Friday Epistle for April 6, 2018

April 6th, 2018 by
Dear Friends at New Covenant,

Like some horrific losses, and some beatific moments that transcend even our imaginations, the events of Good Friday and Easter are vastly beyond words. Sometimes a poet captures something words put otherwise cannot.
Shortly after WW1, the Great War to end all war, when its memories and pains were still fresh, a book was published. Near the beginning is the text from John, “He showed them his hands and his side.” And this poem follows.

JESUS OF THE SCARS by Edward Shillito

If we have never sought, we seek Thee now;
Thine eyes burn through the dark, our only stars;
We must have sight of thorn-pricks on Thy brow,
We must have Thee, O Jesus of the Scars.
The heavens frighten us; they are too calm;
In all the universe we have no place.
Our wounds are hurting us; where is the balm?
Lord Jesus, by Thy Scars, we claim Thy grace.
If, when the doors are shut, Thou drawest near,
Only reveal those hands, that side of Thine;
We know to-day what wounds are, have no fear,
Show us Thy Scars, we know the countersign.
The other gods were strong; but Thou wast weak;
They rode, but Thou didst stumble to a throne;
But to our wounds only God’s wounds can speak,
And not a god has wounds, but Thou alone.
A comment on the poem by the then Archbishop of Canterbury, William Temple:
Only a God in whose perfect being pain has its place can win and hold our worship; for otherwise the creature (with his pains) would in fortitude surpass the Creator.”
Blessings to You All,

Easter Egg Hunt

March 30th, 2018 by

I have been asked many times over the last couple of weeks how the Early Egg Hunt went this year. Here is just a glimpse through the eyes of one young boy and a mom:

“Jesus is always with you and always listens to your prayers.”

One of our Easter Story Egg table leaders spoke these words of life to a young boy who shared about a hard family situation that he is currently in. She was in the midst of sharing the Easter story with him when he opened up about it. Beautiful words of hope for this boy in the midst of despair.

“This is the best Easter egg hunt my family has been to because we have had the chance to meet people from the community afterward!”

This second comment was made by a mom with two young kids. She was excited that there were activities after the egg hunt so that she could actually meet and get to know people from the community. Through the tangible environment that was created (great food, playground, Easter craft) people found more than just an egg hunt. They found a chance to get to know one another.

So much preparation from our church family goes into creating the tangible environment that spurs stories like these. Thank you for snapping eggs together, for bagging candy, for setting up tables and chairs, for grilling hot dogs and refilling drinks, for helping kids with Easter Story Egg sets, for welcoming families, for directing parking, for capturing the event in pictures, for praying, and so much more – all to share the joy of Easter!”

 

Good Friday – Friday Epistle for March 30, 2018

March 30th, 2018 by
Good Friday

The Service for Good Friday leads us through the last hours of our Lord Jesus’ life on the day we commemorate his holy death. Beginning with Isaiah’s prophecy of the suffering servant through Hebrews’ description of the New Covenant, we finally listen to John’s narration of Christ’s trial and then rise to witness him cruelly crucified at Golgotha.
Our Communion Prayer (Rite 1) gathers and summarizes the motivation of God and the effects of Jesus’ death in this way.

All glory be to thee, Almighty God, our heavenly Father, for that thou, of thy tender mercy, didst give thine only Son Jesus Christ to suffer death upon the cross for our redemption; who made there, by his one oblation of himself once offered, a full, perfect, and sufficient sacrifice, oblation, and satisfaction, for the sins of the whole world; …
It is here on the cross that Jesus combines the holy intentions of heaven with the broken realities of earth. Damnation, Judgment, Salvation, Blessing, Justice, Mercy, Death and Life. Grace. The Communion prayer makes petitions based on this“once offered” gift to His Father and his people.
…most humbly beseeching thee to grant that, by the merits and death of thy Son Jesus Christ, and through faith in his blood, we, and all thy whole Church, may obtain remission of our sins, and all other benefits of his passion.
In the Good Friday liturgy, we pray the Solemn Collects, ancient prayers that have borne the petitions of weary Christians to their great High Priest for centuries. Each Collect of collected petitions is focused on an area of concern- the church, the world, the hurting, the lost, and the departed. Each specific petition within the Collect may serve as a window through which we might look at our lives and see where God might be invited to apply “all other benefits of his [Jesus] passion.”
Good Friday ends without the pronounced blessing of either bishop or priest. What greater blessing than the redemption of the world and the security of our souls might we seek? We stand in awe and grief and are sated by the abundance of Christ’s generosity. There is no final dismissal, for we are a people waiting for Jesus’ self-specified third day, when the evidence of Christ’s trustworthiness will be revealed.
Throughout Lent, we have sung and prayed the comfortable words as we prepared for Holy Communion. Hear the Word of God to all who truly turn to him.

Come unto me, all ye that travail and are heavy laden, and
I will refresh you.    
Matthew 11:28
God so loved the world, that he gave his only-begotten Son,
to the end that all that believe in him should not perish, but
have everlasting life.    
John 3:16
This is a true saying, and worthy of all men to be received,
that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. 

1 Timothy 1:15

If any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus
Christ the righteous; and he is the perfect offering for our
sins, and not for ours only, but for the sins of the whole
world.    
1 John 2:1-2
The Good Friday service concludes with a final prayer. In its expansiveness and boldness, we find the faithful response to the Savior’s invitation and accomplishment.

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, we pray you to set your passion, cross, and death between your judgment and our souls, now and in the hour of our death. Give mercy and grace to the living; pardon and rest to the dead; to your holy Church peace and concord; and to us sinners everlasting life and glory; for with the Father and the Holy Spirit you live and reign, one God, now and forever. Amen.
As you prepare for Easter Sunday and its joyful exuberance, we invite you to remember the good work your savior has done for you this day. And the good work he continues to do for us and the world because his Cross-work was not the end, but the beginning.
See you Sunday,
Christopher+

Friday Epistle for March 16, 2018

March 16th, 2018 by
“Click” 
Snapshots of God’s Servants
 
 

 
“Democratic Republic of the Congo bishop warns
violence could spiral into genocide.”
This was the lead story in the ChurchTimes.co.uk. The Rt. Rev. Mugenyi William Bahemuka is the bishop.  Pray for him.  He is coming to Florida soon and then on to India with Canon Christopher.
 
“Where I am, so my servant is also…”
 
 
-Click-
 
“They left the Congo because of the killing…”  
       So began Fr. Gabriel’s homily for 8 year old Jephte Babakissa last Friday who was run down by a distracted driver in Conway.  His mother, next to the bongos is singing.  Earlier she was wailing at the open grave.
-Click-
 
 
People, reaching out, caring for one another, praying for one another.
       Sharing God’s love is why we gather.  We are His body.  We are His servants.  He is with us then.  Jesus’ first public sermon (John 3) was to the Jews about new life.  His last public sermon (John 12) is to the Greeks about life from death.
       Hellenism espoused the effort to realize the ideal human life consisting in enjoyment and escaping sacrifice, the fullness of personal life.  It’s all about me. On the other hand, Jesus’ teaching,  “The person who is in love with one’s own self ruins it, but the person who hates one’s this-worldly self preserves one’s true self thereby into deep, lasting Life.”  
 
“He who loves his life loses it…”
 
 
-Click-
The Rt. Rev. Peter Johs, bishop of the diocese of Malek
in South Sudan; 42,000 Anglicans; provincial secretary.
       He lives in a village with no running water or electricity and visits  his people via bicycle because to have a car would distance him too much from his poor and starving people.
Meet him here at New Covenant Good Friday.
 
“but if it dies it bears much fruit…”
 
 
-Click-
       Sometimes, from time to time, whether far away, as with the men above, or here at home in our local community, we get to linger with and rub elbows with God’s servants, even on Sundays!
Blessings to You All,

We Are the Temple

March 9th, 2018 by

Dear Friends,

Some of you asked for the slides from the last Sunday’s sermon, so here they are.  For some reason you can click through them a lot faster than I did at the service.  Perhaps it’s because you don’t have to say, “Click” for each one, and/or because I have abbreviated the stories a good bit?

As we are the Temple, this is part of who we are in Christ, how our heavenly Father sees us, and what the Holy Spirit wants to do in us and through us.  Enjoy.

We are_the Temple

Right before the verse where these slides begin, v.8, “Then have them make a sanctuary for me, and I will dwell among them,”  the Lord says to Moses:  “Tell the Israelites to bring me an offering. You are to receive the offering for me from each man whose heart prompts him to give.  These are the offerings you are to receive from them: gold, silver and bronze;  …  Ex. 25:2-3 

And Jesus says to us… Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.   Luke 12:33-34  

I bring this up because the offering that was brought for the Temple of New Covenant last month was just a bit more than half of what was budgeted. We pray it’s an anomaly. For example, January was almost on budget.  Thank you for your support and helping build his temple here.

Blessings to you all,

Friday Epistle for March 2, 2018

March 2nd, 2018 by
TEMPLE CLEANING

This past Wednesday morning as I was getting things together for the Lenten noonday service, I noticed that our decanter of Holy Water was almost empty. So, after filling it, I said the prayers below over the water making the sign of the cross where indicated.

Sunday morning during communion and prayer ministry, I gave someone a small bottle of Holy Water and said, “This should solve the problem.” Over the years I have seen Holy Water cleanse rooms, attics, garages, entryways etc. (Ask Canon Christopher). It beats 409.

The prayers below come from an old MANUAL FOR PRIESTS. They are, indeed, a recipe for Holy Water. We use them, along with prayers for the exorcism and blessing of salt, when we do a house blessing.

It’s not the only thing used for cleaning a temple, and physical space temples are not the only temples in need of cleaning, but it is a good place to begin.

Let us pray. (Exorcism of the water) I adjure thee, O creature of water, in the Name of God the Father + Almighty, in the Name of Jesus + Christ, his Son, our Lord, and by the power of the Holy + Ghost, that thou become water exorcised for putting to flight all the power of the enemy, and do thou avail to cast out and send hence that same enemy, with all his apostate angels: through the power of the Same our Lord Jesus Christ, who shall come to judge the quick and the dead, and the world by fire. Amen.

Let us pray. (Blessing of the water) O God, Who for the salvation of mankind hast ordained that the substance of water should be used in one of thy chiefest Sacraments: favourably regard us who call upon thee, and pour the power of thy bene+diction upon this element, made ready by careful cleansing; that this thy creature, meet for thy mysteries, may receive the effect of divine grace, and so cast out devils, and put sickness to flight, that whosoever in the dwellings of thy faithful people shall be sprinkled with this water, may be made free from all uncleanness and delivered from all manner of hurt; there let no spirit of pestilence abide, nor any corrupting air: thence let all the wiles of the hidden enemy depart; and if there be aught that layeth snares against the peace or safety of them that dwell in the house, let it fly before the sprinkling of this water, so that the health which they seek through calling upon thy holy Name may be protected against all things that threaten it. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Blessings to You All,

 

****P.S. – If anyone has thoughts or feedback on Jon Ritner, we would love to hear it! Please reply to this epistle with any reflections. Thank you!
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Friday Epistle for February 23, 2018

February 23rd, 2018 by
I said Alleluia on Sunday. It was accidental, but loud.
If there is a recording, you would know it was me. I had some ready excuses, mitigating circumstances, other exemplars of the wrong around me, but in the end, I did it.
Lent, just four days old, now wrecked and done.
Ash Wednesday begins the season with this call from the Church to its members.
I invite you, therefore, in the name of the Church, to the observance of a holy Lent, by self-examination and repentance; by prayer, fasting, and self-denial; and by reading and
meditating on God’s holy Word. And, to make a right beginning of repentance, and as a mark of our mortal nature, let us now kneel before the Lord, our maker and redeemer.
Observing, keeping, or watching as Lent unfolds can be daunting. A goal of a “holy” Lent raises the stakes even higher.
The Church (i.e. the gathered, distilled and proven collective wisdom of those who have traveled this Easter road before us) offer us a set of practices or tools to observe this Lent more fully. The primary one comes at the invitation’s end- to kneel before the Lord. This makes sense not just for Lent, but year round. He is our
maker (he knows us inside and out and understands exactly how we are) and our
redeemer (he loves us and moves towards us in merciful grace through Jesus Christ)
Once we are in a position of humble acknowledgment that God knows us and loves us, we are freed to make use of the other tools provided. These tools are not to be used to fool God with our piety or busy-ness (He is our Creator) or to earn His love through sanctity or accomplishment (He is our Redeemer)
Self-examination, Repentance, Prayer, Fasting, Self-denial, Reading and Meditating on God’s holy Word. Quite a list from which to choose- engaging in word, worship and prayer for the sake of knowing Christ and ourselves better as we begin moving towards Jesus’ Passion and Easter.

But, what if Lent’s great design is thwarted by an ill-timed Easter acclamation, or a bag of M&Ms, or a thought, word, or deed left either done or undone?
It need not be.
Remember, Lent is a tool, not a rule.
Lent, and the other helpful patterns of formation are, in the words of Anglican theologian Martin Thornton “not intended for legalists.” Dallas Willard writes that the spiritual disciplines are “not righteousness, but wisdom”. They don’t make us better because we do them, they make us better because we use them.
As you worship on Sunday, it is good to lay aside the Alleluia so that its vocalization builds like steam in a boiler, ready to billow on Easter morning. It can be good to lay aside simple pleasures for the sake of cultivating and recognizing our appetites and desires as a way to remind us to pray or to give.
As you enter into Lent, here are two upcoming ways you might align yourself with the way that leads to Christ’s cross and resurrection.
On Wednesdays during Lent, join Bishop Carl in the church at 12 for “He Chose the Nails” by Max Lucado and noonday prayer.
This Wednesday evening at [TIME] , February 28
th, join us here at the church as we welcome Pastor Jon Ritner for an evening of conversation about reaching secularized people with the good news of the gospel. He will draw on his experiences as part of the staff of a megachurch here in the US, as well as a missionary to Belgium and now serving as pastor of a church in Hollywood California.
Join us on Sunday morning at 9am as we study Starting Over: Your Life Beyond Regrets. We will meet in the Parish Hall for breakfast and conversation around this Lenten Study. Other small groups using the book are taking place through the parish as well.
We hope that these and other opportunities will allow you to enter into the blessings of a holy Lent, imperfectly but intentionally, on our way together towards Easter morning.
See you Sunday,
Christopher+
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Friday Epistle for February 16, 2018

February 16th, 2018 by
SENSELESS
        Four died and nine were injured on May 4, 1970. It was a protest at Kent State University against the invasion of Cambodia by US forces. I was in seminary then and wrote a paper around that event for both my ethics and theology courses. From either angle, you couldn’t make sense of it.
                                i.          Why?
                              ii.           What happened?
                            iii.            Who was at fault?
Senseless!
The Parkland High School massacre, 17 dead and 15 wounded, happening on Ash Wednesday, both remind us of our mortality, but really… I still can’t answer the questions and I hurt and I’m angry! I don’t know what else to be.
Senseless!
         Parkland and Kent State, two very different situations and the same senseless waste! I suppose it helps us with the existential acceptance of evil, the depth of the fall of humanity, and total depravity, whatever that is? Perhaps this! And this is getting all too common.
         After listening to people on TV tell me why this is escalating and comparing stats of how many soldiers pulled triggers in WW1 for point blank killings to how many more did in the Vietnam War, my fear for our children, and children’s children, and wondering how much worse can it get, and so on and so on – if we had no other reason to fast and take Lent seriously, well here it is!
        One person on TV this morning (Thursday) said, “Condolences, we are going to hear again condolences! Condolences without action are meaningless! We need to do something!”
What?
         I think condolences are okay, and/but I think our Lord Jesus would agree with this TV talk show hostess, without action… we need to do something!

Looking at the passages for Sunday, I have been asking myself, and now you:

 

i.”What are we saved for?”

 

ii.”Is there a purpose to our salvation, to getting through the waters?”

 

iii.”What is it we are supposed to be doing with our salvific status?”

 

Jesus is unrelenting on his answer to this question.
Come Sunday.
          And I believe he shed the first tear and perhaps, as he is alpha and omega, will shed the last, whenever that is, over the horror of this past Ash Wednesday afternoon.
Lord have mercy.
Christ have mercy.
Lord have mercy.
May the blessing, mercy, and grace of God Almighty, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, be upon us all,

Friday Epistle February 9, 2018

February 9th, 2018 by
The Mission Continues

The gospel of Jesus has been reaching across countries, cultures and conversations since his first announcement that God’s kingdom was here. In his words and deeds; in his person and mission.

      Jesus’ commission had been prophesied by God’s servants the prophets in the Old Testament, and affirmed in his baptismal waters at the Jordan River. Magi offered gifts and homage as recognition that Christ’s birth was the turning point in history, for Israel and for the world. In Epiphany, we have traced his steps. He ascends this week to the Mount of Transfiguration, and then surprises us with his call to mission.
Jesus continued this mission in his own ministry, then expanded it in the initial missions of the twelve and seventy and then to the disciples on the day of his return to heaven. Sending the Holy Spirit to the initially gathered one hundred and twenty only expanded the mission, sweeping past the earlier barriers that God had allowed so that they could one day fall in recognition of Christ’s role as King of Kings and Lord of Lord’s. Through the courageous and crusty apostles, their helpers and converts and disciples along the way, the early church sought the empowering of the Holy Spirit to live into the mantle left by Christ, the head of the Church.

      And the mission continued. The history of the church is not narrated with the same inspiration and summation that we get in the books of the New Testament, and the faults and errors of the Christian past have caused many to reject the slow spread of the faith as evidence of its failure and look to some more recent “restoration” or restart. This is a mistake.

      The history of the church does trace the spread of the good news. In its pages and testimonies, we see the Lord’s providence and guarding of His Body, and countless opportunities when faithful women and men took risks for the Lord’s sake. For the fame of Christ, they initiated conversations with their neighbors, bore persecution for their beliefs, said goodbye to their families and friends, served even their captors, started tract societies and utilized every form of conveyance to reach the corners of the world.
     Why? So that those who have not yet heard may hear what St Paul wrote to Bishop Timothy back when the church was young. “This is a true saying and worthy of all men to be received, That Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.”
The mission continues. As faith in Christ spread around the world, it has also been the mission of the Great Commission to apply the message of Jesus and the grace of Jesus to the hearts and lives of individuals and families, communities and nations. Good news for the world is also good news for mothers and fathers, for the unemployed and for the elderly, for the student and for the prisoner.
The good news of Jesus Christ arrived on these shores in the boats and hearts of settlers, both clergy and individual Christians who wanted the spread of peoples to be both strengthened and chastened with the spread of true Christian faith.

Here is another look at the first priest at Jamestown.

As a native North Carolinian, I was taught in the fourth grade (and again in the eighth grade) the names of the first two people baptized in the New World. I am still learning the significance of this poignant joining of the Croatan Chief Manteo and baby Virginia Dare, granddaughter of Colonial Governor John White around a Christian font on two August Sundays in 1587.  These first two baptisms point us to the marvel of Christian mission, Anglican and otherwise. Reaching out and reaching forward are the same gospel muscles.

     Extending Christ’s fame across boundaries and generations is the inheritance and call of all who bear his name. The many missionaries, missions and ministries our parish has the privilege of partnering with has given many of us the same chance to use those gospel muscles. For decades, God has blessed our parish with strong apostolic-minded mission leaders, once-in- a-lifetime friends, and connections that reach into homes and people groups throughout the world. And these blessings remind us of how big the world is, and how Christ powerfully unites us to those who are as unique as Baby Virginia and Chief Manteo.
Join us this Sunday with Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration to see how his insistence of finding the right moment makes all Christian mission possible, and grants us the opportunity to share with him in his inheritance of nations.
See you Sunday,
Christopher+

Friday Epistle for February 2, 2018

February 2nd, 2018 by
Dear Friends,
Tonight and tomorrow we will be looking at how the Word of God, Worship and Prayer can shape our lives as followers of Jesus.
Here is a quote from RUN WITH THE HORSES – THE QUEST FOR LIFE AT ITS BEST by Eugene Peterson on scripture, and a short piece reflecting on the prayer life of Jesus.
Blessings to you all!
“Jehoiakim with his penknife is a parody of all who attempt to  Scripture, who attempt to bring it under control and reduce it to something manageable. Scripture cannot be . It is God’s word calling us to a personal response. The word of God addresses us, calls us into being. The only appropriate response is a reverent answering. It is always more than we are, always previous to us, always over us.” P.130
Learning from Jesus’ Jewish Prayer Life
It’s good to have a taste of Jesus’ customs and culture, but as Christians, our goal is not to become more Jewish, but rather to become more like Jesus.
There is, however, one Jewish practice that all of us would benefit from, and that is adopting a type of Jewish prayer which can transform a person’s spiritual life. These have been used for thousands of years, even back to New Testament times.
What was this wonderful style of prayer? It is the habit of “blessing” the Lord. It is an attitude of continual thankfulness toward God that expresses itself through brief prayers that acknowledge him as the source of every good thing. It ultimately comes from the Scriptures, when Moses admonished the Israelites not to forget the Lord:
When you have eaten and are satisfied, you shall bless the LORD your God for the good land which He has given you. Beware that you do not forget the LORD your God…(Deut. 8:10-11)
It was easy for the Israelites to cling to God in the desert, but very easy to forget God when times got better and they prospered in the Promised Land. The cure, according to the rabbis, was to continually remind themselves of God’s care by uttering a short prayer of thanks, to “bless the Lord.”
This pervasive act of prayer kept God’s presence and love continually on their minds. Jesus and Paul both would have practiced it, and Paul may have had it in mind when he told Christians to “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances” (1 Thes. 5:16-18).
A Practice from Before Jesus’ Time
Before the time of Christ, the Jews developed a number of short blessings to be said whenever the occasion arises, in addition to saying longer prayers in the morning and evening. Some of them are now prayed in the daily synagogue service. Modern custom begins all of them by saying, “Blessed are you, oh Lord our God, King of the Universe.”
The idea is not to bless objects and people, in our usual Christian sense of the word, but to bless the Lord, with the understanding that we are focusing on him as the source of all blessing. The word for bless, barak also means “to kneel,” suggesting that when we bless God, we mentally bow on our knees to worship him.
In Jesus’ day the first line was probably just “Blessed is he,” but the rabbis felt it was important to be reminded that God is King over us in order to “receive on ourselves the Kingdom of God,” so they added the rest of the line later. So in these prayers we mentally kneel toward God, remind ourselves of his goodness, and that he is our King.