Sunday, May 31, 2009

The Wearing of the Red

I've found it rather interesting that after Easter, all of our readings are coming from the New Testament, rather than having an Old Testament reading along with a New Testament reading. And today, celebrating Pentacost, we are very strongly reminded of how God comes among us - as fire and wind.

We saw this in the burning bush with Moses, with the pillar of flame that guided the Jews through the desert, and once again we see what Christ refers to as "The Spirit of Truth" which will always be with those who follow Christ's word: "John 14:15: “If you love me, you will obey what I command. 16And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever— 17the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you."

That last verse could be considered a reflection of the very creation of Mankind when God breathed the Spirit of Life into man, making it a part of our very nature, as natural to us as taking a breath. All we must do is be willing to listen - and at Pentacost, that breath may become the very fire of creativity that we see occurring throughout history.

So perhaps wearing red is a good reminder to us to allow the Spirit of Truth to fire us up, remind us of the creative breath of life we each have, that we may better serve God.

Substitute for Judas Iscariot

I'm a bit behind, so this is about last week's lesson - the replacement for Judas. The disciples got together and decided that 12 were needed to fulfill all of the ministry the Christ had left for them, and two names were put forward to replace Judas: Barsabbas, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias. We know from the accounts that after drawing lots, Matthias was selected and became the 12 apostle.

Now, from here, we learn: "bar-sab-'as (Ioudas Barsabbas): Judas was, with Silas, a delegate from the church in Jerusalem to the GentileChristians of Antioch, Syria and Cilicia. They were appointed to convey the letter containing the decision of "the apostles and the elders, with the whole church" regarding the attitude to be taken by GentileChristians toward the Mosaic law, and also to explain "the same things by word of mouth." They accompanied Paul and Barnabas to Antioch, and, "being themselves also prophets," i.e. preachers, they not only handed over the epistle but stayed some time in the city preaching and teaching. They seem to have gone no farther than Antioch, for "they were dismissed in peace from the brethren unto those that had sent them forth," and it was Paul and Silas who some time afterward strengthened the churches in Syria and Cilicia (Acts 15:40,41).
According to Acts 15:34 the King James Version, Judas returned to Jerusalem without Silas, who remained at Antioch and afterward became Paul's companion (Acts 15:40). The oldest manuscripts, however, omit Acts 15:34, and it is therefore omitted from the Revised Version (British and American). It was probably a marginal note to explain Acts 15:40, and in time it crept into the text. Judas and Silas are called "chief men among the brethren" (15:22), probably elders, and "prophets" (15:32).
Barsabbas being a patronymic, Judas was probably the brother of Joseph Barsabbas. He cannot be identified with any other Judas, e.g. "Judas not Iscariot" (Jn 14:22). We hear no more of Judas after his return to Jerusalem (Acts 15:22 ff).
S. F. Hunter"

So, even while not chosen to be among the 12 apostles, Judas continued on to serve the church, assisting Paul. We can look on this as an example for ourselves, in that, while we may not be chosen to lead, we are still followers of Christ, able to contribute, each in our own way, to spread the word. I thought Barsabbas to be the most interesting person of the lesson.

Monday, May 4, 2009

The answer is The Cross

The Bishop came to visit our little church for his annual visit, and to talk with us about our search for a new parish priest. He gave us a bit of direction and we'll work on finding some answers.

In the meantime, he gave a very interesting sermon, starting with the time of the Second Great Awakening in the 1830s, and how that had a very significant impact on how religion in the United States in particular was shaped. It was at that time that the experiential, emotional aspects of connecting to God were espoused and lauded, without so much emphasis being put on the actions that make us Christians. Rather than love being a feeling you can wrap around yourself, as a Christian, it should also be an action that assists people to improve themselves and go on to express their love in actions as well.

Today, we experience the rise and fall in church attendance -- not just as Episcopalians, but most all Christian churches are experiencing -- as people "shop" around for the best "show." How's the choir? Is the priest any good? Is the music modern or classical? How does the congregation dress? What, pray tell, does any of that have to do with being a good Christian?

So, the Bishop pointed out some of the questions that many non-Christians, or seeking Christians have:

How much does God care about our day to day lives?
Does He care about our deeds, that we sin or do good, that we fear hell and strive for heaven?
Is God truly a loving God?
Does He understand the sacrifices we make in our efforts to be good Christians?

The answer is the Cross.

In this time of focusing on the resurrection and rebirth of Christ, we also need to know, without doubt that God is there, caring for us, daily, because He truly understands what we're striving for. He's there to help, to listen, to inspire, and to hold us accountable for the choices we make. So let one of your questions, as you shop around for a good "show", be something along the lines of, what can *I* do to show God I understand all this?