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.

The Annunciation celebrated March 25

Annunciation– Fra Angelico (1426)

Here is a video that describes this scene in the painting above displayed in the Prado museum in Madrid.

In the first chapter of Luke The Annunciation(Luke 1:26-38) is described. We read how the angel Gabriel announced to Mary that she had been chosen to be the mother of the Christ, and how Mary answered, “Here I am, the handmaid of the Lord. Let it be to me as you have said.” It is reasonable to suppose that Our Lord was conceived immediately after this. Accordingly, since we celebrate His birth on 25 December, we celebrate the Annunciation nine months earlier, on 25 March.

For many centuries most European countries took 25 March, not 1 January, as the day when the number of the year changed, so that 24 March 1201 was followed by 25 March 1202. If you had asked a Christian of that time why the calendar year changed so awkwardly partway through a month, he would have answered: “Today we begin a new year of the Christian era, the era which began X years ago today when God was made man, when He took upon Himself a fleshly body and human nature in the womb of the Virgin.”

Here is another description of the event

Sermon, March 19, 2023 – Lent 4

Are you stuck in your ways?  I know that the older I get, the more I would say that being stuck in my ways is true of me.   After all, it’s good to do things in a particular way, to be a certain way, and I like my comfortable beliefs.   Life is less complicated if we know how we want to do things,  and we have beliefs that support the way we tend to see the world. 

But today’s passages have made me think differently about being stuck in my ways.  The many people in today’s lectionary readings who are stuck have got some issues to face! 

In today’s Old Testament reading, God shakes his prophet Samuel up a bit because Samuel is stuck.    Samuel is balking over anointing a new king.  After all, Samuel had anointed Saul, the current king, and had been a big supporter of Saul.    But now, God is ready to move on, since Saul has been a disappointment to God as the leader of Israel.  So God tells Samuel—stop being stuck in the past.  It’s time to do something new.  So Samuel finally gets himself together and goes to Bethlehem to find Jesse, the father of many sons. 

Samuel expects that the Lord will choose the one of the oldest, kingliest-looking sons.  He has a preconceived idea of what a king should look like—and yet, seven sons pass by and God doesn’t choose one of them.  So Jesse sends for his youngest son, David, who is out in the fields keeping the sheep.  Certainly not king material—a shepherd, and too young to be given such responsibility. 

But surprise of surprises, when David shows up, the Lord says, “Rise and anoint him; for this is the one.”  And the spirit of the Lord came mightily upon David from that day forward.  

The most unlikely person is the one that God chooses as the next King of Israel and not only that, the one from whose family the Messiah will someday be born. 

Samuel isn’t the only one who is stuck. 

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Seeing Differently -Lent 4

Seeing like Jesus makes the difference. That is implied in every story about Jesus in the New Testament. Still, we should ask, what does it mean to see like Jesus? One way to answer that question is to look at a particular story from John’s gospel. It’s a miracle story. Jesus gives sight to a man born blind. It’s messy, spit and mud are a part of the process. But when you need to be healed you’re open to the unconventional.

Jesus’ friends and the community at large look at the blind man’s infirmity and see punishment from God because of the sins of his mother and father. Jesus sees things differently. He sees the man’s infirmity as an opportunity for God’s glory. That is, for the shine and celebrity of God to burn a little brighter. They see a punishing God; Jesus sees a God of healing and opportunity. That’s how Jesus sees our world, limitations, obstacles, and family of origin issues- as the perfect precondition for the wonderful restorative impulse of God to showcase themselves, You could say, that seeing like Jesus is to receive, keep and increase a sensitivity to light, especially in the darkest times, places, and circumstances. Seeing like Jesus is to see your healing as a part of being sent.

What to remember about St. Patrick on March 17?

Today is March 17, 2023, St. Patrick’s day. Among all the saints, St. Patrick’s day is easily remembered. You can’t forget it with all the celebrations. In our time it is connected with parades, wearing green, and drinking green beer among others.

Many things may be surprising about his life. No, he didn’t wear green. He wasn’t Irish but British. His original name wasn’t Patrick. Plus there may be parts of his original story made up by him to promote his cause. British professor Philip Freeman, author of a biography on St. Patrick has tried to strip away the legends – That he was “kidnapped from Britain, forced to work as a slave, but managed to escape and reclaim his status, is likely to be fiction/” Were the stories a way to escape his place in England?

So what is left and what’s in it for us in 2023? Plenty! Subtitle – how to succeed in the world? First, you must have a mission. Then you must pursue it with all of your talents. You must have a unique angle, different from others. Call it creativity and add in some luck. Let’s take each one.

1. He succeeded in his mission which is his objective and also includes his methods. He was determined to convert Ireland to Christianity from the Druids. In 431, St. Patrick was consecrated Bishop of the Irish and went to Ireland to spread “the Good news” there. He baptized thousands and ordained many priests to lead new communities of Christians. Patrick made his headquarters at Armagh in the North, where he built a school, and had the protection of the local monarch. He had a stable base! From this base, he made extensive missionary journeys, with considerable success.

2. He was known for his passion and zeal and was creative at the same time. He was totally dedicated as a priest for 40 years. Patrick is said to have used the shamrock to explain the Trinity, demonstrating that God is both three (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit), yet one, as the shamrock is both three-leafed, yet a single plant. Shamrocks were sacred plants for the Druids, symbolizing eternal life. So he re-interpreted known symbols.

3. He is considered the first writer in Irish history. He has left us an autobiography (called the Confessio), a Letter to Coroticus (cruel ruler who persecuted Christians) in which he denounces the slave trade and rebukes the British chieftain Coroticus for taking part in it, and the Lorica (or “Breastplate” a poem of disputed authorship traditionally attributed to Patrick), a work that has been called “part prayer, part anthem, and part incantation.”Breastplate” is in the Episcopal Hymnbook. The version tune we sing was written by Mrs. Cecil F. Alexander, for St. Patrick’s Day, 1889, and sung generally throughout Ireland on that day

“Christ be within me, Christ behind me, Christ before me, Christ beside me, Christ to win me, Christ to comfort and restore me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ inquired, Christ in danger, Christ in hearts of all that love me, Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.”

A possible 4. Tell your own story which he did!

Lent 4, Year A

I.Theme –   The emphasis this week is on the themes of light, vision and insight. Samuel is given insight to anoint a shepherd boy to be king. Paul urges the church to be people of light. In the Gospel a blind  man is given sight to see Jesus the Messiah.

Healing the Blind Man - El Greco<

“The Miracle of Christ Healing the Blind” – El Greco (1560) . The man in the foreground with his wife may be the blind man’s parents

The lectionary readings are here  or individually: 

Old Testament – 1 Samuel 16:1-13
Psalm – Psalm 23
Epistle –Ephesians 5:8-14
Gospel – John 9:1-41 

In the Old Testament , The problem was, who shall succeed King Saul who was rejected by Yahweh The Lord sends Samuel to Jesse’s home where there were eight sons. One of them Yahweh wants as the new king. One by one seven sons are passed by. David is called home from caring for his father’s sheep. At once Samuel is given insight that David is God’s choice. Here is a case similar to the Gospel’s account of Jesus’ giving the healed man the insight that he was the Messiah 

Psalm 23 is the Psalm of the Day. It harmonizes with the miracle’s account of Jesus’ compassion for a blind person. He becomes one of Jesus sheep.  Like the sheep, the blind man hears Jesus’ voice. Like the shepherd, Jesus finds the blind man when he has been cast out (9:35). Jesus provides for the man born blind much more than sight–he provides for him what he, as the good shepherd, gives all of his sheep–the protection of his fold (10:16), the blessing of needed pasture (10:9), and the gift of abundant life (10:10).

In Ephesians, the Epistle reacing,  Christians are people of the light according to Paul. Before accepting Christ they lived in the darkness of sin. Christians are to shun the works of darkness and to live in the light of goodness and truth. In the Gospel miracle account Jesus, the light of the world, brings light to a blind man both physically and spiritually. 

 The Gospel account is one of not one but two miracles and is the story of the “Man Born Blind.” The first miracle is told in the first seven verses. The rest of the chapter deals with human reactions to the miracle: the healed man, his parents, the Pharisees and Jesus. The second miracle is the insight the healed man was given enabling him to confess Jesus as the Son of man, Messiah. The chapter begins and ends with blindness. At the beginning a man was physically blind. At the end, the Pharisees were spiritually blind because of their sin. The healed man experienced a double miracle: sight and insight.

Confronted by the blindness of the world, a blindness encapsulated in the man born blind, Jesus said to his disciples, “we must work the works of him who sent me while it is day.”  This scripture can be seen as a call to us to practice evangelism, providing light to others.   It is there, through faith, that they will find life eternal.  

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Lent 4 – Mothering or Laetare Sunday

This week was the first day of spring on March 20,  “And Spring arose on the garden fair, Like the Spirit of Love felt everywhere; And each flower and herb on Earth’s dark breast rose from the dreams of its wintry rest.” — Percy Bysshe Shelley, “The Sensitive Plant”

Spring is about a change in vision. Part of this is the increasing sunlight and warmth returning to the land, this year in fits and starts. The sky has a variety of light based on the clouds. Flowers appear in waves. Animals such as squirrels wake up from their hibernation.

The Fourth Sunday of Lent is “Mothering Sunday” expressed with baking simnel cakes. It is sometimes called refreshment Sunday. This comes from Galatians 4:26 “But Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all.”

There are several possible origins of this tradition: 

1. A tradition of visiting one’s mother after this particular service. Expecting their families, mothers would bake this cake to serve with tea.

2. Serving girls on estates and in households were allowed this Sunday off to visit their mothers.

3. A family would travel to its ‘Mother Church,’ or parish they were originally from, on this Sunday.

These cakes became popular over time for that occasion midway through Lent, which was a good time to break the fasting a little. Much like the third Sunday of Advent, ‘Stir Up Sunday,’ with its baking tradition. “Simnel” is from the Latin ‘similis,’ as in similar or same, as the cakes were originally made with equal parts of flour and sugar.

But today is also sometimes known as Refreshment Sunday. Rather like the 3rd Sunday of Advent, it’s a day which stands towards the middle of the season of Lent, and traditionally, a certain amount of relaxation of Lent was allowed. 

The Gospel in Lent 4 – Light for the World

We’re moving towards the end of Lent. It is helpful to review where we have been over the last 3 weeks. The second Sunday through the fifth has Jesus confronting various characters – a educated Pharisee, a Samaritan Women, a blind man and a man recently deceased. These texts from John are about revelation–the revelation of who Jesus is, the one sent by God, the begotten God, whose offer of life is in his presence and not necessarily delayed until his death.

Except for the beginning and end of the Gospel this week, Jesus is absent in the twists and turn of the plot. Jesus does make himself known in a significant way. It shows the power and glory of Christ and how humans confront it. The blind man gains more than his sight – he gains faith and spiritual maturity.

In today’s readings, we explore this idea of light for the world, dispelling spiritual darkness. In the first reading, Samuel sees beyond outward appearances to choose the least likely son of Jesse to anoint as king. Paul explains that the Christian’s life must be characterized by the light of holiness. In today’s gospel, a blind man gains sight and worships Jesus.

Throughout the Hebrew scriptures, the prevailing understanding of illness was that it came from God, the result of sin. The disciples, however, find a flaw in the theory: if illness was the result of sin, how could a tiny baby be afflicted? How could a man born blind be culpable? Passing the buck to the parents hardly seems fair.

Jesus turns from the verbal and intellectual exercise to the direct, and in this case dirty, work of healing the individual. It is as if he deliberately chooses the most basic elements–spit and mud–to show his preference for action over theory.

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