Big Questions in Ordinary Time

The Sunday’s after Trinity Sunday are called “Trinity Time” or “Ordinary Time”. It marks the beginning of the Christian church officially. Theologically, everything was in place for the church to pursue her work on behalf of Christ. Trinity time is the longest season on the Christian calendar. It is a time of mission, a time to think about creation, and a time to ponder the big questions.

In 1941, a young man named Thomas Merton wrote a fictitious journal about experiences in war-torn England.  One recurring question was, “what are we fighting for?”  Like Socrates, he kept asking that question without getting a satisfactory answer.  Going deeper, he began to question the direction of his life and the values he had unconsciously been following.  In words that could have been written last week, he said, “I had learned from the novels that questions of right and wrong didn’t exist.  I had learned . . . that pleasure was what was applauded.  I had learned . . . that it was all right to have a good time so long as you didn’t interfere with the good time of anybody else.  Now I found out that, in practice, I was not able to realize how much my pleasures might hurt somebody else until too late. . . . But what most of all had struck me dumb were the two questions that I even feared to ask myself:  If I am here to have a good time without hurting other people, why is it, first, that you can’t have the pleasures everybody believes in without hurting somebody?  And why is it, second, that you never get the pleasure you expect anyway?

At the end of that same year, 1941, Thomas Merton entered the Order of Cistercians of the Strict Observance (Trappist monks), a silent, contemplative order.  He later astonished the world with his best-seller, The Seven Storey Mountain.  The fictitious London journal was published only after his death in 1968 as My Argument With the Gestapo.

Merton’s questions (What is it all about? Why can’t I find happiness in having a good time?) have been asked since ancient times.  They are asked in the Bible.  Secular culture has no answer to them.  Merton found only one answer:  Jesus Christ.  That’s the answer that we are pursuing at St. Barnabas as well.  Trinity time is an ideal season to ponder the big questions in life. You are welcome to join us on this journey.

 

Trinity time full altar june 2017

The trinity altar captures the rich symbolism reflected in ordinary time.

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Trinity Sunday

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This coming Sunday (the one after Pentecost) is a celebration of God’s self-revelation as a trinity.  God’s nature is beyond our comprehension (not too surprising given the distance between us and the creator of the universe) but Jesus taught that he and God the Father were “one” and that after his work on earth was done, the Holy Spirit would come to comfort and assist the Church.  Father, Son, and Holy Spirit adds up to three (we can figure that part out) but there is only one God.  Everyday analogies (triangles, shamrocks, etc.) don’t cast much light on this mystery, which was the subject of fierce debate within the Church particularly in the early centuries.  The Nicene Creed was written in three sections to reflect the three persons of the Trinity.  We can be confident about these things:  God is real; Jesus is real (and is God); the Holy Spirit is real (and is God).  We can worship and adore until such time as we see the reality face to face.  Come and join us in the celebration and mystery of that worship.

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Pentecost Altar – St. Barnabas Anglican Church of Seattle – June 4, 2017

St Barnabas Anglican Church of Seattle – Pentecost Altar June 4 2017

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The End of the Easter Story, and a Beginning for the Church

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During the forty days that Jesus stayed with his followers after his Resurrection, he told them to stay in Jerusalem until they received the “baptism of the Holy Spirit.”  There is no indication that his followers knew what this meant, but they stayed and continued to pray together after Jesus ascended on the fortieth day.  Jesus died on or near the Jewish holiday of Passover.  Fifty days later there was another Jewish festival called Shavuot (meaning weeks) or, in the common Greek of the time, Pentecost (from the Greek word for fifty).  This holiday originally celebrated the first wheat harvest of the year, and later came to commemorate the giving of the Law to Moses on Mounty Sinai.  The Jewish celebration included waving two sheaves of wheat (symbolizing the “first fruits” of the harvest) in the great temple at Jerusalem.  The Book of Acts, Chapter 2, tells us: 

When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place.  And suddenly from heaven there came a sound, like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting.  Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them.  All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them the ability. 

Just as Shavuot is in a sense the birthday of Judaism (based on the giving of the Law), Pentecost is considered the birthday of the Christian Church, when the Holy Spirit gave power to the members to preach to people all over the earth, symbolized by their ability to speak in multiple languages.  Just as the Jewish festival involved “first fruits” of the harvest, St. Paul came to speak of Jesus as the “first fruits” of the triumph over sin and evil and death.  It is traditional to read the Book of Ruth on the Jewish festival.  This story tells how Ruth, a Gentile woman, came to join the people of Israel and even became an ancestor of King David.  The Christian Church began very early to incorporate Gentiles (Greeks and Romans) along with Jews into the Kingdom promised by Jesus. So on Pentecost we rejoice that God has given us the Church.  Flawed though it may be, it is a precious heritage.

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Acensiontide

What happened after the Resurrection?  This week, we hear another part of the story.  The last chapter of the Gospel of Luke and the first chapter of the Acts of the Apostles relate that Jesus remained with his disciples for forty days after rising from the dead, during which time he continued to instruct them and promised that they would be “baptized with the Holy Spirit” to become his witnesses “to the ends of the earth” (even to Shoreline, Washington).  Then, while they were watching, “he was lifted up and a cloud took him out of their sight.”

This coming Thursday is the fortieth day after Easter.  Forty days is a number packed with significance. Jesus spent 40 days in the wilderness prior to the beginning of his public ministry, which we recognize in Lent. Now we observe the conclusion of the 40 days after Easter, in which Jesus Christ ascended to the Father in heaven. St. Barnabas will celebrate Jesus’ ascension on Thursday May 25th with liturgies both at Noon and at 7:00 p.m.  All are welcome.

What are we to make of the Ascension?  In a way, it was inevitable.  Jesus rose from the dead, but even before his crucifixion he had said that he was going “back to the Father” and that he would not remain with his disciples forever.  He said that it would be to his disciples’ benefit that he go away, because then the Holy Spirit would be sent to them.  How that works (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) is the mystery of the Trinity, and surely the disciples had a hard time understanding it as well.  But if the plan was for Jesus to return to the Father, he had only limited ways of accomplishing this.  He could have crept away when no one was looking, but that would have left the disciples wondering if he was maybe coming back.  He could have faded away like the Cheshire cat or popped out of view like a soap bubble, but then the disciples might have wondered if he had ceased to exist.  He could have used Hollywood effects like lightning and rapidly boiling cloud banks, but that would have looked like something a Greek god might do.  Jesus chose a loving way to go to the Father:  rising out of sight into a cloud (which reminds us of the cloud that surrounded him during the Transfiguration).  His disciples knew that Jesus was in control, that he was alive, and that he was doing what he had predicted.

This left the question of when the “baptism with the Holy Spirit” was going to happen.  Stay tuned for that, and God bless us all.

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The Ascension of Our Lord

 

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Community of Prayer

On Wednesday nights we gather as a community of prayer. At a time when the world appears to have become unhinged, people of faith remain steadfast in the work of prayer. We meet at 6:30 p.m. for informal prayer, praise, and hymns. Join us to help widen the circle and lift up your own burden for prayer. We pray for individual, family, neighborhood,  cities, nations, and “The whole state of Christ’s Church”.

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Second-Hand Treasures for a Good Cause!

St. Barnabas will hold a rummage sale on May 19 and 20 at the church.  Donations of clean items in workable/wearable condition will be accepted during the previous week (at the following hours: 10:00am  to 2:00pm).  The pre-sale (by ticket only, tickets available at the door for $2.00) will be on the evening of Friday, May 19, starting at 6:00  pm.  Open season on the rummage will be on Saturday, May 20, the doors open at 9:00 a.m. Proceeds will go to improving our church facilities, so that when you return for Sunday liturgies and other events you will be more comfortable.

As you prepare for the rummage sale (and at all times), remember that Jesus died for you.  And may the peace of God, which passes all understanding, be with you and remain with you forever.

 

Rummage Sale Poster

Pre-Sale!

Friday, May 19th @ 6:00 pm -$2.00 Admission at the door

Regular Sale:

Saturday, May 20th @ 9:00 am – 4:00 pm

St. Barnabas Anglican Church

2340 N. 155th St.

Shoreline, WA   98133

Antiques, collectibles, clothing, furniture, art, household items, and much more!

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The Meaning of Life

Some people will tell you that the universe is nothing but a random collection of matter and energy swirling in space and that human beings are just part of that swirl.  It follows from this view that all our opinions about good and evil, love and hate, life and death are ultimately pointless.  Is there a point? Fortunately, this bleak view is not true and there is a point to life.  The universe is much more than matter and energy swirling around.  It is the creation of a loving God who wants us to be happy with him forever.  To prove His love, and to save us from our sinful condition, God became man, walked the earth in and around Jerusalem 2000 years ago, died, and rose again from death.  That is what we are celebrating during the season of Easter.  In this Easter tide period of church reckoning, we recall the numerous “post resurrection appearances” of a risen Lord. Many witnesses attested to this newly resurrected Lord. God now calls all of us (yes, even you and me) to follow Him.  How do we do that?  We must recognize the ways in which we have failed to do what is right, turn away from that old way of life, and enter into a new life that is focused on God.  That is what we are trying to do at St. Barnabas.  Do you want to hear about this new life?  Do you want to hear about God’s offer of forgiveness for things that you have done or left undone?  Come and join us and hear good news!

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Two men on the road to Emmaus are joined by a stranger.

Later Jesus is made known to His disciples in the breaking of bread.

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Leon-Auguste L’Hermitte
Photogravure

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The National Day of Prayer

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Join the Shoreline community in prayer at:

Shoreline Community College

Cafeteria / Pub Building

7:00pm Thursday May 4, 2017

 

 

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The Great 50 Days

 Easter season is celebrated for fifty days (the “Great Fifty Days”).  It marks the time between Easter and Pentecost. Nestled in this period is Ascension Day which is 40 days after the first resurrection appearance of Our Lord.  All of this is appropriate to the earth-shaking event (literally so according to Matthew 28:2) in which Jesus overcame death and rose to a new kind of life.  This is not a metaphor.  The Bible is true:  Jesus rose to a life that is beyond sin and evil and death.  He promised his followers that this new life is available to us also.  This is something worth celebrating, not only for fifty days, but for the rest of our lives.  How do we celebrate at St. Barnabas?  We get together on Sundays, sing hymns and make prayers to God, and do the Eucharist with bread and wine as Jesus instructed his followers.  We mark the Ascension of Our Lord with two services on May 25th at Noon and 7:00pm. Other events are on our calendar.  You are welcome to join us.

Resurrection
Arthur Ernst Becher
Watercolor, gouache, and pencil
17.5 x 17 cm.

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