Another Educational Opportunity

On July 8 and 15, from 9:10 to 10:00 am (that is, between the 8:00 and 10:30 liturgies), St. Barnabas will present a class on Jewish Feasts and Festivals.  These were established in Old Testament times to celebrate various aspects of God’s goodness to his people, and they remain in use today, sometimes with modifications.  Jesus and his disciples themselves participated in the Jewish feasts and festivals, as shown by numerous references to them in the New Testament.  Studying the Jewish feasts and festivals will help to develop our understanding of what Jesus meant when he said that he came, not to abolish the Law, but to fulfill it.  All are welcome.

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Happy Fourth of July

On this holiday, we remember our ancestors who fought and died so that we could be free.  May we come together to celebrate the many good things that we share.  One of those good things is that we can worship God without fear, at a time when Christians are oppressed in many parts of the world.   

On this day we pray:

O Eternal God, through whose mighty power our fathers won their liberties of old; Grant, we beseech thee, that we and all the people of this land may have grace to maintain these liberties in righteousness and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Independence Day – Collect 1928 BCP


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Lessons Learned

One of the lessons from our recent class on Christian Ethics was this:  study of ethics reveals that we do not and cannot behave well even according to our own standards, much less approach the perfect purity and goodness of God.  We cannot by our own efforts make ourselves acceptable to God.  But there is no need to despair.  God has promised his own Spirit to live within us, not to make us perfectly good (we will never be that) but to make us part of himself.  When we surrender to God and rely, not on our own merits, but on God’s free gift (through the death and resurrection of Jesus) then we become acceptable to Him.  It’s both easy and hard.  Easy because the work has been done for us, hard because we cannot rely wholly on God unless we smother our pride.

So why go to church?  In our liturgy we remember and confess our unworthiness before God and we remember (and more than that, mystically connect with) the sacrifice of Jesus that made us acceptable to God.  We experience a foretaste of our hope:  to live in love with God forever.  Church is not a bunch of pretty good people getting together for mutual congratulations, it is (as it has been said) one beggar telling another where to find bread.

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Christian Education Opportunity: Christian Ethics

On the next two Sundays, June 10 and 17, from 9:15 to 10:00 a.m., St. Barnabas will offer a class on Christian Ethics, taught by Karl Oles.  The timing of the class will allow you to attend either the 8:00 or 10:30 liturgy.  The subjects covered will include:  How Should I Behave Toward Others?  How Should I Behave Toward Myself? and What is the Purpose of Moral Behavior?

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June Blessings!

June 1, 2018 – Friday Morning

The fruit of the Spirit is longsuffering, gentleness.1

The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abun-dant in goodness and truth.2

Walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, with all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love.3 Be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.4 The wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy.5 Charity suffereth long, and is kind.6

In due season we shall reap, if we faint not.7 Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain. Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh.8

1Gal 5:22; 2Exo 34:6; 3Eph 4:1,2,32; 4Jam 3:17; 51Co 13:4; 6Gal 6:9; 7Jam 5:7,8; (From Bagster’s Daily Light K.J.V.)

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Memorial Day

Memorial Day, originally known as Decoration Day, began as a remembrance for those who died on both sides in the Civil War.  Over time, it has come to honor the dead in all American wars. On this occasion, it may be helpful to review what Christians believe about death.

In the 11th chapter of the Gospel of John, we read that Jesus’ friend Lazarus fell ill.  When Jesus heard this, he told his followers that “this illness does not lead to death, rather it is for God’s glory.”  When Jesus arrived at Lazarus’ home, his friend had died.  Lazarus’ sister Martha met Jesus and, remembering Jesus’ many acts of healing, said, “If you had been here, my brother would not have died.”  Jesus said, “Your brother will rise again.”  Martha said she understood there would be a general resurrection of the faithful on the “last day.”  Jesus then made this remarkable statement:  “I am the resurrection and the life.  Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.”  Then Jesus went to the tomb and called, “Come out!”  Immediately Lazarus was revived and returned to life, to the amazement of all.

The revival of Lazarus was not a resurrection.  Lazarus presumably died (again) later on.  Jesus’ action in this instance was a proclamation of his complete power over death, but only a partial illustration of that power.  The full demonstration came when Jesus himself was killed and came back to a new kind of life.  After the resurrection, Jesus suddenly appeared in locked rooms and traveled rapidly from place to place, but he went out of his way to show his followers that he was not an immaterial ghost, he had a (kind of) physical body.

Easter The Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Date: 1463 Mural in fresco and tempera by Piero della Francesca (1420–1492)

Pondering these things, St. Paul instructed the church at Rome that our baptism should be regarded as a kind of death, a death to sin.  Moreover, “if we have been united with [Jesus] in a death like his, we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.”  To the church at Corinth he wrote, “Listen, I will tell you a mystery!  We will not all die, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet.  For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.”  The Book of Revelation describes, in colorful and mystical language, how those who trust in Christ will live with him in bliss forever.

Jesus taught his followers not to judge whether others would be saved or not.  It is our job as Christians to proclaim the possibility of eternal bliss, to invite others to this rich future, and to take care that we ourselves are not left out.  Brother Lawrence of the Resurrection, a 17th century French monk, put it this way (as recorded in the book called “The Practice of the Presence of God”):  “The end we ought to propose to ourselves in this life is to become as good worshipers of God as we can, as we hope to be his perfect worshipers for all eternity.

So as we honor and respect our war dead on this holiday, let us wish them the best possible future, a life wrapped in the loving arms of God.  This future life is a reality that we can share with them.

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Pentecost, commonly called Whitsunday

Since Advent (four weeks prior to Christmas), our services have followed the Church Year in celebrating Jesus’ birth, his ministry of teaching and miracles, his betrayal, arrest, and death, followed by his miraculous resurrection and ascension.  Now we reach another high point of particular importance for the establishment of the Church.  Before his ascension, Jesus had told his followers, who were still generally timid and in hiding, to stay in Jerusalem until they had been given “power from on high.”  

 Jesus’ ascension took place 40 days after his resurrection.  Ten days after that was a Jewish religious holiday called Shavuot, which means “weeks” in Hebrew.  The holiday fell 49 days, or a “week of weeks,” after the day following Passover.  In Greek, the holiday was called Pentecost from the word for “fifty.”  Pentecost/Shavuot was an agricultural festival marking the beginning of the wheat harvest.  All Jews who could afford to do so went up to Jerusalem to give thanks to God for the “first fruits” of the earth.

On Pentecost/Shavuot, it was (and is) traditional to read the Book of Ruth.  This story concerns Ruth, a Gentile woman, who had married a son of Naomi, a Jewish woman.  When the man died, Naomi decided to return to her homeland and she counseled Ruth to remain, but Ruth, with touching fidelity, promised to follow Naomi, saying “your people shall be my people, and your God my God.”  Ruth followed Naomi to Bethlehem and, at harvest time, met and married a wealthy man, Boaz.  The great King David was a descendant of that marriage.  Thus the story of Ruth looked forward to a time when Jews and Gentiles would join together in worshiping the one true God.  

On Pentecost/Shavuot, when Jerusalem was full of people, the followers of Jesus gathered together, presumably praying and wondering about this “power from on high.”  Suddenly there came a sound like a rushing wind, fire appeared over their heads, and they were filled with the Holy Spirit.  They were given power to speak in various languages about the Good News of Jesus.  The story of Ruth now had a greater ending because Jesus, born at Bethlehem, was a greater descendant of King David.  After receiving the Holy Spirit, Jesus’ followers spoke boldly and promptly made many converts to the new Church. 

After the destruction of the Temple and dispersion of the Jewish people in A.D. 70, the agricultural focus of Shavuot shifted and the holiday came to commemorate the giving of the Law to Moses on Mount Sinai.  In this way, Shavuot became associated with the origin of the Jewish people, just as Pentecost became associated with the origin of the Church.

 In England, Pentecost is often called Whitsunday because of the white vestments traditionally worn on that day. Whitsunday was also a popular day for Baptisms in England and Europe in general because temperatures at the Easter vigil were still chilly for full immersion baptisms. At the end of the end of the “Great 50 Days” (the time from Easter to Pentecost) the weather is usually a little more conducive to baptisms in cold English stone churches.

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Ascension Day

May 10th – this Thursday is Ascension Day. We will observe two services on this day at Noon and 7:00 p.m.

Why do we celebrate a service on this day? Here are some thoughts shared in a sermon by one of the Caroline divines:

This day gives us hopes of Heaven, in that our flesh in the first-fruits is thither ascended. For if God had not intended some great good to our nature, he would not have received the first-fruits up on high: Christ taking the first-fruits of our nature, this day carried it up to God, and by those first-fruits, hath made the whole stock to be sanctified. And the Father highly esteemed the gift, both for the worthiness of him that offered it up, and for the purity of the offering, so as to receive it with his own hands, and to set it at his right hand. To what Nature was it that God said, Sit thou on my right hand? To the same, to which formerly he had said, dust thou art, and to dust thou shalt return. This gift went far beyond the loss; Paradise was the place from which we fell; but we were this day carried up to heaven, and mansions are there provided for us, Chrys. in diem. Christ ascended up into heaven in the sight of his Disciples, that they and we might assuredly believe, that we should follow, and not deem it impossible for us body and soul, to be translated thither; Cypr. in diem.

From a sermon by Anthony Sparrow, D.D. (1612-1685)

First printed in his book: A Rationale upon the Book of Common Prayer of the Church of England” (London 1665)

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Saint Mark the Evangelist


April 25th is the feast day of Saint Mark. From tradition and the internal evidence of the Testament, it appears that Mark was an early member of the church who knew both Saint Peter and Saint Paul. He wrote his account of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection probably for readers in Rome. It is said that he later moved to Alexandria and founded the church there. Centuries later, his remains were removed from Egypt to Venice and, since then, Mark has been celebrated as the patron saint of Venice. The imposing Basilica of St. Mark is at the heart of the city. It is pleasing to speculate what we might have done if we had known the first generation of Christians. Mark was in that enviable position and he wrote his gospel for our instruction. Take time and read it this week!

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It All Comes Down to This…

At St. Barnabas, everything we have, our building, liturgy, and hymns, all serve a single purpose:  to encourage everyone to accept and develop a personal relationship with God, the loving creator of the universe.  God has his arms open to us.  His son Jesus died for our sins so that we can be forgiven and live forever with God.  How can we respond to this golden opportunity?  Here’s a good start, pray to God (he is always listening):  

God, I have let you down and become separated from you.  I am sorry and I want to change.  I want to live with you forever.  Help me! 

If you say this with sincerity, God will help you. He has been known to speak with a still, small voice, so listen carefully and start your journey home to God. If you want to join with others who are making that same journey, you will be welcome at St. Barnabas.

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