St John’s Church will celebrate the Feast of the Ascension on Thursday, May 6th at 6pm outside in the garden.
Palm Sunday – March 24 Mass 8am & 10:30am
Monday – March 25 Mass 9:30am
Tuesday & Wednesday – March 26 & 27 Mass 12:15pm
Maundy Thursday – March 28 Washing of the Feet & Mass 7pm
Good Friday – March 29 Veneration of the Cross & Eucharist 7pm
Saturday Easter Vigil – March 30 Mass 9pm
Easter Day – March 31 Mass 8am & 10:30am
Advent Lessons and Carols, Sunday December 23rd at 4:00 p.m. with reception to follow.
Caroling at 5:00 p.m. followed by Mass at 5:00 p.m.
Caroling at 10:00 p.m. followed by Midnight Mass at 10:30 p.m.
Christmas Morning Mass at 10:00 a.m.
Come join with us as we adore our Lord Jesus Christ in worship and adoration this Christmas.
A few months ago in the Evangelist, I promised a series on the five Sacraments we often forget, after Baptism and the Eucharist. Much has happened since then to distract me. Here, we get back on track and ponder the mysteries of the latter Sacraments!
The Sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation share an intimate relationship. But, many people have gotten the two quite wrong. A corrective is needed in the Church so that we might fully appreciate the gift of God in these Sacraments.
Baptism is incorporation into the mysteries of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, into Christ himself. It is thus discipleship which is at the heart of Baptism. So, we are talking about both the efficacy of Baptism to remove Original Sin and remit sin, but we are also talking conversion itself. This is the fundamental mistake many make in assuming that Baptism is for infants – it certainly is not. In fact, the Church assumes that adult baptism is the norm and dispenses from this rule when the parents of an infant or small child are discipled, believing Christians. The truth is that Baptism normatively expresses conversion, discipleship, and forgiveness of sins by uniting us to Christ. When we baptize infants, we do so in full expectation that a life of conversion, discipleship, and forgiveness will be the marks of this child’s life. Why? For the same reason we don’t expect children to be sociopaths – we are willing to put in the hard work of discipline, instruction, and moral formation. We are willing to love our children! Why not more so when we commit them to Jesus Christ, Our Lord?
For a long time, it was assumed that a child is born, baptized within a few months, confirmed at age 12, and so forth. That is no longer a safe assumption, but it was this assumption which tainted our understanding of first Baptism and then Confirmation.
Two errors stand out:
The first is that Confirmation completes Baptism. The assumption was that a child who has been baptized should also be converted to faith, and therefore will take the faith as his or her own and that this is rightly recognized in Confirmation. This position has two problems. First, it denies that Baptism is, itself, a complete sacrament imparting all that we say it does, namely regeneration in Christ and full membership in the Church. Second, it assumes that confirmation is only for youth. This is certainly not so. A good many adults were never confirmed, especially people converting to Anglicanism from Evangelical churches.
The second error is that Baptism constitutes a sign-up sheet for a place in Heaven and therefore Confirmation is much more a way of saying “Keep up the good work!” This will not do. The life begun in the waters of Baptism must be sustained. It will not do for anyone to say: oh, I’m baptized, no need to talk to me about the need for repentance and faith. Rather, all of us must be devoted to the life of faith and repentance because we are Baptized, never presuming anything. Many people, you’ll note, live in this assumption. They say “I am a member of the Church because I was baptized oh so many years ago. I’d never darken the door these days, but still I am a member of the church.” It is this same idea which drives parents who do not take the Faith seriously, yet are absolutely neurotic about the need to have their children baptized. Through the years, I have noticed this same attitude toward Confirmation.
A better way of thinking about Confirmation is that it is much more like an ordination, although not at all an ordination. It is simply this – the Bishop praying for the flourishing of the gift of the Holy Spirit by the laying on of his hands and anointing with oil. In this way, we maintain clearly that a) Baptism is complete in every way and b) that the life of conversion, repentance, and faith is exactly the life which the Holy Spirit attends! We must begin to imagine the Church, not as the body of immobile “butts in the pews” led by a few elite clergy, but much more like what the ancient Church embodied – a Church full of passionate believers who passionately pursued holiness of life. If that wasn’t the case, the ancient Church said to adults – no Baptism for you! And to parents – no baptism for your children!
I hope this is clear: when adults and youth are confirmed at Saint John’s, my heartfelt desire is that they be people who are actively engaged in the Christian faith and life. If that’s true, they have found themselves to be targets for attack, and therefore what we want is to equip them with the effective prayer of their bishop, and the great joy that accompanies his prayers for the increase of the Holy Spirit.
In order for this to happen, it is essential that first, parents take their God-given duty to catechize their children very, very seriously. It is not the priest’s job, or the youth minister’s job, or the Sunday School teacher’s job – it is theirs. It is the Church’s job to encourage and equip parents in this task. Secondly, it is the task of the Church to, especially with youth and adults, create a culture of faith. The principle of culture is this: “whatever one sows, that will he also reap.” (Galatians 6:7) If you plant wheat, you get wheat. If you plant asparagus, you get asparagus. If you plant faith, you get faith. If you plant repentance, you get repentance. If you plant strong teaching and catechesis, you get people who are well-instructed and fully formed in the faith. The trouble today is that many Christians are suffering from deep “spiritual birth defects,” as a bishop friend of mine says. A culture of faith, forming generations in faithful discipleship is the answer. Confirmation is the sacrament of that very thing happening.
If you have not been confirmed, I encourage you to join the Catechesis Course, held Sunday mornings at 9:30 in the Conference Room. If you were confirmed as a youth, and realize that there was something lacking in your prior instruction and that you would like to take up serious discipleship – the Catechesis Course is for you as well!
The renovations to the Sacristy, which were long overdue, have recently been completed. Join us for a consecration and blessing of the renovation this Saturday afternoon at 3:00 p.m. The Altar Guild will host a reception afterward in the Guild Hall.
For this Thursday’s edition of the Stockton Record, I was asked by a reporter how to say grace at a Thanksgiving meal. Having to respond got me thinking: how should a Thanksgiving Day prayer go? Very often, they’re completely awkward – think the Griswold Family at Christmas saying the Pledge of Allegiance. But, the Thanksgiving prayer doesn’t have to be awkward. What it should be is sincere. So, I offer five tips for your Thanksgiving Dinner prayers:
1) Don’t cater to the common denominator. We all know that, from time to time, there will be a guest at the table who doesn’t share our faith. Rather than praying in a manner that would make them comfortable, simply pray with sincerity, from the heart. Think of it as writing a personal letter to God on the fly, thanking Him for His blessings. The benefit is that no one can be offended by a sincere prayer. More importantly – it keeps in mind that the audience of our prayers is God Himself.
2) Involve Others. One of the best of Thanksgiving traditions is to go around the table and ask people to talk about the things that have made them thankful in the previous year. I would offer one more suggestion – a blessing for the meal which includes versicles and responses:
V: The eyes of all wait upon thee, O Lord, R: and thou givest them their meat in due season. V: Thou openest thine hand R: and fillest every living thing with blessing.
Bless us, O Lord and these the gifts which of thy bounty we are about to receive; through Christ our Lord. Amen
3) Sing Together. There are wonderful hymns of thanksgiving you can sing together. The tunes are very easy, and the words are splendid. Examples from the 1982 Hymnal include: #135, #410, #411, and #437. Here’s an excerpt from Hymn #411, St. Thomas:
“Then bless his holy Name,
whose grace hath made thee whole,
whose loving kindness crowns thy days:
O bless the Lord, my soul.”
4) Tell A Story. Story is often left out of Thanksgiving celebrations, and there’s no reason for it. Before the time for blessing the food, someone should tell the family story. The matriarch or the patriarch should, as the Turkey is carved or the wine is poured, tell a story that includes: how Mom and Dad met, the story of their engagement, the stories of how all the kids were born, how they found the house they’re living in, the story of a tough year when money was short or the business wasn’t doing well, the story of newcomers being welcomed and even about the funny things that happened in Thanksgivings past. Telling stories is an essential part to prayer.
5) Remember the Dead. Don’t forget to give thanks to God for the people who have been a crucial part of your lives and who are no longer with you. Remember them at the meal, and pray for them. For many people, Thanksgiving begins a season which isn’t so merry as it once was. Give them the opportunity to thank God for good wives and husbands, friends, and children who can’t sit at the table with them.
Yesterday, for the first time at Saint John’s, I celebrated what I hope will become a standard in our parish, a Requiem Mass for the first monday of the month. The new black vestments were broken out, and we used the Requiem Mass from the Anglican Service Book.
What is a Requiem Mass? Most usually, we see requiem masses in the context of what most people would call a “funeral.” Requiem means remembrance, so the Requiem Mass is a mass of remembrance of the dead before God. The Church is a mystical body of which the living are merely a part. We are the Church Militant, those who war against the world, the flesh, and the devil here on earth. There is the Church Expectant, those who await the redemption of their bodies after their death, and lastly, the Church Triumphant – those who have entered into the glory of God in Heaven. We pray for the Church Expectant, for we love them, and care for them. It is often surprising how people will receive a multitude of prayers before their death, but the prayers virtually disappear afterward. Why? It’s probably because we live in an inherently materialistic culture. ”Seeing is believing,” the culture says. In other words, if something or someone does not inhabit the material world – it doesn’t exist.
But, the Church believes in “things visible and things invisible.” We believe that the dead are just as real as they ever were. They are full members of Christ’s body the Church, and are just as deserving of our prayers, especially the mass, which is celebrated on behalf of the living and the dead both.
As I was sharing with friends on facebook this past week the plan to introduce the monthly Requiem, a friend wrote: “If the parish gives you any flak about it, just tell them that they’ll appreciate it when they’re dead.” Saint Paul wrote to the Corinthians: “If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all men most to be pitied.” (1 Cor 15:19) You see, the Christian Life has no terminus, it continues on forever. The life begun at Baptism is truly eternal life. What we pray for is the everlasting friendship of God, both for ourselves, and for those whom we love.
As the wonderful Requiem text Dies Irae puts it:
“What shall I, frail man, be pleading?
Who for me be interceding,
when the just are mercy needing?
King of Majesty tremendous,
who dost free salvation send us,
Fount of pity, then befriend us!”
If you have a loved one whom you would like remembered at the altar, please let as know at the parish office. The Requiem Mass is the first Monday mass of each month, at 9:30 a.m. in the Renison Chapel.