Epiphany continues…

The season of Epiphany recalls ways that Jesus was revealed or manifested as the Savior, the one sent from God (in fact, as it turned out, God himself).  We talked about the visit of the three wise men.  Another event recalled in this season is Jesus’ baptism at the Jordan River.https://keenforgod.files.wordpress.com/2014/05/thebaptismjordan.jpg?w=640  Baptism amounted to dunking under the water and was the signature action of a fellow called John (called, not surprisingly, the Baptist).  John used baptism as a symbol of dying to sin and being reborn to a new life.  He called people to repent of their sins, that is, to change their lives and draw close to God through prayer and good works. When asked by the religious authorities who in the world he thought he was, he answered that he was preparing the way for one greater than himself.  When Jesus arrived at the scene, John recognized him as the “greater” one to come.  Jesus submitted to baptism and there was a miraculous sign (the gospel writers describe it in different ways) confirming John’s acclamation.

 Another early sign was, as the Gospel of John describes it, the first miracle that Jesus himself performed.  He was at a wedding at Cana in Galilee.  Then as now, weddings were celebrated with parties, food, and drink.  But they ran out of wine.  Apparently reluctant, but at the urging of his mother Mary (there is a story here), Jesus miraculously transformed water into wine, such excellent wine that it was remarked upon.  https://fatherjerabek.files.wordpress.com/2013/06/wedding.jpg?w=301&h=443This was no mere parlor trick.  All of Jesus’ miracles had theological meanings.  Part of the meaning here, as noted by C.S. Lewis, is that Jesus’ miracle points to a larger miracle that God performs every day (though more slowly):  rains fall, grapes grow, and grape juice ferments into wine.  Looked at in this way, the miracle at Cana reminds us of the constant gifts of God.  And that is typical of Jesus:  he was always looking to his Father in heaven with love and urging us to do the same.  

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After Christmas, What? Epiphany!

The Christmas season (Christmas Tide) is winding down.  January 5 is the twelfth day of Christmas.  Have fun celebrating the birth of the Christ child!

What comes next is the season of Epiphany.  Epiphany means “manifestation” or “making known.”  It celebrates the fact that Jesus came to all the peoples of the world, not just to the Jewish people.  The first recognition of Jesus by non-Jews was the visitation of “We Three Kings from Orient Are.”  That episode conjures up visions of Christmas pageants and children in bathrobes with paper crowns.  Let’s try to get back to the truth of the matter by looking at the historical source material, the Gospel of Matthew.

Matthew tells us that “When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the East to Jerusalem saying, ‘Where is he that is born king of the Jews?  For we have seen his star in the East and are come to worship him.'”

The time and place can be fixed with some precision.  Judea was a province of the Roman Empire, ruled, at the time of Jesus’ birth, by Herod (called “the Great”), a client king of Rome.  Herod is remembered for his lavish building programs and his cruelty.  He was so suspicious of rivals that he had several members of his own family killed.  Herod himself died around 4 B.C. or perhaps 1 B.C.

To this embittered man appeared “wise men from the East.”  The term “wise men” translates the Greek word “Magoi,” the plural of “Magos,” which appears to refer to members of the priestly caste in Persia, then part of the Parthian Empire, which was in fact to the east of Jerusalem. Matthew does not call the wise men kings nor does he say there were three of them.

The wise men say they have seen a star.  In childhood pictures, the Three Kings are literally following a star that moves ahead of them, but that does not seem to be what Matthew is describing.  Instead, the three Magoi seem to be following what we might call an astrological indication.  A particular star in a particular constellation has told them of a wonder to be seen among the Jews, and so they have traveled to Jerusalem, the capital of Judea, to find out what is going on.

We can imagine Herod’s consternation when he hears from these distinguished foreigners that someone else has been born king of the Jews.  Matthew tells us that Herod inquired from his scholars whether there was any prophecy about where the coming king of the Jews would be born.  They answered that, according to the Book of Micah, the promised Messiah was to be born in Bethlehem.  And so Herod sent the Magoi to Bethlehem with orders to return if they found anything looking like a baby king, “so that I may come and worship him also.”  These words of Herod drip with irony and menace.

Matthew goes on to say that the Magoi did travel on until they came to where the child was.  Interestingly, Matthew does not say that the Magoi found Jesus in Bethlehem, nor that the Magoi showed up only days after Jesus’ birth.  They may have found Jesus in Nazareth, which was his home.  The Magoi are said to have presented rich gifts:  gold, frankincense, and myrrh.  The Holy Family might well have turned these gifts into cash when they decided to flee to Egypt to avoid danger from Herod.  For Herod, once he realized that the Magoi did not return, determined to rid himself of a possible rival by ordering that all children in Bethlehem under the age of two years should be killed.

So that was the beginning of how Jesus was made known to the peoples of the earth:  a murderous king, three distinguished pagans, and a scholarly prophecy.  That’s not the way we might have written it, but God often acts in unexpected ways.

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Announcing A Festival of 9 Lessons & Carols

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On News Years Eve, December 31, 2018 at 2:00pm St. Barnabas will celebrated a service of Lessons & Carols. This is an event that needs every voice to sing praise and celebrate the birth of Christ. During the Twelve Days of Christmas, this time loved tradition helps to recall the great story with music and narrative. We will pray out 2018 and prayerfully welcome 2019 on this joyous afternoon. Our time together continues with a potluck appetizer buffet in the fellowship hall. Join us in this Twelve Days of Christmas event.

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Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas! The twelve days of Christmas have begun, Christmas Day being the first day of Christmas.  This is a holy and peaceful time of year.  The shopping frenzy of the Santa Claus festival has come to an end and we can ponder the miracle of God becoming man.  Why would God do that?  The Gospel of John records Jesus’ explanation.  It’s in John 3:16:

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on him should not perish, but have eternal life.

What is at stake is no less than our immortal destiny:  we can live with God forever or we can perish without God.  Jesus’ birth, life, death, and resurrection are the most important events that have ever occurred on this earth.  They opened the door for us to have eternal life with God.  How does that work?  Believe in Jesus!  But how can I believe if I don’t know much about him?  Aha, join us and learn about him with us.

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One More Pre-Christmas Blog post…

What’s wrong with the world today?  Sin is what is wrong with the world today.  But what is sin?  Sin is separation from God.  It is entirely our doing.  God is (forgive the simile) like a friendly golden retriever puppy who wants to play.  But we kick him out of the way and slam the door.  We are inclined by nature to do this (that is the mystery of original sin) but we add to the problem every day by our neglect of God and others, not to mention our positive violations of God’s commands.  All of us, from kindly Grandma down to the most callous criminal, are separated from God, it is only a matter of degree.  The greatest saints have written about how they (even they!) feel cut off from God from time to time. So what can we do about it?  We can’t do anything about it.  We have no power in ourselves to help ourselves.  Well, isn’t that a depressing message for the Christmas season?  No!  God is the only one who can fix the problem, and he has acted!  He came to us as a human child (like us in all ways except for sin).  Naturally (when you think about it) we killed him.  But he refused to stay dead.  He rose from the dead and lives forever and makes it possible for us to overcome our separate from God. His Spirit is with us and he is on the move!  Talk about the greatest story ever told!  Christmas celebrates the birth of God as man.  As the hymn has it, the hopes and fears of all the years were met in Bethlehem that night.  Here is cause for joy. Here is cause for a truly merry Christmas!  Join us.  Our calendar of events is below.  Merry Christmas!

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Christmas Eve & Christmas Day

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Advent & Christmas Schedule

Sunday Dec. 23rd1 service at 10:30 am followed by Greening    French Angel with Christmas Tree Clipart       Party                                          (4th Sunday in Advent)

Monday Dec. 24th – Christmas Eve Mass 5:00 pm & 10:30 pm

Tuesday Dec. 25th – Christmas Day Mass 10:00 am

Sunday Dec. 30th – Regular Services 8:00 and 10:30

Monday Dec. 31st – Lessons & Carols 2:00 pm

Pot Luck Reception to Follow – All are Invited!

 

Free Vintage Christmas Image Deer

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What does it mean to be a Bible believing church?

St. Barnabas is a Bible believing church.  That means, among other things:

  1. Every service includes multiple readings from the Bible, arranged so that over the course of a year much of the Bible, both Old and New Testaments, is read.
  2. Our prayers and liturgy are composed largely of quotations or allusions to the Bible.
  3. Our hymns often quote or paraphrase Bible passages.

These arrangements reflect the high regard that we, as Anglicans, have for the Bible. The Anglican Church was born in the European Reformation, when there was widespread dissatisfaction with the way Christian church services were carried on in Latin, a language that fewer and fewer people understood.  The Anglican Church encouraged the use of the Bible in English and included Bible readings as the heart of its liturgy.  We are truly “steeped in Scripture.”

But what does it mean to believe the Bible?  Here is an example.  In the current season of Advent, we use readings and hymns that recall God’s promise to the people of Israel in the Old Testament to send his Messiah and to provide a response to sin, evil, and death.  Our hymn, “O come o come, Emmanuel” comes from an ancient text spelling out ways that the coming Messiah was described over centuries of Jewish history.  We take these promises seriously.  The Messiah, Jesus, did come and he did make it possible for us to overcome sin, evil, and death.  Jesus has promised to return at the end of the world and in the meantime he has sent his Spirit to be with us.  These are the most important promises ever made and they are at the center of our worship.  To learn all about these promises, join us for an annual cycle of readings and reflections.  Advent is a very good time to start.

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Friday Morning Prayers

November 30, 2018 – Friday Morning

The Lord of peace himself give you peace always by all means. The Lord be with you all.1

Peace, from him which is, and which was, and which is to come.2 The peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.3

Jesus himself stood in the midst of them, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you.4 Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.5

The Comforter … even the Spirit of truth.6 The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace.7 The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God.8

My presence shall go with thee and I will give thee rest. And he said unto him, If thy presence go not with me, carry us not up hence. For wherein shall it be known here that I and thy people have found grace in thy sight? is it not in that thou goest with us?9
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12Th 3:16; 2Rev 1:4; 3Phi 4:7; 4Luk 24:36; 5Joh 14:27; 6Joh 15:26; 7Gal 5:22; 8Rom 8:16; 9Exo 33:14-16;

(From Bagster’s Daily Light)

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After Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving can be a time of family, friends, football, and feasting.  What happens next?  All of the stores seem to think it is time to spend money while surrounded by sappy Christmas-lite music.  Is that really our purpose?  Can we really make our lives happy by purchasing things (even on sale)?  No, ultimately all the purchases and forced joviality ring hollow.  The only thing that endures is the love of God.  And this is a perfect time to learn more about Him.  Starting on December 2, St. Barnabas will celebrate the ancient season of Advent, a time to ponder the promises God made about the coming Savior, so that when Christmas arrives (the 12 days of Christmas don’t begin until December 25) we will understand what Jesus means and why his life, death, and resurrection changed the world.  You are welcome to join us.  See the calendar for more events.

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Thinking about Thanksgiving

St. Barnabas will have one service on Thanksgiving Day, at 9:00 am.  The service will include the following reading from the Letter of St. James:   

Do not err, my beloved brethren.  Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.   

In other words, unlike the sun and moon that come and go, God, the creator of all the heavenly bodies, is unfailingly kind and generous to us.  We invite you to gather with us on Thanksgiving morning to put the holiday into perspective.  In the swirl of family, friends, food and sometimes controversy, it can be comforting to keep your gaze fixed on God, to whom thanks and praise are due and with whom there is no variation.

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