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This Sunday and Beyond    Weekly Reflections:


“Do You Think Karma Is Kristian?”

This Sunday and Beyond - February 24, 2019
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The word ‘karma’ has been in everyday West coast vocab for 50 years, and then spread from there all the way back to Hindu India from whence it came. I say Hindu India, because from a religious perspective there are many Indias, including Christian India. That’s an illustration to show that there are differences between the concept of karma and the Christian understanding of what is taught in Luke chapter 6, as we will hear on Sunday (2/24/2019). It's a good time, then, to talk about the difference, because Karma and what it sounds like in the Bible are not the same.

Karma is the belief that good and bad experiences in this life are the sum result of deeds done in both the current, and previous (!) lives. Karma is supposed to help us make sense of why we may be going through certain situations. It also gives us rationalization for the cycles of birth and death. Essentially, what a person reaps in this life can be a consequence of what they sowed in their previous lives. What a person sows now, they will reap in a future life. And karma can accumulate, giving you a chance to balance out positive or negative consequences.

On the Jesus side of things (which Christians believe is nothing but the Truth) he said, "For the measure you give is the measure with which you shall receive." The Gospel for Sunday is full of such statements. And in another place, such as the Letter to the Galatians, St. Paul echoed Jesus, saying, "What you sow, so shall you reap." Measured giving and receiving, and sowing and reaping in a Christian’s life of faith relates to the eternal implications that faith has on the Kingdom of God. It can thus be applied both to the Christian’s life on earth as well as in eternity. However, it’s different from Karma in this way: faith in Jesus Christ is a major component. Without the knowledge of Jesus Christ, and the discernment of the Holy Spirit, I believe we could easily mistake one for the other. However, both of these principles have very different effects on our beliefs and ways of thinking.

Obviously, then, the sources are different. Karma originates from the Hindu tradition, first mentioned in the oldest known Hindu text. But like I mentioned earlier, there are many religious Indias, so there are many Hindu sub-areas and differences, too. Once you know that there are over 1000 identifiable gods in the Hindu system of belief, that seems obvious. But this is also true even on just one topic, such as Karma. Over time, different cultures and traditions have taken the concept of karma and have added different details to it, so, the law of karma ranges depending on geographical area.

To the contrary, the principle of measured giving and receiving, sowing and reaping is a biblical concept found all throughout the Holy Scriptures.

“Do not be deceived:. whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.” Galatians 6:7-9.

Now let’s dig a little deeper. And as we do, we find that Karma, from the basis of its foundation, is something that speaks against what we learn from the Bible.

In the principle of karma, the good or bad things that a person does will impact them both now and in their next life. There is the belief that if we do certain things through goodwill, acts of charity, and our personal service to mankind, we can store up goodness for ourselves. Karma makes us believe that if good (or bad) things happen to us, we deserve it because of something that we've done either in this life or a past one.

To the contrary, Scripture teaches us that “God gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good…,” Matthew 5:45. According to scripture, we cannot simply do good and expect only good to happen to us (or the reverse), whether we are believers in Christ or non-believers. The Book of Ecclesiastes in the Old Testament speaks about this same phenomenon,

“It is the same for all, since the same event happens to the righteous and the wicked, to the good and the evil, to the clean and the unclean, to him who sacrificed and him who does not sacrifice…,” Ecclesiastes 9:2.

Because both good and bad happen to believers and non-believers alike, faith in Christ for an eternal hope is the major dividing line between karma and sowing and reaping. Karma teaches that there are multiple lives (reincarnations), and thus, multiple chances to do good, atoning for the bad that has been done. You are not helping yourselves or others if you speak Karma over our lives; you are deluding yourself and providing a false blessing, saying that we can earn our way into a good or bad life. Why? Because you are on your own to accomplish it! Faith in Christ, and following the measure of giving our lives to HIM, and sowing into HIM, means liberty from such a system of succeeding or failing based on my own actions. This is GOOD NEWS: with the concepts of measured giving and receiving, and sowing and reaping, we see that Jesus Christ did the work for us. By His one-time Incarnation, He then went on and paid our price to enter into eternity with him in heaven on the cross. There is nothing more that we need to do other than live a faithful life.

With great help from Britnee Bradshaw at her blog, On The Way Up.

Father Robert Eaton, Interim Rector

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“How Do I Come to Trust Someone with my Life?”

This Sunday and Beyond - February 17, 2019
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You’ve heard of the Sermon on the Mount, and then there is the Sermon on “the Plain” (or better, “at a Level Place” on the hill). Perhaps you know them better as “The Beatitudes” and “The Blessings and Woes.”

This reflection won’t be about those, but since the latter is what you will hear – Luke’s version -- if you attend worship at All Saints’ this Sunday, I do want to say this briefly:

The former is found in Matthew’s Gospel; the latter is found in Luke’s Gospel, at Chapter 6, verses 17-26. For instance, in both, Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor in Spirit,” etc., where you can hear Jesus teaching on both the spiritual and the physical nature of being poor. I commend them to you to organize your life around them. Both have been lifted up as cardinal virtues of life. And you can’t go wrong with following Jesus on these.

Don’t fail to note that before Jesus started his sermon on these virtues and cautions, he healed all who came to him that day, including exorcising demons. It is very important to note that Jesus did not expect that his ministry as Savior could be all that it was supposed to be if only in preaching. God’s power flowed through him for setting people free from physical, psychological, and spiritual problems. This was the precursor to his teaching and preaching. He does want to heal you.

So here, though, is another matter that is so important to us, as well. It shows itself in Sunday’s gospel, even if indirectly. It is the matter of being able to TRUST someone.

The way it shows itself is in the timeframe of Jesus’ ministry to this point. This Sermon at the Level Place is, among other things, the first time that Jesus has taught since he chose who among his disciples would be those identified as “Apostles.” An “Apostle”, to figure out why Jesus would use that designation at all, is simply used to identify a person who has been tasked with being the messenger of the one who called. With this identification comes the responsibility to share the message accurately and faithfully. You can see it either in the use of the Greek word “apostolos” (so now you know where that English word Apostle came from!), or in the Hebrew word of the same meaning “shalluach”, or sometimes, “shallah.” (probably better to use Apostle; if it were the 12 Shallahs, it might sound like 1950’s doo-wop bands!) Anyway, given this new designation and authority, it is right to consider this first teaching of Jesus with his new apostles as very important in their own learning and formation process.

But here is our reflection question, “How long does it take to build trust in someone else before you “promote” them or identify them as someone you can trust with your very words and your very dreams and hopes and, for Jesus, his very mission?

The timeline for moving from Disciple – or one who follows and is being taught – to being designated as Apostle is not very long. In Luke, it only takes One Chapter to get from calling disciples until the night Jesus spent in prayer and then announced the twelve the next day. That’s an unfair way of calculating, though. However, even the best of considered calculations mean a period of three months to a year. That’s fast for such trust into promotion. Would you trust someone with your very purpose in life after only three months of knowing them?

Yes, Jesus had the divine ability to read into men’s hearts and minds. He could tell motives; agendas; fears, loyalties. And even with all of that, he listened to the voice of God the Father in prayer before making such a choice of trust. I would be remiss to not say that even Jesus chose someone who would eventually betray him. That will always have to be taken into consideration when you are deciding to trust in someone.

We can, though, make some conclusions for ourselves about the process of coming to trust someone in our lives, like Jesus came to trust those particular twelve, after so little time with them.

First, realize – no, make a powerful commitment to yourself – that the decision to trust someone is both of the heart and of the mind. Don’t leave the other out.

Second, it will take more time than Jesus took. Yes, there are some gifted people out there who can “read” people accurately. The rest of us, though, have to hear those same thoughts and words by taking the time and opportunity for those people to actually say those things out loud in conversation.

Third, like Jesus, you will need to have in your mind just what a trusted person looks like and sounds like, along with certain virtues and life priorities and mission goals. Your discernment and testing will weave in and out of these.

And Fourth, you, like Jesus, can talk to God the Father knowing you have His willing ear; but to know what His counsel is to you, like Jesus, you must know how to listen yourself to God the Father as he speaks to you. And then act on it

Father Robert Eaton, Interim Rector

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“Jesus: The Audio/Visual Expert”

This Sunday and Beyond - February 10, 2019
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We don’t usually think of Jesus in terms of A/V, or of I.T., or other specifications of modern communications. The story coming up on Sunday in our parish gathering of worship, though, might give you a new appreciation for Jesus’ abilities, and gifts, in this area.

The reading from the Gospel of Luke on Sunday at All Saints’ is the first several verses of what is known as Chapter 5. And, actually, if you are going to be specific as a communicator, it must be noted that the Gospel reading includes TWO stories, AND a follow-up “object lesson” from Jesus’ to his closest followers.

Here’s the first scene: people were pressing in to hear Jesus teach. He was at the shore of Lake Gennesaret (the Sea of Galilee). The implication is if they kept pressing, he would eventually back step into the water. Here’s the first Master Audio/Visual technique: get out onto the water, and allow the water to reflect the sound of his voice toward the crowd, increasing the volume of his voice at the same time. Basic physics. Brilliant decision. But first he has to have a platform! So he steps into one of Peter’s boats and asked him to get him out from the shore a little. Not just “push me out” – that had no guarantee of placement. No, the request was more specific, that Peter would “put out a little from the land,” which implies two things: that Peter was in the boat with him as his A/V assistant, and second, that an anchor was probably used to stay put.

Now, I will suggest that this was audio technology that would have been well known at that time. Certainly, for those in the fishing and merchant marine industries, who knew from experience that their voices over water would carry farther and more distinctly.

Point: Jesus knew where he was. He was culturally and socio-economically aware, and able to take advantage of his surroundings in order to communicate his Good News. By the way, the first to broadcast a worship service by live radio was an Episcopal congregation in Pittsburgh, PA.

The second act of brilliant communicating was after he was finished speaking from the boat, but still out on the water with Peter. Apparently already knowing that Peter had spent all night with his fishing company with no results, he directed Peter to put out the nets on the deep side of the boat. Perhaps this was an attempt to thank Peter for his A/V assistance, being so tired and all. Peter objected, but did what Jesus said. The nets, amazingly, filled in with an enormous amount of fish, enough to start breaking the nets, and for Peter to signal to the other boats to come and assist the harvest.

Now this kind of communication, without sonar, was an incredible act of knowing where. This didn’t come from knowing the fishing community or the water. This was Jesus as the Son of God pointing out right at that moment where the fish would be. That is revelation communication. Call it prophecy, or call it a word of knowledge, that kind of communication also has its place in the Good News of Jesus. In fact, it caused Peter to fall to his knees before Jesus in a moment of self-abasement. We would call that an immediate overwhelming sense of humility.

It’s always the best thing to show humility – humbleness – in the face of God’s power and love, and that is a great thing for US to communicate. But the communication “skill” for Jesus, brings us to this point: Jesus knows who we are. He knows where we live. He knows what we do. He knows the technology of God to bring God’s extraordinary power into our lives. This is one facet of the communication of God’s love to us, and He CONTINUES to communicate with ALL of His disciples in this same way. How do you think any prayer is ever answered?!

As an added bonus to these stories, Jesus talks about communication very directly. The fish have been caught; Peter falls to his knees; everyone there has got their mouths open to the lake beach below them. Jesus essentially says, “You think providing these fish and you catching them is something? You follow me, and I will show you how to “catch” men with the Good News, that they might follow me.”

And so, the ultimate communication is seen in teaching God’s word, in the display of God’s power, and now showing others how to do the same to bring others to Christ. Christian communication, however, means – by speaking over the water, by revelation of God’s hand and power, by talking about Jesus to others, by radio, by TV, by YouTube! – the art, the gift, the skill, the talent of bringing others to Christ.

Father Robert Eaton, Interim Rector

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“Is Jesus Someone I Can Believe In?”

This Sunday and Beyond - February 3, 2019
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If you are someone who has yet to find the God they can believe in, then let’s talk about looking at Jesus Christ. Just for this moment of reading.

You know, there’s just an enormous amount of things we could talk about in regards to who Jesus is. But this, to be a conversation, also has to be, from your side, answering the question about what may be behind my first sentence. If your question is the same, that is, “Is Jesus someone I can really believe in?”, then we’ll need to talk about what your qualifiers are for “can really believe in.” Correct me if I’m wrong in regard to you – I have found this question is in reference to whether or not God has any idea of what I’m going through in my own life, and, even if He knows somehow the details of my life, is there any sense at all that He’s experienced any of what I’ve experienced? Can God relate to me?

We are talking about the nature of a relationship that spells out T-R-U-S-T. And the fear of developing a relationship when trust is broken. And when Trust is broken, and the relationship is thus broken or impaired in some way, then one of the feelings that comes from such is Rejection.

There are quite a few other facets of “can really believe in”, such as I want a God who shows no weakness; or, I want a God who proves compassion; or, I want a God who is vulnerable.

The bottom line is that Jesus was absolutely REJECTED by his own family and home town people, after He shared some of the realities of His Father in heaven who showed faithful compassion and empathy in the form of HEALING to people who were not considered the People of God at that time. And the People of God did not receive the same ministry from God because, well, they chose not to believe and trust in their own God!

So here you are, not having made up your mind and heart about WHO to believe in. But perhaps you’ve heard enough now about Jesus perhaps sharing some of your own life events to keep on reading?

As I said, Jesus said to a crowd of people in a Jewish assembly house (a synagogue) that at one time in their history God had bestowed miracles on outsiders who believed. It was a not-so-veiled commentary on the faith Jesus perceived in his home town, Nazareth. Outside this village Jesus had performed amazing miracles, but the unbelief in Nazareth was too thick. Even though they wanted to see a miracle show, they eventually showed themselves to be neither worthy nor ready. “A prophet wasn't honored in his own hometown,” quoted Jesus.

The resentment and skepticism that seethed beneath the surface, now erupted in anger and murder. The congregation rose up from their Sabbath synagogue worship intent to kill their homegrown Teacher. They literally threw Jesus out of the building and out of the village. Then, once outside, the crowd led him away to the edge of the mountain that Nazareth is at. Without hearing or trial, and in violation of both Jewish and Roman law, his townspeople intended to kill him by throwing him over a precipice.

Is it possible this Jesus knows what you know about personal rejection? But by His divine power and presence overcame the intended results? Is that enough for you to see that this Jesus is someone YOU CAN believe in?

Now let me be clear. Life is no fairy tale, and believing in Jesus does not provide a get out of world unfairness card here. But Jesus walking through the crowd -- !! -- should be enough to let you know just Who has the Power in this life, and so Who’s side to be on!!

Did any good come from Jesus’ visit to Nazareth? Yes, and it directly reflects Jesus’ mission to gather us into his arms and to be that God we can believe in. One of Jesus’ followers, John said in his Gospel, “He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God." (John 1:10-12)

I’d like to offer this prayer for you and for your use, while you are considering just who – God – you can believe in:

Lord, you know how I hate rejection. How I go way out of my way to avoid being or feeling rejected. Help me to grow out of it. I am impressed by your courage without retribution. Give me the same courage to face those who distrust, dislike, or resent me, who look down on me, who think they have me figured out. Help me to love them while refusing to compromise my integrity. And if you are in fact the God I can believe in, show me who you are; and then Forgive me where I've been afraid. I pray this in whom I hope you are. Amen

Father Robert Eaton, Interim Rector

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“There’s a Calling for Each of Us”

This Sunday and Beyond - January 27, 2019
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In the story from the Gospel of Luke for Sunday, we hear that Jesus has returned to Nazareth where he grew up. He had been traveling around visiting villages and synagogues ever since his baptism and was returning from his battle with the devil out in the wilderness, now fully empowered by the Holy Spirit. This means, just from reading what Luke wrote, that this visit to his hometown synagogue is his ministry homecoming.

Here in this synagogue he reads the portion of Isaiah’s prophecy which describes who the Messiah is to be, and what his ministry would look like. He begins the reading where prophet had said,

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me….”

That in and of itself might not have caused any question, since he was reading the prophet Isaiah’s words. Then he continued from the scroll:

“…to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor."

Why wait until he got to Nazareth to claim this was about himself? Because not only was Jesus a Nazarene, but the Messiah was a Nazarene, and this brings complete fulfillment to that prophecy.

You know, this moment reminds me of the public and media-invited announcements made by citizens of our nation that they are running for a particular public office election. It doesn’t seem to matter what the level of that office would be -- local, district, state, regional or national, politicians like to announce from their home towns. Of course, one of the reasons is to make the statement that even though this person has felt within themselves a political ambition, still, this person running for election is no different than any other person: they grew up somewhere specific, they had local friends, they had parents from somewhere. And then just to put a point on this homecoming announcement, they usually like to dress the part of their humble beginnings, like a cowboy hat if you are back in your humble home town of Dallas, TX. Of course, that doesn’t mean that everybody in your small home town is going to vote for you! Familiarity sometimes breeds contempt.

Still, announcing from your home town brings attention to not only to the person running for office but also on the town or city. How many little and big towns around the United States proudly display a marker at the city limits that announces “This town is the home town of Franklin Delano Roosevelt (or Dwight Eisenhower, or Abraham Lincoln, or whomever).” Yes, all the way around, that special person makes note of their hometown; it is a special place.

So, how is this alike? Because Jesus read what he read, rolled up the scroll, and said with great confidence and boldness, “This prophecy from Isaiah has been fulfilled here in your presence and your hearing.”

So here Jesus makes His announcement of His identity as the Messiah, formally, in the synagogue. Unlike those politicians above, though, the moment is not humanly staged. Jesus did not send a memo forward to the synagogue ruler telling him to hand Jesus the scroll of Isaiah and clearly, it was not so marked for that passage. No, the PR person for Jesus was not a human team. It was the Holy Spirit himself, arranging for that moment. I imagine that no matter what happened before that moment God would have made sure Jesus got that scroll, and that he would read from it in his hometown.

This is one more story highlighted in the Sundays after Epiphany of how the identity of Jesus is revealed to the world, to the seekers of Israel, in power, and that the Messianic prophecy fulfilled. No one else is Jesus; no one else is the Messiah.

But YOU came from “somewhere,” too. If your identity is already in Christ, have you considered the path of your life, and your spiritual journey to Jesus, and what happened along the way? Can you see how God has been involved to bring you to that special place where you proclaimed him as your Lord? You do this reflection, and I can almost unequivocally guarantee that you will see God’s hand on your life, leading you until you did decide to follow Jesus, and that he’s still leading you. You can’t make those stories up; the realization of God’s desire to lead YOU to such moments of grace and confidence are humbling, and full of grateful thanksgiving.

If you have not yet come to believe in Jesus Christ as the Savior of the World, you should know that everyone who has ever reflected on their life, considering where they have been and where they are now in their personal journey, can see that God was already there in their lives leading and guiding them to come to that special moment of public proclamation. The Church notes that as the day of your baptism. He’s been there with you. It’s time to believe in the One, the only One.

Then you too will be able to say as Jesus did, “God has been with me in the stages and events of my life; God’s plan for me has been fulfilled, and is being fulfilled.”

Father Robert Eaton, Interim Rector

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“Greater things than these shall YOU do”

This Sunday and Beyond - January 20, 2019
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Here is our Gospel reading for this coming Sunday, January 20, 2019:

‘Jesus said to them, "Fill the jars with water." And they filled them up to the brim. He said to them, "Now draw some out, and take it to the steward of the feast." So they took it. When the steward of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the steward of the feast called the bridegroom and said to him, "Every man serves the good wine first; and when men have drunk freely, then the poor wine; but you have kept the good wine until now." This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory; and his disciples believed in him.’ (John 2:1-11)

Let’s make note of a several things before considering what this means for us today.

First, there is a miracle. Miracles are events that defy our known ways that the physics of the earth and the universe work. It is not an acceptable scientific or physical truth that a human being can “walk on water.” It is not an acceptable truth that wine can be created instantaneously from water, other than to note that the normal methods of producing wine will include some amount of water in order to bring the fruit to harvestable readiness (somewhere between 2 to 5 gallons out of the soil and air per glass of wine for dry farming, and 12 to 15 gallons for irrigation-based vineyards). These are the common Gospel stories during the season of Sundays after Epiphany, when Jesus is manifested to the world. You can add in feeding 5,000 and also 4,000 people from a basketful of bread and fish. Or commanding a tree to wither, and it does immediately. Or raising someone to life who has been dead for three or more days. Or finding gold coins in a fish’s mouth that Jesus said would be there (I’m pretty sure we’ve all heard stories of things found in fish, like coins, rings, bullets, and more…but to be told to go fish to find a fish that has the coins in its mouth in a specific area, and the first fish has the promised coins – that’s pretty much a miracle)!

Second, somebody else got the credit for the wine brought out late to the party, even though no recognition of a miracle is included in that credit. And Jesus said nothing.

Third, somebody DID witness the miracle – the servants – but they said nothing.

Fourth, this is the third of three stories that kick off the season of Epiphany, or the Manifestation of Christ to the World (“the Gentiles”). The first was the world coming to Jesus with the Wise men from other Gentile nations/countries/peoples. The second and third, Jesus’ Baptism and presentation as the Messiah and going forth with the LOVE of God, and the Miracle at Cana of Galilee (this one with water into wine) is the presentation of the POWER of God in the Messiah.

My thoughts about this Gospel lesson for you are informed this week by the second reading of Sunday, the Epistle, which is also taken from the New Testament. In that lesson, St. Paul enumerates nine spiritual gifts from the Holy Spirit given deliberately to various members of the Church as they are empowered by the Holy Spirit, such as gifts of healing, and words of prophecy, and speaking in tongues. We’ve seen these regularly in the Body of Christ since the feast of Pentecost, and even before. There’s another one worth mentioning here from Paul that says, to another [is given] the working of miracles.

When the steward of the marriage feast thanks the bridegroom for providing more wine, our first thought is, “No, no! JESUS provided the miracle!”, and you’d be right. But when Jesus doesn’t say anything it points to another truth, that Jesus is very willing share the wealth when it comes to miracles, and then provides the power to see it happen. Granted, the steward’s presumption in this story is incorrect. In fact, I’m sure the Bridegroom is just as surprised as the steward! And of course, there are witnesses as to what really happened. But if Jesus is willing to not say anything at this moment to demand proper credit, the room is left open for Jesus to actually and really delegate his miracle making power to others, and let the witnesses see someone else besides Him doing them. Of course, the Power for such is His. But how many times have you heard someone trying to take credit for something somebody else really did?! Happens all the time. Not with Jesus.

In the 14th chapter of John, Jesus in fact says, “Greater things than these shall you do.” Paul, besides giving witness to seeing disciples in Corinth working miracles, says in his letter to the Ephesians, “Glory to God whose power, working in us, can do infinitely more than we could ever ask or imagine!”

Being a follower of Jesus Christ, and empowered by his Spirit, is not and can not be minimized to a couple of prayers here and there that get answered. This is Power, baby! And He wants us to make use of it. The PROPER use of it is also spoken of in this Gospel lesson, and that is found at the end when John the apostle, writing his Gospel of Jesus, says, “This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory; and his disciples believed in him.”

This is what I think this means:

Not everybody will be given the ability for “working miracles”, in fact, it is a small percentage of church members who will. But whether it is miracles or any other display of God’s Power, it is to be understood as a “sign” and a visible “power”, that is, manifested Glory of God, for this one purpose: that men and women, boys and girls, will BELIEVE in Jesus.

Miracles for any other reason, according to this scripture, would be only attention getters for the person working them. And we know from the scriptures, as in the story of Simon the Magician in the Book of the Acts of the Apostles, some people will pay a hefty sum of money to have control of such an ability for their own selfish purposes.

With that in mind, this story, along with Paul’s letter about spiritual gifts, lets us begin to realize that God wants to do very, very powerful things THROUGH US, and our job is to say “YES!”, and ask for the power to make it so. God can change our understanding of physical reality; He wants us to be able to do the same.

Father Robert Eaton, Interim Rector

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“No Matter What, It Is The Story of The Ages”

This Sunday and Beyond - January 13, 2019
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You have probably found yourself a few times in the “awkward!” position of having described to somebody else something you thought was quite remarkable but they were not responding with the same sense of response as you had when you saw it. I know I have. There is great restraint needed at that moment not to continue talking so you can embellish your described event. It’s over. So, you might have said those very famous words, “I guess you had to be there.”

I have imagined the same after Jesus was baptized in the River Jordan, where folks who witnessed it would tell others about what happened, and the signs from heaven that accompanied the baptism. There were a certain number of people there, lots of people, but even then, I bet even not all those people realized what was taking place. Those people may have seen some of the things, like a dove, or heard a voice from the clouds, but they may have been blocked by the crowds from seeing the actual baptism.

Can you imagine, “Man, Yakob, you should have seen it. It looked like the very heavens themselves opened up, and then this dove came down, and then there was this voice, and John was there in the river with this other guy…” And Yakob replies, “Oh, that’s nice.” Hmph. I guess you had to be there.

The main thing is that Jesus was baptized in fulfillment of all things.

And the beauty of it all is that you didn’t have to be there to reap the benefit of Jesus’ earthly ministry, or the further fulfillment of ancient Jewish prophecies with Jesus’ baptism. AND, we have a record of this baptism having taken place. This Sunday’s gospel account is fairly succinct:

Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, "You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased."

So, the baptism work for the day had been accomplished. And in Luke’s account Jesus is baptized as the crowning baptism of the day, at which time the signs took place. There is no confusion here about one sign or the other being displayed or manifested mistakenly for someone else. That might have been the case if Jesus had been baptized as one among many in the crowd. But there was no mistake here. It is Jesus, the Son of God, to whom the Father in heaven spoke those words over this particular One. Upon Him is the line of David to be fulfilled in an eternal kingship.

Do you need to wait for someone to share this story with you, so that you can share in that eternal life and kingship? No. You’ve just read it. You’ve heard me share it. You don’t have to wait any longer. So, now what do you do with this information and story? Well, it is not necessary for you to feign the same response as you might know someone else had. But it is necessary for you, if you wish eternal life, to hear the voice of both John the Baptist, and Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and accept Jesus for the person that God the Father said He was “My beloved Son”, and John said He was, “but one who is more powerful than I is coming (that is, the Messiah!); I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire." And you will have your own story to tell about God’s presence in you and through you, which you will want to tell. And you will be able to hold onto that story and be proud of it, and be excited about it, and tell it over and over, hoping others will hear and receive and turn to Christ.

Father Robert Eaton, Interim Rector

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“Epiphany: Appearances foretold, and realized, and still available”

This Sunday and Beyond - January 6, 2019
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This Sunday we celebrate a day that doesn’t always fall on a Sunday: Epiphany or The Epiphany. You see, there is a connection between Christmas and Epiphany, and that connection is “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” So, since Christmas is always December 25th, Epiphany will always be January 6!

But that doesn’t explain the connection besides there being 12 days. The connection is that Epiphany is the day that we celebrate the Wisemen finally arriving at Bethlehem. And then we say goodbye to the Story of the Birth of Christ until next year. Twelve days just happens to be the time in between these two days of celebration. And there’s a wonderful song that has been sung for centuries that we all know by heart.

If you don’t mind, though, let’s look at the readings from the Bible assigned for this Sunday as well as look at the reason why the early Church used the word “epiphany.”

An “epiphany” is an “appearance.” Sometimes the word “manifestation” is used to translate epiphany. “Look! Here he comes!” is one of the phrases we use to point to the moments in the Bible when Jesus “shows up.” It doesn’t have to mean “show stopping”, but that is one way to relate such a thing in our day. When the Beatles iconically appeared in the door of their jet airplane on their first trip to the USA, there was an immediate cry (and screaming and tears!) as young people (mainly) said in their own way, “Look! There they are!” In the same genre, when a famous artist “appears” on stage at somebody else’s concert, there is usually cheers and applause from the audience. The surprise appearance surely could have been “staged”, but to the crowd it was an epiphany.

There are so many “appearances” in the story of Jesus’ birth, with rising stars, splendorous lights, and mysteries revealed, it is easy to say that these things are epiphanies. And the greatest is the face of the child born on Christmas day: this is the appearance – the epiphany – of God to be with us.

Well, now, wait a minute, you might say….is this a new celebration called Epiphany, or isn’t that Christmas you are talking about? And the answer is Yes! It would appear from ancient days of the Church that “Epiphany” was the first of the celebrations of Christ’s life, after the Resurrection, of course, and the Coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. And yet there is more. There is the epiphany of the God incarnate here to us;, and then there is the epiphany of this Christ to the rest of the World, which is so much of the meaning ascribed to the visitation of foreign wisemen who were not Jews; and then, there is the epiphany of Jesus at the River Jordan and the voice from heaven along with the Holy Spirit coming down on him at that moment in the form of a dove. The BIG picture of the feast of Epiphany, and the season of Sundays called by the same name that follow, is the appearance of Jesus Christ to the World in these various and powerful ways!

Eventually the nativity of the Christ would have its own day, and so would the Baptism of Jesus, always celebrated the first Sunday after January 6. And that leaves January 6 to celebrate the arrival of the wisemen with their gifts to the scene of the Jesus’ birth, still there in Bethlehem.

So now let’s look at the lessons for Sunday, the Epiphany, January 6. I am using a lot of material here from Dr. Scott Hahn as an introduction to his biblical teaching. We hope to have a weekly study started in a couple of weeks using his bible resource material and study questions.

Herod, in today’s Gospel, asks the chief priests and scribes where the Messiah is to be born. The answer Matthew in his gospel puts on their lips says much more, combining two strands of Old Testament promise—one revealing the Messiah to be from the line of David (see 2 Samuel 2:5), the other predicting “a ruler of Israel” who will “shepherd his flock” and whose “greatness shall reach to the ends of the earth” (see Micah 5:1–3).

Those promises of Israel’s king ruling the nations resound also in today’s Psalm. The psalm celebrates David’s son, Solomon. His kingdom, we sing, will stretch “to the ends of the earth,” and the world’s kings will pay Him homage. That’s the scene too in our First Reading, spoken 6oo years before Jesus’ birth, as nations stream from the East, bearing “gold and frankincense” for Israel’s king.

The Magi’s pilgrimage in today’s Gospel marks the fulfillment of God’s promises. The Magi, probably Persian astrologers, are following the star that Balaam predicted would rise along with the ruler’s staff over the house of Jacob (see Numbers 24:17).

Laden with gold and spices, their journey evokes those made to Solomon by the Queen of Sheba and the “kings of the earth” (see 1 Kings 10:2, 25; 2 Chronicles 9:24). Interestingly, the only other places where frankincense and myrrh are mentioned together are in songs about Solomon (see Song of Songs 3:6; 4:6, 14).

One greater than Solomon is here (see Luke 11:31). He has come to reveal that all peoples are “co-heirs” of the royal family of Israel, as today’s Epistle teaches. His manifestation forces us to choose: will we follow the signs that lead to Him as the wise Magi did? Or will we be like those priests and scribes who let God’s words of promise become dead letters on an ancient page? The answer, of course, is yours to make. As has been said on that popular art form, “bumper stickers”, Wise Men Still Seek Him. May you find Him as He has appeared!

Father Robert Eaton, Interim Rector

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