Second Lent, Sunday, February 28, 2021

By Rev. Christopher Potter, Vicar

No longer shall your name be Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you the ancestor of a multitude of nations. Genesis 17: 5

     The change of name for Abram was subtle; it went from “father” to “father of many.” The promise made to Abram was that despite having a scandalous heir as his legacy (Abraham’s first son was Ishmael, conceived with Hagar, his wife’s Egyptian maid), he would be blessed and become the father of children too numerous to number. Since Abram already had a child, a son, the promise made by God might better be seen as a covenant with Sarai, as it was SHE who gave birth to the first of billions, despite the judgment that she was barren and too old. By the way, Sarai got a name change, too!
The changing of names has significance for us to consider. Such a change implies that an authentic encounter with God results in a change that strikes deep at our identity. I’m not referring to the encounter with God at our baptism alone, but the repeated encounters we have that challenge the way we see things, the way we are in relationship with others.
A measure of the authenticity of an encounter with the Divine is precisely that it changes our identity. By “identity,” I mean the way we look at the world, and the way we construct a reality to fit that personality. When an identity is formed around a God who is punitive and demanding, for example, I might see the world through that lens exclusively. I construct a worldview that harmonizes what I believe about God and the negative events that happen in the world. When such an identity changes, we might then construct a new vision and perceive negative events as the consequences of an imperfect universe, for example.
I bring all this up because for me, being called to be part of the life of St. John’s Community was – and is – a life-changing encounter with God. I believe that God has called all of us to be part of this community at this time. We are blessed by our relationships here, and inspired by the Holy Spirit to work as one on the Mission of this place. What changed in me was the loss of what was family before (the previous parishes in which I participated), and I gained a new identity as a member of THIS particular family of God. For me, this happens at every new parish in which I participate: in a way, God changes who my family is and calls me to love a new family.
Parish life should change us. It opens an identity as part of a new family; and perhaps a family like we’ve never had before. In this family, I am challenged to be authentic, honest, open, and loving. Asked of me is integrity, compassion, forgiveness, and reliability. Perhaps different than other family systems or organizations in which we have taken part, we can’t get by with isolating from each other, speaking badly about each other, or assembling fractious groups who will help spread my discontent and anxiety.
A relationship with a healthy parish family encourages change in us at our core; not because we make deals with each other, but because it is an encounter with the Divine. We love and support each other through pandemics, disagreements, death, and disappointments, not because it is easy, but because God has called us to this place and God makes us stronger in the effort.
When we become upset and angry (an expected part of living in community), our commitment and bonds to each other does not allow us to walk away from this family, as doing so diminishes the bonds that exist between us and hinders the processes of our growth. Treating family as disposable tends to make others suspicious of family relationships. Instead, the grace of God becomes available to us and empowers us to be the people of integrity and honesty that God has created by our common bond, common vision, and common work. We learn how to speak our truths, respond with forgiveness, and acknowledge when we are in error.
There are Lenten practices that help us navigate these rough times. Contemplation, observing a discipline of intentional and regular prayer, learning about the sacred art of listening, reading about healthy communities – can affirm the call to community that originates from God. These same skills will help us interpret the pandemic and the quarantine we are enduring in a different light: rather than hindering relationship and availability, the time apart can become empowering, helping us discover God’s encounter with you in the recesses of your soul.
As we journey through Lent, consider that you have been called by God to be a member of the family of St. John’s. This is significant. Recognizing the enormous gift that is this community can be the start of a life-altering path that promises to give us a new name and a new identity. ⬛️ 

Our online regular online gatherings for this week — Sunday, February 28 through Saturday, March 6 — are below. If you aren’t on my Saturday e-blast that contains the worship links, email me and I’ll add you.
• Sunday, Monday, Wednesday, Friday Morning Prayer, 9 a.m. Here’s the worship bulletin for Sunday, February 28.
• Adult Forum, Sunday, 11 a.m. Part one of a four-part series, “In thought, word, and deed: a Lenten exploration of our moral tradition.” Our guest leader is Linda Allport who will survey a selection of ideas from our Judeo-Christian heritage. We’ll explore Jewish theology, excerpts from the Gospels & the Epistles of Paul as well as ideas from early and modern Christian thought. Together we’ll learn how these threads pull together and influence our 21st century Christian ethic. If you didn’t receive my Saturday e-blast, please email Linda for link.
• Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday Evening Prayer, 8 p.m.
• Bible Fellowship Wednesdays, 6 p.m.

Children’s Ministry News:
“Hi —  I’m Corey Gonsalves, Director of St. John’s Children’s Ministry.
Today I’m sharing the link to our second Sunday in Lent Godly Play story. This particular story is all about 12-year-old Jesus. I believe your children will enjoy this lesson and I encourage you to participate in the “I Wonder” questions at the end of the video.

“We have a craft project for our kiddos for the week of March 22. If you’d like your child to jump into our next art/craft project, let me know so I can get a head count. Thanks! When the craft supplies are ready to be picked up or dropped off I’ll let you know. Here’s a project hint: it involves Spring and Easter. The Valentines for Jesus turned out so cute I can’t wait to do another project!”

My (Rev. Christopher) Zoom office hours are Tuesdays at 10 a.m. Here’s my Zoom link.

Rev. Karen’s Zoom office hours are Thursdays at 10 a.m. Here’s Rev. Karen’s Zoom link.

In the name of Jesus,