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"In our darkest moments, where do we find hope?" Fr. Paul Donison reminds us that Christ's second coming is not a future event, but a present reality, and one in which we have a priestly part to play.
Sermons from Advent and Christmas, exploring topics from our Rector and the church calendar.
Every language, evidently, has a word or phrase for saying good-bye, and often even multiple options for doing so. Most of them have the general meaning either of wishing the person well (often in the context of God’s grace) or of our hope to see them again. “Good bye” comes from “God be with ye;” “farewell” comes from “fare thee well;” “see you later”—well that one’s pretty obvious! Today we say good-bye to the Prince family. They have blessed our church family for three years in numerous ways. In a large church like Christ Church, it is a reality we live with: People will come into our midst. We will get to know them and love them. Circumstances will take them away. Such times will often have an element of grief connected to them. There is a sadness that accompanies any departure. I often remind people that one of God’s chief intentions in creating humans is that we live in relationship—with Him and with one another. It’s what we are made for. But with any relationship there is the very real possibility of loss. And the greater the love, the greater the grief. I hope we all realize, though, the foolishness of avoiding relationships in order to lower the risk. Paul Simon’s song, I am a Rock, is almost a prophetic word to those so tempted: “I’ve built walls, / A fortress deep and mighty, / That none may penetrate. / I have no need of friendship; friendship causes pain.” It is helpful, instead, to remember Jesus’s encouragement to His disciples on the eve of His departure. “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you…. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid” (Jn. 14:27). He has given us new life, and all our relationships can be viewed in the context of His Resurrection. Paul the Apostle reminds us that we “do not grieve as others do who have no hope.” We abide in Christ’s love, and thereby ‘risk’ doing life together with our fellow believers, knowing that we have eternity to live it out. So, fare thee well to Tripp, Rachel, Lily, Emmie, and Charlie. We commend you to God and pray for His Shalom to guard and keep you. And we look forward to seeing you again!
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God is with you everywhere and in every moment. But when we have our heads down either working hard or absorbed in our screens, it can become difficult to hear God’s voice. It can seem like God isn’t there, that he has abandoned us. In reality, He is always right where we are at, if only we would take the time to notice. Paying attention to God in the midst of our daily existence makes all the difference. Lent is a season where we begin to thin out our lives to seek God afresh. With all the demands on our time and busy schedules, our days are often over before we know it. The majority of the day is ruled by errands, email, and entertainment. God is often pushed to the margins of the day; a few quiet moments in the early morning or the late evening feel like all we can muster. Lent is a call for us to slow down, to refocus ourselves to Jesus’ way. Often this refocusing of attention begins with subtraction: the creation of a particular fast. Whether you are giving up chocolate, meat, or TV isn’t what is important, however. The most important thing about the fast is the space in your schedule and the silence before God that is carved out. We need to be intentional about how we fill that void created by giving something up. According to theologian Alexander Schmemann, “If the Christian of the past lived in great measure in a silent world, giving him ample opportunity for concentration and inner life, today’s Christian has to make a special effort to recover that essential dimension of silence which alone can put us in contact with higher realities.” Lenten fasting can create that silence in our often noisy worlds to hear God. We can slow down enough to notice what God might have to teach us throughout our day. It is our hope that during Lent you wouldn’t just get rid of something. As we fast, let us continue to turn to God in prayer, seeking him in the silences of our fast. If you don’t have a copy of our ‘Lent + Daily’ devotional guide, make sure to subscribe to the daily email on our website. It’s a great way to slow down to pray, read Scripture, and notice what God is doing in our midst. May you keep a slow and holy Lent to the glory of God.
The DNOW retreat this year ran alongside the adult Prepare: Lent retreat. DNOW helped engage students in getting ready for Lent as their parents did the same across campus. And we had a great time!
But that's only part of why we call it a "whole-church retreat." Scrolling through DNOW photos, we see students, parents, college leaders, and host families roller skating, eating, praying, and learning together. We see high schoolers, non-profit organizers, and artists from the surrounding community teaching our workshops. Even our guest speaker, Erik Willits, was home-grown! DNOW was an intergenerational, interdenominational, and very cooperative event. We are thrilled with what the Lord is sowing among us!
The main question of the retreat asked about our treasures. Are we like pirates, who seek and hoard the things of the world? Or can we hear Jesus' call to a higher, deeper trust?
One moment of the retreat especially highlighted this for us. On Saturday half of our students chose an art workshop. They drew things which caused them fear and things which caused them peace. For peace, many drew scenes from church and nature. When they drew things that caused them fear and anxiety —"treasures" that were crowding out God's life for them— by far the most repeated image was clocks : clock hands, clock faces, and big swirling numbers. Some drew pictures depicting failure. Many, many drew papers with grades on them.
Seeing these drawings was a difficult and sobering moment. But the exercise was truly the work of Lent—a call to their own healing and to our repentance as the adults who love and care for them. On our "whole-church retreat," this artwork was a heartfelt cry of prayer from our kids, to be made "whole!"
Thank God for this season of retreats. And thank you parents for your support and prayers. Ask your kids what their Lenten practice is. Make them slow down! Let the Holy Spirit use you to allay our young people's fears and re-orient their priorities. Go enjoy nature and beauty, friends and worship. And let's celebrate a blessed Lent together!
Welcome to the first full week observing a Holy Lent. Let's riff on three themes Fr. Taylor laid out in the last newsletter: Repent. I often misdiagnose my sins. Do you? If I've gained a few pounds, do I have a problem with gluttony? If my desires are going haywire, am I lustful? If I love promotions or own acres of clothing, am I greedy? Maybe. Or maybe I can go deeper. Maybe I've been slothful with my calling, so I fill the gap with vacations and promotions, neighborhood drama, and clothes. Maybe I've never grown close to God, out of fear or anger , and so my desire for Him is spilling over into places that cannot meet that need. Maybe I think I "eat too much" because of vanity or pride : I'm not yet humble enough to see my own value as God's limited and frail, yet supremely treasured, creature. The key to Lenten repentance is this: Finding something good, laying it aside temporarily, and asking God to show you where your sin and fraility truly are. That's where His grace is longing to meet you. Pray. If you haven't begun Lent † Daily yet, subscribe to the online version here » Give. Consider joining us at Bonton this Friday. Blessings as you journey,
I was so moved last week with the overwhelming show of support for our son Ian as Fr. Paul acknowledged his upcoming opportunity to represent the U.S. at the Special Olympics World Winter Games in Austria.
Ian has always loved sports, and figure skating has been his dream since he saw Tara Lipinski when he was a young teenager. For the last 9 years he has been pursuing that dream and is pretty pumped up about getting to this place now. He will be in Austria for the next couple weeks and will have a few moments of fame via television coverage of the Games.
Cinde and I are very proud of the hard work he has put into his skating, as well as many other activities he has had in his life. Through him we have learned a great deal about facing challenges and limitations. As we have done life together, we have been greatly blessed.
We can’t wait to cheer him on and represent his wider church family (“All y’all,” as Fr. Paul says) that are sending us. We are extremely grateful for the generous outpouring from the people of Christ Church that will allow Cinde and me to be there for this huge moment.
In addition to the Special Olympics, we will visit with SAMS missionary, Stephen V, to learn about his work in Europe and hopefully encourage him as he seeks to plant a church in a country where the Christian faith is simply a historical memory.
We ask for your prayers, that God, whose glory fills the whole creation and whose presence we find wherever we go, would preserve us as we travel, surround us with his loving care, protect us from every danger, and bring us in safety to our journey’s end (paraphrasing from BCP page 831). Through all three of us, may God shine His light and make Himself known.
I am thumbing through some prayer requests provided by your sweet children. You might think they would pray for toys or the next new video game console or some other trivial requests, but these kids go deeper. They are asking for prayer for their parents and grandparents, healing for those who are ill, regrets for not obeying (it's true!), praises for friendships, petitions for tests, help for friends whose parents are divorcing. One even thanked God for helping him confess his sins. Another thanked God for giving her life. Even at this young age, these children have deep concerns and real praises to bring to the Lord. As I look over their prayer needs, I am filled with gratitude that these children are turning to God. Train them young to trust in Him. Walk through the disciplines of Lent together. Help them grow in their faith by leaning on God with the troubles and joys that come their way. Some of what children learn at this age will not be important for many years to come—but growing in their faith will change their lives even today. We are blessed in Children’s Ministry to get to partner with you in training up your child in the faith.
In years past, I have found poetry a helpful companion during Lent. “Poetry asks to be savored,” says Malcolm Guite, “it requires us to slow down, it carries echoes, hints at music, summons energies that we will miss if we are simply scanning.” This is exactly the kind of reading that my restless soul desperately needs.
I invite you to reflect on Prayer (I) by George Herbert, 17th century poet and Anglican priest. His vivid images describe prayer with a clarity not found in most spiritual writings:
Prayer the church’s banquet, angel’s age,
God’s breath in man returning to his birth,
The soul in paraphrase, heart in pilgrimage,
The Christian plummet sounding heav’n and earth
Engine against th’ Almighty, sinner’s tow’r,
Reversed thunder, Christ-side-piercing spear,
The six-days world transposing in an hour,
A kind of tune, which all things hear and fear;
Softness, and peace, and joy, and love, and bliss,
Exalted manna, gladness of the best,
Heaven in ordinary, man well drest,
The milky way, the bird of Paradise,
Church-bells beyond the stars heard, the soul’s blood,
The land of spices; something understood.
I have personally enjoyed and been challenged by the devotional portion of the Lent † Daily 2017 study. It has allowed me to reconnect with an old devotional classic, Thomas a Kempis' The Imitation of Christ. My first exposure to this book was actually from my youth pastor, Matt, when I was in high school. I remember being so impressed by not only Matt's humor, but also by his depth of knowledge of God. I remember asking him how I might get to know God the way that he did. Without missing a beat, Matt recommended The Imitation of Christ and later emailed me a PDF version which I printed out with joy. As I poured myself into the book, my wonder and enthusiasim quickly turned to puzzlement, even frustration. A Kempis' world seemed so different than mine. I was confronted with what humility and true devotion in prayer meant for perhaps the first time. I could barely read a page without having to stop, think, and pray, asking God to help me understand him in this way. Returning to this book again almost 15 years later, many of my thoughts are the same. Yes, I have grown in many ways, thanks be to God, but the challenge of following Jesus still comes to me afresh. A section from the March 5 reading has stuck with me this Lenten season. "In You alone is all that I desire and long for. Therefore let all teachers keep silence and let all creation be still before You; do You, O Lord, speak alone." This Wednesday, March 22, we'll be leading students in a small group prayer stations experience. There will be times of silence, and space to hear God speak. It is our hope that students would learn to desire and long for God more during this Lenten season.
We give thanks to God that Fr. Jeff and Cinde Rawn's son Ian is competing this week in Figure Skating at the Special Olympics in Austria. Events are live streamed by the Special Olympics and archived on YouTube. Highlight shows from the Special Olympics are broadcast on ESPN2.
Watch Ian's preliminary skating performance »
See a trailer for Ian's Olympic story on ESPN »
View photos of the US Special Olympic team »
Ian competes in finals for Men's Figure Skating Singles on Thursday afternoon, March 23. Keep him in your thoughts and prayers!