Category Archives: St. Andrew’s

Announcements for the week of July 26, 2015

What’s Happening at St. Andrew’s

The Week of July 26, 2015

Sunday

Discretionary Fund Collection

 Food Ingathering

Monday

BRMC Mobile Mammogram Unit

Tuesday

Wood Carvers 9:00 am

Twin Lakes Choral Society 5:00 pm

Wednesday

Stitchers 9:00 am

 Announcements

 Pledge Update:  In June, pledge payments year -to-date pledge were behind over $4,000.  Our treasurers asks us to remind you that our bills must be paid each month – even in the summer.  If you are behind and can, we would appreciate it if you would get caught-up.  Thanks.

Adult Forum:  The topic for this week’s discussion will be Is This a Godsend? Rare Summer Storm Enables California Firefighters to Control Wildfire from The Wired Word.

Second Saturday Singles: The 2nd Saturday Singles will be going to Buffalo Point Restaurant on August 8th for lunch and fellowship. They will meet in the parking lot at St. Andrew’s at 9:30 am to carpool and at the Flippin Wal-Mart parking lot at 10:15 am. If you plan to attend please sign the signup sheet in the Narthex.

Embracing an Adult Faith: We will begin the next series from the Embracing Series for Small Groups titled Embracing an Adult Faith by Marcus Borg on What it Means to be Christian Sunday August 2  during forum.  Please note that for this series, forum will begin at 9:00 am.  There is a signup sheet in the Narthex for anyone who is interested in attending.

Summer Choir: Sunday, July 26th  will feature a “Summer Choir” offertory. Anyone interested in participating is invited to a brief rehearsal at 10:00 am to prepare for the 10:30 am service. The last service for the “Summer Choir” will be August 16th.

St. Andrew’s Book Discussion Group: The upcoming meeting for the St. Andrew’s book discussion group will be Tuesday August 11th, at 12:00 noon, in Keller Hall. Under discussion will be The Sixth Extinction by Elizabeth Kolbert. Attendees are reminded to bring a sack lunch.

Vestry Meeting Highlights:  At its July meeting, the vestry approved the minutes of its June meeting and the June financials – both are on the bulletin board by Keller.  It was noted that pledge receipts are behind and the treasurer asks that a reminder be put in the bulletin.  There was some discussion concerning General Convention’s actions regarding marriage and the use of alcohol at church functions.  The rector expressed concern for members who disagree with the church’s new policy permitting marriages of same gendered couples.  He proposed offering a forum to discuss the churches understanding of the scriptures and its theology that supports its decision while permitting others to express their views.  The purpose of such a forum would not be to change opinions, but to offer an explanation as to the churches reasoning.

 Upcoming Events at St. Andrew’s

 Tuesday August 4

Citizens for Clean Water

Twin Lakes Choral Society

Wednesday August 5

Healing Service

Pub Theology

Saturday August 8th

Men’s Breakfast

2nd Saturday Singles

Sermon for June 21, 2015

Sermon for June 21, 2015

Sermon prepared and delivered by Father Tom Baker

Proper 7, Year B

 Job 38:1-11       Psalm 107: 1-3, 23-32        2 Corinthians 6:1-13        Mark 4:35-41

To the attention of: Almighty Everlasting God, Lord of Lords, The Great I Am

The realm of Heaven Among the Angels and Saints

 From: Your people In the world You created

Dear God,

We regret to inform you, God, that we are filled with questions, anger, and grief. Once again, God, our lives are tossed about by a storm of hatred, violence, and yet another mass shooting. Our lives are filled with divisions, anger, and little hope. The harsh wind of racism is raging through our land. Violence surrounds us. Wave after wave of hatred is rocking our once steady life.

What happened to the way things used to be Lord? Life used to be simpler. We can’t seem to find our footing, our life is out of balance, we don’t understand what’s going on. How strange it is that this Sunday of all Sundays we hear the story of the disciples suddenly finding themselves trapped in a storm – we can relate.

We are fully aware, God, that the story of the disciples and Jesus crossing the lake is an act of kindness. That before the disciples and Jesus stood on that shore they were under attack. First, believing Jesus was either possessed or crazy His own family came to take him away. Then Jesus kept speaking in parables that no one understood; the Kingdom is like a mustard seed? No wonder the religious leaders were bearing down on him. The disciples knew Jesus needed a break, some time away, even if was just for the few hours it took to cross the lake. So they found a boat and got Jesus a pillow so he could stretch out. It’s a lovely notion, God, that, for once, we could take care of You, Lord. Allow You the time to rest and refresh. That we could offer a little comfort to the Comforter of souls.

Then in the middle of this retreat it hit. The storm. We realize, God, that being fishermen, the disciples had faced storms on water before. But there was something different about this storm. They never felt such strong winds. Had never seen waves as big as the ones crashing over them. It was as if the storm was trying to kill them. That all the evil of the world gathered in this storm to drown Your son and the disciples with him.

Our educational department has informed us, Lord, that Mark wrote about this storm in his Gospel because the people he wrote to were surrounded by their own storm. The Christians of Mark’s time faced persecution, torture, and were often killed for their beliefs. They knew, all too well, about the storms of life.

Frankly, God, we’re not like those first century Christians. We didn’t inherit their strength. We must inform you, God, that our ancestors in faith who faced lions never had to deal with automatic weapons. We’re tired of living in a time of storm after storm. Tired of living in fear and uncertainty. Tired of not knowing when the next crisis, the next riot, the next mass shooting will happen. We’re not sure our little boat can take much more. Wave after wave of tragedy can sink anyone.

Fear has taken over our lives, God. We’re lost and powerless in the face of all these storms. And you, Lord of Lords, where are You? It seems that just like this story in Mark, when a storm hits our life, You’re in the boat asleep. Here we are, God, sinking fast, surrounded by fear and anger – and you’re asleep!? Just when we need You – You’re missing. It’s no wonder that every time pain and suffering hit our life we feel so alone.

We question your presence, God, especially this past Wednesday. It seems You were absent in Charleston. Were You asleep, God, in Your own church? Did You forget the church is named Emanuel – Hebrew for God with us?  We’re sick and tired of the violence, the hatred, the death. Just like those disciples in the boat surrounded by a storm we scream – Wake up!

And when you finally awaken God you said, “Why were you afraid? Have you still no faith?” You actually question our faith? Look around, God. We’re in the middle of a storm here. We don’t know which way to turn, what to do, we’re sinking fast. If you thought we were angry before, God, that’s nothing compared to how we feel now. God – did You really just ask us WHY? That’s OUR question to You! WHY do people kill innocent lives? WHY is there so much violence? WHY, every time I turn on my TV all I see is hatred, divisions? WHY?

At this point, God, we’re gulping down our anger. Pushing it way down. That’s what we do with our anger towards You, isn’t it? We can’t express it, can’t let it go. It isn’t right to be angry with God. It isn’t even safe! If even the wind, thunder, and lighting obey You, Lord – how safe can we be? What will You do to us when the storm of our anger rises up? We’re actually more afraid of You, God, than we were afraid the storm. Your power, God, overwhelms us. Is it safe to mail this letter??

God almighty, Lord of Lords, with all due respect, and in fear, we approach You, praying You won’t reproach us. Hoping that somehow, once again, You’ll stand up and make Yourself known. Yes, we’re afraid God. Afraid of the storm. Afraid of You.

We wonder God, can we find You in our fear? Is that what Mark, what You are saying? That in the midst of all these shootings, all this violence, all this death we can find You? Even in our deep unspoken fear of You – we can find You?

Mighty Lord, we pray, stand up in our boat. We’re almost sunk. Bring the peace only You can give. We need it so badly. All we can see are storm clouds Lord. Give us hope. The hope only You can give. The kind of hope that allows us to see You standing in the middle of the chaos. To see You lift up Your arms and still the sea, brush aside the lighting and thunder, put our boat back on course.

Even more, dear God, we pray that You still the bigger storm inside us. Calm the hatred we can feel so easily. Silence the violence that can so quickly rise up in us. Forgive us for all the times we choose death instead of life. Bring peace to the storm within us. Take us toward the shore. Yes, God, we realize now that more storms will be waiting for us there but this time we will look and find. Look and find You in all our storms.

Amen.

Sermon for Sunday, March 15, 2015

Sermon for March 15, 2015

Lent 4, Year B

Numbers 21:4-9          Psalm 107:1-3, 17-22              Ephesians 2:1-10           John 3:14-21

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.”  John 3:16 is such a familiar verse that even Episcopalians, who are not known for their ability to quote chapter and verse from the Bible, can often quote this one verse.  Mind you, it is not because Episcopal priests and Sunday School teachers have emphasized it, it is because we hear and see it frequently.  It is on billboards and bumper stickers.  It is so familiar to Americans, that simply saying John 3:16 makes the point.  But, what is the point, exactly?

In our lesson from John today, the two verses ahead of it are included:  “Jesus said to Nicodemus, ‘Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.'”  This is a reference to our first reading today from Numbers.

In Numbers, we hear one of many accounts of the people of Israel complaining  to Moses that he led them out of slavery in Egypt to die of starvation and thirst in the wilderness.  God responds by sending poisonous snakes to strike and kill the people, but Moses prays for mercy.  God tells Moses to “make a serpent of bronze, put it upon a pole; and whenever a serpent [bites] someone, that person [should] look at the serpent of bronze and live.”

The connection here, between John 3:16 and this story is curious, don’t you think?  Add to this, the fact that Jesus has just told the Pharisee Nicodemus that “No one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.”  The beginning of this chapter in John, the discussion between Jesus and Nicodemus is the basis for some Christians talking about the need to be “born again.”  For many, what it says about being born from above, and about believing in Christ to receive “eternal life,” overshadows the reference in John to Moses and the serpent – but it shouldn’t.

This story both roots what Jesus has to say in the history of the people scriptures and the crucifixion.  Jesus says, “Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up . . .”  The word used here, translated as “lifted up,” is the same word used to describe Jesus being lifted up onto the cross at his crucifixion, and also his being lifted up into heaven at his ascension.  Thus, when we hear John 3:16, we need to think first of God’s love and mercy.  The bronze serpent represents both of these.  And John 3:16 begins with “For God so loved the world . . .”

Too often, I think people use this verse to focus on the second half of it – emphasizing our need to believe in Jesus so that we might receive eternal life.  But God’s love always comes first – not our belief.

God’s love is sacrificial – even to the point of death upon the cross.  Jesus will be lifted up onto the cross, and Jesus will be lifted up into heaven.  Death does not and will not have the last word.  Bible verses always need to understand their context – and today’s context reminds that our belief in Christ should be in response to God’s love and mercy rather than in response to our fear of losing out on eternal life.  If we are to place an emphasis on any part of John 3:16, I believe we need to stress God’s love.

Moses lifts the bronze serpent so that those who were bitten by a snake can be healed.  Theologian William Barclay says, “The healing power lay not in the bronze serpent; it was only a symbol to turn their thoughts to God; and when they did that, they were healed.”  Later, Barclay reminds us, the people of Israel began worshiping the bronze serpent, turning it into a graven image.  Last week I talked of how some people get so caught up in our rituals that they lose sight of the fact that our rituals are to direct our attention to God, the one who can heal us.  Rituals and symbols are only of value when they are used to remind us of God’s love and mercy.

The bronze serpent and the cross are reminders of God’s love for us.  Both symbolize the life God offers us.  Life in the face of death.  Commentator Jouette Bassler, says this about the notion of the eternal life spoken of in John 3:16:

“Eternal life” refers not – or not only – to resurrection life, but to “knowing” God and Christ, that is, to having intimate communion with God and Christ, in this life.  “Condemnation,” then, is the absence of such knowledge and communion.

So, just as the people of Israel looked upon the bronze serpent and lived, we have the opportunity to look upon the cross and live – here and now.  Eternal life does not begin at our death, it begins when we are in communion with Christ.  It begins when we enter into an intimate relationship with God.

She goes on to talk about verses 19-21, the verses that talk of judgment and the people who live in the darkness and commit evil deeds, and the people who live in the light and do God’s will.  Bassler speaks of these verses as having hints of election and grace, saying,  “Belief and good works are here intimately bound together, and both are bound up with God.” Grace and election, both are linked to today’s passage.  God’s grace reaches out to us, and when we elect to enter into a relationship with God, we are transformed.

The goal of our relationship with Christ should not be to receive life eternal, rather our goal should be transformation.  When we are transformed, we experience life in new and meaningful ways, and it all begins with turning our attention in the direction of the cross – not to the bronze serpent or the cross itself, but to the love of God they symbolize.

Let us pray.

Ever loving and gracious God, thank you for the love you so freely offer to us.  Help us keep our hearts and minds focused on you and your will, that we might become living examples of your love.  We ask this in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  Amen.15,