We are a small Episcopal Church on the banks of the Rappahannock in Port Royal, Virginia. We acknowledge that we gather on the traditional land of the first people of Port Royal, the Nandtaughtacund, who are still here, and we honor with gratitude the land itself and the life of the Rappahannock Tribe. Our mission statement is to do God’s Will in all that we do.
“Today is a day of purification, renewal, and hope.”
The Presentation of our Lord commemorates when Mary and Joseph brought the infant Jesus to the Temple in Jerusalem where he was greeted by Simeon and Anna. By the Law every first born male was to be consecrated to the Lord.” This happened 40 days after his birth at Christmas.
It is a feast day though it does not often fall on a Sunday. Candlemas occurs at a period between the December solstice and the March equinox, so many people traditionally marked that time of the year as winter’s “halfway point” while waiting for the spring.
Candlemas is actually a very old feast, celebrated by both the churches of the East and the West, and in some places it is on this day that the creche is finally removed from the church. The passage from The words in this scripture are often part of Compline
According to some sources, Christians began Candlemas in Jerusalem as early as the fourth century and the lighting of candles began in the fifth century. Other sources say that Candlemas was observed by blessing candles since the 11th century. An early writing dating back to around 380 CE mentioned that a feast of the Presentation occurred in a church in Jerusalem. It was observed on February 14. The feast was observed on February 2 in regions where Christ’s birth was celebrated on December 25. It is also Groundhog Day in the United States and Canada on February 2.
Candles are blessed on this day (hence the name “Candlemas”). It was the day of the year when all the candles, that were used in the church during the coming year, were brought into church and a blessing was said over them – so it was the Festival Day (or ‘mass’) of the Candles. Candles were important in those days not only because there was no electric lights. Some people thought they gave protection against plague and illness and famine. For Christians, they were (and still are) a reminder of something even more important. Before Jesus came to earth, it was as if everyone was ‘in the dark’.
Pieces of these candles are considered of great efficacy in sickness, or otherwise. When a person is dying, a piece is put in his hand lighted, and thus he passes away in the belief that it may light him to Paradise.
Unlikely Christmas Carols: Bruce Cockburn’s “Cry Of A Tiny Baby”
A post from teacher and theologian David Lose: “So maybe I shouldn’t describe this Christmas carol as “unlikely” in that Bruce Cockburn has explored the Christian story and theology, along with issues of human rights, throughout his forty-year career. But it may very well be unfamiliar to you. If so, you’re in for a treat, as the Canadian folk and rock guitarist, singer-songwriter’s beautiful retelling of the Christmas story blends elements of both Luke’s tender narrative of the in-breaking good news of God to the least likely of recipients – a teenage girl, her confused fiancee, down-and-out shepherds – with Matthew’s starkly realistic picture of a baby that threatens kings by his mere existence.
by Meghan Cotter. Meghan is executive director of Micah Ecumenical Ministries, a faith-based nonprofit that offers holistic care to the community’s street homeless
“Some time back, I watched a friend in need attempt to repair five years worth of disintegrating relationships. The library, a local gymnasium, a number of area businesses and even her family had cut off ties in response to her boisterously disruptive behavior.
” She’d picked up criminal charges—a few nuisance violations, a trespassing or two and an assault on an officer. At times, even the agencies trying to help her had been left with little choice than dismissing her from their facilities. But the more the community isolated her, the more volatile became her symptoms. She grew angrier and louder. Her self-appointment as the spokesperson for her homeless peers turned radical, even threatening. Feeling ignored and stripped of personhood, she waltzed into a church one Sunday, intent on being heard. Just in time for the sermon she rose from the congregation, rolled out a sleeping bag and unleashed a number of choice words to convey the plight of Fredericksburg’s homeless.
” The following morning, the church pastor faced a critical decision. In the interest of safety for his congregation, he too considered banning her from his church building. Instead, he made up his mind to find a way to help this woman. By the end of the week, she was hospitalized and taking medications. Within the month she had stepped down to Micah’s respite home, which cares for homeless individuals when they are discharged from the hospital. She realized how sick she really was, and a new person emerged before our eyes. She reunited with family, paid off fines, regained her driver’s license, became remarkably motivated to comply with doctor’s appointments. She set goals—seeking disability, but only temporarily, going back to school, earning a nursing degree and finding a way to productively address the needs of the community’s homeless.
Christmas sets the centre on the edge;
The edge of town, the outhouse of the inn,
The fringe of empire, far from privilege
And power, on the edge and outer spin
Of turning worlds, a margin of small stars
That edge a galaxy itself light years
From some unguessed at cosmic origin.
Christmas sets the centre at the edge.
And from this day our world is re-aligned
A tiny seed unfolding in the womb
Becomes the source from which we all unfold
And flower into being. We are healed,
The end begins, the tomb becomes a womb,
For now in him all things are re-aligned.
Alexander Shaia – “Solstice, Shepherds & Your Animal Spirit”
Alexander Shaia is the author of Heart and Mind: The Four-Gospel Journey for Radical Transformation. A number of years we read the book together in Christian ed.
In this video he is talking about the shepherds in Luke’s Gospel. The video starts at the 2:42 mark to get to his main message:
You can read portions of the transcribed text here
“The text is really primarily about your life whenever your life is in the deepest night, when your life is in the deepest dark.”
“The Beauty of the Shepherds story in Luke is that it tells about the journey we make hearing deep in the night of our life an angel announce that there is a birth but that we have make a journey through the night to the dawn where we will see with our own eyes that fresh radiance born before us.”
A Christmas Message from Bishop Goff – “Where is this stupendous stranger?”
“So I invite us all to a spiritual discipline in this holy season and that is to spend ome time with someone you don’t ordinarily engage…maybe someone of a different generation either much older or much younger than you or someone of a different race or ethnicity, a different culture or religion, a different economic circumstance.
“Have a cup of coffee together or a meal together, talk and listen deeply. Look for the face of Christ in that person. Because as we come to really know a stranger in our midst we welcome Christ who was himself a stranger and we find surprising connections that we never imagined with other natives of this world God made.
Christmas Eve , December 24, 1968, at the Moon with Apollo 8
53 years ago on Christmas Eve we witnessed the moving reading of the first 10 verses of Genesis for the largest audience up to that time. They were told to something appropriate. The astronauts have reflected on the event. A newspaper friend of Borman tried to think of what to say and he could come up with nothing after a night’s work. His wife said (raised in convent in France) suggested, “Why don’t you start in the beginning” He said “Where?”. She said “Genesis in the Bible.” They reflected later – “Why didn’t we think of that.” Borman explained they tried to convey not happen stance but power behind world and behind life gave it meaning. As he later explained, “I had an enormous feeling that there had to be a power greater than any of us-that there was a God, that there was indeed a beginning.”
In Geertgen tot Sint Jans’ Saint John the Baptist in the Wilderness, we meet the prophet in the wilderness. A lamb keeps him company as John sits on a jutting rock by a creek, heavily cloaked, deep in thought. Although known for his fiery passion, here we see a different side of St. John: introspective, prayerful, meditative. The scene brings to mind Christ’s own time in the wilderness, a time of prayer, trial, and temptation right after he meets St. John at the Jordan. Could it be that John was preparing the way for the Lord’s own trial in the wilderness?
Just as St. John might invite Christ into the wilderness, he also prepares the way for us to venture into our own wilderness. In the wilderness of our lives, we thirst for God’s grace the most. In our daily dry existence, any quick quench tempts us, even as we know that our thirst runs deeper. In the wilderness, St. John prepares the way by prayer; his struggle there is not against the corrupt king, but against the desire of his will. Before he preaches repentance and calls for justice, he prays and ponders his utter reliance on God. And even in the midst of this spiritual struggle, he finds that God’s grace already holds him; he is seated by a life-giving stream, and the lamb curls up close by, both symbols to demonstrate God’s presence.
In these days of Advent, we experience the already and the not yet. We are in the wilderness, yet the life-giving grace of God is always and already there. At the same time, we still await the fullness of glory, the ultimate quenching of our thirst. May our own lives of prayer prepare the way of the Lord within us as we await his coming.
Reformation Day is a religious holiday celebrated on October 31, alongside All Hallows’ Eve, in remembrance of the Reformation, particularly by Lutheran and some Reformed church communities. It is a civic holiday in some German states.
It celebrates Martin Luther’s posting of the 95 theses on the church door at Wittenberg in Germany on Oct. 31, 1517. The event is seen as sparking the Protestant Reformation.
There are some questions of fact. The event was not publicized until 1546 by Philipp Melanchthon and no contemporaneous evidence exists for Luther’s posting of the theses. At the time, it was common for scholars to post their debate points on the door where people could read them. Copies of Luther’s theses and his fiery follow-up sermons were mass produced on a relatively new invention the printing press.
Luther’s movement began as a criticism of Catholic practices, not to split off from the Catholic church. Sinners could buy God’s forgiveness by purchasing an indulgence. Luther preferred justification by faith. He also wanted people to read the Bible in their own languages and not just in Latin
The Reformation led to the split from one Catholic church to Protestant ones. There are now nearly 45,000 Protestant denominations around the world, including mainline Protestants, Anglicans, Evangelicals, Pentecostals and more.
It has been seen as the most significant event in Western Christian history and mirror in which we measure ourselves today. Many of the differences that promoted the reformation have been solved – indulgences, justification by faith and having the Bible printed in multiple languages. Others such marriage of priests, same sex marriages are still divisive. Will they be able celebrate communion together ? That may take another reformation.
Here is an impromptu performance after the 11am service on Oct. 27, 2019 of part of Luther’s famous hymn. He wrote the words and composed the melody sometime between 1527 and 1529:
5. The English Reformation extended from this event which created the Church of England, the ancestor of the Episcopal Church. Henry VIII was made Supreme Head of the Church by an Act of Parliament in 1534. The country was still Catholic but the pope’s power had been ended. By the time of his death in 1547, the Lord’s Prayer was said in English in the English Bible (written in English) and the monasteries have been dissolved. The first prayer book was in 1549 in the time of Henry’s successor Edward. Read More
“The Vestry needs your pledge by Oct. 24. From the Sept 26 sermon, “When I fill out my pledge card this year, I’m going to try to remember that all that I have is a gift—as Richard Rohr says, “It’s all a gift!” –and that I can share my financial gifts freely with not only St Peter’s, but with many other groups as well, the groups that are doing what I would consider to be God’s work out in the world.”
Stewardship is … Everything I do after I say, “I believe.” Stewardship is our thankful and intentional response to the question, “What is God calling me to do with the gifts God has entrusted to me?”
Why pledge ? The pledges are the major way to support what St. Peter’s values – food distribution and meals in our community, education, outreach to those in need, Christian education and fellowship for all.
We are stewards, caretakers of God’s gifts. Everything we have was a gift from God, and God asks us to use it all for God’s purposes. Generosity flows naturally out of our gratitude for the gift of love, family, and life itself.
Stewards promote the Shalom of the Kingdom: blessings of life, health, growth,
harmony, justice, abundance, fulfillment, joy, praise of God
In the church, we are stewards of the good news of God’s love for us in Jesus Christ.We are called to share that good news with new generations. But we live in a world where sharing that news is becoming ever more challenging. In order to share the good news, we need financial and other resources.
Our worries about stewardship tend to focus on money. But stewardship is all about mission. It’s those gifts which help St. Peter’s ministries thrive – food distribution and meals in our community, outreach to those in need, Christian education and fellowship for all.
Convince people that the church is doing God’s mission and that it will truly transform our lives and our communities … and each of us is an integral part of that mission … heart, mind and body … and the money will follow.
Stewardship is …
+ Sharing in God’s mission with a glad, generous and grateful heart.
+ Transforming lives in our community.
+ Prayerfully responding to God’s call.
+ A deeply spiritual matter.
+ Something that blesses the giver more than the receiver.
Stewardship is discipleship; it is a complete reorientation of our lives toward God, who calls us through Jesus Christ.
Stewardship thoughts from Canterbury Cathedral
This week Canterbury Cathedral iin south England is celebrating their first Generosity Week between Sunday Oct. 3 – Oct.10. As they write, “The aim is to help us in our journey of faith, to consider the significance of generosity as Christians, and to reflect on what we can each do to demonstrate our gratitude for God’s love.”
“Throughout Generosity Week, we will be sharing links to information and reflections on this theme.”
“Generosity is at the heart of Christian faith. God gave the world his only Son because he loved it so much. The generosity we show is testament to our lived out faith and our generous God. Each day we can be a generous disciple. Whether that’s giving to those in need or helping a neighbor, generosity lives through these everyday acts of kindness that make a huge difference to people’s lives. This harvest we invite you to join us for Generosity Week as together we will celebrate the generosity of those who have helped us through these difficult times, reflect on God’s generosity to us, and explore how we can grow generosity in our Cathedral community.”
We offered a service of Evening Prayer Sunday 6pm in 2016 for those who served and those who gave their lives 15 years ago on 9/11.
This is a short but important service.
Rev. Gary Jones of St. Stephens in Richmond wrote about 9/11 wrote about the positives from the even
“At times like this, it’s as if we become like the prodigal son. We come to ourselves, we remember our true life, and we know we need to go back home. And that is certainly what happened 15 years ago. A nation deeply divided by a bitterly contested presidential election came together in an extraordinary show of unity. It was as if we woke up and came to ourselves. We returned to prayer, and we recovered a sense of unity, kindness, and compassion. We realized then what we from time to time remember now, that it shouldn’t take a tragedy to awaken this spirit in us.” ”
There is certainly a solemnity about this anniversary, but there is also a bright and hopeful reminder of our potential – there is a light within us all that is simply waiting to be uncovered. Many of us have poignant memories of 9/11. One of mine is a gathering of 300 beaming little girls – singing, praying, hugging, and finally giggling with delight as they waved goodbye after chapel. Nine-eleven reminds me, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.”
This is at least the third time Jesus has said something provocative. Jesus makes a statement in 12:51 about not bringing peace. Also consider his actions on the sabbath in 13:11. Now another teaching moment on the cost of discipleship.
Picture yourself in the crowd following Jesus. You can only see his back. Occasionally, he turns around to deliver a difficult saying, almost as if daring people to continue following him. Yes, he is probably trying to reduce the crowd by making the way harder than it is now. Jesus is beginning to sense the "all" that lies ahead for him personally (betrayal and denial by his closest companions, followed by false arrest, torture, and brutal execution). He is trying to find the genuine seeker.
This text begins and ends with an "all or nothing" injunction about following Jesus, with two practical illustrations in between.
a. introductory statement (25)
b. "hating" family members (26) // Mt 10:37; Th 55:1; 101:1-3