Archive for the ‘Christ Episcopal Church Valdosta Georgia’ Category

Happy to Be an Episcopalian   1 comment

Above:  The Flag of The Episcopal Church

Photograph by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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I have belonged to three denominations and chosen one.  When my parents were Southern Baptists, so was I.  Likewise, in 1980, when my father left the ordained ministry of the Southern Baptist Convention for that of The United Methodist Church, I became a United Methodist at the age of seven years.  Thus, in June 1980, our family moved from Newington, Georgia, where he had been pastor of North Newington Baptist Church, and settled in the parsonage in Vidette, Georgia.  He served as the minister of the Vidette, Friendship, and Greens Cut congregations in Burke County.  In the ensuing years, I took the grand tour of rural southern Georgia.  My initial spiritual formation occurred within the context of rural Southern United Methodism, a different creature from United Methodism as it exists in much of the rest of the United States and the world.

Yet I have always had an inner Catholic.  The sacraments, central to my faith, were too infrequent in those rural United Methodist churches.  My attraction to the Deuterocanon (what many call the Apocrypha) asserted itself, also.  Furthermore, my interest in history, and therefore, in ecclesiastical history, made me an outlier in the congregations my father served.  Church history, as it existed in those places, started with Jesus, ran consistently through the Apostles, jumped to the Crusades, jumped again to Martin Luther, ran forward, and really started sprinting with John and Charles Wesley.  That version of church history left many gaps.

In the autumn of 1991, I started my studies at Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College, Tifton, Georgia.  I started attending services at St. Anne’s Episcopal Church, Tifton, on the Sunday after All Saints’ Day.  On December 22, 1991, Bishop Harry Woolston Shipps confirmed me.  I remained in the Diocese of Georgia through 2005, belonging to the following congregations:

  1. Christ Episcopal Church, Valdosta, Georgia (1993-1996),
  2. St. Thomas Aquinas Episcopal Church, Baxley, Georgia (1996-1998),
  3. Christ Episcopal Church, Cordele, Georgia (1998-2001),
  4. Trinity Episcopal Church, Statesboro, Georgia (2001-2003), and
  5. Christ Episcopal Church, Dublin, Georgia (2003-2005).

I have worshiped as a member of St. Gregory the Great Episcopal Church, Athens, Georgia, in the Diocese of Atlanta, since August 2005.

I have enjoyed the liberty of being a layman and the pleasure of belong to congregations that respect scholarship and encourage the asking of questions.  My father, as a pastor, censored himself; he made honest theological statements at home he dared not utter from a pulpit.  I did not feel free to ask certain questions in those churches.  In Episcopal churches, however, I have asked questions freely and heard priests utter statements (not all of whom I agreed with) that would have gotten my father into great trouble.  The threshold for offending people was low in his case; my father once offended people by supporting the Martin Luther King, Jr., federal holiday.  That position contributed to us moving.  On another occasion, he upset a parishioner by preaching that Jesus had a sense of humor.  He had allegedly insulted her Jesus.  The District Superintendent did not take the complaint seriously, fortunately.

Many of my statements on my weblogs, such as this one, would have cooked my goose in those churches.

So be it.  I refuse to back down from my Catholic tendencies and my acceptance of Single Predestination.  I refuse to back down from my support of civil rights (and not just based on skin color), of Biblical scholarship, and science.

I am where I belong–in The Episcopal Church.  Thanks be to God!

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 25, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JAMES BAR-ZEBEDEE, APOSTLE AND MARTYR

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Best Wishes for Episcopal Congregations to Which I Used to Belong   Leave a comment

Above:  St. Thomas Aquinas Episcopal Church, Baxley, Georgia, December 2018

Cropped from a Google Earth Image

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I was part of the Episcopal Diocese of Georgia for nearly fourteen years.  On December 22, 1991, at St. Anne’s Church, Tifton, Harry Shipps, the Eighth Bishop of Georgia, confirmed me.  I moved to Athens, Georgia, and, by extension, into the Diocese of Atlanta, in August 2005.  Shortly thereafter, my membership transferred to St. Gregory the Great Episcopal Church, Athens.  I have been part of that parish since.  In the same length of time, from 1991 to 2005, I belonged to six congregations–four parishes and two missions:

  1. St. Anne’s Church, Tifton (1991-1993);
  2. Christ Church, Valdosta (1993-1996);
  3. St. Thomas Aquinas, Baxley (1996-1998);
  4. Christ Church, Cordele (1998-2001);
  5. Trinity Church, Statesboro (2001-2003); and
  6. Christ Church, Dublin (2003-2005).

I have, from time to time, checked on these congregations online.  The current rector of St. Anne’s Church, Tifton, was in high school and a fellow parishioner at Christ Church, Valdosta, when I was a student at Valdosta State University (1993-1996).  St. Anne’s Church, Tifton, and Christ Church, Valdosta, have added on to their facilities.  Christ Church, Cordele, a struggling mission when I belonged to it, has become a lively congregation.  Christ Church, Dublin, has also become more active since my departure for Athens.  The Rector of Trinity Church, Statesboro, just left for Charlotte, North Carolina, after she had served for about seventeen years.

Above:  St. Thomas Aquinas Episcopal Church, Baxley, Georgia, May 25, 2017

Cropped from a Google Earth Image

I have had little success in finding information at St. Thomas Aquinas Church, Baxley, online.  It, founded in 1982, was a small mission when I was part of it.  I poured myself into that church.  I served on the Mission Council and as Junior Warden. I redecorated two of the rooms.  I began to serve as a Lay Eucharistic Minister in the Diocese of Georgia, and to lead Morning Prayer, for we shared a priest with St. Matthew’s Church, Fitzgerald.  We had Holy Eucharist every other Sunday.  The internal arrangement of the building has never left my memory.

I remember the way the worship space looked in 1996 and how it changed in for the better.  I recall that the building, constructed for another congregation of another denomination, had a baptistry behind the high altar.  I remember work to hide the baptistry, expand the altar area, add new railings, and replace the aging red carpet with green carpet.  I also recall the redecoration of the altar space (the sanctuary, properly) to look good, as if someone cared.  I remember that we did care.

A few days ago, on the website of the Diocese of Georgia, I read of the impending sale of the building.  The congregation, with an Average Sunday Attendance of thirteen, has moved in with St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church.

Above:  St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church, Baxley, Georgia, May 2014

Cropped from a Google Earth Image

The first Episcopal Eucharist in that building will be at 6:00 p.m. today.  This occasion marks the opportunity for rebirth.

St. Thomas Aquinas Church has come full circle.  Prior to 1989, when it moved into its acquired building on the Golden Isles Parkway, the Episcopal congregation worshiped in the space of what was then St. Christopher’s Catholic Church.

I wish all the Episcopal congregations to which I used to belong well.  I pray each one will serve God as effectively as possible in its community and county.  I pray for St. Thomas Aquinas Church, Baxley, in particular.  The mission occupies a soft spot in my heart, although I will probably never live in Appling County again.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 7, 2019 COMMON ERA

PROPER 9:  THE FOURTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR C

THE FEAST OF JOSIAH CONDER, ENGLISH JOURNALIST AND CONGREGATIONALIST HYMN WRITER; AND HIS SON, EUSTACE CONDER, ENGLISH CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF FRANCIS FLORENTINE HAGEN, U.S. MORAVIAN MINISTER AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF SAINT HEDDA OF WESSEX, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINTS RALPH MILNER, ROGER DICKINSON, AND LAWRENCE HUMPHREY, ENGLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS, 1591

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Devotion for the Feast of All Saints (November 1)   1 comment

Above:  All Saints

Image in the Public Domain

The Communion of Saints

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The Episcopal Church has seven Principal Feasts:  Easter Day, Ascension Day, the Day of Pentecost, Trinity Sunday, All Saints’ Day, Christmas Day, and the Epiphany.

The Feast of All Saints, with the date of November 1, seems to have originated in Ireland in the 700s, then spread to England, then to Europe proper.  November 1 became the date of the feast throughout Western Europe in 835.  There had been a competing date (May 13) in Rome starting in 609 or 610.  Anglican tradition retained the date of November 1, starting with The Book of Common Prayer (1549).  Many North American Lutherans first observed All Saints’ Day with the Common Service Book (1917).  The feast was already present in The Lutheran Hymnary (Norwegian-American, 1913).  The Lutheran Hymnal (Missouri Synod, et al, 1941) also included the feast.  O the less formal front, prayers for All Saints’ Day were present in the U.S. Presbyterian Book of Common Worship (Revised) (1932), the U.S. Methodist Book of Worship for Church and Home (1945), and their successors.

The Feast of All Saints reminds us that we, as Christians, belong to a large family stretching back to the time of Christ.  If one follows the Lutheran custom of commemorating certain key figures from the Hebrew Bible, the family faith lineage predates the conception of Jesus of Nazareth.

At Christ Episcopal Church, Valdosta, Georgia, where I was a member from 1993 to 1996, I participated in a lectionary discussion group during the Sunday School hour.  Icons decorated the walls of the room in which we met.  The teacher of the class called the saints depicted “the family.”

“The family” surrounds us.  It is so numerous that it is “a great cloud of witnesses,” to quote Hebrews 12:1.  May we who follow Jesus do so consistently, by grace, and eventually join that great cloud.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 13, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF PETER OF CHELCIC, BOHEMIAN HUSSITE REFORMER; AND GREGORY THE PATRIARCH, FOUNDER OF THE MORAVIAN CHURCH

THE FEAST OF GODFREY THRING, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF JANE CREWDSON, ENGLISH QUAKER POET AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF NARAYAN SESHADRI OF JALNI, INDIAN PRESBYTERIAN EVANGELIST AND “APOSTLE TO THE MANGS”

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Almighty God, you have knit together your elect in the mystical body of your Son Jesus Christ our Lord:

Give us grace to follow your blessed saints in all virtuous and godly living,

that we may come to those ineffable joys that you have prepared for those who truly love you;

through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit

lives and reigns, one God, in glory everlasting.  Amen.

Year A:

Revelation 7:9-17

1 John 3:1-3

Psalm 34:1-10, 22

Matthew 5:1-12

Year B:

Wisdom of Solomon 3:1-9 or Isaiah 25:6-9

Psalm 24

Revelation 21:1-6a

John 11:32-44

Year B:

Daniel 7:1-3, 15-18

Psalm 149

Ephesians 1:11-23

Luke 6:20-31

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2006), 663; also Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), 59

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Revelation 7:(2-8), 9-17

1 John 3:1-3

Matthew 5:1-12

Lutheran Service Book (2006), xxiii

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2018/09/13/the-communion-of-saints-part-ii/

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Feast of Bartolome de Las Casas (July 18)   1 comment

Bartolomedelascasas

Above:  Portrait of Bartolome de Las Casas

Image in the Public Domain

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BARTOLOME DE LAS CASAS (1474/1484-JULY 18, 1566)

“Apostle to the Indians”

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INTRODUCTION

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My background reading for this post included sources with diametrically opposed understandings of Bartolome de Las Casas.  He was imperfect, to be sure, but he was hardly the bete noir some have depicted him as being or the increasingly intolerant man of conscience of whom I read at the New Advent website.  (He was increasingly intolerant of slavery.  How is that a vice?)  I have concluded that The Church of England was correct to decide to celebrate his life, with a feast day of July 20.  Henry Irving Louttit, Jr., the Ninth (Episcopal) Bishop of Georgia, said in my presence while he was still the Rector of Christ Episcopal Church, Valdosta, Georgia, in the early 1990s that one can find a reason not to think of any given saint as a saint, and that such nitpicking was not a helpful endeavor.  What really mattered, Louttit argued, was whether one considered a saint was a person of God, especially at the end.  (That is also the point of view of Thomas J. Craughwell, author of Saints Behaving Badly:  The Cutthroats, Crooks, Trollops, Con Men, and Devil Worshippers Who Became Saints, 2006.)  The Episcopal Church, which maintains a calendar of saints without canonizing anyone formally, has established a set of standards by which to evaluate proposed saints.  Among them are significance, memorability, perspective, and Christian discipleship.  That denomination has decided to celebrate the life of Las Casas on July 18.  Likewise, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC) have decided to remember him on July 17.

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BIOGRAPHY

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Bartolome de Las Casas changed much during his lifetime.  He, a native of Seville, Castille and Leon, came from nobility.  His father, Francisco Casas, returned from the second voyage (1493-1496) of Christopher Columbus with an Indian boy, who became our saint’s servant.  Las Casas studied law and theology at the University of Salamanca then practiced law.  In 1502 he sailed to the Spanish Antilles to begin work as an advisor to the government there.  Eight years later, at Santo Domingo, Las Casas became the first Roman Catholic priest ordained in the Americas.  Then the direction of his life changed.

Our saint came under the influence of Antonio de Montesinos, a Dominican friar and the first Spaniard to preach against Spanish cruelty to indigenous people in the Americas.  Las Casas accompanied Diego Velasquez’s expedition to Cuba in 1511-1512 and tried in vain to prevent the massacre of natives at Caonas.  The Spanish Empire employed a system called repartimiento, the allotment of encomiendas, or slaves to Spanish landowners for forced labor.  Defenders of this arrangement cited economic necessity and public safety as justifications for it.  In 1514 Las Casas, having concluded that this system was evil, renounced his rights within it and encouraged others to follow his example.  Then he commenced his decades-long effort devoted to the abolition of repartimiento.

This work began in Spain in 1515, when Las Casas spoke to King Ferdinand V of Castille and Leon (reigned 1474-1516)/Ferdinand II of Castille (reigned 1506-1516), “Ferdinand the Catholic.”  The monarch was a power-hungry and unscrupulous figure, so that stage in the great work failed.  In 1516, however, Cardinal Jimenes de Cisneros, the regent, appointed Las Casas to lead a commission to inquire as to the best way to alleviate the injustices inflicted upon the native peoples by Spanish settlers and conquistadors.  Our saint returned to Hispaniola,  While there he found the zeal of his fellow commissioners lacking.  In 1517 he returned to Spain.  King Charles I (reigned 1518-1556)/Holy Roman Emperor Charles V (1519-1556) was struggling to gain recognition for his claim to the throne.  There was a regency in place, however, and our saint spoke to people in power to make decisions.  He proposed an end to slavery for native peoples.  (That was good.)  To replace that slave labor force Las Casas proposed African slaves.  He disavowed that recommendation shortly thereafter and spent the rest of his life making apologies for it.  No part of this proposal bore fruit.  Our saint was able, however, to obtain royal approval for the founding of a model colony (without slave labor) at Cumana, on the coast of Venezuela.  That colony failed in 1521, due to the violence of conquistadors.  Powerful economic and military interests defended the enslavement of indigenous peoples tenaciously.

The effort continued.  In 1522 Las Casas entered the Dominican Order and the monastery at Santo Domingo.  There he wrote History of the Indies (published in 1875-1876), an account of early Spanish colonies in the Americas.  Our saint returned to Spain in 1530 and obtained a royal decree forbidding the enforcement of slavery in Peru.  He delivered it to Peru in person.  Circa 1535 Las Casas wrote The Only True Method of Attracting All People to the True Religion, in which he argued that preaching and good example, not enslavement, should be the first step in the process of converting Indians.  Next, in 1537-1538, our saint converted the fierce Tuzutlan tribe of Guatemala to Roman Catholicism.  He also changed the name of their territory from Tierra de Guerra (“Land of War”) to Vera Pax (“True Peace”).  The Dominican Order sent Las Casas to Spain to gather recruits in 1539.  At that time he wrote A Brief Account of the Destruction of the Indies (published in 1552).

On November 20, 1542, the New Laws took effect.  They were not all that Las Casas wanted, but they were more than many settlers considered wise.  The New Laws, prior to amendments which made them useless, were supposed to be the beginning of the end of the repartimeinto system.  Our saint, having declined to become the Bishop of Cuzco, in Peru, in 1542, became the Bishop of Chiapas, in Mexico, in 1544.  His tenure (1544-1547) was difficult, for he had to contend with constant opposition (related to the New Laws) from clergy, laymen, and authorities.  Our saint even refused absolution of sins to anyone who refused to free his Indian slaves.

Las Casas left the Americas for the last time in 1547.  He returned to Spain, where he spent most of the rest of his life living in monasteries.  In 1550 and 1551 our saint debated famed scholar and theologian Gines de Sepulveda in public on the topic of the enslavement and destruction of indigenous peoples.  Four years later, in 1555, Las Casas followed Prince Philip, soon to become King Philip II (reigned 1556-1598), to England, to prevent colonists from winning royal approval of the perpetual slavery of Indians.  Our saint died at Atocha Monastery, Madrid, on July 18, 1566.  The struggle against slavery in the Spanish Empire continued.

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CONCLUSION

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The designated collect from Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010) emphasizes modern slavery.  That is appropriate, for Las Casas opposed slavery in his day.  One might think of religious-based slavery in Africa.  That practice is evil, I agree, but stopping there might lead one far away from Africa to think,

What can I do about that?

and do nothing else.  I live in Athens-Clarke County, Georgia, on the outskirts of the Metropolitan Atlanta Region.  (To be precise, I live just a few miles from part of the eastern border of that region.)   Southeast of my location is Atlanta, a hub of human trafficking.  Even closer to home, human trafficking is a problem in Athens-Clarke County.  The life of Las Casas challenges me to ask myself what I might do to resist slavery just a few miles from my front door.  As for religious-based slavery in Africa, certain organizations fight that evil.  They need support.

Evil, supported by powerful economic, political, and military interests and frequently dressed up in the attire of morality, surrounds us.  We cannot fight all of it successfully or partially so, but we can do our part.  God, I suppose, does not really need we mere mortals.  God is omnipotent, correct?  Yet we, I have heard, are God’s hands and feet.  Will I–will you, O reader, in the words of the Baptismal Covenant in The Book of Common Prayer (1979),

…seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself?

and

…strive for for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?

–Page 305

One of the great difficulties of timeless principles is that many people who agree to them differ when the question becomes how best to apply them.  If, for example, one accepts the proposition that one person’s rights end at the edge of the other person’s nose, how does one resolve the conflict of these two sets of rights?  May each of us, by grace, succeed in bringing honor to God and in respecting the dignity of every human being as we navigate and shape the circumstances of life.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 16, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT BERNADETTE OF LOURDES, ROMAN CATHOLIC NUN

THE FEAST OF HEINRICH THEOBALD SCHENCK, GERMAN LUTHERAN PASTOR AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF ISABELLA GILMORE, ANGLICAN DEACONESS

THE FEAST OF SAINT WILLIAM FIRMATUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC HERMIT

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Eternal God, we give you thanks for the witness of Bartolome de las Casas,

whose deep love for your people caused him to refuse absolution to those who would not free their Indian slaves.

Help us, inspired by his example, to work and pray for the freeing of all enslaved people of our world,

for the sake of Jesus Christ, our Redeemer; who lives and reigns with you

and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Isaiah 59:14-20

Psalm 52

Philemon 8-16

Matthew 10:26-31

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 469

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Feast of St. Tutilo (March 28)   4 comments

Abbey of St. Gall, St. Gallen, Switzerland

Image Source = Roland Zumbuhl, of Picswiss

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SAINT TUTILO (DIED IN 915)

Roman Catholic Monk, Scholar, Artist, and Composer

While an undergraduate at Valdosta State University, Valdosta, Georgia, I spent considerable amounts of time at the Wesley Foundation.  I had ceased to be a United Methodist by then, having already converted to The Episcopal Church.  But I moonlighted at the Wesley Foundation.  Long conversations with the Director have influenced my thinking profoundly.  Gene, now retired, was (and presumably remains) a committed Christian who dared to ask great questions and to contradict the local prevailing “wisdom.”  So he was correct about a great many things, I am convinced.  Yet he was quite mistaken regarding the matter of monasticism.  Monks and nuns, he said, were useless.

To the contrary, they are some of the most useful people on the planet.  Historically they have devoted their lives to prayer, medicine, education, scholarship, and the care of orphans and of children whose parents could not care for them adequately.  Today many faithful monks and nuns devote their lives to prayer.  That is an excellent way to spend one’s time on Earth.

Consider the case of St. Tutilo.  He spent much of his life at the Abbey of St. Gall, a center of learning, music, and art during the Middle Ages.  (Monasteries and convents developed and preserved such treasures during that difficult period of time.)  At the abbey St. Tutilo was in his element.  There he worked on illuminated manuscripts, many of them books of Gregorian Chants, many of which he composed.  Details of his life remain sketchy, but, according to surviving accounts, all of the following words described him:  scholar, teacher, monk, composer, school master, goldsmith, builder, sculptor, builder, painter, poet, musician, genius, and humorist.

The Westminster Larger Catechism, Question #1, says it best:

What is the chief and highest end of man?

Man’s chief and highest end is to glorify God, and fully to enjoy him forever.

St. Tutilo fulfilled that description.  May you do so also, as God directs.

May we never underestimate the power of a holy life.  Names may fade into history and documentary evidence may crumble and become lost forever, but God remembers.  The full record of the holy saints of God is not lost; it is merely not entirely accessible in this life.

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Loving God, the memory of most of those who have trusted in your promises is lost to recorded history, if ever it was part of the historical record.  And most of us who live today and affirm you with our faith will join them in historical anonymity.  Of others, such as St. Tutilo, there is scant available information.  We thank you for the examples of St. Tutilo and all others who are nearly or entirely forgotten to us.  People understood their witness in their times; may we likewise function as beacons of divine light, for your glory and the benefit of others.  Amen.

Ecclesiasticus (Sirach) 44:1-15

Psalm 29

Philippians 4:2-9

Luke 8:4-8, 11-15

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 26, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS TIMOTHY, TITUS, AND SILAS, COWORKERS OF THE APOSTLE PAUL

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANGELA MERICI, FOUNDER OF THE COMPANY OF SAINT URSULA

THE FEAST OF SAINT PAULA, CONFIDANTE OF SAINT JEROME

THE FEAST OF CHARLES MATHIAS, UNITED STATES SENATOR

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Revised on December 24, 2016

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Fifth Sunday of Easter, Year A   Leave a comment

“Do not let your hearts be troubled….”–Jesus

MAY 10, 2020

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Acts 7:55-60 (New Revised Standard Version):

Filled with the Holy Spirit, Stephen gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. “Look,” he said, “I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!” But they covered their ears, and with a loud shout all rushed together against him. Then they dragged him out of the city and began to stone him; and the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul. While they were stoning Stephen, he prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Then he knelt down and cried out in a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he died.

Psalm 31:1-5, 15-16 (New Revised Standard Version):

In you, O LORD, I seek refuge;

so not let me ever be put to shame;

in your righteousness deliver me.

Incline your ear to me;

rescue me speedily.

Be a rock of refuge for me,

a strong fortress to save me.

You are indeed my rock and my fortress;

for your name’s sake lead me and guide me,

take me out of the net that is hidden for me,

for you are my refuge.

Into your hand I commit my spirit;

you have redeemed me, O LORD, faithful God.

My times are in your hand;

deliver me from the hand of my enemies and persecutors.

Let your face shine upon your servant;

save me in your steadfast love.

1 Peter 2:2-10 (New Revised Standard Version):

Rid yourselves, therefore, of all malice, and all guile, insincerity, envy, and all slander.  Like newborn infants, long for the pure, spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow into salvation–if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.

Come to him, a living stone, though rejected by mortals yet chosen and precious in God’s sight, and like living stones, be yourselves built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.  For it stands in scripture:

“See, I am laying in Zion a stone,

a cornerstone chosen and precious;

and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.”

To you then who believe, he is precious; but for those who do not believe,

“The stone that the builders rejected

has become the head of the corner,”

and

“A stone that makes them stumble,

and a rock that makes them fall.”

They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do.

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.

Once you were not a people,

but now you are God’s people;

once you had not received mercy,

but now you have received mercy.

John 14:1-14 (New Revised Standard Version):

Jesus said, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also. And you know the way to the place where I am going.” Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”

Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, `Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does his works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves. Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father. I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it.”

The Collect:

Almighty God, whom truly to know is everlasting life: Grant us so perfectly to know your Son Jesus Christ to be the way, the truth, and the life, that we may steadfastly follow his steps in the way that leads to eternal life; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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The Authorized Version of the Bible translates “dwelling places” from John 14:2 as “mansions.”  This is a poor translation, for, depending on the scholar one consults, the reference in Greek can have three possible meanings:

1.  There are “many rooms” (as the New International Version renders the text).  The location of one’s room in the afterlife depends on one’s life:  good for good and evil for evil.  Some Jewish literature of the time contained this idea.

2.  There is a series of roadside rooms where a traveler sleeps overnight before rising the next morning and going on his or her way.  So there are stages of one’s spiritual journey, even in Heaven.

3.  There are many rooms in God’s house, with plenty of room for everybody.

I like #2.  But who knows, really?  The main idea we should remember that Jesus is central to this afterlife.

Let us remember, too, “Do not let your hearts be troubled.”  Given the literary context within the Johannine Gospel, Jesus had many reasons to be troubled.  And yet he said, “Do not let your hearts be troubled.”  And Paul the Apostle endured his share of difficulties after become a Christian and evangelist.  Yet the epistles he wrote and dictated reflect a deep and abiding faith, great determination, and moments of frustration and pique, but not a greatly troubled heart.

I was a student at Valdosta State University and a member of Christ Episcopal Church, Valdosta, Georgia, from 1993 to 1996.  One day I attended the funeral for Deacon Stella Clark’s son.  I arrived at the church just before the funeral, for I chose not to skip a class meeting.  The church was full, so I had to sit in the Parish Hall and listen to the service on a speaker.  I recall Stella reading the Gospel, which began “Do not let your hearts be troubled…,” her voice breaking.  That was great faith indeed.  During that service she administered communion, the bread of life, to me.

Life contains the good and the bad, the joyous and the excruciating, and all degrees in the middle.  Through it all we are not alone, no matter how much we feel that way.  Experience has taught me that grace is most noticeable when the need for it is greatest.  So I carry meaningful memories related to traumatic times.  I rejoice in the great joy during those troubled times and thank God for the spiritual growth which has flowed from them, but take no delight in those times themselves.  And I have learned more deeply the truth of “Do not let your hearts be troubled….”  This is a lesson one can learn only by living.

KRT