All Saints' Episcopal Church
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Sundays -  Low Mass 8:00am;  Solemn Mass 10:30am 
Adult Christian Formation 9:30am   Sunday School 10:30am
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This Sunday and Beyond    Weekly Reflections:


The Search for Meaning

This Sunday and Beyond - March 26th, 2017
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As human beings, we all have at our deepest level a desire for understanding. From the biggest philosophical questions to the most mundane, we want to know “why?” The reason is that it gives us some control – not necessarily of what happens in our lives, but of how we experience it. With the right meaning or purpose, we’re Braveheart, willing to suffer and make all kinds of heroic sacrifices. Without it, the most minor things can easily ruin our day or week, but it’s even worse than that. If we can’t make sense of some major suffering, it can create wounds of hurt, bitterness, or resentment that can poison our whole lives. This Sunday’s gospel lesson shows us why God has put this natural search for meaning in us.
As they’re walking, the disciples attempt the condition of a man born blind by applying a notion of the time: that suffering came as the result of sin. But Jesus debunks that theory, saying that the man was born blind “that God’s works might be revealed through him,” and heals him. While this does provide important evidence of his Messiah-ship, this man’s suffering wasn’t just an opportunity for Jesus to show off. God always intends for his works to reveal that he loves us and wants us to be with him, though that’s not always clear right away. This is why Jesus doesn’t say that the man was born blind because “God loves him and all of us.” It can take us a while to get there and we see that played out in the rest of the story.
The man’s healing creates wonder and confusion in the people around him, and so they question him to try and make sense of what’s happened. Through this interrogation the man begins to work out for himself who Jesus really is, until eventually he’s driven out of the synagogue for his steadfast testimony. It’s at this point that he’s ready to be found by Jesus, and every moment of our lives is preparing us for the same thing.
Just like any good father, God wants us to fulfill our greatest potential, which comes from knowing his love and making it known, and so all the events of our lives have that love as their purpose. Of course, God also knows that in the midst of painful circumstances what we really need is to experience that message, not hear it. That’s why Jesus came to be with us in our misery and show us through his own life that no cross is greater than the love it produces.
Think about the various circumstances of your life and how you experience them. Do you ultimately judge them based on whether they’re pleasant or whether they’ve brought you closer to God? Ask the Holy Spirit to show you how to cooperate with what God is doing in your life and how to be present with those struggling over the same question.

Father McQueen

Readings for this Sunday - The Fourth Sunday in Lent
1 Samuel 16:1-13 Psalm 23 Ephesians 5:1-14 John 9:1-13, 28-38

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This Sunday and Beyond - March 19th, 2017
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In this Sunday’s opening prayer we’ll ask God to defend us from “all adversities which may happen to the body, and from all evil thoughts which may assault and hurt the soul,” which acknowledges something that makes all the difference in how we live our lives. Our physical bodies and the material world are great gifts that God has given us, and we should enjoy and care for them because they awaken and fill our souls to Him in an infinite number of ways.
One example of this is being inspired to buy music after going to a great concert. The outward experience of beauty and fellowship stirs our souls because they’re made to look forward to an unending communion with God, who is Beauty itself. That’s why no matter how good the album is, it doesn’t quite satisfy us, and that’s OK. The more aware we are of what our hearts are really after, the more we can enjoy the earthly experience for what it is instead of being disappointed by what it’s not. But if our bodies and souls aren’t on the same page, we can easily slip into simply searching out the experiences, which is like looking for what creates the thirst instead of what quenches it. The more things we try, the thirstier our souls get, and life can get dark and heavy very quickly, which is what we’re seeing in this week’s gospel reading.
The fact that this poor woman has suffered 5 failed marriages and is now living with someone else makes it pretty clear that she’s been searching for something for a long time without getting any closer to finding it. But as the conversation gets deeper and she realizes who Jesus really is, the thirst gets quenched and everything changes. We can see this most poignantly in her testimony: “Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done!” Before, everything she’d done had made her a social outcast and left her hopeless and broken, but now that Jesus has healed her, she wants to share those wounds with everyone she knows as a sign of hope.
Think about the great experiences of your life and your most cherished memories. Have you tried to recreate or share them and been left disappointed or frustrated? Take those experiences to God; thank Him for them and ask the Holy Spirit to show you what it was about them that really stirred your heart.
Think also about the not-so-great experiences of your life, things that really left you down. How did you respond to that hurt? Take those experiences to God and thank Him for them too (as best you can) and ask the Holy Spirit to make up what your heart was seeking and not finding in them.
Ask God to show you how to become like that woman at the well; leaving your jar behind, but going away filled with hope and joy to share with the world.
We often have similar struggles in trying to have an intimate conversation with Jesus, and so the purpose of Lent is to provide opportunities to slip away with him. Fasting and abstinence still our houses, quieting all the voices that compete for our attention, while extra prayer or spiritual reading are the ladder waiting outside the window. So no matter the darkness, don’t be afraid, be bold – go out into it with the fire of love, for you are not alone.


Father McQueen

Readings for this Sunday - The Third Sunday in Lent
Exodus 17:1-7 Psalm 95:6-11 Romans 5:1-11 John 4:5-42

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This Sunday and Beyond - March 12th, 2017
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My son Everett rarely wakes up before dawn and almost never before Sarah and me, so when he got up in the night to go to the bathroom earlier this week, and found the whole house dark, it was really disorienting for him. Our bedroom door was open, but it must have seemed like an awfully long way from his room to ours because I woke up to the sound of him sobbing, upset that he hadn’t been able to find us. Of course some wariness of the dark is natural, and it comes from feeling how vulnerable we are when we can’t see, as anyone who’s encountered strange sounds while taking out the garbage after dark can attest. But there’s also a deeper, emotional darkness that comes from feeling isolated and helpless in the face of some personal struggle, and in this Sunday’s gospel lesson (John 3:1-17), John gives hope to anyone in this kind of darkness.
St. John points out that Nicodemus, one of Jerusalem’s elite, has come to talk to Jesus “by night,” which connects this episode to one of his gospel’s main themes: darkness giving way to light, just as night is the period of the day before dawn. He wants to make it clear that no matter how deep the darkness of our lives is, it will always give way to the light because Jesus is with us in it. Even my own extremely inadequate example of rushing to be with Everett in his darkness only points to how much truer it must be of an all-powerful, all-loving God.
In his poem describing the soul’s journey to union with God, St. John of the Cross (d. 1591) turns how we perceive the darkness of our lives upside-down. In his story, it’s only when the house is dark and still that the lover, “fired with love’s urgent longings,” can slip out unnoticed to meet his beloved, making the night “glad” and “more lovely than the dawn.” We see this pattern with Nicodemus, who finds Jesus compelling and has to talk to him, but wouldn’t be able to come to him during the day without causing an uproar among his peers that would make deep conversation impossible.
We often have similar struggles in trying to have an intimate conversation with Jesus, and so the purpose of Lent is to provide opportunities to slip away with him. Fasting and abstinence still our houses, quieting all the voices that compete for our attention, while extra prayer or spiritual reading are the ladder waiting outside the window. So no matter the darkness, don’t be afraid, be bold – go out into it with the fire of love, for you are not alone.


Father McQueen

Readings for this Sunday - The Second Sunday in Lent
Genesis 12:1-8 Psalm 33:12-22 Romans 4:1-5, 13-17 John 3:1-171-11

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This Sunday and Beyond - March 5th, 2017
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One of the reasons I love the Book of Genesis is that it reads like an epic case study on the way sin impacts our relationship with God and our community, and in Sunday’s lesson we see how sin first entered the world. The story is familiar: God tells Adam that he’s free to eat of every tree in the garden but one. The serpent convinces Eve that this is unreasonable. Adam and Eve decide to eat the fruit, giving us the basic pattern for how sin always enters the world: (1) sin is proposed, (2) we’re either pleased or displeased, and (3) we consent to it or reject it. Since the pattern for temptation is always the same, we can learn a couple of things that are helpful in resisting it. The first is that our relationship with God must be loving and personal. Eve gets tripped up on the exact wording of the commandment pretty easily, but what causes her to fall is believing the lie that God was withholding something good, that he didn’t love them as much as he said. Regularly inviting God into our lives through prayer and studying scripture will deepen our relationship, so that when we encounter something that doesn’t belong, we’re able to sense it more quickly. This is vital because the other takeaway is that we’re not strong enough to fight temptation on our own. Eve never should’ve let the serpent engage her, though Adam (who’s been standing there the whole time!) shows us that inaction isn’t the answer either. Are we damned if we do and damned if we don’t? Not at all. St. Francis de Sales (d. 1622) taught that the critical choice is actually in step 2, deciding whether we’re pleased or displeased. Allowing temptation to hang around is playing with fire, so the sooner we can recognize and reject it, the better. When faced with temptation the best thing we can do is respond like the spiritual children Jesus tells us we must become (see Matthew 18:3-4, Mark 10:14-15). Because they know their weakness, whenever little children feel threatened they’re quick to run to whoever makes them feel safe, and St. Ignatius of Loyola (d. 1556) gives us a practical, concrete way to do this. He suggested that whenever we noticed the temptation, we can discretely put our hand over our heart and pray the Jesus Prayer: “O Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.” Making this a habit is a double blessing, as it not only will help us become more aware of where sin waits for us, but also help us to continually turn and invite Jesus into our lives instead.

Father McQueen

Readings for this Sunday - The First Sunday in Lent
Genesis 2:4b-9, 15-17, 25-3:7 Psalm 51:1-13 Romans 5;12-19 Matthew 4:1-11

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This Sunday and Beyond - February 26th, 2017
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We all know that rest and relaxation is vital for our well-being. Sometimes this comes in smaller, regular doses like a weekend or day off, while there are other times that we might need something more, an actual vacation. I think that “vacations” can take a lot of different forms because what’s really important is truly “vacating” or emptying some part of my life. For example, it doesn’t matter where I go or how long I’m gone if I have to bring my work with me – in fact, it’s more stressful than just being in the office getting it done! Renewal comes from creating space in our lives that isn’t usually there, and I think that’s especially important to understand as we prepare to enter Lent.
I realize that a penitential season imitating Jesus’ 40 days of fasting doesn’t fit the usual picture of a vacation, but it’s interesting to know that some saints and spiritual writers have actually described the Exodus (which Lent also recalls) as a kind of honeymoon! The reason is that God called both Jesus and Israel into the wilderness to experience a special kind of intimacy, made possible only by stripping all the usual cares and concerns. Obviously the Israelites didn’t experience it that way, and it was for the same reason we don’t always experience vacations as refreshing – because of what they brought with them.
One of my favorite descriptions of the Exodus is that “God brought the people out of bondage in an instant, but it took a lifetime to get the bondage out of the people.” They were alone with God and all their needs were met, a taste of heaven in some ways, but the pulls of their various desires, expectations, and woundedness kept drawing them away. That’s a universal experience, and so we enter the wilderness of Lent to create space through our prayer and fasting where we can meet God in a special way. Fasting can be unpleasant, but we do it to master our physical desires so they can’t pull us away from God. Setting aside extra time for prayer can be difficult, but we do it to build our capacity for God, fight laziness, and reorient the priorities of our hearts. Giving alms to the poor is just practicing love; depriving ourselves of something for the benefit of someone else.
If we’re not refreshed at Easter, just relieved to get back to “normal,” it’s because of what we’ve brought with us. Our fasting, prayer, and almsgiving have to be aimed at permanently freeing us to be with God or we’re just like the Israelites longing to return to Egypt. Jesus is calling us to come away with him to a lonely place (Mark 6:31), just as he did when the 12 disciples were in need of rest. What are the personal desires and expectations for your life that keep you from being present to him? What needs to be renewed? What needs to be left behind?

Father McQueen

Readings for this Sunday - The Last Sunday after the Epiphany
Exodus 24:12, 15-18 Psalm 99 Philippians 3:7-14 Matthew 17:1-9

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This Sunday and Beyond - February 19th, 2017
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Eternity’s Gate,
by Vincent Van Gogh (1890)
When we describe ourselves or someone else as “only human,” we usually mean for it to be a comfort. It’s a way of acknowledging our own limitations so that we don’t get discouraged or come down too hard on someone else. Remembering that we’re not God, dealing with our imperfections, and being merciful with those of others all seem to fit right in with the spiritual life. Why then, in the midst of describing how we’re supposed to live, does Jesus say, “Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect”? Because God didn’t create us to be “only human,” and we see this “in the beginning.”
God created us to love and be loved by him in a relationship so intimate that God breathes into Adam his own “breath of life.” This is more than biological; it’s what makes Adam a “living soul,” different from everything else God has created (see Genesis 2:7). When Adam and Eve eat of the tree, it’s their sin that separates them from God, and they’re sent out of his presence to live in the world as “only human.” The joy of the gospel message is that God doesn’t leave us flawed and broken, but sends his own son, Jesus Christ, to reconcile us and show us what it means to live as fully human.
Though Jesus is fully God, he suffered in all the same ways we do, except for sin; pain, fatigue, hunger, thirst, which all present opportunities for temptation, just as they do for us. What makes him fully human is that he offers it all to God the Father and the Holy Spirit makes up the difference. God isn’t glorified when our lives look the same as everyone else’s, and so Jesus calls us to a radical love of God and our neighbor that points to something greater at work. We have a perfect example in Acts 3, where a lame man asks Peter and John for alms. Instead of replying that he didn’t have any cash (like I’ve done so many times), Peter replies,
“I have no silver and gold, but I give you what I have; in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk,” and the man leaps to his feet!
God doesn’t want us to be burdened by our imperfections, but he also wants us to know that they don’t define who we are – “only human.” Jesus shows us that our limits are opportunities for God to share his life with us – we hunger so that he can feed us, we question so that he can teach us. Jesus himself even dies so that when we die we can have new life in him. God tells St. Paul, “My power is made perfect in weakness” (see 2 Corinthians 12:9), so don’t let any struggle or failure keep you from running to God – those are the places in your life he’s longing to enter.

Father McQueen

Readings for this Sunday - The Seventh Sunday after The Epiphany
Leviticus 19:1-2, 9-18 Psalm 71:16-24
1 Corinthians 3:10-11, 16-23 Matthew 5: 38-48

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This Sunday and Beyond - February 12th, 2017
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Any time we go out into the world we have to constantly make decisions on how to interact with the people around us. While the way we treat people should honor the equal dignity we all share, the level of relationship determines what that looks like. For example, the best way I can honor the dignity of other drivers is to obey all the traffic laws and be as considerate as possible. I can’t comfort them on the loss of a loved one the way I can a co-worker. I’m not able to try and help a co-worker reconcile the dynamics in their families like I could with my sisters. The list of people that give me full access to the movements and motivations of their hearts is probably limited to my wife and our children, the people that I have the most intimate connection to.
I think that’s a helpful context for understanding what Jesus is saying to the people in his Sermon on the Mount. It’s fine for a king to tell his subjects how to behave, but he doesn’t have access to our inner thoughts, feelings, or desires. Jesus is telling us that the relationship is changing – no longer will we be subjects in the kingdom, but children of the Father through union with the Son. If we don’t get that, it just sounds like God will be more exacting in judging us, when in reality what he wants is to be more generous in loving us.
Keeping in mind the context of parents and children (though this is true of all relationships), there’s a danger that comes from wanting something good for someone more than they want it for themselves. If you’re not careful you can begin doing things for them that they should be doing for themselves, and instead of empowering them, you make them dependent and entitled. Jesus is telling us that while God wants to deepen our relationship to give us his own heart, we have to give
him full access to our whole heart in turn. Our outward behavior isn’t enough anymore and so Jesus takes us deeper to show us what stands in the way of receiving all the love that God has for us.
Finally, don’t let Jesus’ deepening of the law discourage you, and don’t be afraid to really explore what in your heart needs work. Kings might demand perfect obedience, but a father’s role is to be present through all the messiness and struggle of growing and maturing. God doesn’t wait to begin sharing his divine life with us, so don’t wait to begin sharing your life with him; open your heart to him so that you begin to experience how open his heart is to you.


Father McQueen

Readings for this Sunday - The Sixth Sunday after The Epiphany
Ecclesiasticus 15:11-20 Psalm 119:9-16 1 Corinthians 3:1-9
Matthew 5: 21-25, 27-30, 33-37

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This Sunday and Beyond - February 5th, 2017
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This coming Sunday we’ll be celebrating one of the high feasts of the Church year, the Presentation of Our Lord in the Temple. The gospel lesson (Luke 2:22-40) recounts the Blessed Mother and St. Joseph taking Jesus to the Temple to make the offering required by the law of Moses. They encounter Simeon and Anna, two devout Jews who by the power of the Holy Spirit recognize Jesus as the Messiah and prophesy about the work he will do.
The feast is also known as “Candlemass” because of the ritual rooted in the day’s gospel that traditionally accompanies its celebration. This carries special significance for Fr. Tony Noble, our guest celebrant and preacher, who was ordained priest on this feast, and so we also asked him to offer a reflection on it for our upcoming newsletter. In describing the ceremony, Fr. Tony writes, “One of the joys of being an Anglocatholic parish is that we get to celebrate traditions that are both unique and beautiful. Candlemass is one of them. Some people think that being Anglocatholic means incense, processions, traditional music and statues of Our Lady. It is far more than this. Indeed, these things are common throughout the Episcopal Church & Anglican Communion. For Anglocatholics it is more than just nice worship – it is what the traditions symbolize and the teachings they impart.”
The Holy Spirit had revealed to Simeon that he would see Israel’s redeemer before he died, so when the Holy Family enters he exclaims, “Lord now lettest Thou thy servant depart in peace.” This begins the Nunc Dimittis (Latin for “now dismiss”), which the Church has used as a song of praise in its worship since at least the 4th century. Fr. Tony writes, “The Candlemass ceremonies are based on this canticle - and particularly the line: ‘to be a light to lighten the Gentiles.’ So the congregation receives candles when they enter the church. These candles are lit whilst the choir sings the Nunc Dimittis. They are the blessed with an appropriate collect. A procession follows, imitating that first procession of Our Lord into the Temple.”
The Nunc Dimittis resonated with the earliest of Christians and has inspired one of the Church’s most beautiful traditions because we all share something of Simeon’s experience. There are times in our lives – instability in our families, sickness, uncertainty at work – that cause us to ache more deeply as we wait for God’s kingdom to come. At other times we’re able to rejoice in seeing the gospel at work in our lives – freedom, reconciliation with Him and our neighbors, an abiding in His love. No matter the circumstances, Simeon’s encounter with Jesus is a sign of hope for us – that the Messiah has come, and that through him, God will make good on all His promises.

Father McQueen

Readings for this Sunday - The Presentation of Our Lord in the Temple
Malachi 3:1-4 Psalm 24:7-10 Hebrews 2:14-18 Luke 2L22-40

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This Sunday and Beyond - January 29th, 2017
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I did some research to help with my reflection this week. Most of you will be very familiar with Ivory Soap. It’s been around for a long time, and it’s known for being pure. It’s one of Proctor and Gamble’s oldest and most successful products, first produced in 1879. P&G wanted to find a new way to market their soap, and they turned to science. A laboratory found that Ivory Soap’s ingredients are 99 and 44/100% pure. That means that it consisted of fatty acids and alkali with only the tiniest amounts of other ingredients. It was the purest of the pure.
The 99 44/100% pure became the basis for their ad campaign in the 1890’s, helping Ivory “clean up” in soap sales. There was one other factor they could use for big sales: Ivory Soap floats! It was the first soap to float in the bathtub because of air bubbles trapped inside the product. It may have started as an accident, but suddenly there were calls all over the country for the soap that floats! Some ideas just take off.
I thought of this because of the Beatitudes, the foundation for the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5. I’ve reflected on these verses many times, there’s so much there that it’s hard to appreciate them in only one sermon. So, I focused on “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God,” (v. 8). Of the eight Beatitudes, this one has always meant the most to me.
There’s something moving about reflecting on a pure heart. It’s almost as if all the other Beatitudes emerge from the image of a heart that is clean and open to the presence and love of God. To be able to see God, to know Him and be in his favor is blessed indeed.
I’ve been lucky enough to know a few people that immediately radiant this presence and purity. Most have been lay people and members of my parish, and a couple have even been clergy! To be with them, to be open to their spirit, has enabled me to see God in a new way. There was something so clean and pure about them, it was transcendent. They have helped me to want to be a better person. They’ve helped me understand the Beatitudes. I’ve wanted to be more humble, more merciful and peaceful. They’ve helped me when I’ve been called on to mourn with others, feel empathy and generosity beyond my normal means. To care for those who feel persecuted in life, those who travel a hard road and feel the dust in their face daily. I hope I can open my heart to them, understand their path, and give of myself generously.
These things come from the pursuit of a pure heart. As Christians, we are all on the journey to the presence of God in our life. We all seek to grow closer to Him, and to know His blessing. Ivory Soap is 99 and 44/100% pure and it floats! We may not be there, but the love of God and the purity of the heart of Jesus Christ is there for us as an example and a call. We may not float, but we are raised up in Christ.

Father Steven L. Schuneman

Readings for this Sunday - Fourth Sunday after Epiphany
Micah 6:1-8 Psalm 37:1-6 1 Corinthians 1:18-31 Matthew 5:1-12

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This Sunday and Beyond - January 22nd, 2017
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When I was about twelve my parents began looking for a place to vacation on the weekends. We looked for several months for a place we could place our forty foot trailer and leave it. Finally, we found a place on the Mississippi River in Sabula, Iowa. It would have a beautiful view of the river and all the boats that floated past. But, fishing was very important, and there was a nearby lake within walking distance.
But, would the fishing be any good? Yes! In fact, the day we visited the fish were really biting. It was easy to catch a small sunfish or bluegill, in fact it was hard not to. I remember trying to pull in my line without a fish on it. It didn’t happen. Many of them were tiny minnows really, but we were ecstatic! This is the place to be, the best fishing in the world.
But, the fishing was never like that again. It would never be easy to catch a fish, they’d be as elusive as we’d come to expect. Truthfully, I think we hit it the day after they’d stocked the lake full of young swimmers. But, it didn’t matter, we were there to stay. They had us hook, line and sinker.
Jesus walks along the Sea of Galilee and meets brothers Simon and Andrew fishing with two other brothers, James and John. Matthew does not tell us of the miracle catch that comes from dropping their nets on the other side of the boat. This story is much simpler, Jesus simply calls them. “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people” (4:19).
We don’t know what it is about Jesus that “reels them in.” But, there is something about our Lord that causes them to drop everything and follow Jesus, for the rest of their lives. It wasn’t little fish on a hook or in a net. I always imagine that there was something transcendent about Jesus. Something undefined that has a spark of the divine that people could sense at once. There doesn’t seem to be any discussion, the disciples just go because they just know. They know that Jesus is the One.
They become disciples of Jesus, and fishers for people. On that day, they walked away easily and followed Jesus. But, it would not be easy for them ever again. Being a disciple would not be easy, proclaiming the gospel would not be trouble free. No days of ‘fish’ jumping in their boats or grabbing their lines with abandon. They would suffer persecution and death for the faith they proclaimed. Only John would die in exile on the island of Patmos.
It’s not easy to be a disciple of Jesus, it comes with commitment and sacrifice. Sharing the Good News of God in Jesus Christ is often difficult, but even more often rewarding. When we read of Jesus calling his disciples, it’s easy to place ourselves in that boat with Simon and Andrew, and we should. The gospel stories we read took place two thousand years ago, but they are meant to speak to us today. I invite you to put down your old nets, and take up new ones for there are so many longing to hear of God’s love and glory.

Father Steven L. Schuneman

Readings for this Sunday - Third Sunday after Epiphany
Amos 3:1-8 Psalm 139:1-11 1 Corinthians 1:10-17 Matthew 4:12-23

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This Sunday and Beyond - January 15th, 2017
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I have so many memories of worship as a child. I grew up as an Episcopalian, attending Grace Church, Sterling IL. It gave me a great foundation as a Christian as well. I found the symbols of the church to be fascinating, especially the stained glassed windows, crosses and images. I thought the statue of Our Lady of Walsingham was especially beautiful.
But, today I’m reminded of the green brocade frontal with the embroidered Lamb of God. Because of the worship season, the green frontal was on the altar for over half the year. I got a lot of opportunity to admire it and reflect on it. I remember thinking about what it means for Jesus to be the Lamb of God, and why it was perfect for the altar.
In today’s gospel, John the Baptist looks to Jesus and says, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world!” (John 1:29). We only find this in John’s Gospel, but it is an important declaration of faith and understanding. It’s interesting that John says this on two occasions and Andrew and another disciple go follow Jesus.
It is for them an actual ‘turning point,’ because they turn from following John to following Jesus. John had told his disciples that Jesus ranked ahead of him, and the Holy Spirit was present at his baptism. “And I myself have seen and have testified that this is the Son of God,” (1:34).
Son of God and Lamb of God, both are powerful statements of identity. It takes me back to the beautiful frontal that caught my eye. There will always be something gentle and peaceful about a lamb. I smile just thinking about them, but there is so much more than that. Jesus is not a lamb in a petting zoo, but the Son of God who gave himself for us.
It is sacrifice that makes Jesus the Lamb of God. Anyone who heard John speak must have immediately thought of the lamb offering of the Passover. A central image of faith for Israel, the blood and sacrifice of the lamb stands as a reminder of the salvation of Israel from bondage in Egypt. The blood of the lamb, brushed over
the door of the household meant that God ‘passed over’ that family. They would live to rise up in freedom.
So, to call Jesus the Lamb of God means that he is the Chosen One who will offer his life as a sacrifice for us. Later, the Baptist will say, “he must increase and I must decrease,” (3:30). That is so, but both John and Jesus face persecution and death. John’s death at the hands of foolish Herod is a precursor of Jesus’ death for us all.
And yet they follow him. Indeed, Andrew finds his brother Simon and brings him to Jesus. “Come and see” (1:39) are words of invitation to the disciples and to us. We are followers of the Lamb of God, and his sacrifice calls us to a sacrifice and offering of ourselves. I love to sing, “O, Lamb of God,” but when I do I should remember that the Lamb invites his people to a life of sacrifice and service. We do not know where this will lead us, but we can have confidence in the one we follow.

Father Steven L. Schuneman

Readings for this Sunday - Second Sunday after Epiphany
Isaiah 49:1-7 Psalm 40:1-10 1 Corinthians 1:1-9 John 1:29-41

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This Sunday and Beyond - January 8th, 2017
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The site on the Jordan river where Jesus was baptized
Photo by The Rev. Steven L. Schuneman

And when Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:16-17)

The Feast of the Baptism of Jesus is kept on the Sunday following the Epiphany, January 6. This is because the baptism is a powerful sign of the epiphany, the revealing of Jesus and his identity as God’s beloved Son. It is one of my favorite Sundays because it highlights the importance of Jesus’ baptism and our own. The 1979 Book of Common Prayer greatly revised the service of baptism to reflect the connection between baptism and ministry, and incorporation into the Body of Christ. As I like to say, baptism is not something to get done, but it is something that has begun.
In 2011, I was so blessed to visit the Holy Land, seeing the place where Jesus walked and our faith was born. There were so many highlights on my two week tour, but seeing the traditional site of Jesus’ baptism was especially moving. It is a place filled with vegetation and life, birds flying everywhere, and water streaming abundantly. Hundreds of people travel there every day to experience the place where Jesus was baptized.
Jesus’ baptism is important for many reasons. John didn’t want to baptize Jesus, he felt most unworthy in his presence. But, Jesus insisted, saying it was “to fulfill all righteousness.” (Matt. 3:15) Jesus’ baptism and our own unites us together in a spiritual bond that is never broken. We are His, and we are the Body of Christ.
That is why we believe in one baptism, not to be repeated, because it need not. Once is for all.
At the place of Jesus’ baptism, we renewed our baptismal vows according to the Prayer Book. We stood in the water, as high as we were willing to go. Cold, clear water that caused us all to smile with each other and sing songs of God’s praise. My thanks to Bishop Edward L. Little (Northern Indiana) for leading us.
It was a moving time, but something was missing. Renewing our vows just wasn’t enough for me. That’s when we noticed about a dozen adults, dressed in white garments, entering the water to be submerged and baptized. We immediately joined them and celebrated their new life in Christ. Their smiles and laughter meant everything to me.
I came away with a renewed sense of what it means to be baptized. I remember this every time I celebrate the Feast of the Baptism of Jesus. “This is my child, my beloved, with whom I am well pleased.”

Father Steven L. Schuneman

Readings for this Sunday:
The Baptism of Our Lord
Isaiah 42:1-9 Psalm 89:20-29 Acts 10:34-38 Matthew 3:13-17

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This Sunday and Beyond - January 1st, 2017
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As a young child I remember being suspicious of the expression, “It’s better to give than to receive,” because I think part of me was concerned that I was being prepared not to get much for Christmas. Of course, as my understanding of Christmas has matured, not only have my suspicions faded, I’ve been blessed to experience that it’s actually true. In his letter to the Philippians, Paul is showing us that growing up in the faith means setting aside the suspicion that we can’t live our whole lives that way.
The primary theme of the letter is holiness or “Christ-mindedness,” that is, seeing the world the way Jesus does, and in this Sunday’s passage we see the essence of that. By “emptying himself,” the message Jesus gives is that our lives are not about us, and that our life increases in the measure we give it away. Naturally, this is a message that concerns us, perhaps because we think that it means that we’re not going to get much, but through his personal witness, Paul tells us the opposite is true.
Just in this letter, it’s clear that Paul’s life has not been diminished in the least by his giving it away. He tells the Philippians not to be upset by his imprisonment, because it’s advanced the gospel and encouraged others. He’s ambivalent about living and dying because to live is Jesus and to die is more Jesus (1:21), and he counts everything else as garbage (3:8). Then (and remember, he’s writing from death row), he tells them to rejoice always (4:4) and not to have any anxiety about anything (4:6)! How is any of that possible? It’s the peace of God, which passes all understanding (4:7).
If we’re still suspicious, thinking that this is way beyond us – it is, but Paul encourages us to be confident anyway because it’s God who started the good work
and God who will finish it (1:6). We can do our part by turning our lives into a gift. Start developing small, habitual ways of responding to life, like praying for the people who frustrate or inconvenience you or thanking God for the things that keep you from having your own way. Look for opportunities to serve or go last. The more we give ourselves to God and our neighbors, the more we’ll experience the blessing of having more to give.


Father McQueen

Readings for this Sunday:
Feast of the Most Holy Name of Jesus
Numbers 6:22-27 Psalm 8 Philippians 2:5-11 Luke 2:15-21

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