Lenten Reflections 2016
By the people of St. James’ St. James’ Episcopal Church, South Pasadena 1325 Monterey Road, South Pasadena, CA 91030 www.sjcsp.org
Lenten Greeting from the Rev. Canon Anne Tumilty Dear Lenten Traveler, Every Sunday we pray the Collect for Purity together beginning with the words: “Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hid: Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit…” Lent is about repentance, transformation, and grappling with our own humanity before God. We open our hearts, consider our true desires, and bring into the light whatever secrets we have that God already knows more fully than perhaps we do. Truly this is a season of the Spirit. We begin our Lenten sojourn by remembering that Jesus went into the wilderness for forty days, where he was required to be intentional about the surrender of his life and the choices that would define his life and future. It was a time of clarification and choice about which path he would take and whose voice he would listen to: that of God who called him “beloved,” or that of the Tempter who oﬀered a much easier and worldly way. Lent for us is also a time of intentionality, self-assessment, renewal and choice. May the thoughts of our hearts be cleansed as we let down our defenses before the grace and mercy of God. Accept this booklet as a gift from the community of St. James’ Church, South Pasadena. The reflections are organized around the themes of the Great Vigil of Easter, where we recall God’s faithfulness and renew our own baptismal vows. Journey with us through the holy days that lead to the Lord’s Table as Jesus washes the feet of the apostles, breaks the Bread of Remembrance, and accepts his Cross to walk the Via Dolorosa for love of us. May the deep silence of Holy Saturday fill you with Easter Hope. Hidden beneath the surface of darkness and even death itself, God is not finished or done…which is why we end Lent with great joy and Easter Alleluia’s before the empty tomb of Christ. Our thanks to each of the authors for their thoughtful reflections and to Rev. Michelle Baker-Wright and Robin Rauzi for compiling and editing this booklet. It is our hope that your daily prayer will lead you closer to the heart of God. May your Lenten journey be blessed.
Lent and Holy Week Schedule
Wednesday, February 10 — ASH WEDNESDAY Holy Eucharist and Imposition of Ashes, 7 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. Choral Eucharist and Imposition of Ashes, 7 p.m. Sunday, February 21 ECUMENICAL LENTEN SERVICE / SACRAMENTUM Lenten Dinner, 5 p.m. at St James’, followed by Sacramentum at 6 p.m. Sunday, March 20 — PALM SUNDAY Holy Eucharist, 8 a.m.; Choral Eucharist, 10:15 a.m. Procession of the Palms at 10:15 a.m. Monday, March 21 — Church open for private prayer Tuesday, March 22 — Church open for private prayer Wednesday, March 23 — 12:30 Eucharist Thursday, March 24 — MAUNDY THURSDAY Celebration of the Lord’s Supper: Choral Eucharist and Foot Washing, 7 p.m. Child care for infants and preschoolers provided. All-Night Prayer Vigil — 8 p.m. to noon on Good Friday Friday, March 25 — GOOD FRIDAY Ecumenical Service at Holy Family Church, noon. Good Friday Service with Choir, 7 p.m. Child care for infants and preschoolers provided.
Lent and Holy Week Schedule Saturday, March 26 — HOLY SATURDAY The Great Vigil of Easter, 8 p.m., Choral Eucharist Child care for infants and preschoolers provided. Sunday, March 27 — EASTER SUNDAY Festive Choral Eucharist with brass and organ, 8 a.m. and 10:15 a.m. Child care for infants and preschoolers provided. Lenten Wednesday Night Eucharist at 6 p.m. Soup Supper and Forum at 7 p.m. Join us Wednesday nights during Lent for Eucharist and the teaching series, “Journey to the Cross.” Using the Stations of the Cross as a starting point for reflection, we will consider the last days of Jesus’ life. At 7 p.m., we will have a forum and discussion over dinner called “Understanding the Passion and the Cross.” Dates: February 17, 24, March 2, 9 and 16 Sunday Night Lenten Ecumenical Services An Ecumenical gathering of common worship for the churches of South Pasadena. A simple supper will be served. February 21
St. James’ Episcopal Church Dinner at 5 p.m., Sacramentum at 6 p.m. February 28 Oneonta Congregational Church, 5 p.m. March 6 Holy Family, 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. March 13 Grace Brethren, 6 p.m. March 20 Assembly of God, 5 p.m.
A Guide to Daily Prayer
Opening Prayer The Lord is full of compassion and mercy: Come let us adore him. Confession of Sin Reflect quietly before God. Ask forgiveness for those things done and those things left undone, remembering that the Lord is full of compassion and mercy. Scripture Lessons Read a passage from Scripture Prayers The following is a suggested guide for prayer during Lent: Pray for all Christians around the world and especially for those who endure persecution for their faith. Pray for our nation and all those in authority. Pray that Christâ€™s peace may cover the world. Pray for the end of conflict and war and for the triumph of truth and justice. Pray for those who suďŹ€er and grieve. Pray for our Church and for closer union with Christ.
Ash Wednesday And so we begin! Today, as the grit of blessed ash is imposed on our foreheads with the sign of the cross, we hear the words God once spoke to Adam: “You are dust, and to dust you shall return” (Gen. 3:19). “Lent,” an elderly priest once told me, “is not for the faint of heart!” We begin with a raw truth as we hear the very words that will be spoken over us on the day of our funeral: “We are mortal, formed of the earth, and to earthen dust we shall return.” While most of the time we prefer not to think about this, Lent holds up a mirror of reflection for us to examine our lives and see clearly the truth that, someday in the future, each one of us will return the span of our years to God. It is by design that we begin Lent here every year. Such rigorous honesty sets the spiritual tone for the rest of our Lenten journey. Carving out space from our busy lives to be alone with God is vital for a healthy spiritual life. While there were enormous demands placed on Jesus, he consistently made time and space for prayer by retreating to the silence of the desert, spending nights alone in the mountains, withdrawing before sunrise to a solitary place, walking the shore line as waves washed in, and seeking the solitude of the olive tree grove overlooking the city of Jerusalem. These moments of silence and solitude were a source of grace, strength and the secret of his life. Setting aside time, he was able to nurture an intimacy with Abba, replenish his resource for compassion after long and grueling days, wrestle with that dark tempting voice intent on oﬀering him a variety of false options, and renew himself in relaxation and rest. If Jesus needed such time and space, surely our need is even greater! Lent is an invitation to rest in a hidden life with Christ. The traditional disciplines of prayer, fasting, and generous giving of alms are designed to loosen us from patterns of life that assume we are the center around which all else revolves. Spending time with God draws us from within, centers us, re-adjusts our perspective, puts us in touch with the breath of the Spirit of God who dwells at the core of our being, and leads us to one another. The Rev. Canon Anne Tumilty is the Rector of St. James’.
Thursday, February 11th Luke 15:11-32 What a passage! The story of the Prodigal Son. Leaving, committing misdeeds and returning to his father and his father's house! The pivotal moment, in our minds, comes when the son bows before his father in shame and guilt and confesses, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.” The father’s actions in response are nothing short of astonishing. He doesn’t fold his arms in judgment. (That is reserved for the older brother.) He doesn’t admonish his son with a contract for how to earn a place again. In fact, he doesn’t even address his son. Instead the father turns to his servants and, as if his heart is flooded with joy, proclaims, “Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate!” Rembrandt’s famous painting of this moment depicts the son in tattered clothing kneeling before his father, whose embracing hands draw the son toward him. Is there a more poignant expression of passionate, loving reception in the face of transgression in all of the arts or literature? Are we truly this beloved? In the face of our empty expressions of selfinterest, our wanderings from the gracious presence of the Spirit, our sometimes tattered and often fearful eﬀorts to return — are we still so wholly, passionately and without reservation embraced by our gracious God? Can this be so? The Return of the Prodigal Son speaks across the ages this Lent: Come home! I am waiting.
Diane and Joe Webb have been a part of the St. James’ family since 2008. Diane is a psychotherapist and spiritual director in private practice. Joe is an organizational consultant and spiritual director.
Friday, February 12th Luke 18:9-14 I often feel bad on behalf of the Pharisee and others like him (Mary’s sister Martha, for instance, or the Prodigal Son’s nameless older brother) who are criticized when, after behaving like responsible adults, they simply expect others to do likewise. I don't believe that Jesus wants all of us to run amok and ask for forgiveness afterwards. Nor would he want to deny us the personal satisfaction that comes from good behavior. Instead, problems arise from our reactions to those we feel have been less responsible or are less deserving: either rejection (the older brother), whining (Martha), or condescension (the Pharisee). It’s hard to assess our own actions without comparing ourselves to others. Instinctively, we grade ourselves on a curve and view virtue as a competitive sport. As the saying goes, “Nobody’s perfect.” We console ourselves that although we may not be truly “good,” we are at least “good enough” in comparison with others who may be less successful by the same measure. But this only serves to gloss over our own shortcomings. It is also entirely irrelevant if we accept that God grades everyone on a pass-fail basis, and that we all pass. Under these circumstances, we should be emboldened to face our faults and limitations honestly (“God, have mercy on me, a sinner”), especially those of us who may have just the slightest tendency to be overly conscientious and judgmental.
Ruth Wood and her husband John have been singing with the choir of St. James’ for the past 17 years. When not trying to pass as a tenor on Sunday mornings, she is a neuroscientist at USC.
Saturday, February 13th Luke 7:36-50 “Now when the Pharisee [Simon] who invited him saw it, he said to himself, ‘If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what kind of woman this is who is touching him — that she is a sinner.’ ” Luke 7:39 As I ponder this beautifully messy encounter, I imagine Jesus knowing the thoughts of Simon and turning to face the woman who has fallen to the ground, kissing and weeping and anointing his feet. Her face, lowered in complete humility and self-surrender, is wet from the tears and runny nose of her weeping, perhaps smeared with the wet and oily dirt from Jesus’ feet. With the gentlest of touch, Jesus raises her face within the tender cup of his hand and he looks directly and lovingly into her eyes. In the light of his presence — his gaze and his touch — she experiences being fully known and fully loved. As he keeps his eyes ever fixed upon her, Jesus says to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I will show her to you and I will show you to yourself, if only you would have eyes that want to see. I know fully who and what kind of woman this is. She is poor in spirit; hence she is blessed. She has come to me with a repentant heart; hence she has shown great faith. She has many sins that have been forgiven; hence she has shown great love.” Lent is a season of repentance, a time for turning toward Christ. It is the light of his presence, his loving gaze, and his gentle touch that invite us to look into the depth and truth of ourselves — our need, our brokenness, our sin — so that we may fully experience the depth and truth and transformative power of Christ’s unfailing mercy and love.
Lisa and Michael Cerrina have been attending St. James’ for several years. Lisa is a Marriage and Family Therapist/Art Therapist, as well as a facilitator of creative workshops. Michael is a commercial real estate attorney. They have three adult children. Lisa is currently serving on the Vestry.
Week One: The Story of Creation
O Christ, salvation’s Sun divine, Within our hearts let justice shine; With light all darkness drive away And give the world a better day. In this, the season set apart, Bestow on us a contrite heart, And grant us even greater grace Than we might hope you would impart. May heaven and earth aloud proclaim The Trinity’s almighty Name; As we restored to grace rejoice In newness both of heart and voice. Amen. — Jam Christe Sol Justitiae
Monday, February 15th Genesis 1:1-26 In the beginning, God created: water and land. The beauty of nature, plants, and trees. The air we breathe. Incredible diversity and the wonder of all kinds of animals, on land and in lakes, rivers, and oceans. And God called it all, “Good.” Then God created humanity — you and me — and left us in charge, to “rule over," or to take care of, everything that was “good” in the world. And we know how that turned out: Our oceans are dying, and water in places like Flint, Michigan, is poisoned. Our “rule” led to global warming, climate change, and genetically modified food. We’ve slaughtered species in the name of wealth and “sport.” Then there’s global terrorism. Endless wars. Man-made famines. Skid Rows. Refugee camps. And on it goes. Hard to see anything “good” in all of that, isn’t it? Yes, but not impossible. God made us in God’s own image. Think about it. You know what a “good” world should look like. If you stop and focus, you can still see the world the way God sees it — a world of incredible beauty, of wonder, justice, music, art, abundant life, peace, and creativity. That’s the world God called good. It still can be. God left us to rule — to take care of — this world in God’s name. Those of us who see the world as it should be, and as it was meant to be, have a holy responsibility to work with God to heal and work toward a better world he or she called “good.” That’s a mission I want to be a part of.
Larry Wilson and his wife, Susan Isaacs, have attended St. James’ Church since 2008. Larry is a professional writer who works on behalf of homeless shelters and rescue missions. nationwide. He lives in Sierra Madre. Larry is also a member of St. James’ Vestry and is involved with Outreach Ministry.
Tuesday, February 16th Genesis 1:27-2:2 We are given “dominion” over the whole world. Often this is claimed to have justified our voracious exploitation of the Earth which is leading us towards an ecological catastrophe. All the plants and animals exist for our benefit, to be used as we wish… But in the Old Testament we are seen as servants of God who “loves the living” (Wisdom 11:26). Being God’s gardeners requires that we exercise stewardship over creation because everything sings to God just by being itself. Our vocation is to hear the silent song and bring it to word. We discover, uncover, how things praise God by their existence. Meister Eckhart said: “All things speak God. What my mouth does in speaking and declaring God is likewise done by the essence of a stone, and this is understood more by works than by words.” Adam and Eve betray their vocation… but redemption heals our tongues, so that we can regain our role as God’s partners in creating a flourishing world. We are children of the Most High God and so we have the vocation of speaking words that give strength, which encourage and build the Kingdom of God. — Timothy Radcliﬀe Take the Plunge: Living Baptism and Confirmation
Wednesday, February 17th Psalm 8 O Lord, our Sovereign, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens. Out of the mouths of babes and infants you have founded a bulwark because of your foes, to silence the enemy and the avenger. When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars that you have established; what are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them? Yet you have made them a little lower than God, and crowned them with glory and honor. You have given them dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under their feet, all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, whatever passes along the paths of the seas. O Lord, our Sovereign, how majestic is your name upon all the earth!
Thursday, February 18th John 1:1-5 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. (John 1:1-5 NRSV) Most Christians are acquainted with the story of Creation in Genesis. Whether we read the familiar biblical narrative of Adam and Eve as historical or allegorical is really beside the point, which is that at the heart of it all, as Christians we trust that this world, including everyone in it, is God’s. What is striking about this passage, however, is that it reframes the familiar creation story. John begins by placing the Word, God’s expression to the world, and the Second Person of the Trinity whom we believe was incarnate in Jesus, at the very center of the creation narrative. Indeed, we are told that Jesus is the animating force behind all of creation, behind life itself. In Christ, God created you, me, and the world around us. Before the world came into existence, God existed. As the world was in the process of being created, God was. The creation story is not a static, past event. In the above passage, we understand that God’s creative activity continues in our present. With the birth of a child, for example, we witness how new life amazingly comes into being from nothing. Yet God also sustains us moment by moment every day, by giving us more life, more of himself when we ask. When this happens, we come more deeply into being — more fully the people God made us to be. Lent is a time to reflect on ourselves as created, finite beings, fully loved by God, yet so utterly human in our fallible, physical bodies. May each of our Lenten journeys begin here, with joyful awareness that we are alive because of the One who existed before us and who loved and created us, and with prayers for God’s renewing light and spirit to sustain us. Annie and David Albertson have been members for seven years. Annie is a trademark attorney and David is a professor at USC. Their children Gabriel (6), Natalie (3), and Jordan (1) all were baptized at St. James’.
Friday, February 19th John 1:6-18 While John 1:1-5 is my favorite biblical passage, the next one is where the action, the Gospel’s “good news,” is. Augustine said that the philosophy books he had read confirmed the idea that “In the beginning was the Word… ” The Logos, the perfect Idea of all things in their perfection, is eternally subsistent (and, as the creed says, consubstantial) with the Father (the incomprehensible Source from which the Logos, and through Him, all things that exist, come into being). The Old Testament agrees with philosophy on this (see Proverbs 8:22-31). We are in God’s Mind (Psalm 139). What Augustine did not read in the philosophy books, however, is the New Testament message, that “the Word became flesh, and lived among us” (John 1:14) in great humility (Phil. 3:2-11), and that, to all who believed, “He gave power to become children of God” (John 1:12-13). In today’s Gospel, John the Baptist humbles himself to point out that Jesus, not he, is the Christ. In Christ, God humbles Himself, to redeem us who believe, showing us that we are His children, the apple of His eye since the beginning of creation. The good news of the Incarnation is the paradoxical mystery that divinity is humility and humility divinity. This Lent, let’s reflect on how we can, by humbling ourselves, follow Christ’s (and John’s) example, and bring this good news to others.
Richard Johnson, an Episcopalian since 1993 and a St. James' parishioner since 2009, lives in San Gabriel with his sons Aidan (15) and Soren (13). While he makes his living as an attorney, he considers theology and philosophy his true vocation.
Saturday, February 20th Luke 8:22-25 Jesus stilling the waters. I accept that God can interfere with natural processes but I am always uncomfortable when someone asserts that He actually did. The earthquakes I study as a scientist are so frightening to many people that they use God as a shield against them. We often get calls at the Seismological Laboratory, telling us that an earthquake will occur because God is mad at us. I always reject these pleas, recognizing them as psychological straws grasped at by people paralyzed by their fear of the world. How do I reconcile this with a Christian belief in God’s omnipotence? I struggle with it. God made the Universe, and in doing so, did He accept the limitations of physical laws, just as Jesus, in being born, accepted the limitations of human flesh? Actually, quantum mechanics gives great power to consciousness and volition. God could work within physical laws and still answer our prayers. I do think God made us through evolution so that our will would be truly free and not constrained by how He made us. Thus, the free-will choice to love Him is what matters. He would not answer a prayer to raise a storm or cause an earthquake in retribution — that is not a choice to love. But would he dissipate a storm, delay an earthquake in answer to prayer? I believe He could, I think He would. I took my son when he was 4 to a church retreat in Julian, CA. At the time of shared prayer, he prayed for snow because it is beautiful. It snowed that night which led to significant discussion and thought. Coincidence is the scientist’s answer. But would God cause a minor shift in atmospheric patterns to bring wonder and joy to a child who always seemed to live in God’s presence? It seems if I deny that possibility, I am moving myself away from God. But I don’t know. Lucy Jones is a seismologist with the US Geological Survey, stationed at Caltech. (She works with the City of Los Angeles and other communities to use science about earthquakes to make communities more safe). She is married to Egill Hauksson, a seismologist at Caltech and they have two adult sons. She also plays the viola da gamba in the Los Angeles Consort of Viols.
Week Two: Salvation Offered Freely to All
O God, in Christ you come in search of us. We thirst for your grace. As once at Mosesâ€™ hand in the desert, as once at Jacobâ€™s well with the Samaritan woman, so now make your gift of faith in all of us a spring of living water, leaping up to eternal life. Amen.
Monday, February 22nd Isaiah 55:1-3
Everyone who thirsts, come to the waters, and you that have no money, come, buy, and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen carefully to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food. Incline your ear, and come to me; listen, so that you may live.
Today, consider ways that you seek out things that “do not satisfy,” rather than taking in the goodness of God. What feeds your soul? How can you listen for God’s voice more intently?
Tuesday, February 23rd Prayer and helplessness are inseparable. Only those who are helpless can truly pray… Listen, my friend! Your helplessness is your best prayer. It calls from your heart to the heart of God with greater eﬀect than all your uttered pleas. He hears it from the very moment that you are seized with helplessness, and He becomes actively engaged at once in hearing and answering the prayer of your helplessness. He hears today as He heard the helpless and wordless prayer of the paralyzed man (Mark 2:1-12)… Now listen again. It is not your prayer which moves God to save you. On the contrary, your prayer is a result of the fact that Jesus has knocked at your heart’s door and told you that He desires to gain access to your needs. You think that everything is closed to you because you cannot pray. My friend, your helplessness is the very essence of prayer… Be not anxious because of your helplessness. Above all, do not let it prevent you from praying. Helplessness is the real secret and the impelling power of prayer. You should therefore rather try to thank God for the feeling of helplessness which He has given you. It is one of the greatest gifts which God can impart to us. For it is only when we are helpless that we open our hearts to Jesus and let Him help us in our distress, according to His grace and mercy. — From Prayer by Ole Hallesby
Ole Hallesby (1879-1961) was a Norwegian seminary professor and writer imprisoned for his resistance to the Nazi regime.
Wednesday, February 24th Isaiah 12:2-6 In Isaiah it is written, “I will trust and will not be afraid,” but when I was young, Lent was all about fear. It was about following rules and proscriptions, about guilt and shame and fear of making a mistake, in fear of eternal damnation. And now is a time of great fear in our world. Politicians play oﬀ of that fear, urging us to fear terrorists, fear the police, fear the poor who will take our things, fear Wall Street lest we be cheated. It requires eﬀort to renounce that fear, yet it is a step that we are called to take. During Lent we are asked to repent, not in the sense of feeling guilty for our faults and mistakes, but repent in the sense of turning around, changing course. I believe that we are called to turn away from fear and turn towards generosity. We are called not only to give alms to the poor, but also to open our hearts to generosity in thought, word and deed. My Lenten pledge this year is to turn from the mentality of fear, protecting what is mine, towards a generosity of spirit. This means having empathy towards others, giving them the benefit of the doubt rather than being judgmental. It means giving to others even without an expectation of return. The repentance I will pray for this Lent is really a change of heart. In Marilyn Robinson’s book, Gilead, an aging minister writes in a letter to his young son, “I pray that you grow up a brave man in a brave country. I will pray you find a way to be useful.” I too pray to be brave and useful, to turn away from a “circle the wagons and protect yourself” mentality towards a more open and giving mentality. In being generous in spirit, in having an open heart, we leave ourselves vulnerable to hurt, but we also leave ourselves open to the joy of God’s salvation, to the joy of fulfilling his purpose, to the joy of finding the Lord in our midst.
Monica Wahl Shaffer is married to K. John Shaffer. They have two children, Claire (19) and Matthew (17), and a dog named Hitchcock (2). She has been a member of St. James’ for fifteen years, singing in the choir, serving on the Vestry for the second time and also serving as Clerk, heading up the Community Care ministry and working with Dr. Lucy Jones on the Earthquake Resilience through Faith Communities program.
Thursday, February 25th John 4:1-26 We notice the love of Jesus in many of the healings he performed. The man with the withered hand. The woman with the flow of blood. Jairus’ daughter. The centurion’s daughter. Simon’s mother who was not feeling well when Jesus came to stay. His friend Lazarus, whom he raised from the dead when Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days. We notice the love of Jesus in the way he related to people, especially the people most often shunned by the righteous. We notice him eating and drinking, visiting with tax collectors and sinners. We notice him speaking with the Samaritan woman at the well. We remember how he forgave the woman taken in adultery, and saved her from being stoned to death. We see the way he treated the woman who came to anoint him with perfume in an alabaster jar. And then we see how he loved children: “Allow the little children to come to me,” Jesus said. He is often pictured this way, with children scrambling around to talk to him. In all these ways Jesus showed his love. Over and over again we make choices. When we come to moments of insight and reflection, we have an opportunity to choose the way of Jesus again, even if we have already chosen his way of love. Conversion is not just a quick, once-and-for-all moment of insight and change. Conversion is a lifelong story, a long-range focusing and refocusing, a constantly renewed fidelity. It may be that Lent, this particular Lent, is a chance to make a certain choice over again. In our own stories we may find some issue, long festering, that can come into healing and forgiveness at last. Perhaps the main insight will be as simple as this: my story is linked eternally to the Jesus story. And I will walk with him to the end. — From Small Surrenders: A Lenten Journey by Emilie Griﬃn
Friday, February 26th Matthew 8:5-10 Lent is about making room for God's loving presence and action in our lives. We want to believe we are in control and responsible for our own lives. Each year during Lent we struggle to impose our will, either stopping or starting some behavior. Many of us act as though Lent is about earning God’s help and support. If we demonstrate our commitment to God, God will love us. The truth is diﬀerent. We show our faith by recognizing God’s authority. Our faith does not come from our family, our education, or our traditions. We do not inherit faith, or learn it from books. Our faith grows as we trust God's power. Lent is a time to appreciate the strength of God’s love in our lives. We depend on God’s love and mercy. We come to God in times of need, appealing for help. Do we rely on who our friends and relations are? Do we take pride in what we know or what we have done? Is there room in our crowded lives for God’s love and authority? Does God see our faith and say there is nothing else like it?
Greg and Gayle Richardson have been members of Saint James’ for five and a half years. Gayle is a member of the Altar Guild who works at the Huntington Library, and Greg facilitates Centering Prayer and has a practice as a leadership coach and spiritual director.
Saturday, February 27th Ephesians 2:13-22 It is natural for us to look back to see how far we have traveled, to check direction, to see what is accomplished and what remains. Lent emphasizes this practice, calling us to consider our mortality, as kneeling, ashes are imposed on us with the stark command: “Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return!!” Were this injunction extended with the truth “But remember you are God’s dust!” no one could complain. Yet no such relief is oﬀered. But our text also calls us to remember: “So then remember at one time you were Gentiles by birth …Remember at that time you were without Christ…but now in Christ, you who were far oﬀ have been brought near by the blood of Christ!” The task of Lent is to acknowledge, not bemoan, our former status, nor boast of our present place but to draw nearer to comprehend and celebrate that God, our Father, has found a way, through love and sacrifice to create in Himself one new humanity. Just breathe that in! The image of building in this passage implies a cathedral in progress, taking shape through dimensions and generations. Each descriptive phrase is a chapel of understanding in itself, a place of worship, contemplation and access to temporal and eternal beauty, all fitly joined in a breathing, holy love. A timeless Sanctuary, full of all Time. Here, all saints, all sinners. “Look up!” cry workers nearly out of sight in the heights. Lent is like the temporary plywood wall set up at a construction site to protect passersby; it creates a space for lives in repair, providing privacy for those inside to refocus, regroup, and review how far they have come and what is ahead. Even so, it must provide viewing windows for the curious who are startled by irrepressible bursts of joy from within: "Joy unspeakable and full of glory." Stan and Francis Hirtle have attended St. James’ for many years. Stan is ordained in the Disciples of Christ tradition, and is the retired pastor of South Pasadena Christian Church.
Week Three: A New Heart and a New Spirit
Prayer is the radiation, the breath and the warmth of the awakened heart: expressed in formulae of the articulated word, in the wordless inner sighing of the soul and, lastly, in the silence, both outward and inward, of the breathing of the soul immersed in the element of divine respiration and breathing in unison with it…one should know that one never prays alone, that there are always others who pray with you in the same sense, in the same spirit, and even in the same words. In praying, you always represent a visible or invisible community together with you.
Monday, February 29th Ezekiel 36:24-28 Such words of promise and kindness following one of the most tragic periods lived by the Jewish people where they witnessed the collapse of the Kingdom of Judah and its capital, Jerusalem, followed by the bitter experience of Babylonian exile in Mesopotamia. The Book of Ezekiel is estimated to be written somewhere in the 6th century BC over a fairly extensive period of time, rewritten and revised by a man named Ezekiel ben-Buzi (later to be known as the prophet Ezekiel) and his scribes. Ezekiel was born into a priestly family of Jerusalem, and this passage is from one of the five prophetic books written by the major prophets of the Old Testament. In reading this passage, the image of an immensely loving and forgiving parent comes to my mind. I imagine God as a parent who will gather up his or her children in a warm embrace, even when they have wandered far and wide and been up to all manner of questionable things. This God once again will baptize these children with clean water (pure), and scrub them clean from all the impure thoughts and deeds they have done, and from all the indulgent things they have idolized. This image is not unlike what I remember of being scrubbed thoroughly by my English grandmother when a small child! This God will give them a new heart, one that is compassionate, unlike their hard hearts of stone, a new spirit, and make them anew and bring them home again where they will belong to God and follow God’s laws. We belong to God. We live in God’s home on Earth according to God’s laws. When we wander far and break those laws, forgetting who we are and who we belong to, and we suﬀer, itʼs a hugely forgiving and loving God who welcomes us back with open arms and gives us another chance to be redeemed in His sight. Hallowed be His Name. Mary Chalon has been a parishioner at St. James’ for over 23 years with her husband Lance Davis, and daughter Jemma. Mary has served as a Junior Warden, Lay Reader, and Lay Eucharistic Minister. She is an actress and director by profession, and is currently an EFM comentor, an elected member of the LA Diocesan Commission on Ministry, and Director of Children’s Ministry at Saint James’.
Tuesday, March 1st Ezekiel 37:1-14 Lent sometimes has a foreboding way about it. We fast, the flowers on the altar are exchanged for sticks, and we look at the bare bones of our lives. It’s a time in our Church year when we turn inward and take an honest look at the version of ourselves that we don’t always acknowledge. We remember that we have forgotten to praise God enough for all the blessings He’s given us. We try, once again, to forgive the trespassers who have trespassed against us. Lent isn’t easy, and it isn’t comfortable. Yet we yearn for this time of atonement every year, praying that God will hear our prayers and have mercy on us. If we show up, God will show up and heal our brokenness. We pray to God to renew our dry bones, to give them muscle, flesh and skin, and breathe in them new life. But is that all there is to it? What matters most is how we use God’s breath. We’re missing an important aspect of Church if we reside only in this introspective version of prayer, atonement, and worship. Even writing this reflection, we found that talking to each other about this passage invigorated our minds and hearts in a new way. Imagine the exponential possibilities of not only reflecting on our sins and God’s mercy, but also inhaling and exhaling God’s prophecies throughout this season of Lent and beyond. It isn’t easy, but through believing and spreading the message of God, we will be renewed.
Sarah and Robert Gonzalez. Sarah first came to St. James’ in September of 2007 as a section leader in the choir. She became the Director of Music in 2011 and later that year met Robert. They were married at St. James’ in August of 2014 and now have a one-year-old daughter, Lucy Alma. Though they both hail from other places, Sarah from Illinois and Rob from San Diego, they are happy to call St. James’ their home.
Wednesday, March 2nd
Lord, you are my Lord and my God, and I have never seen you. You have created and re-created me, all the good I have comes from you, and still I do not know you. I was created to see you, and I have not yet accomplished that for which I was madeâ€Ś Let me discern your light, whether from afar or from the depths. Teach me to seek you, and as I seek you, show yourself to me, for I cannot seek you unless you show me how, and I will never find you unless you show yourself to me. Let me seek you by desiring you, and desire you by seeking you; let me find you by loving you, and love you in finding you. Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109)
Thursday, March 3rd Mark 2:18-22 Many years ago when I was a teenager, I worked at the Bernardus Winery in Carmel Valley. One day, we were mixing wine in preparation for bottling in early fall. I was seated atop a two-thousand-gallon, stainless steel tank that was just about to be completely filled with new wine. I used a walkie talkie to check in with the co-worker who was manning the pump several hundred yards away. Everything was going perfectly. I signaled to him, still on the walkie talkie, to slow the pump but there was no response. I tried again, but there was no response. I looked down through the manhole cover and, seeing that the tank was full, screamed for help and jumped oﬀ the ten-foot-high tank to the ground. A fountain of wine started shooting out of the open hatch and onto the ground. Another co-worker heard the commotion and quickly used the intercom system to communicate that the pump needed to be turned oﬀ. A complete disaster was averted. Good planning and preparation in the form of adding a backup means of communication saved the day, and very little new wine was lost. In a similar way we might approach today’s lesson from Mark and ask ourselves: How are we preparing ourselves to be filled with the Good News of Jesus Christ? How are we preparing our body, mind and, most importantly, our soul to receive such an abundance of Grace? As you continue on your Lenten journey, don’t be afraid to add a new prayer practice or make an adjustment if you have given up something for Lent. What you have taken on or given up for Lent is not being compared to the practices of John’s disciples or the Pharisees. Simply invite Jesus into your thinking so that He might open your heart and transform your spirit to focus on what is most important.
The Rev. Brian O’Rourke is an Assisting Priest at St. James’.
Friday, March 4th Luke 19:1-10 Pursuit and Wonder Children are full of wonder. They investigate everything they encounter and believe that they can do anything. They hunger for life and all its abundance. Over time, we find limitations. We learn that “being too short” bars us from the basketball court or “reading too slowly” is taboo for the lectern’s podium. We learn to stop seeking. By limiting ourselves to what we can control and our expertise, we reduce our chance for injury. Zacchaeus was vertically challenged. He could have easily said, “Well, I can see Jesus some other time.” But instead he choose to follow his curiosity. He wanted to see Jesus. It’s hard to imagine overcoming our lifelong limitations just to follow a desire. And yet, Zacchaeus did. He augmented his height and saw Jesus. And, Jesus saw him. Being noticed by one with such honor is enough to rejoice, but Jesus wanted to share a table with this man. He wanted to share stories, see his life, and share his journey. And Zacchaeus chose to respond to that relationship with fervor. It’s easy to minimize our desires. How often do we have a desire to see something with such potential and let it go because of our perceived lack of resources? How might our lives change if we find ways to be like Zacchaeus, to follow our desire, to rise above fear? Perhaps, following our desires, our curiosities, might lead us back to the wonder of childhood: the wonder of gazing upon our Lord. Drew Carr and Ashley Wilkins were married at St. James’, and are involved with the hospitality ministry for Sacramentum. Ashley is a Clinical Psychology PhD Student at Fuller Theological Seminary, and Drew is an Advanced Fellow in Neurobehavior and Geriatrics for Greater Los Angeles Veterans Affairs.
Saturday, March 5th Second Corinthians 5:16-21 Since the gift of grace is oﬀered to everyone, we should view all people from the perspective of their potential to be reconciled to God, to be forgiven and transformed in Christ. In verse 16, there is an exhortation to “regard no one from a human point of view” because of Christ’s sacrificial, atoning death for all. The concept of reconciliation dominates the passage — the message and ministry of reconciliation that leads human beings to reconciliation with God in Christ. Once the step across this threshold has been taken, the person who has chosen reconciliation with God also receives transformative promises. Not just in a future life, but while on earth, the person becomes a “new creation” (v.17) and the “righteousness of God” (v.21). The language of verse 17 is particularly striking: “So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!” The promise of complete transformation of the old into the new seems at first unrealistic. Personal transformation is a process over time even if forgiveness and reconciliation are instantaneous in the spiritual or theological sense. What is striking about the totality of verse 17 and the imputation of divine righteousness to a reconciled human being is that there seems to be no limitation placed on the promises of transformation for those who have been reconciled to God through Christ. If all things become new, then any of the “old things” that need change and transformation are promised to change (with our cooperation and the help of God’s grace of course). I find it very encouraging that God will empower us to grow and change in whatever way we need to once we are reconciled to Him.
Marilyn Gray directs the Graduate Writing Center at UCLA. She has been attending St. James’ for about three years.
Week Four: The Gathering of Godâ€™s People
Infinite is your compassion, O God, and gracious the pardon that Jesus the Teacher offers to everyone who stands before him. Gladden our hearts at the word that sends us on our way in peace; and grant that we, who have been forgiven so much, may embrace as brothers and sisters everyone who joins us at this feast of forgiveness. Amen.
Monday, March 7th Zephaniah 3:12-20 This reading speaks of hope and restoration for God’s people. In fact, these passages presage many of Christ’s promises to the disciples. The timing of these events is unclear. Does it refer to changes in our world or the next? Israelites at the time were longing for restoration in the here and now, but perhaps God has other agendas. I feel the same about the second coming. People have been holding their breath for two millennia, hoping for the rapture in their time. I believe that the day of restoration is the day of our death, when God’s priorities are re-established for all of us. Although this passage is somewhat apocalyptic in nature, I take comfort in God’s elevation of the meek, mending of the lame, restoration of exiles, and forgiveness of sins.
John Wood and his wife Ruth are both faculty members at USC. Their family has been coming to St. James’ since 1999, and have been longtime choir members.
Tuesday, March 8th
Come! For Jesus sees that those who labor and toil feel weighed down by the weight of their burden, despondent over work, and live in perplexity and distress; one is looking round in all directions, hoping to find relief; another keeps his eyes on the ground, having found no consolation; a third is looking up to the sky as though help would be coming down: but they are all searching. That is why Jesus says, “Come!” For he who is inviting knows that it is the nature of true suﬀering to go away alone and plunge into silent desolation without daring to tell anyone, far less to ask for help openly. And that is why he who is inviting will not wait until those who are desolate under their burdens come to him; in fullness of love, he calls them; all his eagerness to help them might have remained ineﬀective had he not uttered that word and so taken the first step; for in that cry, “Come to me!” he comes to them. Soren Kierkegaard (1813-1855)
Wednesday, March 9th John 10:11-18 “I am the good shepherd,” said Jesus in v. 2, adding that he knows his own sheep and they know him, referring to his early, close followers. But in a profound declaration that changed history, he said in v. 16: “And I have other sheep, that are not of this fold; I must bring them also. So there shall be one flock, one shepherd …” God’s plan, acting through Jesus as the Good Shepherd, was to spread the Good News of salvation also to others — beyond his initial followers, as seen in Acts 9:1-11: the Conversion of Saul of Tarsus (a.k.a St. Paul), an act that eventually spread the Gospel beyond the Jews to all the nations. As Jesus said in Acts 9:15, “… for (Saul) is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles …” Thus, God’s plan, acting through Jesus, was to gather all people who would hear and believe into one “fold” with Jesus as the one “Shepherd.” In the Lenten theme of the Crucifixion and Resurrection, v. 2-18, Jesus foretells that a good shepherd “… lays down his life for (his) sheep …” and he concludes that “… I have the power to lay it down of my own accord … I have power to take it up again; this charge I have received from my Father.” My final reflection is that we should be grateful Saul was chosen to spread the Gospel to all people. And I’m also grateful that in our St. James’ community, we have a church and faith open to all, founded by the Lord, who willingly oﬀered his life as a perfect sacrifice, an ultimate act of love, to ensure that it would happen. And it did!
Ray Girvigian has been a local resident since 1967 and a St. James’ member since 1973, with his late wife Beverly, their son Dr. Michael Girvigian, his wife Kathleen, and their sons Nathaniel and William. Michael, Nate and Will are alumni of our Parish School. Ray has served on the Buildings & Grounds Committee for many years and is a regular supporter of the Food Locker and Altar Guild.
Thursday, March 10th
Eternal Light, shine into our hearts; Eternal Goodness, deliver us from evil; Eternal Power, be our support; Eternal Wisdom, scatter the darkness of our ignorance; Eternal Pity, have mercy upon us: that with all our heart and mind and soul and strength we may seek thy face and be brought by your infinite mercy to your holy presence; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen â€” Alcuin of York
Friday, March 11th Matthew 14:13-21 Upon hearing of the death of John the Baptist, the mind of Jesus must have turned to the anticipation of the cross and the imminence of his own death to accomplish God’s saving purpose. Understandably, he would have wanted to be by himself as he contemplated the approach of his own death. But even in the remote place he chose, there was not to be any relief from the crowds who continually pressed upon him. No matter. Seeing the great throng of needy people, Jesus “had compassion on them, and healed their sick.” Then, however, the compassion of the Lord extends even to the provision of an ordinary (or extraordinary!) supper for the hungry crowd who had followed him. Jesus multiplies the five loaves and two fish in this famous feeding miracle. The abundance of the food, with twelve baskets of remainders, created by Jesus is reminiscent of the miraculous manna that kept the Israelites alive during their sojourn in the wilderness after the Exodus from Egypt. It is at the same time a sign-miracle anticipating the eventual eschatological filling of the hungry everywhere, as the special vocabulary of filling and satisfaction indicates. There is furthermore an anticipatory allusion to the language of the thanksgiving made by Jesus in the blessing of the bread in the Last Supper narrative. The feeding of the multitude thus looks back to the wilderness wandering and forward to the Eucharist and even beyond to the eschaton. Jesus shows himself to be the Lord of compassion whose death on the cross will become the source of salvation and eschatological renewal for the whole of creation.
Don and Bev Hagner have been attending St James’ with grateful hearts since the summer of 2013.
Saturday, March 12th Revelation 21:1-4 The Book of Revelation, with all its fantastical imagery, can sometimes feel like a treatment for an apocalyptic CGI movie featuring monsters and angels. But this passage speaks beautifully and lightly of the new. A new earth, a new Jerusalem, and “all things being made new.” After the book’s earlier accounts of dragons, giant bugs, and rivers of blood, this scripture presents the truth of what Jesus inaugurated. God’s transformative action in our lives is revealed in its profound simplicity. We are made new. We are diﬀerent because God has entered our world, the world of mortals, and is seeking each of us for relationship. This Lent, “being made new” has taken on a deeper significance in my life. When the passage says, “See, the home of God is among mortals,” I realize I can’t just bump along anymore, taking for granted this world and all its beautiful, messy, and mysterious expressions. The truth is that nothing is “ordinary”; in every moment God abides, striving to be experienced as He is, where we are. Jesus tells us, simply and lovingly, how to recognize this God in the midst of our lives: She is sitting next to me on the bus. He is working alongside me. They are living down the street. God is all these. This week, I pray my eyes will be opened and my heart given to God’s kingdom, not simply a lovely phrase, but the tangible world where Jesus lived and where I am met every day by the God who loves unconditionally and gives me the opportunity to respond with my heart.
Matt O’Connor. About himself he writes, “Linda and I began attending St. James’ during Lent in 2011, recognizing immediately that we had wandered in to a real sanctuary, where the sacred was as tangible as the real world community gathered. Linda is a therapist in practice in La Cañada, and I am transitioning my life from being a building contractor to being a spiritual director. I’m currently a student at Bloy House, the Episcopal seminary, and at the Loyola Institute for Spirituality.”
Week Five: Renewing our Baptism
We thank you, Father, for the water of Baptism. In it we are buried with Christ in his death. By it we share in his resurrection. Through it we are reborn by the Holy Spirit. Therefore in joyful obedience to your Son, we bring into his fellowship those who come to him in faith, baptizing them in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
Monday, March 14th Do you renounce Satan and all the spiritual forces of wickedness that rebel against God? What does it mean to renounce something? A dictionary definition oﬀers three diﬀerent explanations: 1) to give up something voluntarily; 2) to give up by formal declaration; 3) to repudiate or disown. And when “Satan and all the spiritual forces of wickedness that rebel against God” are mentioned, what are we talking about? This question can cause discomfort which can stem from two diﬀerent sets of concerns. When we are presented with the description of a world in which there are spiritual forces, some of us cannot reconcile this with empirical or rational thought, or fear veering oﬀ into superstition. On the other hand, others of us may have had some experiences with evil that cause such talk to be frightening. How are we to understand what we are renouncing? In scripture, Satan is described as one who is God’s adversary, as one who opposes the will of God. Sometimes in the New Testament, Jesus confronts evil in the form of spiritual forces. At another time, Jesus sharply rebukes Peter, one of the disciples in the very inner circle of his ministry, by saying “Get behind me, Satan!” Jesus oﬀers this rebuke because Peter is “setting his mind not on divine things, but on human things” (Matthew 16:21-23). There are a range of ways that evil is presented, but there is a consistent theme: evil can be discerned by the extent to which it distorts reality by placing humanity at the center of everything rather than by glorifying God as creator and redeemer. So when we renounce evil, we are intentionally taking sides. The Lenten questions are these: have I allowed myself to believe that my life or the life of others are not of value? Do I embrace beliefs that place my own will above all else in terms of the choices I make? To whom do I turn for counsel when it comes to discerning my life choices and why? Lent is a time when we have the opportunity to remember whose we are, and continue to align ourselves with the love, grace, and mercy of God. The Rev. Michelle Baker-Wright is the Senior Associate for Christian Education at St. James’.
Tuesday, March 15th Do you renounce the evil powers of this world which corrupt and destroy the creatures of God?
Our baptismal covenant draws us wholly into the household of God in which no part of our lives or our selves is left out. It does not take us out of the world but changes who we are in the world. As we are aligned with God in our inward being we also are called to be aligned with God in our outward being — in the world and the situations we find ourselves in. This renunciation causes us to look around at our world and to take stock of those things that work against the inherent dignity created in all God’s creatures. It calls us to recognize those systems, patterns and influences that degrade our fellow humans and to turn away from them. As we renounce them in words we must also renounce them in practice. When we find ourselves complicit in structures of oppression we must make the brave move to call them out for the evil that they are and work to end them. The arc of human society traces ongoing struggles against things like racism and sexism, to name only a few. As members of the household of God, we must realize that insofar as any of our sisters and brothers are corrupted and destroyed, so too are we.
The Rev. Todd Blackham is the Associate and Day School Chaplain at St. James’.
Wednesday, March 16th Do you renounce all sinful desires that draw you from the love of God? The immediate answer to such a question is, “Of course! Why would I not renounce those things that draw me away from God, God’s love, God’s mercy, and God’s grace?” We make such a declaration even without thinking. And then we think about it. Desires. The first things that come to mind are those external things, those objects of our desire and aﬀection outside of ourselves that might draw us away from the love of God, like the force of the gravitational attraction of the Moon tugging and pulling at the tides. Lust, greed, power, wealth, prestige, all influencing the tides of our aﬀections. Then we think more. It is less obvious and more nuanced than that. Often it is the subtle twists and turns of our attention and interest from within that draw us away from the love of God. Turing inward upon oneself can short-circuit our relationship with God. So the desire to want people’s attention — either through pity and sympathy for the challenges of life that have presented themselves to us, or by pride and success where we want people to attend to our victories and accomplishments — can draw us away from the grace, love, and attention we really need from God. But God’s love can seem somewhat delayed and we seek immediate gratification and aﬃrmation. So this renunciation requires our emptying ourselves of self-importance and impatience that we might be filled by God’s love. Might we pray today the prayer Paul oﬀered for the church of Philippi, that we do nothing from selfish designs and ambitions, but think of others; that we would have the mind of Christ and empty ourselves of the undesirable desires of glory, power, and/or attention and be filled with God’s self-giving love. (See Philippians 2:1-8.) Susan and Todd Johnson. Susan is a physical therapist currently doing home health care. Todd is a professor at Fuller Theological Seminary who teaches in worship, theology, and the arts. Susan and Todd have been part of the St. James’ family for almost five years.
Thursday, March 17th Do you turn to Jesus Christ and accept him as your Savior? I remember a passionate woman asking my Mother, “Are you saved?” My Mom smiled and replied, “Yes, I’m saved. I’m saved again, and again, and again.” That definitely wasn’t the reply this woman expected, as she went on to ask, “But do you accept him as your personal Lord and Savior?” My Mother answered, “I turn to Him every day, and accept him as my Savior.” I have heard those words in the countless baptisms I have witnessed. On a trip to the Holy Land in 2010, I was baptized in the River Jordan — full immersion, with Bishop Bruno’s enormous hands around my head — a moment of fear and joy, and finally of complete and utter surrender. Every day I’m learning to accept His will for me. And, I have spent my lifetime being saved again, and again, and again. I have played many roles: mother, wife, artist. But only recently have I placed my identity in the death and Resurrection of Jesus. Through loss and through facing my fears, I’ve learned that my loved ones are not “mine,” not even my own children. They belong to Him; I place them in His hands. But, perhaps the most important part of the question has been, “Do you turn to Jesus Christ?” Because, when the world crashes in around me, it is Jesus who meets me there in the tomb, and it is Jesus who raises me up again, and again, and again.
Susanne Wright Nava and her husband Samuel been members of St. James’ for 16 years. They have two children, Cristo, 17, and Sofia, 11. Susanne is in the choir, prayer team, and EfM (Education for Ministry).
Friday, March 18th Do you put your whole trust in his grace and love?
It is only through the grace and love of Jesus that I can put my whole trust in his grace and love. I lose sight of this in my daily life of work deadlines, commuting, middle school homework and “where are the knee pads for volleyball practice?” I am on email and voicemail, struggling to find 10 minutes of sacred space over a morning cup of coﬀee. And yet, the baptismal question focuses me on how can I put my whole trust in the grace and love of Jesus. Not a part-time trust or a when I go to church kind of trust. And, yet, there are times when grace glimmers through, most often in moments of quiet or when I slow down long enough to be grateful for the pressure of my life. Seeing the hand of God in the everyday miracles of good health, dinner as a family, my daughter’s giggle. In these moments, I catch a glimpse of what putting my whole trust into Jesus would mean for my life. Saint Ignatius of Loyola said, “There are very few people who realize what God would make of them if they abandoned themselves into his hands and let themselves be formed by his grace.” During this time of Lenten contemplation, I will be praying to find a way to put my whole trust in Jesus, seeking the abandonment and potential of truly letting his grace be my salvation.
Leah Porter is the mother of Maddie (age 13), and serves as the Junior Warden at St. James’. She and Maddie been part of the St. James’ Church community for 9 years.
Saturday, March 19th Do you promise to follow and obey him as your Lord? This question, taken from the Baptismal Liturgy, seems to be the essential Christian question, doesn’t it? How easy and desirable to simply shout, “Yes!” But what exactly does it mean to “follow and obey?” Surely theologians have produced volumes in trying to answer that question. Perhaps it boils down to what Matthew writes. According to Jesus, we should love the Lord with all our heart, soul, and mind. And we should love our neighbor as much as we love ourselves. Certainly few can honestly say this is always the case, but it is the path we Christians have chosen. We desire to fully love the Lord, even though it is human to doubt. We wish to follow and obey Jesus’ call to love one another, even though it may be natural to think of one’s self and one’s family first. Even if we say we love one another, it can be diﬃcult to put this belief into practice. Perhaps the key to the Baptismal question is the word “promise.” It reflects a commitment. It doesn’t mean that we will always be successful. It means we will attempt to love God and one another. If we fall short, we promise to repent and try to be better. Being a Christian is not an end; it is a process. Promising to follow and obey Jesus means dedicating oneself to a sincere eﬀort to love God and one another.
Kevin, Nancy and Megan Baaske joined St. James' in about 1990. Kevin and Nancy started with teaching Sunday School. Kevin has served as an usher (where he refined all necessary life skills), as Treasurer, and as Senior Warden.
Palm Sunday Luke 19:28-40 Today we celebrate Palm Sunday, Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. It is on this Sunday that we celebrate the coming of our blessed King with great praise and thanksgiving. Jesus enters into Jerusalem on a colt as a symbol of humility and peace. An act that represents God’s deep understanding of what our world longs for and has always longed for, to know a greater sense of God’s love. To know that all our sins have been forgiven. As a Christian community living in the 21st century we know the story does not end on Palm Sunday. We know that this is just the beginning. We know that today we hear about Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem and that this journey will ultimately end at the cross. May we enter into this Holy Week praising God and feeling the same deep emotions and deep sense of gratitude his early followers felt on this same day. May we surrender our lives and our souls and all that we have and all that we are so that we might gain a greater sense of God’s love through Christ’s sacrifice. Palm Sunday Collect Almighty and everliving God, in your tender love for the human race you sent your Son our Savior Jesus Christ to take upon him our nature, and to suﬀer death upon the cross, giving us the example of his great humility: Mercifully grant that we may walk in the way of his suﬀering, and also share in his resurrection; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Rev. Brian O’Rourke
Monday, March 21st Isaiah 42:1-9; John 12:1-11 In the Myers-Briggs personality test, there is a question something like this: “Do you value peace over justice, or justice over peace?” This is a question I think about a lot, especially when I’m in conflict with someone. Of course I value justice. I want to do the right thing, and I want the right thing to come out on top. But I’m also afraid of conflict and don’t mind swallowing my pride, so it’s easier to let the more aggressive person win, just to keep the peace. In the passage in Isaiah, we learn about Israel’s calling: to bring forth justice to the nations. But justice doesn’t come with a sword; it’s not violent or explosive: a bruised reed he will not break, and a dimly burning wick he will not quench. This doesn’t sound like peace over justice; this sounds like an incredibly soft touch. It almost seems incidental that it’s in the service of justice. As with so many passages from Isaiah, we see it paired with a “fulfillment” passage: Jesus explains to Judas why it’s OK that Mary anointed his feet with oil, rather than selling the oil to raise money to give to the poor. You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me. If the passage didn’t reveal that Judas’ motives were rotten, this wouldn’t necessarily seem like justice. It also doesn’t quite sound like peace. It sounds like an exception — and maybe that is the mystery of the “peace or justice” question. It’s not these two options, that black-and-white either/or of opposing forces. Moving into Holy Week, I’m praying for the wisdom to see through the humanness of peace versus justice to see the truth — to see the exception.
Emily Manthei is a writer and filmmaker who has been at St. James’ for 10 years.
Tuesday, March 22nd “Let the circle be unbroken,” goes the song. But the circle was broken. The circle of friendship was fragmented. The circle gathered to share bread and wine was shattered. The circle of love embracing divine and human — “As you, Father, are in me, and I in you, may they also be one in us” — was broken, utterly broken; and Jesus, the center and unifying force, went out into the night, the night in which he was betrayed … Our Eucharistic prayers often include the words, “On the night in which he was betrayed, Jesus took bread …” It says something about the meaning of this night, and why we still remember it, as we do day by day, in our Eucharistic life. The circle of friendship has been broken. Jesus goes out into the night, the night in which he was betrayed … What power can redeem the malice of betrayal, and what answer can be given to the one who has experienced such betrayal? Perhaps there is only one answer … only a prayer … “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.” For the betrayer rarely thinks of it as a betrayal, but as serving a cause, or doing what must be done, what is “necessary.” Only the one betrayed really experiences the truth that this is indeed a betrayal, the destruction of friendship’s intimate bonds of trust. And only such a prayer, by such a betrayed one, can reconcile the betrayer and undo the betrayal.
—From From Holy Week to Easter: Following the God Who is Going Before by George Pattison
Wednesday, March 23rd Isaiah 50: 4-9a; John 13: 21-32 Jesus has washed the feet of his disciples and said, “You do the same.” He’s setting them up for his departure. He says one of them will betray him. Which one? He tells John it will be the one who takes the crust of bread. Why does he say this? And when Judas eats the bread, Satan enters into him. Jesus is about to end the meal with the Eucharist, when Jesus, not Satan will enter into them. And he will end by saying that he and the Father are one, glorified and reflected in each other. I know John was big on articulating the divinity of Jesus, the cosmic struggle with Satan. But I was a fan of Nikos Kazantzakis’ The Last Temptation of Christ — Jesus the man — because I can’t identify with a God. So here I see a human tension between Jesus’ understanding of his destiny — the fulfillment of the prophecy — and his fervent desire not to have to go through with it. In a while, he himself will hint that the cup might pass. We don’t hear a lot about Judas. Was he a disillusioned rebel who believed Jesus was betraying the cause? Was he envious? Was it really for the money, or as in The Godfather, was it “Nothing personal. I like him. It’s business.” We each have our role. He had “free will.” He could have chosen not to. But then how would the prophecy have been fulfilled? Is that heaven, perhaps, when the last person has a last choice, and chooses good?
Lance Davis is married to Mary Chalon, who found Saint James’ for our family in 1992, when our daughter Jemma was 2. Saint James’ remains home base for our spiritual journeys. As a family we've been active in the choir, the Vestry, the children's programs, the Youth Center, as lay readers, lay Eucharistic ministers to Prospect Manor, discernment committees, and convention delegates.
Maundy Thursday Exodus 12:1-4, 11-14 ; John 13:1-17, 31b-35 The holy meal that we share, instituted on this day by our Lord, distinctly marks our remembrance of the work of God. The Passover meal had been initiated on the eve of the liberation of the Hebrew people from their bondage in Egypt. That first night, the meal was shared in obedience to God as God was at work protecting them from the deaths of the first-born that would touch Pharaoh’s people. It happened in the midst of God’s saving work. On the night he was handed over to suﬀering and death, Jesus reframes this meal as his own body and blood given for us; he is about to plunge headlong into the depth of love’s saving work. One of Jesus’ first appearances after his resurrection to two people on the road to Emmaus was confirmed as they recognized him in the breaking of bread. This is a meal both of remembrance and presence. Just as God was at work on that night of the Passover and at the Last Supper, so too is God’s work active now. In the Eucharist we remember Christ and we experience the presence of the Living Christ.
Rev. Todd Blackham
â€œIt is Finished.â€? Then Jesus bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
Anima Christi Soul of Christ, sanctify me. Body of Christ, save me. Blood of Christ, inebriate me. Water from the side of Christ, wash me. Passion of Christ, strengthen me. O Good Jesus, hear me. Within your wounds hide me. Permit me not to be separated from you. From the evil one, protect me. At the hour of my death, call me and bid me come to you That with your saints I may praise you For ever and ever. Amen. Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, we pray you to set your passion, cross, and death between your judgment and our souls, now and in the hour of our death. Give mercy and grace to the living; pardon and rest to the dead; to your holy Church peace and concord; and to us sinners everlasting life and glory; for with the Father and the Holy Spirit you live and reign, one God, now and forever. Amen.
Holy Saturday This is a non-day, a time of silent waiting, hardly daring to breathe. There is a tradition which says that between the observance of the Lord’s burial and the kindling of the new fire that marks the start of Easter, the Church remains silent too. Waiting alone in the darkness of a gothic church, with the ribs of the vaulting arching above you like the ribs of some great beached whale, you can pray the prayer of Jonah from the belly of the great fish. I called to you, O God, out of my distress and you answered me; out of the belly of Sheol I cried, and you heard my voice. You cast me into the deep, into the heart of the seas, and the flood surrounded me, all your waves and billows passed over me. Then I said, I am driven away from your sight; how shall I ever look again upon your holy temple? The waters closed in over me, the deep was round about me; weeds were wrapped around my head at the roots of the mountains. I went down to the land whose bars closed upon me forever, yet you brought up my life from the depths, O God. As my life was ebbing away, I remembered you, O God, and my prayer came to you, into your holy temple. With the voice of thanksgiving, I will sacrifice to you; what I have vowed I will pay; deliverance belongs to the Lord! —From The Pilgrim Prayerbook (2nd Ed.) by David Stancliﬀe
Easter Sunday Isaiah 25:6-9; Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24; 1 Corinthians 15:1-11; John 20:1-18 Can you imagine the trauma, shock and bewilderment of Mary Magdalene when she arrived to find an empty tomb? The same feelings must have been shared by Peter and the other disciples as they sprinted to find out what had happened to Jesus’ body. And then Mary’s weeping and grief turns to shock and to joy as she first sees Jesus, mistaking Him for the gardener and then coming to a deeper realization that this was, indeed, her teacher, “Rabbouni!.” The artist Albrecht Dürer created an engraving called “Christ as a Gardener,” describing this scene. And many theologians and artists throughout history have remarked on the aptness of this image. Yes, Mary misidentified Jesus, but she also viewed him through the lens of a deeper truth. Before things went amiss, the garden in Genesis was the place where God and humanity enjoyed each other’s company. And now Jesus has done business with all that got in the way of that communion. And he returns to declare restoration and reconciliation, and to draw all people to himself. Living into this resurrection hope is a lifelong process; the disciples sought to make sense of resurrection hope throughout their lives, and we do as well. First we may encounter Christ as a gardener, who tends us and draws us into relationship. And then we may grow into deeper understanding that Christ has entered into the deepest places of death and darkness and overcome them, and that resurrection is a profound shift in how we understand the trajectories of our own lives. Where are we being invited to step into new places of hope? How can we allow Jesus to be our gardener, our teacher, and our resurrected Lord? Alleluia! Christ is risen!
Rev. Michelle Baker-Wright
To learn, To love, To live, the Word of God
For 111 years, St. James’, “The Episcopal Church in South Pasadena,” has been an active, welcoming parish, serving its members and reaching out to the community and beyond. We offer prayer, support, and love in the midst of life’s ups and downs.