Twelfth Sunday After Pentecost, Sunday, August 23, 2020

Beloved of God:

Don’t you find it affirming how often the Bible quotes the Book of Common Prayer?

In the reading this weekend from a letter to the Church in Rome, Paul writes: “I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.”

This is a direct quote from one of our Offertory Sentences (page 376) that invites us to come the altar with our entire bodies, acknowledging that our physical nature is beautiful and acceptable as a living sacrifice to God. There is no room for equivocation. There is no condemnation of our bodies, as some would have us believe. There is only recognition that our bodies are a holy means by which we approach God through our worship and our service.

Of course, I know that the BCP is quoting Paul, but let’s keep this close to the vest; let’s keep it to ourselves. What would be next, Episcopalians reading the scriptures on their own? Oh yeah! We already are doing THAT!

From the Gospel this weekend, in her return to the pulpit from a short vacation, Reverend Karen will offer us a life-changing reflection. In Matthew’s story tomorrow, Jesus is testing his relationship with his disciples. He asks them flat out: “Who do YOU say that I am?” He must have known what ‘the crowds’ were saying about him, but he wanted to know how his closest friends were connecting to him and to his message. Jesus — and perhaps Matthew — is aware of the looming crisis for Jesus when his physical body will no longer be present to the world. “How will they remember me? What will be my legacy,” Jesus was wondering?

It was Peter’s proclamation that sets the course for the disciples and for us today. When he professes, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God,” you’d be forgiven for congratulating Peter. However, Jesus makes it clear that this statement of faith — that faith itself — is not an insightful or unique thought of Peter’s, but a gift from the Creator. “Heaven and earth have not revealed this to you, but GOD has!” Jesus reminds us that the revelation — our awareness — of God’s workings in creation, comes from God and always has!

As we look around and see the world in chaos, with a pandemic, fires, tornadoes, political unrest, racial tension, and families being tossed from their homes, we might wonder where God God is in all this. Where is our rescue? The temptation is to abandon faith, to surrender to hopelessness and to lose all courage.

The answer, for those who are in relationship with the Divine, is that God, the one who brings resurrection out of death and who created the universe out of nothing, is still working in and around us. It is the very stirrings within us which struggle with faith, the crying out for hope and the deep hunger to gather as a community and celebrate the Bread of Life that evidences God’s eternal presence with us.

I’m happy to point out that the tears welling up inside us even as we are relegated to two-dimensional worship, and which flow when we see others in need — are a gift inspired by the presence of God in our hearts. This is God’s gift keeping our hope, our faith alive in these uncertain times! Shopping for one another, making telephone calls to friends, praying for one another are all responses to the gift of faith that God plants in all of us.

God is not far from us. We feel the movement of God’s Spirit every day when we attend to it. We are bound to God and to each other — to one by the gift of faith — to the other by the gift of our actions.

I am aware, family of God, that some of us — our neighbors, maybe our family members — soon could be facing eviction. Next month the exemptions and rent relief designed for those whose employment was jeopardized because of COVID come to an end. Aside from fighting the injustices at issue (for both renters and landlords alike), your parish is prepared and preparing to meet this crisis directly. Though ‘thoughts and prayers’ are good, so is rental assistance, food, a phone, clothing, and diapers. St. John’s is in position to respond to this imminent crisis, and we are looking to you for more assistance. Our sister BJ Sullivan is lending us her expertise and her insights as to how we can respond effectively to people homeless or at risk of losing their home.

I invite you to acknowledge the gift of God that is stirring in your soul. Examine if you are being asked to respond to God’s gift as a living sacrifice in a particular way towards helping families at risk of being forced to live on the street: financial support, direct rent subsidies, gifts of food or clothing, professional assistance, or any other gift you have to offer. Please let us know how you can help by emailing or calling the office — 949.888.4595.

“We are in this together” comes to mean so much more when we discover it is God’s gift of presence that unites us and it is the same which moves us to care so much for each other.

Due to the high temperatures, our Saturday worship time has changed from 5 to 6:30 p.m. until further notice. We meet in the fountain courtyard next on Saturday, August 29 at 6:30 p.m. for Eucharist. Sign-ups for in-person worship go live on our website’s home page Monday mornings at 9 a.m. We follow protocols recommended by the State of California, from temperature-taking and answering a brief questionnaire about your general health, to social distancing and making available sanitation stations.

Our schedule of ZOOM services remains the same:
• Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Friday, we pray Morning Prayer at 9 a.m.
• Nighttime Prayer is prayed on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday at 8 p.m.
• Bible Fellowship (open to all) continues on Wednesday evenings at 6 p.m.

The worship bulletin for Sunday, August 23 is here.

To ensure participants’ online security, we don’t publish worship service ZOOM links; if you did not receive the church-wide email from me with the links, and would like to attend services, please email me and I’ll add you to the e-blast, and send you the links.

All ZOOM services since mid-March are posted under the “Miss a Service?” button on the website’s home page. Search for a service you missed and get caught up. Go have a look:

Rev. Karen and I offer separate group ZOOM office hours each week. My time is Tuesday morning from 10-11 a.m. Should you need a one-on-one session, just reach out and we’ll get something scheduled. Here is the link to my group office hour.

Rev. Karen and I will be in Teacher Orientation this Thursday, so her office hours are canceled.

We continue our prayers for St. John’s School, the students, parents, Mr. McHonett, and all staff who await word of the results from our application to open the school in September.

God’s peace be with us all, Christopher+