What are they talking about?

-- Imagine the state of the remaining 11 apostles, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and the other disciples and holy women on Holy Saturday. No one had seen Good Friday coming - Jesus was arrested in the middle of the night, tried, condemned and executed by 3:00, and in the tomb before sundown. How would you comfort them?

Finally, no matter what challenges you might encounter while trying to enter into Holy Week, don't get discouraged. St. James tells us, "Draw near to God and He will draw near to you," (James 4:8) which means that if we'll just open our hearts, Jesus will be happy to enter into us.

Father J. D. McQueen II

Readings for this Sunday - Palm Sunday
Ezekiel 37:1-3, 11-14 Psalm 130 Romans 6:16-23 John 11:18-44

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Fear and Darkness Into Joy and Great Light

This Sunday and Beyond - April 2nd, 2017
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Sometimes you sense the darkness. When you walk into a room of people and you just know that something painful is holding onto the people there. You see it in the way they are talking, and in the way they are looking at each other. You feel certain that you have turned a corner, and not a good one. We find this in the story of Lazarus and his sisters, Mary and Martha. When Jesus hears that Lazarus is ill, he does not immediately go to heal him. This is surprising, because the Bible clearly states that Jesus is friends with them. In Jesus’ time on earth, he grew close to many of the people he met, and this included, Mary, Martha and their brother Lazarus. So, his decision to wait until Lazarus dies (John 11:11), seems harsh at first. Jesus tells the disciples that Lazarus is asleep, but there is a deeper meaning to this sleep.
When Jesus decides to go to Lazarus, the disciples are alarmed. Jesus has been in conflict and confrontation with the Jewish leaders. The disciples, fearing the gathering darkness, felt that Jesus should not go back so soon. “But Rabbi,” they said, “a short while ago the Jews there tried to stone you, and yet you are going back?” (11:8)
But, Jesus is determined to be with his friends, and awaken Lazarus from his ‘sleep.’ The disciples fear becomes greater when they hear Jesus say that Lazarus has died. They seem ready to go with Jesus, and even die with him. It’s easy to imagine the despair they felt as they journeyed to Bethany.
When Jesus arrives in Bethany, Martha confronts him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died,” (11:21) It’s easy to hear the disappointment in her words. “But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.” Martha is a woman of great faith, even at the loss of her brother. Her faith is rewarded in the words of the Master: “I am the resurrection and the life.”
These words touch me more than almost any others in the Bible. When at last Jesus goes to the tomb of Lazarus and sees the sorrow that surrounds him the gospel says: “Jesus wept,” (11:35). His compassion for his friends causes him to weep, just as we do in the most trying of times. Our faith does not remove our feelings, but give them purpose and meaning. We weep from sorrow and love, knowing that Jesus joins us in our mourning.
Jesus calls Lazarus from the tomb, although they discourage him to do so (11:39). After all, it has been four days, well past the time of recovery, there will be an odor. But, this is a time of faith and surprise, the joyous and the unexpected. “Lazarus, come out!” (11:43) Jesus shouts, and our faith is renewed in the power of God in Jesus Christ. Lazarus emerges from the tomb, still wrapped in burial cloths. “Father, I thank you that you have heard me,” (11:41).
This is a final sign that precedes the resurrection of Jesus. The passage that began in fear and darkness ends in joy and great light. Something wonderful is yet to come.

Father Steven L. Schuneman

Readings for this Sunday - The Fifth Sunday in Lent
Ezekiel 37:1-3, 11-14 Psalm 130 Romans 6:16-23 John 11:18-44

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The Search for Meaning

This Sunday and Beyond - March 26th, 2017
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As human beings, we all have at our deepest level a desire for understanding. From the biggest philosophical questions to the most mundane, we want to know “why?” The reason is that it gives us some control – not necessarily of what happens in our lives, but of how we experience it. With the right meaning or purpose, we’re Braveheart, willing to suffer and make all kinds of heroic sacrifices. Without it, the most minor things can easily ruin our day or week, but it’s even worse than that. If we can’t make sense of some major suffering, it can create wounds of hurt, bitterness, or resentment that can poison our whole lives. This Sunday’s gospel lesson shows us why God has put this natural search for meaning in us.
As they’re walking, the disciples attempt the condition of a man born blind by applying a notion of the time: that suffering came as the result of sin. But Jesus debunks that theory, saying that the man was born blind “that God’s works might be revealed through him,” and heals him. While this does provide important evidence of his Messiah-ship, this man’s suffering wasn’t just an opportunity for Jesus to show off. God always intends for his works to reveal that he loves us and wants us to be with him, though that’s not always clear right away. This is why Jesus doesn’t say that the man was born blind because “God loves him and all of us.” It can take us a while to get there and we see that played out in the rest of the story.
The man’s healing creates wonder and confusion in the people around him, and so they question him to try and make sense of what’s happened. Through this interrogation the man begins to work out for himself who Jesus really is, until eventually he’s driven out of the synagogue for his steadfast testimony. It’s at this point that he’s ready to be found by Jesus, and every moment of our lives is preparing us for the same thing.
Just like any good father, God wants us to fulfill our greatest potential, which comes from knowing his love and making it known, and so all the events of our lives have that love as their purpose. Of course, God also knows that in the midst of painful circumstances what we really need is to experience that message, not hear it. That’s why Jesus came to be with us in our misery and show us through his own life that no cross is greater than the love it produces.
Think about the various circumstances of your life and how you experience them. Do you ultimately judge them based on whether they’re pleasant or whether they’ve brought you closer to God? Ask the Holy Spirit to show you how to cooperate with what God is doing in your life and how to be present with those struggling over the same question.

Father McQueen

Readings for this Sunday - The Fourth Sunday in Lent
1 Samuel 16:1-13 Psalm 23 Ephesians 5:1-14 John 9:1-13, 28-38

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This Sunday and Beyond - March 19th, 2017
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In this Sunday’s opening prayer we’ll ask God to defend us from “all adversities which may happen to the body, and from all evil thoughts which may assault and hurt the soul,” which acknowledges something that makes all the difference in how we live our lives. Our physical bodies and the material world are great gifts that God has given us, and we should enjoy and care for them because they awaken and fill our souls to Him in an infinite number of ways.
One example of this is being inspired to buy music after going to a great concert. The outward experience of beauty and fellowship stirs our souls because they’re made to look forward to an unending communion with God, who is Beauty itself. That’s why no matter how good the album is, it doesn’t quite satisfy us, and that’s OK. The more aware we are of what our hearts are really after, the more we can enjoy the earthly experience for what it is instead of being disappointed by what it’s not. But if our bodies and souls aren’t on the same page, we can easily slip into simply searching out the experiences, which is like looking for what creates the thirst instead of what quenches it. The more things we try, the thirstier our souls get, and life can get dark and heavy very quickly, which is what we’re seeing in this week’s gospel reading.
The fact that this poor woman has suffered 5 failed marriages and is now living with someone else makes it pretty clear that she’s been searching for something for a long time without getting any closer to finding it. But as the conversation gets deeper and she realizes who Jesus really is, the thirst gets quenched and everything changes. We can see this most poignantly in her testimony: “Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done!” Before, everything she’d done had made her a social outcast and left her hopeless and broken, but now that Jesus has healed her, she wants to share those wounds with everyone she knows as a sign of hope.
Think about the great experiences of your life and your most cherished memories. Have you tried to recreate or share them and been left disappointed or frustrated? Take those experiences to God; thank Him for them and ask the Holy Spirit to show you what it was about them that really stirred your heart.
Think also about the not-so-great experiences of your life, things that really left you down. How did you respond to that hurt? Take those experiences to God and thank Him for them too (as best you can) and ask the Holy Spirit to make up what your heart was seeking and not finding in them.
Ask God to show you how to become like that woman at the well; leaving your jar behind, but going away filled with hope and joy to share with the world.
We often have similar struggles in trying to have an intimate conversation with Jesus, and so the purpose of Lent is to provide opportunities to slip away with him. Fasting and abstinence still our houses, quieting all the voices that compete for our attention, while extra prayer or spiritual reading are the ladder waiting outside the window. So no matter the darkness, don’t be afraid, be bold – go out into it with the fire of love, for you are not alone.


Father McQueen

Readings for this Sunday - The Third Sunday in Lent
Exodus 17:1-7 Psalm 95:6-11 Romans 5:1-11 John 4:5-42

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This Sunday and Beyond - March 12th, 2017
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My son Everett rarely wakes up before dawn and almost never before Sarah and me, so when he got up in the night to go to the bathroom earlier this week, and found the whole house dark, it was really disorienting for him. Our bedroom door was open, but it must have seemed like an awfully long way from his room to ours because I woke up to the sound of him sobbing, upset that he hadn’t been able to find us. Of course some wariness of the dark is natural, and it comes from feeling how vulnerable we are when we can’t see, as anyone who’s encountered strange sounds while taking out the garbage after dark can attest. But there’s also a deeper, emotional darkness that comes from feeling isolated and helpless in the face of some personal struggle, and in this Sunday’s gospel lesson (John 3:1-17), John gives hope to anyone in this kind of darkness.
St. John points out that Nicodemus, one of Jerusalem’s elite, has come to talk to Jesus “by night,” which connects this episode to one of his gospel’s main themes: darkness giving way to light, just as night is the period of the day before dawn. He wants to make it clear that no matter how deep the darkness of our lives is, it will always give way to the light because Jesus is with us in it. Even my own extremely inadequate example of rushing to be with Everett in his darkness only points to how much truer it must be of an all-powerful, all-loving God.
In his poem describing the soul’s journey to union with God, St. John of the Cross (d. 1591) turns how we perceive the darkness of our lives upside-down. In his story, it’s only when the house is dark and still that the lover, “fired with love’s urgent longings,” can slip out unnoticed to meet his beloved, making the night “glad” and “more lovely than the dawn.” We see this pattern with Nicodemus, who finds Jesus compelling and has to talk to him, but wouldn’t be able to come to him during the day without causing an uproar among his peers that would make deep conversation impossible.
We often have similar struggles in trying to have an intimate conversation with Jesus, and so the purpose of Lent is to provide opportunities to slip away with him. Fasting and abstinence still our houses, quieting all the voices that compete for our attention, while extra prayer or spiritual reading are the ladder waiting outside the window. So no matter the darkness, don’t be afraid, be bold – go out into it with the fire of love, for you are not alone.


Father McQueen

Readings for this Sunday - The Second Sunday in Lent
Genesis 12:1-8 Psalm 33:12-22 Romans 4:1-5, 13-17 John 3:1-171-11

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This Sunday and Beyond - March 5th, 2017
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One of the reasons I love the Book of Genesis is that it reads like an epic case study on the way sin impacts our relationship with God and our community, and in Sunday’s lesson we see how sin first entered the world. The story is familiar: God tells Adam that he’s free to eat of every tree in the garden but one. The serpent convinces Eve that this is unreasonable. Adam and Eve decide to eat the fruit, giving us the basic pattern for how sin always enters the world: (1) sin is proposed, (2) we’re either pleased or displeased, and (3) we consent to it or reject it. Since the pattern for temptation is always the same, we can learn a couple of things that are helpful in resisting it. The first is that our relationship with God must be loving and personal. Eve gets tripped up on the exact wording of the commandment pretty easily, but what causes her to fall is believing the lie that God was withholding something good, that he didn’t love them as much as he said. Regularly inviting God into our lives through prayer and studying scripture will deepen our relationship, so that when we encounter something that doesn’t belong, we’re able to sense it more quickly. This is vital because the other takeaway is that we’re not strong enough to fight temptation on our own. Eve never should’ve let the serpent engage her, though Adam (who’s been standing there the whole time!) shows us that inaction isn’t the answer either. Are we damned if we do and damned if we don’t? Not at all. St. Francis de Sales (d. 1622) taught that the critical choice is actually in step 2, deciding whether we’re pleased or displeased. Allowing temptation to hang around is playing with fire, so the sooner we can recognize and reject it, the better. When faced with temptation the best thing we can do is respond like the spiritual children Jesus tells us we must become (see Matthew 18:3-4, Mark 10:14-15). Because they know their weakness, whenever little children feel threatened they’re quick to run to whoever makes them feel safe, and St. Ignatius of Loyola (d. 1556) gives us a practical, concrete way to do this. He suggested that whenever we noticed the temptation, we can discretely put our hand over our heart and pray the Jesus Prayer: “O Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.” Making this a habit is a double blessing, as it not only will help us become more aware of where sin waits for us, but also help us to continually turn and invite Jesus into our lives instead.

Father McQueen

Readings for this Sunday - The First Sunday in Lent
Genesis 2:4b-9, 15-17, 25-3:7 Psalm 51:1-13 Romans 5;12-19 Matthew 4:1-11

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This Sunday and Beyond - February 26th, 2017
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We all know that rest and relaxation is vital for our well-being. Sometimes this comes in smaller, regular doses like a weekend or day off, while there are other times that we might need something more, an actual vacation. I think that “vacations” can take a lot of different forms because what’s really important is truly “vacating” or emptying some part of my life. For example, it doesn’t matter where I go or how long I’m gone if I have to bring my work with me – in fact, it’s more stressful than just being in the office getting it done! Renewal comes from creating space in our lives that isn’t usually there, and I think that’s especially important to understand as we prepare to enter Lent.
I realize that a penitential season imitating Jesus’ 40 days of fasting doesn’t fit the usual picture of a vacation, but it’s interesting to know that some saints and spiritual writers have actually described the Exodus (which Lent also recalls) as a kind of honeymoon! The reason is that God called both Jesus and Israel into the wilderness to experience a special kind of intimacy, made possible only by stripping all the usual cares and concerns. Obviously the Israelites didn’t experience it that way, and it was for the same reason we don’t always experience vacations as refreshing – because of what they brought with them.
One of my favorite descriptions of the Exodus is that “God brought the people out of bondage in an instant, but it took a lifetime to get the bondage out of the people.” They were alone with God and all their needs were met, a taste of heaven in some ways, but the pulls of their various desires, expectations, and woundedness kept drawing them away. That’s a universal experience, and so we enter the wilderness of Lent to create space through our prayer and fasting where we can meet God in a special way. Fasting can be unpleasant, but we do it to master our physical desires so they can’t pull us away from God. Setting aside extra time for prayer can be difficult, but we do it to build our capacity for God, fight laziness, and reorient the priorities of our hearts. Giving alms to the poor is just practicing love; depriving ourselves of something for the benefit of someone else.
If we’re not refreshed at Easter, just relieved to get back to “normal,” it’s because of what we’ve brought with us. Our fasting, prayer, and almsgiving have to be aimed at permanently freeing us to be with God or we’re just like the Israelites longing to return to Egypt. Jesus is calling us to come away with him to a lonely place (Mark 6:31), just as he did when the 12 disciples were in need of rest. What are the personal desires and expectations for your life that keep you from being present to him? What needs to be renewed? What needs to be left behind?

Father McQueen

Readings for this Sunday - The Last Sunday after the Epiphany
Exodus 24:12, 15-18 Psalm 99 Philippians 3:7-14 Matthew 17:1-9

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This Sunday and Beyond - February 19th, 2017
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Eternity’s Gate,
by Vincent Van Gogh (1890)
When we describe ourselves or someone else as “only human,” we usually mean for it to be a comfort. It’s a way of acknowledging our own limitations so that we don’t get discouraged or come down too hard on someone else. Remembering that we’re not God, dealing with our imperfections, and being merciful with those of others all seem to fit right in with the spiritual life. Why then, in the midst of describing how we’re supposed to live, does Jesus say, “Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect”? Because God didn’t create us to be “only human,” and we see this “in the beginning.”
God created us to love and be loved by him in a relationship so intimate that God breathes into Adam his own “breath of life.” This is more than biological; it’s what makes Adam a “living soul,” different from everything else God has created (see Genesis 2:7). When Adam and Eve eat of the tree, it’s their sin that separates them from God, and they’re sent out of his presence to live in the world as “only human.” The joy of the gospel message is that God doesn’t leave us flawed and broken, but sends his own son, Jesus Christ, to reconcile us and show us what it means to live as fully human.
Though Jesus is fully God, he suffered in all the same ways we do, except for sin; pain, fatigue, hunger, thirst, which all present opportunities for temptation, just as they do for us. What makes him fully human is that he offers it all to God the Father and the Holy Spirit makes up the difference. God isn’t glorified when our lives look the same as everyone else’s, and so Jesus calls us to a radical love of God and our neighbor that points to something greater at work. We have a perfect example in Acts 3, where a lame man asks Peter and John for alms. Instead of replying that he didn’t have any cash (like I’ve done so many times), Peter replies,
“I have no silver and gold, but I give you what I have; in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk,” and the man leaps to his feet!
God doesn’t want us to be burdened by our imperfections, but he also wants us to know that they don’t define who we are – “only human.” Jesus shows us that our limits are opportunities for God to share his life with us – we hunger so that he can feed us, we question so that he can teach us. Jesus himself even dies so that when we die we can have new life in him. God tells St. Paul, “My power is made perfect in weakness” (see 2 Corinthians 12:9), so don’t let any struggle or failure keep you from running to God – those are the places in your life he’s longing to enter.

Father McQueen

Readings for this Sunday - The Seventh Sunday after The Epiphany
Leviticus 19:1-2, 9-18 Psalm 71:16-24
1 Corinthians 3:10-11, 16-23 Matthew 5: 38-48

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This Sunday and Beyond - February 12th, 2017
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Any time we go out into the world we have to constantly make decisions on how to interact with the people around us. While the way we treat people should honor the equal dignity we all share, the level of relationship determines what that looks like. For example, the best way I can honor the dignity of other drivers is to obey all the traffic laws and be as considerate as possible. I can’t comfort them on the loss of a loved one the way I can a co-worker. I’m not able to try and help a co-worker reconcile the dynamics in their families like I could with my sisters. The list of people that give me full access to the movements and motivations of their hearts is probably limited to my wife and our children, the people that I have the most intimate connection to.
I think that’s a helpful context for understanding what Jesus is saying to the people in his Sermon on the Mount. It’s fine for a king to tell his subjects how to behave, but he doesn’t have access to our inner thoughts, feelings, or desires. Jesus is telling us that the relationship is changing – no longer will we be subjects in the kingdom, but children of the Father through union with the Son. If we don’t get that, it just sounds like God will be more exacting in judging us, when in reality what he wants is to be more generous in loving us.
Keeping in mind the context of parents and children (though this is true of all relationships), there’s a danger that comes from wanting something good for someone more than they want it for themselves. If you’re not careful you can begin doing things for them that they should be doing for themselves, and instead of empowering them, you make them dependent and entitled. Jesus is telling us that while God wants to deepen our relationship to give us his own heart, we have to give
him full access to our whole heart in turn. Our outward behavior isn’t enough anymore and so Jesus takes us deeper to show us what stands in the way of receiving all the love that God has for us.
Finally, don’t let Jesus’ deepening of the law discourage you, and don’t be afraid to really explore what in your heart needs work. Kings might demand perfect obedience, but a father’s role is to be present through all the messiness and struggle of growing and maturing. God doesn’t wait to begin sharing his divine life with us, so don’t wait to begin sharing your life with him; open your heart to him so that you begin to experience how open his heart is to you.


Father McQueen

Readings for this Sunday - The Sixth Sunday after The Epiphany
Ecclesiasticus 15:11-20 Psalm 119:9-16 1 Corinthians 3:1-9
Matthew 5: 21-25, 27-30, 33-37

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This Sunday and Beyond - February 5th, 2017
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This coming Sunday we’ll be celebrating one of the high feasts of the Church year, the Presentation of Our Lord in the Temple. The gospel lesson (Luke 2:22-40) recounts the Blessed Mother and St. Joseph taking Jesus to the Temple to make the offering required by the law of Moses. They encounter Simeon and Anna, two devout Jews who by the power of the Holy Spirit recognize Jesus as the Messiah and prophesy about the work he will do.
The feast is also known as “Candlemass” because of the ritual rooted in the day’s gospel that traditionally accompanies its celebration. This carries special significance for Fr. Tony Noble, our guest celebrant and preacher, who was ordained priest on this feast, and so we also asked him to offer a reflection on it for our upcoming newsletter. In describing the ceremony, Fr. Tony writes, “One of the joys of being an Anglocatholic parish is that we get to celebrate traditions that are both unique and beautiful. Candlemass is one of them. Some people think that being Anglocatholic means incense, processions, traditional music and statues of Our Lady. It is far more than this. Indeed, these things are common throughout the Episcopal Church & Anglican Communion. For Anglocatholics it is more than just nice worship – it is what the traditions symbolize and the teachings they impart.”
The Holy Spirit had revealed to Simeon that he would see Israel’s redeemer before he died, so when the Holy Family enters he exclaims, “Lord now lettest Thou thy servant depart in peace.” This begins the Nunc Dimittis (Latin for “now dismiss”), which the Church has used as a song of praise in its worship since at least the 4th century. Fr. Tony writes, “The Candlemass ceremonies are based on this canticle - and particularly the line: ‘to be a light to lighten the Gentiles.’ So the congregation receives candles when they enter the church. These candles are lit whilst the choir sings the Nunc Dimittis. They are the blessed with an appropriate collect. A procession follows, imitating that first procession of Our Lord into the Temple.”
The Nunc Dimittis resonated with the earliest of Christians and has inspired one of the Church’s most beautiful traditions because we all share something of Simeon’s experience. There are times in our lives – instability in our families, sickness, uncertainty at work – that cause us to ache more deeply as we wait for God’s kingdom to come. At other times we’re able to rejoice in seeing the gospel at work in our lives – freedom, reconciliation with Him and our neighbors, an abiding in His love. No matter the circumstances, Simeon’s encounter with Jesus is a sign of hope for us – that the Messiah has come, and that through him, God will make good on all His promises.

Father McQueen

Readings for this Sunday - The Presentation of Our Lord in the Temple
Malachi 3:1-4 Psalm 24:7-10 Hebrews 2:14-18 Luke 2L22-40

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This Sunday and Beyond - January 29th, 2017
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I did some research to help with my reflection this week. Most of you will be very familiar with Ivory Soap. It’s been around for a long time, and it’s known for being pure. It’s one of Proctor and Gamble’s oldest and most successful products, first produced in 1879. P&G wanted to find a new way to market their soap, and they turned to science. A laboratory found that Ivory Soap’s ingredients are 99 and 44/100% pure. That means that it consisted of fatty acids and alkali with only the tiniest amounts of other ingredients. It was the purest of the pure.
The 99 44/100% pure became the basis for their ad campaign in the 1890’s, helping Ivory “clean up” in soap sales. There was one other factor they could use for big sales: Ivory Soap floats! It was the first soap to float in the bathtub because of air bubbles trapped inside the product. It may have started as an accident, but suddenly there were calls all over the country for the soap that floats! Some ideas just take off.
I thought of this because of the Beatitudes, the foundation for the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5. I’ve reflected on these verses many times, there’s so much there that it’s hard to appreciate them in only one sermon. So, I focused on “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God,” (v. 8). Of the eight Beatitudes, this one has always meant the most to me.
There’s something moving about reflecting on a pure heart. It’s almost as if all the other Beatitudes emerge from the image of a heart that is clean and open to the presence and love of God. To be able to see God, to know Him and be in his favor is blessed indeed.
I’ve been lucky enough to know a few people that immediately radiant this presence and purity. Most have been lay people and members of my parish, and a couple have even been clergy! To be with them, to be open to their spirit, has enabled me to see God in a new way. There was something so clean and pure about them, it was transcendent. They have helped me to want to be a better person. They’ve helped me understand the Beatitudes. I’ve wanted to be more humble, more merciful and peaceful. They’ve helped me when I’ve been called on to mourn with others, feel empathy and generosity beyond my normal means. To care for those who feel persecuted in life, those who travel a hard road and feel the dust in their face daily. I hope I can open my heart to them, understand their path, and give of myself generously.
These things come from the pursuit of a pure heart. As Christians, we are all on the journey to the presence of God in our life. We all seek to grow closer to Him, and to know His blessing. Ivory Soap is 99 and 44/100% pure and it floats! We may not be there, but the love of God and the purity of the heart of Jesus Christ is there for us as an example and a call. We may not float, but we are raised up in Christ.

Father Steven L. Schuneman

Readings for this Sunday - Fourth Sunday after Epiphany
Micah 6:1-8 Psalm 37:1-6 1 Corinthians 1:18-31 Matthew 5:1-12

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This Sunday and Beyond - January 22nd, 2017
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When I was about twelve my parents began looking for a place to vacation on the weekends. We looked for several months for a place we could place our forty foot trailer and leave it. Finally, we found a place on the Mississippi River in Sabula, Iowa. It would have a beautiful view of the river and all the boats that floated past. But, fishing was very important, and there was a nearby lake within walking distance.
But, would the fishing be any good? Yes! In fact, the day we visited the fish were really biting. It was easy to catch a small sunfish or bluegill, in fact it was hard not to. I remember trying to pull in my line without a fish on it. It didn’t happen. Many of them were tiny minnows really, but we were ecstatic! This is the place to be, the best fishing in the world.
But, the fishing was never like that again. It would never be easy to catch a fish, they’d be as elusive as we’d come to expect. Truthfully, I think we hit it the day after they’d stocked the lake full of young swimmers. But, it didn’t matter, we were there to stay. They had us hook, line and sinker.
Jesus walks along the Sea of Galilee and meets brothers Simon and Andrew fishing with two other brothers, James and John. Matthew does not tell us of the miracle catch that comes from dropping their nets on the other side of the boat. This story is much simpler, Jesus simply calls them. “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people” (4:19).
We don’t know what it is about Jesus that “reels them in.” But, there is something about our Lord that causes them to drop everything and follow Jesus, for the rest of their lives. It wasn’t little fish on a hook or in a net. I always imagine that there was something transcendent about Jesus. Something undefined that has a spark of the divine that people could sense at once. There doesn’t seem to be any discussion, the disciples just go because they just know. They know that Jesus is the One.
They become disciples of Jesus, and fishers for people. On that day, they walked away easily and followed Jesus. But, it would not be easy for them ever again. Being a disciple would not be easy, proclaiming the gospel would not be trouble free. No days of ‘fish’ jumping in their boats or grabbing their lines with abandon. They would suffer persecution and death for the faith they proclaimed. Only John would die in exile on the island of Patmos.
It’s not easy to be a disciple of Jesus, it comes with commitment and sacrifice. Sharing the Good News of God in Jesus Christ is often difficult, but even more often rewarding. When we read of Jesus calling his disciples, it’s easy to place ourselves in that boat with Simon and Andrew, and we should. The gospel stories we read took place two thousand years ago, but they are meant to speak to us today. I invite you to put down your old nets, and take up new ones for there are so many longing to hear of God’s love and glory.

Father Steven L. Schuneman

Readings for this Sunday - Third Sunday after Epiphany
Amos 3:1-8 Psalm 139:1-11 1 Corinthians 1:10-17 Matthew 4:12-23

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This Sunday and Beyond - January 15th, 2017
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I have so many memories of worship as a child. I grew up as an Episcopalian, attending Grace Church, Sterling IL. It gave me a great foundation as a Christian as well. I found the symbols of the church to be fascinating, especially the stained glassed windows, crosses and images. I thought the statue of Our Lady of Walsingham was especially beautiful.
But, today I’m reminded of the green brocade frontal with the embroidered Lamb of God. Because of the worship season, the green frontal was on the altar for over half the year. I got a lot of opportunity to admire it and reflect on it. I remember thinking about what it means for Jesus to be the Lamb of God, and why it was perfect for the altar.
In today’s gospel, John the Baptist looks to Jesus and says, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world!” (John 1:29). We only find this in John’s Gospel, but it is an important declaration of faith and understanding. It’s interesting that John says this on two occasions and Andrew and another disciple go follow Jesus.
It is for them an actual ‘turning point,’ because they turn from following John to following Jesus. John had told his disciples that Jesus ranked ahead of him, and the Holy Spirit was present at his baptism. “And I myself have seen and have testified that this is the Son of God,” (1:34).
Son of God and Lamb of God, both are powerful statements of identity. It takes me back to the beautiful frontal that caught my eye. There will always be something gentle and peaceful about a lamb. I smile just thinking about them, but there is so much more than that. Jesus is not a lamb in a petting zoo, but the Son of God who gave himself for us.
It is sacrifice that makes Jesus the Lamb of God. Anyone who heard John speak must have immediately thought of the lamb offering of the Passover. A central image of faith for Israel, the blood and sacrifice of the lamb stands as a reminder of the salvation of Israel from bondage in Egypt. The blood of the lamb, brushed over
the door of the household meant that God ‘passed over’ that family. They would live to rise up in freedom.
So, to call Jesus the Lamb of God means that he is the Chosen One who will offer his life as a sacrifice for us. Later, the Baptist will say, “he must increase and I must decrease,” (3:30). That is so, but both John and Jesus face persecution and death. John’s death at the hands of foolish Herod is a precursor of Jesus’ death for us all.
And yet they follow him. Indeed, Andrew finds his brother Simon and brings him to Jesus. “Come and see” (1:39) are words of invitation to the disciples and to us. We are followers of the Lamb of God, and his sacrifice calls us to a sacrifice and offering of ourselves. I love to sing, “O, Lamb of God,” but when I do I should remember that the Lamb invites his people to a life of sacrifice and service. We do not know where this will lead us, but we can have confidence in the one we follow.

Father Steven L. Schuneman

Readings for this Sunday - Second Sunday after Epiphany
Isaiah 49:1-7 Psalm 40:1-10 1 Corinthians 1:1-9 John 1:29-41

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This Sunday and Beyond - January 8th, 2017
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The site on the Jordan river where Jesus was baptized
Photo by The Rev. Steven L. Schuneman

And when Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:16-17)

The Feast of the Baptism of Jesus is kept on the Sunday following the Epiphany, January 6. This is because the baptism is a powerful sign of the epiphany, the revealing of Jesus and his identity as God’s beloved Son. It is one of my favorite Sundays because it highlights the importance of Jesus’ baptism and our own. The 1979 Book of Common Prayer greatly revised the service of baptism to reflect the connection between baptism and ministry, and incorporation into the Body of Christ. As I like to say, baptism is not something to get done, but it is something that has begun.
In 2011, I was so blessed to visit the Holy Land, seeing the place where Jesus walked and our faith was born. There were so many highlights on my two week tour, but seeing the traditional site of Jesus’ baptism was especially moving. It is a place filled with vegetation and life, birds flying everywhere, and water streaming abundantly. Hundreds of people travel there every day to experience the place where Jesus was baptized.
Jesus’ baptism is important for many reasons. John didn’t want to baptize Jesus, he felt most unworthy in his presence. But, Jesus insisted, saying it was “to fulfill all righteousness.” (Matt. 3:15) Jesus’ baptism and our own unites us together in a spiritual bond that is never broken. We are His, and we are the Body of Christ.
That is why we believe in one baptism, not to be repeated, because it need not. Once is for all.
At the place of Jesus’ baptism, we renewed our baptismal vows according to the Prayer Book. We stood in the water, as high as we were willing to go. Cold, clear water that caused us all to smile with each other and sing songs of God’s praise. My thanks to Bishop Edward L. Little (Northern Indiana) for leading us.
It was a moving time, but something was missing. Renewing our vows just wasn’t enough for me. That’s when we noticed about a dozen adults, dressed in white garments, entering the water to be submerged and baptized. We immediately joined them and celebrated their new life in Christ. Their smiles and laughter meant everything to me.
I came away with a renewed sense of what it means to be baptized. I remember this every time I celebrate the Feast of the Baptism of Jesus. “This is my child, my beloved, with whom I am well pleased.”

Father Steven L. Schuneman

Readings for this Sunday:
The Baptism of Our Lord
Isaiah 42:1-9 Psalm 89:20-29 Acts 10:34-38 Matthew 3:13-17

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This Sunday and Beyond - January 1st, 2017
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As a young child I remember being suspicious of the expression, “It’s better to give than to receive,” because I think part of me was concerned that I was being prepared not to get much for Christmas. Of course, as my understanding of Christmas has matured, not only have my suspicions faded, I’ve been blessed to experience that it’s actually true. In his letter to the Philippians, Paul is showing us that growing up in the faith means setting aside the suspicion that we can’t live our whole lives that way.
The primary theme of the letter is holiness or “Christ-mindedness,” that is, seeing the world the way Jesus does, and in this Sunday’s passage we see the essence of that. By “emptying himself,” the message Jesus gives is that our lives are not about us, and that our life increases in the measure we give it away. Naturally, this is a message that concerns us, perhaps because we think that it means that we’re not going to get much, but through his personal witness, Paul tells us the opposite is true.
Just in this letter, it’s clear that Paul’s life has not been diminished in the least by his giving it away. He tells the Philippians not to be upset by his imprisonment, because it’s advanced the gospel and encouraged others. He’s ambivalent about living and dying because to live is Jesus and to die is more Jesus (1:21), and he counts everything else as garbage (3:8). Then (and remember, he’s writing from death row), he tells them to rejoice always (4:4) and not to have any anxiety about anything (4:6)! How is any of that possible? It’s the peace of God, which passes all understanding (4:7).
If we’re still suspicious, thinking that this is way beyond us – it is, but Paul encourages us to be confident anyway because it’s God who started the good work
and God who will finish it (1:6). We can do our part by turning our lives into a gift. Start developing small, habitual ways of responding to life, like praying for the people who frustrate or inconvenience you or thanking God for the things that keep you from having your own way. Look for opportunities to serve or go last. The more we give ourselves to God and our neighbors, the more we’ll experience the blessing of having more to give.


Father McQueen

Readings for this Sunday:
Feast of the Most Holy Name of Jesus
Numbers 6:22-27 Psalm 8 Philippians 2:5-11 Luke 2:15-21

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