Friday, September 26, 2014

Notes from the Parish Office - 9/25/14

Just a few notes to keep everyone one up to date with what's happening here at St. Michael's:

Sunday, September 28 ~ Michaelmas Celebration - one Mass only at 9:30 am with the Festive Brunch to follow in the Parish Center, to including the "Slaying of the Dragon Pinata". All are invited to attend our annual celebration.

Wednesday, October 1 - 10 AM ~ For Our Special Parishioners age 90 and over, there is a special meeting in the Parish Office workroom, just to decide if: 1. Would we like to meet?  2. How often ?  3. What would we like to do? We would like to see you and your ideas!

Saturday, October 4 - 9 - 3 pm  in the Parish Center ~ "Forum on "Global Climate Change - A Religious Response". Experts will be attending. The day begins with Mass at 8:30 am (optional) with a Buffet Luncheon at noon (a fee will offering is suggested to defray the cost of the food). (there are reservation sheets located in the back of church) All are invited.

Sunday, October 5 ~ Episcopal School Sunday and Blessing of the Animals.  The 9:00 am Family Mass and the 10:15 am High Mass will be combined with one Mass at 9:30 am. The Mass will be followed by the traditional "Boy Scout Pan Cake Breakfast" coordinated by Byron Brandon. A generous donation will certainly help our Boy Scouts. (there will be the regular 7:45 am, 12:30 pm and 5:30 pm Masses that day.)

Tuesday, October 7 ~ Taizé Service at 6:45 pm in church.

​Many Blessings and Peace.​


Monday, September 22, 2014

Sermon: Put on Christ

Putting on Christ
A Sermon for Sunday, September 7th, 2014
By Father John R. Smith

Lesson: Exodus 12:1-14
Psalm: Psalm 149
Epistle: Romans 13:8-14
The Holy Gospel: Matthew 18:15-20

Last week at coffee hour someone said they had trouble understanding my sermon.  (This is not too surprising for me, because I have trouble with my sermons too!) Her question:  What are we to do about the violence in the world?  Are we supposed to sit back and let violent people kill others and us?  Is this what God wants?

I was truly thankful for the questions, and, given the person's discomfort, caused by me, I thought coffee hour was as good a place as any to begin to address them! 

Here goes:  God is Sovereign over all life:  Only God gives life and only God can take life away.  God does not want us to have our lives or the lives of our loved ones taken away by violence, or, for us to do violence to anyone else, including the violent.  Like the Passover story from the Exodus reading today, God loves his chosen people, they have been suffering as slaves at the hands of the Egyptians, so before the final and tenth plague, God gives them directions for a meal of a perfect lamb and the smearing of the blood of that lamb on the door posts and lintels of their homes, so that, when the Angel of Death sweeps over Egypt it will “Passover” the houses of the Israelites and they will live.  Christians have been given a meal where Christ, the Lamb of God, saves us by his Blood.  “Alleluia, Christ our Passover has been sacrificed for us.”  God has a plan for saving the world, and is working this plan right this minute, but it helps so much if we choose to seek and follow it.

What is “it?” God has invested one hundred percent of this plan in Jesus, his Son's life, death, and resurrection.  For us, the most operative part is Resurrection.  As St. Paul put it:  If Christ is not raised from the dead, then our faith is in vain.  Period.  When we, as followers of Christ, contemplate death, whether natural, from disease, or from violence, we have to keep the hope of Resurrection foremost in our mind.  This is what I prayed most recently in the dramatic beheading of James and Scott.

With whatever faith we have, even a mustard seed's worth, it will always comes down to this:  Do I believe that Jesus was truly raised from the dead and that I too, believing in him, will be raised from the dead as well?

Coffee hour conversations go all over the place.  But as we pursued this difficult subject of violence I think we both came to the realization that it did all come down to firm belief in the Resurrection.  That Christ rose from the dead, and promised that those who believe in Him will also conquer death, becomes the great equalizer when someone has a gun pointed at your head or a knife on your throat.  “Don't be afraid of those who can kill the body, but can't kill the soul,” scripture says [Matthew 10:28].

Put on the Lord Jesus ChristTruth is, I said to my friend, if I faced that trial I  probably would be afraid and even XXXX in my pants,  but in that moment of testing, I hope I could persevere in my faith in Jesus and his resurrection.  I hope that I had, like Romans says today, “Put on Christ.”

“Again, truly I tell you, if two of you agree on earth about anything you ask, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven.  For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.” [Matthew 18:20]

I don't think it would work if my coffee hour companion and I agreed to ask that we win the lottery and give the money to the church, but what we did ask for:   an ever-deepening faith in Jesus' resurrection and the ability to “love our neighbors as ourselves,” doing no wrong to a neighbor far away or near.  I think the Father will answer that prayer.  Nothing could be clearer in these confusing and violent times than the admonition to “Owe no one anything, except to love one another.”  Of course this is Jesus' “agape” love that lays down one's life for another and not the “sweet-nothing” variety.

Let's end these thoughts with a prayer by St. John Chrysostom that often concludes Morning Prayer each day:

Almighty God, you have given us grace at this time with one accord to make our common supplication to you; and you have promised through your well-beloved Son that when two or three are gathered together in his Name you will be in the midst of them: Fulfill now, O Lord, our desires and petitions as may be best for us; granting us in this world knowledge of your truth, and in the age to come life everlasting.


Sermon: Blame It On God

Blame it on God
A Sermon for Sunday, August 31st, 2014
By Father John R. Smith

Lesson: Exodus 3:1-15
Psalm: Psalm 105:1-6, 23-26, 45b
Epistle: Romans 12:9-21
The Holy Gospel: Matthew 16:21-28

Last week in the Gospel Peter got the Gold Star from Jesus, his teacher.  How? In Caesarea Philippi, a royal city in Galilee named after Emperor Caesar and Philip the Tetrarch, Jesus asked Peter “Who do you say that I am?”  And in this city, where, if you asked anyone on the street, “Who is the Son of God?” they would reply, “Why, Caesar is, of course.”  That was one of Caesar’s first and greatest titles:  Caesar was the Son of God.  Peter got the Gold Star because he with full faith in the middle of a society that had a completely different opinion of who was God, he says “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”

But Gold Stars can lose their stickiness and fall off pretty easily.  Following directly last week’s Gospel, after Peter’s faith-filled confession, Jesus begins to tell his disciples that he must go up to Jerusalem, be tried at the hands of men, and be put to death.  When Peter objects and protests that this cannot be allowed to happen to his Lord, after all, Jesus is supposed to be doing the punishing of the evildoers, not the other way around.  So, Jesus, in the strongest possible words, calls “Gold Star” Peter, Satan:  “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”

(I would like to think that James Foley, as he was kneeling there, about to be beheaded, was setting his mind on divine things, on Jesus, in whom he always believed, who gave his life and was raised from the dead.)

We have to know the purposes of God in whom we believe.

It is not divine violence or wrath that Jesus wants for us who sin, but release from the human violence of this world.  And the only way to be released from that violence is to believe in Him and follow his teaching.

Satan was behind Jesus’ eventual death, so much more so than the fearful leaders at the time.  Peter senses this.  Peter is against Satan’s plan.  You can’t blame him for objecting to Jesus’ desire to face the Cross in Jerusalem.  Peter still doesn’t understand what Jesus is about.  He doesn’t want Jesus, The Messiah, to be identified as a victim or scapegoat. This is all too close for Peter, if anyone is going to be a victim, let them be at a distance from us.  Peter wants Jesus to be a victorious God to crush the enemies of Israel, using violence if necessary.

Peter stands in the long tradition of belief which says that God will punish all evildoers (and, unfortunately, we add:  I’ll help you punish them Lord!) that even persists to this day, helped along by even the best translators of the bible.  People do bad things (We think:  I’m a sinner too, but I don’t do anything “that” bad) and God is the Punisher.  For example, in today’s reading from the Letter to the Romans where it states  “Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all.  If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.  Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”

Love Thy Neighbor. I meant that.What strikes me about the translation “wrath of God” (and I mentioned this before) is that no place in the Greek text is there “of God” (tou Theou).  It’s not there, nor is it implied in any way.  In other words “wrath” is what human beings do to other human beings, not brought about by God at all.  The weight behind this translation probably stems from reading the Hebrew Bible where “vengeance” from God was called down upon Israel’s enemies.  Sometimes we blame the violence in the world on God as necessary to bring protection and peace.  We feel better when we think in terms of “Sacred Violence,” violence that God sanctions against those we judge as evil, but God is not for anything that disregards the sacredness of life.  If we are going to continue with our notion of Sacred Violence, hurting others in God’s Name, thinking we’re doing God’s will, God lets us, and the “wrath” that ensues is wrath that we humans bring upon ourselves is our own doing.

Why is this, the case?  We should pick it up loud and clear in the question of Moses to the Lord at the burning Bush:  Who shall I tell the people you are?  And God said to Moses, tell them,  “I AM WHO I AM.” God is the verb “to be,” essence, life itself.  God is all about this life, learning to live with others, listening to their needs even if we disagree or have another take on the issue, trying to meet their legitimate needs as we are able.  Giving human beings, who receive their life from God alone, real respect and resist calling them names, refusing to hear them, and cutting off any dialogue that can lead to peace and away from the sin of violence. And, as the Eucharistic Prayer says: When we became subject to evil and death, God, in his mercy, sent Jesus Christ, your only and eternal Son, to share our human nature, to live and die as one of us, to reconcile us to you, the God and Father of all.  God is Father of all, not just some.

So the Good News is, if we accept it, is that God is one hundred percent into LIFE and, when death enters the picture of our human existence, God had a plan to bring life out of death manifest in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, our Lord.  May we dedicate ourselves to this LIFE and, when we die, be raised up with Jesus. 


Sunday, September 14, 2014

Announcements for Week Ending September 21st

Guatemala Project 2014 Team Reports, Tea and Textiles – Sat. Sept. 20th, at 4 pm in the Parish Center. Free. Summer team volunteers share timely stories and photos from rural Guatemala, while you enjoy tea, coffee, jamaica (hibiscus-flower punch) and tea-time treats. Among the presenters are medical students, nurses, a doctor and generalists,including a UA senior Taylor Nash and Coordinator Ila Abernathy.
 Newly-acquired Maya textiles available for purchase. Please join us and welcome Project guests to this public program. To help, contact Ila at 623-3063 or

Ενορία ζωή σας προσκαλεί να πάτε ελληνικά

Parish Life invites you once again to go Greek!
Join us on Thursday, September 25 at 6:30 pm

Fronimos Greek Café
3242 E. Speedway Blvd
(enter from the walgreen’s parking lot (in the rear)
east of country club and follow the signs)
                                       menu pricing ranges from $6 to $16m per entré

Saturday, October 4th ~ Forum on “Global Climate Change ~ A Religious Response”. Top experts on the subject attending. 9:00 am – 3pm. Free will offering for lunch. 8:30 am Mass (optional) All are invited. Stay tuned!

Sunday October 5th ~ Episcopal School Sunday and St. Francis Sunday with Blessing of the Animals at the combined 9:30 AM Mass. (No Mass at 9am and 10:15 am)

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Last Minute Updates from the Parish Office

As many of you know, or may not, have heard, Steve Coulter has passed away. His funeral is THIS Saturday at 11am. Steve will be sorely missed.  Steve was so dedicated to St. Michael's and may other venues. We will miss his infectious smile and being ready to help at any given moment in any way.  May Steve's Soul and the soul's of all the faithful departed rest in peace.  Amen


Looking ahead:

THIS SUNDAY:  The Social Action Committee will meet immediately following the 10:15 AM Mass.  The meeting will take place in the Womble Library.

Tuesday, September 16: Taize at 6:45 pm

Wednesday, September 17:  Bible Discussionfacilitated by Peter Schmidt continues at 10 am in the Womble Library. All are invited.

      Also on Wednesday the 17th. ~ ECW Women will have their Annual Fall Pot Luck.Just bring a dish to share, all ladies of the Parish are invited. During the meeting this coming year's activities will be planned.  Hope to see you there for fellowship, lively conversation and good food !

       Wednesday evening at 6:30 pm the Women's Bible Study will meet at 6:30 pm in the Parish Center. All women are invited to join us for video and lively conversation while learning about the Psalms.

       Sunday, September 28th ~ Celebration of Michaelmas.  One Mass only at 9:30 amfollowed by a "Festive Brunch" in the Parish Centered prepared by Chef Andy Bruno. Join us for the Holy Eucharist at 9:30 AM. All are invited to join us to celebrate the Feast Day of St. Michael and All Angels!
        Stay tuned!


Also: Karen Blocher, the editor of The Messenger, is out of town arranging her brother's funeral and burial. Parishioner Carrie Harris has kindly agreed to guest edit this week's issue. Thanks, Carrie! Please contact Senior Warden John Hsieh, Carrie herself or the church office for Carrie's email address to submit your article.