No Greater Love

In Lent we are meeting each Wednesday evening over a bowl of soup and bread to explore the theme “No Greater Love”. This title is borrowed from the Gospel of John: Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. (John. 15:13 ESV)

We see quickly how God might love us, but the theme of how we express such love with our lives is sometimes difficult for people to describe. Our retired bishop +Win Mott challenges our understanding of God’s love as “No Greater Love”. More importantly we are challenged by how to share such a love. Follow the link to read his latest post from his blog “The Earth is the Lord’s” :

Blessings for a Holy Lent.

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Wisdom from Lent

During Lent, we are having soup suppers at St. Barnabas (Wednesday evenings at 6:30, all welcome) to get together and ponder a Lenten theme:  “No greater love.”  Participants are encouraged to bring personal reflections, readings, songs, or other materials that illustrate the theme.  Here is one:

 O Lord, remember not only the men and women of good will, but also those of ill will.

But do not remember all of the suffering they have inflicted upon us; 

instead, remember the fruits we have borne because of this suffering —

our fellowship, our loyalty to one another, our humility,our courage, our generosity,

the greatness of heart that has grown from this trouble.

When our persecutors come to be judged by you, let all of these fruits that we have borne be their forgiveness.

 It is poignant to learn that these lines were found among the bodies in the Ravensbruck concentration camp, where more than 92,000 died. 

 It is hard enough to forgive people in the ordinary bumps and bruises of life.  Here the writer is seeking forgiveness for a historic crime.  The writer’s love shines out as a light in darkness, transcending evil and death. When we see something like this, part of us responds, “here is truth, here is a key to the universe!” 

 Consider then that the holy God, seeing us separated from him by sin, became man and lived among us, knowing that he would be rejected and unjustly put to death.  Nevertheless, he voluntarily suffered and died with these words on his lips, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do!”  By his death, Jesus (who was and is God) took upon himself the punishment due to all of us, freely and out of love, so that we might be forgiven and live forever with God.  Here is truth, here is a key to the universe!

Join us and share with us in God’s love. We gather at 6:30 pm on Wednesday nights.

Blessings for a Holy Lent!

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A fresh look at Lent

For a fresh reconsideration of Lent, take a look at an article by our retired Bishop Win Mott:

This article is particularly timely as people dismiss Lent out of hand or ridicule the season based on misconceptions or reactionary responses. His blog is a recommended read at any time, but it’s not too late to consider Lent if you have reservations about this particular season of the church year.

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WHO IS GOD? Part 15 (Moses continued)

Our dialogue with Anaiah, an educated Jew from the 500’s B.C., continues.
St. Barnabas Blog: Last time, you were talking about God’s plan for saving the world, which involved Joseph’s unexpected success and the migration of his family to Egypt to escape a famine. You said that the return from Egypt was significant.
Anaiah: That’s correct. The book of Genesis ends with Joseph’s family in Egypt, apparently safe for the moment. The book of Exodus begins, more grimly, with a “new king over Egypt who did not know Joseph.” This new king, or Pharaoh, was concerned that the Israelite people, who were growing in numbers, would rebel or join with Egypt’s enemies, so he sent taskmasters to oppress them and, when that didn’t work, commanded all male children among the Israelites to be killed.
SBB: The Israelites must have wondered where God was in all of this.
Anaiah: They would soon find out. One of the Israelite mothers refused to kill her male child and instead launched him in a basket on the Nile to see if he would be found and adopted by an Egyptian family. As it turned out, he was adopted by a royal princess and named Moses.
SBB: Is that a Hebrew name?
Anaiah: Maybe. The author of Exodus suggests that “Moses” might be connected with the Hebrew word that means “I drew him out [of the river].” But it may also be significant that several Pharaohs were named Thutmose or Thutmoses, so Moses may have been a royal name.
SBB: Did Moses rise to fame and fortune as Joseph did?
Anaiah: No, he chose not to. The first incident recorded of him is that he visited the Israelites to see their condition of forced labor, something we can assume that other members of the royal family did not do. Moses went further. When he saw one of the Egyptian taskmasters beating an Israelite, he killed the oppressor. Pharaoh heard of this killing and tried to capture Moses, but Moses left Egypt and went to the land of Midian.
SBB: Where was that?
Anaiah: It was probably what you would call the northwestern corner of Saudi Arabia, across the Gulf of Aqaba from the Sinai Peninsula. In this remote place, Moses settled down, married, and had a son.
SBB: So Moses felt safe because he was beyond the reach of Pharaoh, it seems.
Anaiah: Yes, but not beyond the reach of God. What I am going to tell you next is a great mystery. One day, while keeping his father in law’s flock, an angel of God appeared to him in a flame of fire out of a bush. Moses looked, and the bush was blazing, but not consumed. Then God called to him out of the bush, “Moses! Moses!” And Moses said, “Here I am.” Then God said, “Come no closer! Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you stand is holy ground. I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.
SBB: Wow! I have a lot of questions about that.
Anaiah: I will address them next time. In the meantime, ponder this event and how you would have reacted if you had been there.
SBB: I can’t wait with my first question: did this really happen?
Anaiah: Yes, it did. Everything that follows bears witness to the reality of this event.

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More on Lent

The following Lenten hymn summarizes what Christians think about Lent and why we observe it:  

Lord, who throughout these forty days for us didst fast and pray,

Teach us with thee to mourn our sins, and close by thee to stay.

 This first verse refers to the forty days during which Jesus, at the outset of his ministry, was in the desert fasting and praying.  As related in the Gospel of Luke, chapter 4, Jesus was tempted to sin as we are, but he resisted temptation.  We are urged to be with Jesus in fasting and prayer and to mourn the times when we gave in to temptations that separated us from God.  For that is what sin is:  actions that separate us from God.

 As thou with Satan didst contend, and didst the victory win,

O give us strength in thee to fight, in thee to conquer sin.

 This second verse recalls that when we speak of temptation we do not mean only that we have bad habits or tendencies.  There are evil forces in the world that attack us, and that we, unaided, cannot resist.  Jesus is alive, and he can help us to conquer sin.  The best plan is to ask him for help, and that is what fasting and praying are for.

As thou didst hunger bear and thirst, so teach us, gracious Lord,

To die to self, and chiefly live by thy most holy word.

 Our culture celebrates self-promotion: “you can be anything you want to be!”  But this is a false trail.  Our limited abilities and circumstances prevent us from being whatever we want to be .  And given our sinful separation from God, many of the things we want to be end up being harmful to ourselves and others.  That is why Christianity teaches the radical idea of dying to self and submitting to God, who made us and knows best what is good for us.

 And through these days of penitence, and through they Passiontide,

Yea, evermore in life and death, Jesus! with us abide.

 This verse recalls our need to be with Jesus as our source of life and health.  Jesus is alive and ready to help.

 Abide with us, that so, this life of suffering overpast,

An Easter of unending job we may attain at last!

This final verse reflects the Christian hope:  after a life overshadowed as it so often is by disappointment and suffering, we long for the new life that Jesus has promised, a life beyond sin, evil, and death, a life that was demonstrated on the first Easter when Jesus rose from the dead.

The text of this hymn was written by Claudia Hernaman, who lived from 1838 to 1898.  She was the daughter of a minister and wife of a minister and wrote over 150 hymn texts, many of them for children.  “Lord, who throughout these forty days” is the most popular of her texts today.  The text is usually set to a tune called St. Flavian, which is a modified version of a tune that appears in John Day’s Whole Book of Psalms from 1562.  John Day was an English master printer who specialized in Protestant works, including a collection of psalms translated into metrical English.  The tune now called St. Flavian was associated with Psalm 132 in his book. The connection may be that the psalm starts off “O Lord, remember in David’s favor all the hardships he endured.”  St. Flavian was a patriarch of Constantinople in the 5th Century who resisted improper demands from the emperor and was as a consequence deposed, exiled, and finally beaten to death.  He is recognized as a saint and martyr by the Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholics. 

 This hymn is typically Anglican:  a Victorian text that tells the story of Jesus set to a Reformation psalm tune that is named after a 5th Century martyr.  As we keep a holy Lent, we can rejoice that Claudia Hernaman, John Day, and Flavian are all alive together in Christ.

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Who Is God? Part 14 (Moses)

Our dialogue with Anaiah, an educated Jew from the 500’s B.C., continues.

Saint Barnabas Blog: You were telling me about Joseph, a younger son of Jacob/Israel, who was sold into slavery in Egypt, only to rise to high position as an advisor to Pharaoh.

Anaiah: Yes. Joseph predicted seven years of plenty, during which food could be stored, followed by seven years of famine. And his predictions come true. In fact, the famine extends widely, so that his brothers must travel to Egypt to buy food. And there, after many years, the family is reunited.

SBB: Does Joseph use his governmental powers to get revenge on his cruel brothers?

Anaiah: No. By various means he tests his brothers to see if they are faithful to one another, and then he reveals himself and forgives them. In the end, his whole family moves to Egypt, including Jacob/Israel his father. But Jacob, when he dies, is carried back to his homeland for burial. When Joseph is near death, he tells his family that “God will surely come to you and bring you up out of this land to the land that he swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.”

SBB:   We have been discussing these stories to see what they tell us about God. What have we learned?

Anaiah: We learn that God’s project of saving the world continues through the particular family of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. In the story of Joseph, we see that God’s power extends even to Egypt, land of many gods.

SBB:   You say that God’s plan is continuing, but that is a very general statement. Have we learned anything specific about how God’s plan works?

Anaiah: The full glory of God’s plan is still concealed from me, but I find the following points suggestive. First, God’s plan works through people who are not recognized as God’s agents. Isaac gives blesses Jacob in the mistaken belief that he is Esau. Joseph’s brothers do not recognize him when they come to Egypt. Second, time passes, sometimes for years, when it looks like God’s plan has stalled or even come to nothing. Yet over and over the plan revives. Third, there is something very significant about the trip to Egypt and the promise of return. Without knowing, I expect that as God’s plan works itself out we will continue to see unexpected agents and the passage of time. And I happen to know that the return from Egypt is an important, even crucial moment in our history, for reasons that I will explain next time.

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More About Lent: A Time for Growth

The season of Lent begins on Ash Wednesday and occupies the forty days (not counting Sundays) up to Easter.  Lent is traditionally observed as a season of spiritual growth through penitence and fasting.  This statement raises questions, to which we respond:

1.  What does “Lent: mean?  It is an old English word for the season of spring, the time when the days “lengthen.”

2.  Why forty days?  Forty days (or years) is traditional in the Bible for a period of trial or purification.  Noah’s flood lasted forty days, the Israelites fleeing Egypt wandered in the wilderness for forty years, Jesus was in the desert for forty days, etc.

3.  What is “penitence”?  Penitence means bitter regret for misdeeds or sins and the resolve to do better.

4.  What is “fasting”?  Fasting is a discipline that involves abstinence from certain foods or activities.  The word is related to our expression to hold “fast” or firmly to something.

5.  Why are Sundays not included in the forty days of Lent?  Every Sunday is a celebration of Easter (Jesus rose from the dead on a Sunday), so Sundays are excluded from the penitential season.

6.  Why does Easter, and therefore the preceding season of Lent, move around from year to year?  The original Easter (when Jesus rose from the dead) occurred at the Jewish season of Passover, which was (and still is) a spring festival timed by the first new moon after the spring equinox.  The early Christian church maintained this method of timing for Easter.

7.  How will penitence and fasting promote spiritual growth?  Every person is separated from God and subject to sin, evil, and death.  There is only one solution for this problem: Jesus, who is God himself but became human to save us and bring us back to God through his death on the cross and resurrection from the dead.  The early Christians, who witnessed these things, put it very simply:  if you want to be saved, you must repent (be penitent) and believe.

So here is the deal in a nutshell.  Easter is on April 1 this year.  If you want to fully experience the wonder of salvation from sin, evil, and death, take time in the season of Lent to ponder your distance from God, regret your sins and resolve to do better, and develop your hunger for reconciliation with God.  Fasting can be a daily reminder.  How can you fast?  Some people give up meat, or chocolate, or coffee, or alcohol.  Others give up television, or surfing the internet, or tweeting.  Think about replacing what you have given up with a positive activity.  Read a book of the Bible during Lent.  Attend our weekly soup suppers at St. Barnabas.

This year, start your trip back to God the way the early Church recommended:  repent and believe!

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Shrove Tuesday, Ash Wednesday & Lenten Schedule – 2018

Tuesday 2/13 – Shrove Tuesday, 6:30 PM

Its time for our annual Shrove Pancake Dinner.  This is the Anglican version of Mardi Gras. Traditionally, parishes and households would prepare for Lenten disciplines by emptying out the Larder (refrigerator before refrigeration).

Come to enjoy the last feast before the beginning of Lent.

Ash Wednesday Services

Imposition of ashes Noon & 7:00pm

Two services, February 14th at Noon and 7:00 pm. A entry rite to mark the official start of Lent. The service will observe the imposition of ashes and a eucharist.

Lenten Soup Suppers

Wednesdays, beginning, 2/21 at 6:30 pm, the parish will gather for soup supper and fellowship.  Hosts for the evening will set the menu and provide the soup.  Teams are encouraged to ease the load.

This year, to eliminate disruption at the close of the meal, there will be a table available to hold used dishes until after the discussion.  Hosts will appreciate kitchen help at the end of the evening.

Speaking of Lent

Lent is a penitential season when we are encouraged to look inwardly, to consider our personal relationship with God.  It is a liturgical season to fast, pray, and practice some form of abstinence.

This year during soup suppers, the theme for discussion will be:  No Greater Love

While the usual daily devotionals will be available, each of us will be encouraged to consider the magnitude of His love, and to write a paragraph, page, poem, art work, or song to share at dinner.

There is no greater love.  As individuals and a parish, prayerfully, this discipline be part of our Lenten focus.  As we share our stories and insights, His love will manifest and abound.


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WHO IS GOD? Part 13 (Joseph)

Our dialogue with Anaiah, an educated Jew from the 500’s B.C., continues.

Saint Barnabas Blog: You were going to tell us about the children of Jacob, aka Israel.

Anaiah: Yes. I will skip over many interesting details. In summary, Israel had twelve children, from whom traditionally the twelve tribes of our people are descended. Interestingly, the second youngest, Joseph, gets most of the attention.

SBB: We saw something like this before, when the younger brother, Jacob/Israel, was favored over Esau.

Anaiah: Yes, it’s a repeating pattern as you will see. In this case, Joseph was so favored by his father that his brothers were jealous. Even more so when Joseph reported dreams in which his brothers bowed down to him.

SBB: Not very diplomatic.

Anaiah: Perhaps not, but the dreams were sent by God, and we have a duty to report God’s truth even if it causes others to be offended. Well, friction between the brothers grew so hot that finally the brothers attacked Joseph, threw him into a pit, and sold him as a slave.

SBB: What did Israel think of that?

Anaiah: The brothers told him that Joseph had been killed by a wild animal. Meanwhile, Joseph was carried off to Egypt and sold to the household of an official there. Through no fault of his own, he was thrown into prison. In prison, along with two disgraced officials of Pharaoh, God gave him dreams about the future, and he correctly predicted that one of the officials would be freed and the other executed. The freed official at first forgot all about Joseph, his fellow prisoner, but eventually Pharaoh himself had troubling dreams that the court astrologers were unable to interpret. At that point, Joseph was recalled from prison and correctly interpreted Pharaoh’s dreams as foreshadowing seven years of plentiful harvest followed by seven years of famine. He advised that grain be stored during the seven years for use during the seven lean years. Pharaoh not only took this advice, but put Joseph in charge of the project.

SBB: Interesting story. What does it tell us about God?

Anaiah: Let me finish the story and then we can talk about that.

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As Evening Falls

January 27, 2018 – Saturday Evening

I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life.1

For I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth, saith the Lord GOD: wherefore turn yourselves, and live ye.2

If I had not come and spoken unto them, they had not had sin but now they have no cloke for their sin.3

That servant, which knew his lord’s will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes.4

The wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.5 He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life but the wrath of God abideth on him.6 Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?7

If any man serve me, let him follow me; and where I am, there shall also my servant be: if any man serve me, him will my Father honour.8

1Deu 30:19; 2Eze 18:32; 3Joh 15:22; 4Luk 12:47; 5Rom 6:23; 6Joh 3:36; 7Rom 6:16; 8Joh 12:26; (From Bagster’s Daily Light KJV)

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