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Last Sunday's Sermon

The Gospel

John 17:6-19

Looking up to heaven, Jesus prayed, "I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world. They were yours, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything you have given me is from you; for the words that you gave to me I have given to them, and they have received them and know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. I am asking on their behalf; I am not asking on behalf of the world, but on behalf of those whom you gave me, because they are yours. All mine are yours, and yours are mine; and I have been glorified in them. And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one. While I was with them, I protected them in your name that you have given me. I guarded them, and not one of them was lost except the one destined to be lost, so that the scripture might be fulfilled. But now I am coming to you, and I speak these things in the world so that they may have my joy made complete in themselves. I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. I am not asking you to take them out of the world, but I ask you to protect them from the evil one. They do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify myself, so that they also may be sanctified in truth."

The Sermon

This gospel reading is set just before Jesus is captured by the soldiers and sent to Pilate to be crucified. It is a long prayer of praise and supplication to God the Father. In his prayer Jesus talks about his unity with the Father and how he is not of this world. Jesus petitions God to protect his disciples when he is gone because he knows what lies ahead for them.

He says, “ I am not asking you to take them out of the world, but I ask you to protect them from the evil one....As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify myself, so that they also may be sanctified in truth.”

I consider myself a follower of Jesus but I do not always feel protected from the evil one (whoever that is). Sometimes I think I would like to just be protected from myself. As I was pondering this whole thing about the evil one I started reflecting on my study of meditation. The purpose of spiritual meditation is to become one with God. The translation of the word Yoga is to be yoked with God, to become one with God.

One of the first things you are taught when you learn to meditate is that the mind is a very undisciplined beast. It wants to go here and there and everywhere. The task in meditation is to rein it in but not in any severe kind of way. In meditation you focus on one spiritual thought and the undisciplined mind will look for all kinds of distractions.(did I turn off the lights downstairs? Did I take my medicine? What is on the agenda for tomorrow?) Every time the mind wants to go in another direction you gently bring it back to that one spiritual thought. In a ten or twenty minute meditation the mind may look for distractions in a hundred different ways but you always gently bring it back.

Eventually, the mind gives up and for a brief moment in time you are rewarded with a sense of God's presence. You are focused. You are in the moment. It is such an all consuming feeling that you really do feel otherworldly. Of course, you must come back.

We do live in a physical world that has so many distractions. Our task is to live in this world and attend to the needs the world. At the same time we must never lose our moral compass. It is a lot like learning to meditate. You get distracted. You bring yourself back. You get distracted again. You bring yourself back again. The world is filled with all kinds of pressing matters that can send us off course. gentle on your self but at the same time bring back into focus where you really want to be on this spiritual journey. That is the truth of Jesus message and the promise that by following his teaching of love we too are one with the Father.

Fr. Fred

Ascension Day

Image result for the ascension of christ dali

Today is forty days after Easter Sunday and it is the day in which we celebrate Jesus ascension into Heaven.  I checked on a fun facts page and here are some of the things I found.

The ascension is affirmed in the Apostles, Nicene, and Athanasion creeds.

Ascension Island, an island in the south Atlantic, was discovered on Ascension Day in 1503.

Luke's gospel says it took place around Bethany and the Book of Acts says the Mount of Olives.

It is a tradition that the Amish go fishing on Ascension Day.

The inspiration for the Salvador Dali painting, The Ascension of Christ, (above) came to him in a cosmic dream eight years before he painted it.

If you live in England you might participate in the "beating of the bounds" which involves circling the church boundaries and praying at different stations as you go.

Happy Ascension Day!
Fr. Fred

Last Sunday's Sermon

The Gospel

John 15:9-17

Jesus said to his disciples, "As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love. I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.
"This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father. You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name. I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another."

The Sermon

Love and Mothers: One of and probably the first person to love you was your mother. Think back at some experience you had with your mother. I know my mother loved me even though she was a very troubled person. She used to call my brother Bob and I her little boys, even when we were a good five inches taller than her. Whenever she would use that phrase I knew it was a term of endearment.

When I was little, probably seven or eight, she would let me spend time listening to the radio in my parents' bedroom before I would have to go to my own bed. One of the family favorites was the Bickersons. It was probably because one of the main characters in the radio program was Don Ameche. He was my uncle Leo's roommate in college.

When you are part of what would today be called a large family, spending alone time with a parent is a pretty big deal. I think these are important bonding times. They are times when the love a parent has for a child can really be shown. There were a lot of bad times in our household but the times I remember most are times like that. I loved my mother and she loved me. I only wish I had told her so more often.

I would like for some of you too share something that your mother did for you. Lets just make it a conversation. I remember that when my mother changed the sheets on my bed she always put some fragrant powder on the pillow. I loved it.

In our reading, Jesus talks again about love. He also talks about friendship. Are these two things different. I really don't think so. I think love and friendship are intertwined. 

Jesus talks to his disciples and says, “Love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends.” He continues, “You are my friends if you do what I command you.”

I struggle some with that statement. It sounds like conditional friendship to me, “you are my friends if you do what I command you” but if you turn this around in your head it makes sense. People who show love for others are Jesus friends. People who do not show love are not. When you show love for your fellow man, your relationship with God deepens. When you turn away from your fellow man, you turn away from God as well. 

I think Jesus is saying that when you are choosing to not love your neighbor you have made a choice to not love him and you have chosen to not be Jesus' friend. God and God's creation are connected. Remember the metaphor of the gardener, the vine, the branches and the fruit? If God lives in you and you live in God then the bond of friendship and love will be strong. When you choose to live in God, you will also find God's peace.