Pastoral Letter, March 13, 2020 Dear brothers and sisters of Christ Our Hope; Grace and peace to you in the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. We pray God’s comfort and peace over you and your household during this time of uncertainty. As your rector, clergy and lay leaders, we have listened carefully to all the information, requirements, and recommendations of our national, state and local governments. After much prayer and consideration, we are making the decision to cancel Sunday worship for the next two weeks starting March 15, 2020. We will evaluate further cancellations on a continual basis as information comes available. We do hope and pray that by doing our part in suspending service for a time we will help protect the vulnerable in the community. However, this does not mean that our worship together as a community and as a family in Christ will come to a pause. Although apart in body, we will be united through the power of the Holy Spirit and the power of prayer.
We have many wonderful tools at our disposal to do this. First, Fr. John and Camila will be recording a livestream Morning Prayer service via our church Facebook page on Sunday morning at 10 AM. Access the page via the link below on Sunday to watch and pray along through the service. If you do not have a Book of Common Prayer, you can download it from the ACNA website. Also, our bishop has uploaded a video of Evening and Morning Prayer each weekend of Lent with the Sunday lectionary texts being read; this will allow you in your homes to pray along with our bishop on either Saturday evening or Sunday morning as well. In the meantime, Street Angels, Jail Ministry and Bible Study will all also be on hold. Evening Prayer on Tuesday will be available at the church for those who would like to attend, but we do urge everyone to follow the advice of the CDC by staying home if anyone in your house is sick, wash your hands regularly, cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze, and keep a distance of six feet from others if you come to Evening Prayer at the church.
Another important part of our worship and community is tithing. We would encourage you to prayerfully consider continued giving to the church during this time via on-line banking, or by mailing a check. Our mailing address is PO Box 2847, Olympia, WA 98507. Please also do not hesitate to reach out to our clergy by phone or email if you need prayer, counsel, or simply would like to talk. We are here for you. Archbishop Foley has urged all Anglicans to pray for those who are infected by the coronavirus, or have lost loved ones to it, as a Lenten discipline.
Let us join together and lift up all our worries and anxieties to the great Comforter and put our trust in Him above all else. Remember the words Moses said to the children of Israel long ago “The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged”. In Christ, Fr. John Allen Deacon Jeramy Jensen Senior Warden Jim Di Giovanna on behalf of the vestry
Links Christ our Hope Facebook Page: ACNA Book of Common Prayer download: https://www.facebook.com/cohacolympia/ http://bcp2019.anglicanchurch.net/
Morning and Evening Prayer with Bishop Kevin and Stefanie: https://www.cascadiadiocese.org/sermons-services
There is this great website that is very user friendly and helps with Liturgy and the Daily Office. You can either view in a calendar view or just go to the website and the main page is the current office for that time of the day. So if you would like to add Liturgy to your daily life, this website helps with knowing what the readings and sayings are for that day.
There are also additional resources for special circumstances.
Here is a small reflection on the sermon from this week:
“What do we know about the mysterious Magi who followed a star to Bethlehem? Not much! Only that they were from the East, they were Gentiles, and they sought to come and worship the Messiah. But that is all we really need to know: these were the very first Gentiles to come and worship Jesus, the first who were outside of the covenant with Israel that were now invited in! And so God’s promise to Abraham long ago that through him the Lord would bless all nations, was not beginning to come true. And further, the Magi give us an example of how to act on the faith we have. King Herod had faith, faith enough to believe that the little baby in Bethlehem was a threat to him. But his faith made him afraid of the challenges and changes this little Messiah would bring. The Magi, meanwhile, wouldn’t let any challenge keep them from Him, and so they set a standard for us all to follow”
Matthew 2:1-12 English Standard Version (ESV)
The Visit of the Wise Men
2 Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men[a] from the east came to Jerusalem, 2 saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose[b] and have come to worship him.” 3 When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; 4 and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. 5 They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet:
6 “‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.’”
7 Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star had appeared. 8 And he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him, bring me word, that I too may come and worship him.”9 After listening to the king, they went on their way. And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. 11 And going into the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. 12 And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way.
7 He said therefore to the crowds that came out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?8 Bear fruits in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. 9 Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”
10 And the crowds asked him, “What then shall we do?” 11 And he answered them, “Whoever has two tunics[a] is to share with him who has none, and whoever has food is to do likewise.” 12 Tax collectors also came to be baptized and said to him, “Teacher, what shall we do?” 13 And he said to them, “Collect no more than you are authorized to do.”14 Soldiers also asked him, “And we, what shall we do?” And he said to them, “Do not extort money from anyone by threats or by false accusation, and be content with your wages.”
15 As the people were in expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Christ, 16 John answered them all, saying, “I baptize you with water, but he who is mightier than I is coming, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 17 His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”
18 So with many other exhortations he preached good news to the people. 19 But Herod the tetrarch, who had been reproved by him for Herodias, his brother’s wife, and for all the evil things that Herod had done, 20 added this to them all, that he locked up John in prison.
25 “There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves. 26 People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 27 Then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in a cloud’ with power and great glory. 28 Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”
The Lesson of the Fig Tree
29 Then he told them a parable: “Look at the fig tree and all the trees; 30 as soon as they sprout leaves you can see for yourselves and know that summer is already near. 31 So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near. 32 Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all things have taken place. 33 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.
33 Then Pilate entered the headquarters again, summoned Jesus, and asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” 34 Jesus answered, “Do you ask this on your own, or did others tell you about me?” 35 Pilate replied, “I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests have handed you over to me. What have you done?” 36 Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here.” 37 Pilate asked him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.”
I’m sure many of you remember the End
Time prediction of 2011 by Harold Camping, who claimed to have predicted the
exact moment and time of the coming Apocalypse and judgement. News cameras
zoomed in on his followers waiting for the exact minute that the trumpet would
sound they would be taken up to heaven. I remember sitting down to eat with my
rowing team and they started taking bets about whether or not if I would get
suddenly get sucked up to heaven a glowing light when the moment struck. Well,
as we all know, the supposed hour came and went and nothing changed.
that I thought was funny was a church in downtown Bellingham in its front
street sign put read “Well that was awkward, but service is still at 10
Zeal and a
fanatical obsession with end times and a final judgement being just around the
corner is nothing new, it has gripped peoples imaginations for centuries.
People saying “here it is! things could not possibly get worse than they are
now, it has to be now! You can see it in the signs of the times. Entire books
series have been written on such a subject as this!
was not the case for the prophet Daniel when he received the vision that we had
read to us today. Ideas of the End Times have seeped so deeply into not only
our theology and spirituality, but into our culture, that we forget that there
was a time where there was really no concept of this whatsoever.
times of the Old Testament, the general understanding was that once one dies, they
would be placed in Sheol, essentially a place of nothing, almost like an
eternal state of sleep. There was little thought of End Times, judgement, and
afterlife. All they had for sure was here and now. This is why we see prayers
in Psalms and in the histories asking over and over again for God to build up
the walls of Jerusalem, to look favorably on His people, to deliver them from
the hands of their enemies…. But during Daniel’s life, this had not happened,
Jerusalem had fallen, and most of those who had survived had been dragged off
into exile far away in strange lands. It would be easy for the Jews of that
time, especially for the precious few who had not given in to idolatry, to say
“Life just isn’t fair.”
and desires of a peaceful life, a good life, for Israel were largely dashed.
The pagan, barbaric lords were victorious and what hope was there? But along
comes the prophet Daniel, with his ability to shock those pagan barbaric lords,
with his habit of walking out of lions dens like it was no big deal, and
interpreting dreams and visions.
gave Daniel dreams and visions of his own, of the future….and they aren’t
exactly encouraging dreams. Dreams of great and terrifying beasts and monsters,
of powerful empire that will rise and fall, with hungry and corrupt kings. I
think anyone who reads through the book of Daniel will, when they get to the
second half, will sort of frown and say, “I think I liked the Lions Den
better.” It doesn’t sound like a very encouraging message for a conquered and
enslaved people without hope, this vision of upcoming empires and beast like
emperors. If they were thinking “Life isn’t fair” well this would prove them
right! But then the dreams and visions end with this message:
at that time your people—everyone whose name is found written in the book—will
be delivered. 2 Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the
earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and
everlasting contempt. 3 Those
who are wise[a] will shine like the brightness
of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars
for ever and ever.
you are someone whose only expectation at that time of the future is an exiled
life of hardship, with only the grave and eternal slumber to look forward to.
And suddenly you are told “But that’s not the end of the story. But that at the
end, when all is said and done, after chapters and chapters of hardship, the
end will come, and at that time you will be delivered. There will be a
judgement, wrongs will be righted, justice will finally be given, and a reward
that will be shining like the stars for ever and ever.” Imagine receiving that
news for the very first time, unlooked for and unexpected. Daniel’s initial
reaction was simply: “I don’t understand…”
change the physical situation for the Jews in Daniels time at all? Nah, not a
bit. They would go on to be under the thumb of the Persians, and then the
Greeks, and then the Romans, all these Empires that Daniel’s vision had
predicted, and life would continue to not be fair…. For now. But in the last
chapter, it will be. That is what had changed. Hope. A hope that no matter how
badly things fell apart or went wrong, was still there. A hope that could not
be tarnished, or taken away, or mitigated. A hope that rose above this “life
that is not fair.”
Because in it was a promise, a promise that God gets the
last say at the End, not the rulers and powers of this life, and not death
either, but Him,
does such a hope do? In the midst of circumstances that remain hard and
unchanged? Well it changes one thing for sure: it changes how those who have
this hope can live.
such a tendency to want this promised Ending to happen here and now, in our
lives, almost as if we are saying “Life really isn’t fair these days, it can’t
get much worse! So it must be time!” We often think that today, but many Jews
in the centuries after Daniel thought the same thing! “This must be it! It must
be almost here!” It’s almost human nature to desire an end to this “Life not
being Fair.” But that isn’t the reason why God gave us this promise, so that we
can look for an escape to this life when it seems to especially be unfair, He
did it so that we could be vigilant, be faithful, and be hopeful when we
remember His promise of what the End looks like…..when the last chapter has
finally, one day been told. And therefore live life as He meant us to.
So often we
in the church spend so much time looking for signs of the End Times, that we
forget to live life now in the fulness of the hope that has been given to us.
How that the hope, that promise allows us to live right now!
The empires that ancient Israelites
endured, those giant beasts of Daniels visions, and the beasts of our own lives
and times, they don’t get the final say over our futures, over our fate! God
does. Yes, life is not fair, I think most people in life even today at some
point or another will end up saying this, but God is fair, and at the end His
fair and prefect judgement will reign supreme.
changing, the influence of the church over our culture is fading very fast. And
in many parts of the church, there has been almost a desire to sort of circle
the band wagons, to draw in close, shut the changing, darkening world out, and
wait for that final chapter to just show up, let the Rapture begin! But that’s
not why God gave us this vision, gave Daniel this picture of the last chapter,
for the Jews of that time or for now us to retreat in fear and frustration and
just huddle up and wait. It was to give us hope to endure through it! Through
anything! Are times changing and are really hard and frightening things
occurring in this current chapter of history? Yes, they are. Does that change
the End chapter at all? No, it doesn’t! Is the church losing the place in our
culture that it has enjoyed for so long? Yes it is. Does that change the End
chapter? No! It doesn’t!
We have a
rare gift, in that we have the ultimate spoiler ever given away to the end of a
story, we know what is coming.
hate spoilers to a story…spoilers giving away the end of a movie, or book or tv
show. Camila loves them, and I don’t understand that, because for me, the way
that you view all of the story completely changes when you know what happens at
the end! I view the tensions and the conflicts differently if I know that there
is a happy ending in waiting at the end for the characters in the story. And I
think that is true for all of us. So I always try to avoid spoilers to a good
story. But I am thankful for the spoiler that God provide Daniel, provided us,
because now I can look at the story of life differently, and for the better.
So can we all, as a community, a
church, and individually in our lives, we don’t have to face even the bleakest
of circumstances without hope. Because we can be confident of what the end of
our story looks like.
just around the corner, when we will anticipate the Second Coming of Christ,
even as we prepare to celebrate His First. And it will be a time for us to pray
and long for His promised return at the last chapter. But will the power and
impact of that glorious event on my life here and now on this earth be lessened
if it doesn’t happen in my lifetime? No, it won’t. Because for me, the power of
this End chapter is that I can live my life now in its shining light even if it
is another thousand years from now! I can live life now and today knowing no
defeat is too far or too permanent, and no injustice is ultimately unanswerable,
no challenge failed or hardship endured is meaningless. No beast in life too
great or terrifying. Because I already know what the end of my story looks
This is the power of Daniel’s
vision, of promise of the End Times. Not for us to look for a shortcut out of
life that’s almost here, but to have the power to live this life fully, as God
intended it. As the author of all our stories.
Deacon Jeramy provides a sermon with a different take.
The Rich Man (ESV)
17 As Jesus was starting out on his way to Jerusalem, a man came running up to him, knelt down, and asked, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
18 “Why do you call me good?” Jesus asked. “Only God is truly good.19 But to answer your question, you know the commandments: ‘You must not murder. You must not commit adultery. You must not steal. You must not testify falsely. You must not cheat anyone. Honor your father and mother.’[a]”
20 “Teacher,” the man replied, “I’ve obeyed all these commandments since I was young.”
21 Looking at the man, Jesus felt genuine love for him. “There is still one thing you haven’t done,” he told him. “Go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
22 At this the man’s face fell, and he went away sad, for he had many possessions.
23 Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the Kingdom of God!” 24 This amazed them. But Jesus said again, “Dear children, it is very hard[b] to enter the Kingdom of God. 25 In fact, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God!”
26 The disciples were astounded. “Then who in the world can be saved?” they asked.
27 Jesus looked at them intently and said, “Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But not with God. Everything is possible with God.”
28 Then Peter began to speak up. “We’ve given up everything to follow you,” he said.
29 “Yes,” Jesus replied, “and I assure you that everyone who has given up house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or property, for my sake and for the Good News, 30 will receive now in return a hundred times as many houses, brothers, sisters, mothers, children, and property—along with persecution. And in the world to come that person will have eternal life. 31 But many who are the greatest now will be least important then, and those who seem least important now will be the greatest then.[c]”