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.

Village Harvest, Quarterly Data ending March 31, 2023

Date People Food Pounds Per Person
3/31/2021 295 4342 14.7
6/30/2021 240 3322 13.8
9/30/2021 188 3312 17.6
12/31/2021 276 3327 12.1
3/31/2022 296 4196 14.2
6/30/2022 247 3394 13.7
9/30/2022 251 3258 13.0
12/31/2022 257 4454 17.3
3/31/2023 218 2913 13.4

As of March, 2023 there was a decline in clients from the previous quarter (Dec. 2022) of (39) and first decline since the quarter ending June 2022. The previous quarter saw an increase in clients by 6 people in contast. We began 2023 coming off a 5% increase in 2022 and increase in clients by 52. This quarter was represented a (6.5%) decline in clients.

Food also declined in pounds by (1,541) pounds compared to an increase of 1,196 in the previous quarter. The decline was (30%).

So why the shift in numbers ? Some possibilities. Some people didn’t need assistance or found other support. Possibly the Wednesday wasn’t convenient.

The accounting firm Deloitte writes close to the idea that fewer people required assistance. “Currently, however, the US economy is surprisingly healthy, given that it is coming off of a global pandemic, severe supply chain issues, and a war affecting a key global energy supplier. Labor market conditions alone provide a lot of support for the idea that the economy can achieve the desired soft landing (and, despite claims to the contrary, soft landings are not that unusual).2 Inflation remains a concern, but much less of one than it was a year ago. “

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program’s (SNAP) emergency allotments (EAs) — temporary benefit increases that Congress enacted to address rising food insecurity and provide economic stimulus during the COVID-19 pandemic were still going on this quarter. However, these benefits will be ending with the quarter’s end. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities writes. ” This will result in a benefit cut for every SNAP household in the jurisdictions that still are paying EAs ― 32 states, the District of Columbia, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.[1] Every household in those states will receive at least $95 a month less; some households, who under regular SNAP rules receive low benefits because they have somewhat higher, but still modest incomes, will see reductions of $250 a month or more. The average person will receive about $90 a month less in SNAP benefits.” It will be interesting to see how this affects trends with the Village Harvest in the second quarter.

From the Diocese of Atlanta – Jesus is the difference between Life and Death

From Bishop Wright “In all my years of officiating at funerals and memorial services, I have never seen the deceased walk out of the cemetery or columbarium, but I have seen my share of resurrections! I have seen people bury their spouses and live in a tomb designed by grief until new companionship brings new love, life, and joy. I have watched parents bury their infant child and speak of feeling forsaken by God, just like Mary and Martha, and, in one calendar year announce a new pregnancy, new faith and new hope. I have seen the sudden death of a beloved friend, make people rethink their own existence. I’ve seen a funeral of one, give new faith and life to many. From those experiences and so many more, I think I understand when Jesus says, “Lazarus is dead. For your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.” The image here is of Jesus walking towards us in grief and loss–Jesus walking towards death to make resurrection. This was different and more than Mary and Martha imagined. Sure, they believed in the distant cosmic resurrection when the Messiah comes and all death is defeated, but this was resurrection up close, in their family, in their community. If anything really dies in this story it is four things: the fantasy that faith in Jesus means we are exempt from mortality; that in sickness and death we are abandoned by God; that death and resurrection are in a perennial competition as equals; and that death means there is an absence of resources for God to work with. The transferrable vitality of this story to us, is the truth that God does God’s best work with sick, despairing and dying things!”

The Animated Ezekiel

This week in Lent 5 we have the “dry bones” story of Ezekiel. Here is an overview video on the second part of the book of Ezekiel, which breaks down the literary design of the book and its flow of thought. Among the exiles in Babylon, Ezekiel shows that Israel deserved this judgment, and also that God’s justice creates hope for the future.

The Importance of Lazarus, Lent 5, March 26, 2023

In this last Sunday in Lent, Lent 5, March 26, 2023 we have the Gospel story of Lazarus. The story of Lazarus takes place in the town of Bethany, not far from Jerusalem. Lazarus and his two sisters, Mary and Martha, were close friends of Jesus. After Lazarus falls ill, the sisters send word to Jesus, asking for his help.

When Jesus arrives in Bethany, he learns that Lazarus is dead and has been in his tomb for four days. (The King James version is graphic – “Jesus said, Take ye away the stone. Martha, the sister of him that was dead, saith unto him, Lord, by this time he stinketh: for he hath been dead four days.” Jesus enters the tomb and performs a miracle, raising Lazarus from the dead. It was witnessed by Lazarus’s sister Martha.

The central message in the story is contained in Jesus’s words to Lazarus’s sister Mary when He says:“I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25)

This story is both the culmination of Lent and a transition to Holy Week. Jesus separated himself from the devil in Lent 1 and then engages with Nicodemus, the Women at the Well, the man born blind and now the community around Lazarus. 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. It deals with social issues – Jesus working with the pharisee Nicodemus and the “foreign” woman (the Samaritan) with the Woman at the Well, counteracting the prejudice at the time against Samaritans. Jesus counters false belief that the man born blind was sinful because of his condition. Along the way, it deals with man’s constant temptations and limits vs. Jesus as the source of light and eternal life.

The story of Lazarus goes a step further in leading us forward. The story of the raising of Lazarus is important, as it clearly demonstrates that Jesus was no ordinary prophet. Jesus has power over life and death. It convinced many people that Jesus was the genuine Lord and Savior. The resurrection of Lazarus also foreshadows the death and resurrection of Christ. He has returned to Bethany to restore Lazarus to life, in full knowledge that he will pay with his own life. It set in motion the plot to kill Jesus by the Pharisees and chief priests who were envious of His charisma and supernatural talents.
Thus it offers a transition to Holy Week.

In the collage from left to right we have Van Gogh, Guercino, Rembrandt, Caravagio and Giotto from the 1300’s to the 1800’s

Here are depictions of this story through art

Lectionary, Lent 5 Year A

I.Theme –   Death and Resurrection

 "Raising of Lazarus" – Giotto (1304-1306)

The lectionary readings are here  or individually:

Old Testament – Ezekiel 37:1-14
Psalm – Psalm 130 Page 784, BCP
Epistle –Romans 8:6-11
Gospel – John 11:1-45

Death and resurrection are the themes that permeate the lessons today. The image is that of forgiveness and redemption certified by resurrection and new life. The Psalmist awaits Yahweh’s redemption both for himself and for Israel. Ezekiel witnesses and even participates in the reanimation of dead Israel in preparation for her return to her land. The promise to new life for those filled with the Spirit of the Lord is the resurrection of Jesus. And Lazarus points ahead from his resurrection to the greater, more complete and dynamic resurrection of Jesus.

Contrast is used in this readings. Ezekiel’s story is that of the "dry bones" where we see lifeless, nake bones being reconstituted. Paul contrasts the life of the flesh, which draws from sin and leads to death, with the life of the Spirit, which draws from the Spirit of Christ and leads to righteousness.  In today’s gospel, we hear the story of the death and raising of Lazarus, a foretaste of Jesus’ own death and resurrection and of what all of us buried and raised with Christ in the sacrament of baptism both acknowledge (their own spiritual “stinking deadness”) and freely receive (the gift of new and eternal life). 

II. Summary

Old Testament -Ezekiel 37:1-14

It is likely that Ezekiel was among those deported when the Babylonians first took Jerusalem, in 598 BC. He opposed a political solution to Judah’s woes, espousing instead the notion of Israel as a community faithful to God in religious observance and obedience.

Ezekiel prophesies in Babylon from 593 to 571 BCE among Judean exiles who have witnessed wholesale death, destruction of culture and stresss of dislocation. The selection is a word of comfort and assurance

Ezekiel is desperate to shake his people out of their spiritual complacency.

1 Jerusalem is destined to be destroyed for its sin, and nothing can be done to save it. There can be no talk of salvation until after the judgment has occurred

2 After Israel has been punished, God will be faithful to the promises made to David and will restore Jerusalem’s status as the eternal divine dwelling place. . God is a God of justice, faithfulness and redemption and will not abandon his people.

The reading here is a prophecy or vision. The scene are dry bones are in a valley an arid place, perhaps the site of a battle. It is not clear why they weren’t buried. The bones are “very dry”, long lifeless; they symbolize the exiles, who lack hope of resuscitation of the kingdom of Israel. For Israel this vision spoke of moral and spiritual bankruptcy. . Ezekiel was a man of vivid imagination and symbolism; a man of deep spirituality and holiness, preaching the need for personal spiritual renewal and penitence and that of the nation.

Contrasting with the dead bones are “breath” and “spirit.” The prophet declares the divine message in which Yahweh declares his intention to cover the bones with flesh and skin and fill them with breath. God will renew the covenant, restoring Israel – but probably spiritually rather than literally. It is the Spirit of God of course which brings about this resurrection. 

Psalm -Psalm 130

This is a prayer for deliverance from personal trouble, but it ends with a message to all people. The “depths” are the chaotic waters, separation from God – as in Jonah’s prayer from the stomach of the great fish. This is an unusual psalm of despair and anguish as well as hope

Psalm not only helps vocalise that despair but gives blessed assurance and reassurance that God’s constant love not only forgives all wrongs but will carry us through everything.

“From the depths of my despair, I call to you,” says the Psalmist in verse one, speaking of the Hebrew belief in Sheol the land of the dead, into which the dead were believed to sink never to reappear. He is in hell at that moment. And longs for God to carry him through as God allowed the people to pass through the waters of the Red Sea.

May God be attentive to my pleas. God forgives, so he shall be “revered” (v. 4). If God were to record all our misdeeds, how could anyone face him? He is merciful by nature, so I eagerly await his help, his “word” (v. 5), a prophecy from him. I wait as do watchmen guarding a town from enemy attack (v. 6). Perhaps (v. 7) the psalmist has now received a prophecy of salvation which he tells to all Israel: wait in hope for God; he offers unfailing “love”, freedom from grievous sin. 

Epistle -Romans 8:6-11

Paul has written that, as a result of God’s love shown in the liberating act of Christ’s death and resurrection, we are empowered to live a new life, one of freedom from sin, from the finality of death and the Law. As experience shows, the Christian is able to live a life for God, in the Spirit. Christian life is bound up in the Spirit, and not by the desires of the flesh.

Life and death; physical and spiritual; the way of the flesh or the way of the Spirit are the themes of these few verses,.two very different mindsets (v. 6). A person whose mind “is set on the flesh” (v. 7), whose view is limited to the natural world, is at enmity with God because he is fundamentally unable to obey God’s law – he lacks the power to transcend his inner conflicts, and “cannot please God” (v. 8).

The Spirit filled life is full of creativity, energy and intimacy with our God now and always. It is a life lived with the immense power of God – the power that raised Jesus from the dead. To Paul the choice is frustratingly easy – Choose life and live by and with the Spirit

Christians are in the Spirit (v. 9) and the “Spirit … dwells in you”, i.e. the Spirit fills and motivates our lifestyle. Attachment to Christ (belief in him) is only possible in this kind of relationship: Christ and the Spirit come together.

Vv. 10-11 say: if Christ (or the Spirit) is in you, though you may be a corpse because of all the wrong you have done, you are actually very much alive – because of the Spirit. If God’s Spirit is in you, God will resuscitate your bodies (from being corpses) through the Spirit, in raising you to new life at the end of time. We want to choose life but the way of the flesh often drowns out the voice of God

The Covenant Promise of Israel was to a life of security in the land promised from Moses time. Life in Christ is very different as it is personal as opposed to that of the Community or nation; life for Paul is life in all its fullness here and through all eternity; death means separation from God.

Throughout his letters we can see how important it was to Paul how we live here and now. We can either “live in Christ” and have “Christ live in us”, or unthinkably we live without Christ.

Gospel – John 11:1-45

The raising of Lazarus is the event which is the climax and conclusion of Jesus’ public ministry. It is also the 7th sign in John’s second part of his Gospel. It has been said that John starts with a wedding (Cana) and ends with a funeral (Lazarus).  This particuarly story is only a part of John. John’s Gospel is all about the power of God which Jesus used in all his miracles and signs proving that Jesus is the Messiah, the Christ, The Son of God.

Who is Lazarus ? He is most likely the guardian of his sisters at the time of his death. His death would seem, thus, to bring with it the specter of economic difficulties for the women.

Why 4 days? At the time of Jesus it was believed that the life force of the body stayed in close proximity for 3 days. So the repeated statement (Verses 17 and 39) that Lazarus had been in the tomb for 4 days stresses that he is beyond all hope of life.

The purpose of the miracle is so that the people might believe that God has sent Jesus. Death in John is separation from Christ. Jesus can not keep people from dying; but that Jesus will raise up the dead and that (physical) death will never separate believers from God

Lazarus can do nothing for himself. All he can do is receive the power of God to give him new life. A similar illustration is given in the first lesson from Ezekiel 37. The call to faith is a call to die, so that God’s power might be manifested in giving us life.

After this event Jesus retreats to wait for the coming of the Passover, his hour, and the climax of his life (John 11:54). The irony is that by saving Lazarus’ life it will lead to Jesus. The presence of many Jews (v. 19) will become witnesses to the miracle and then believe in Jesus (v. 45), which scare the chief priests and the Pharisees into the decision to kill Jesus in order to save the nation (vv. 48-52).

The actual raising of Lazarus occurs only at the end of the passage. Many authors suggests entire passage is centered on the theme of faith rather than resurrection or life. There are only 6 verses about the event but 20 about Lazarus sisters, Mary and Martha

Lazarus can be seen as a symbol of baptism. He submitted to the death and the days in the tomb, and then was raised to a new life by Jesus. Baptism is a symbolic death to our old life and a re–birth into a new life in Christ, which is precisely what happens with Lazars

Theologically, we died in baptism and we die in daily repentance, and God raises us to new life. However, sometimes after God has given us new life, we still want to keep ourselves wrapped up and bound in our grave clothes — signs of the old life. We can keep ourselves bound up by holding onto those sins from which Jesus has freed us and has forgiven us

Situation -Jesus is beyond the reach of the Jewish religious authorities, across the Jordan when Martha and Mary (in “Bethany”, near Jerusalem) send a message to him (v. 3): Lazarus, a follower, is ill. Jesus says that his illness is not terminal, rather it will show the “glory” (v. 4, power and authority) the Father has bestowed on the Son. Jesus delays two days

As with a number of John stories, there is a amount of confusion leading to Jesus to clarify the situation.

Disciples don’t understand about Lazarus condition They misunderstand Jesus’ words about "sleeping". When Jesus says that Lazarus is "asleep," they don’t get that he means he is dead. When Jesus suggests a journey to "wake him up," the disciples question his judgment. After all, if Lazarus is sleeping, they figured that that’s a good sign that the worst of his illness has past, and, besides, doesn’t Jesus realize the danger that awaits him in Judea? They are reluctant to go with Jesus, because they might die. Jesus replies with a parable: there is still time (“hours of daylight”, v. 9) to do God’s work; harm will not come to him “during the day

The disciples are not great models of faith. Restoring Lazarus to life will be a greater opportunity (than just healing him) for strengthening the disciples’ faith in Jesus (v. 15).

The second part of confusion are the sisters of Lazarus. . Perhaps Martha sets out to warn Jesus of the rites while Mary receives mourners Both his sisters are somewhat miffed Jesus didn’t get there earlier. The exploration of faith is really with Lazarus two sisters, Mary and Martha. For the time, it is exceptional that Jesus is evening having a conversation with a woman

Mary and Martha both start out the same way. Why didn’t you get here earlier but it becomes more affirming and understanding. Martha said to him, "I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day" though she did not expect sooner. When Martha is pressed by Jesus to go beyond the understandings current in the Judaism of the day (expressed in 11:24), she makes a confession of Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God (a messianic term), and as the one coming into the world. “Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world."”

Jesus identifies himself as he who raises believers from death (“resurrection”, v. 25) and who is the principle of “life”. Physical death is normal, even so life in Christ will continue, and this life cannot be taken away by the death of the body 

She comes to a full understanding of Jesus though she may not know Lazarus will be raised earlier than the last day. This is an endorsement of both the need for faith and the need to strive for a fuller understanding of the meaning of the faith. Yet even at the moment of the opening of the tomb her faith is not enough to believe that her brother, really will “come forth”. (verse38)

She discerns that Jesus wishes to speak to Mary. She tells Mary “privately” (v. 28) either so she can escape from the visitors or to shield Jesus from any who plot against him. The visitors see Mary leave, and follow her

Mary is more emotional and expresses concern about Jesus delay but that’s about as far as she gets. She doesn’t utter all the proper phrases like Martha about the all-powerful Jesus, the Messiah, the Son of God or any belief about the resurrection of the dead. Mary just cries.

A very important theme in this gospel surfaces in this lesson. This is the idea of Jesus’ glorification, which is first mentioned here in 11:4. The reference here is to a future event, which we are well aware is the event of the crucifixion.

III. Articles for this week in WorkingPreacher:

Old TestamentEzekiel 37:1-14

PsalmPsalm 130  

Epistle  – Romans 8:6-11 

Gospel  – John 11:1-45 

Art for 5th week in Lent

Commentary is by Daniella Zsupan-Jerome.

Death threatens life in the story of the raising of Lazarus, and János Vaszary’s Resuscitation of Lazarus invites us into the scene. This 1912 painting is a striking collision of styles: the figures recall the standardized style of Byzantine icons, while the background, color, and expression have a modern, vivid quality. This is revered tradition unfolding in the here and now, much like the Gospel message seeks to imbue our present day.

Vaszary isn’t as much telling the story as inviting us into the heart of it. Instead of a narrative, he offers three key realities symbolized by these figures. On the left, the women crying and imploring are Martha and Mary folding us into the sorrow of fear and loss as their brother is consumed by illness. In the middle, Lazarus hangs naked and limp in the arms of an imposing figure in red—Death. Lazarus’s body brings to mind the body of Christ off the cross, an anti-Pietà with a body that is held here not by a sorrowful mother but a triumphant and defiant Death. On the right, Jesus and the disciples enter to stop him.

Jesus, hand held up in blessing, stops Death in his tracks. As his disciples look to him in wonder, Jesus looks out at us, with a steady confidence that humbles Death’s assumed triumph. Christ addresses us, the viewers, with eternal truth: “I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live.”

A notable expression of the modern style of this icon is the background. Instead of solid gold, we see a dawning sky, another sign of the awakening that is taking place. In the Gospel passage, Jesus teaches the disciples about walking by day versus stumbling at night. With the dawning sky, we can anticipate a steady road ahead, a sure way that leads to salvation and fullness of life. There is powerful symbolism here as Christ’s own path will soon lead him to Jerusalem, Golgotha, and the cross. Knowing the way ahead, Jesus’ act of faith is profound encouragement to dare to look further down the road and trust in God as the Author of Life.

On this fifth Sunday of Lent, we may be at different points along the way: wailing with the women in our sorrow, in the grip of death like Lazarus, wondering at the possibility of faith like the disciples, or facing a hard road ahead. Christ engages us from the painting directly: I am the Way; follow me to the fullness of life.

Remembering the Rev. Oscar Romero, March 24

On March 24, we remember Oscar Romero (August 15, 1917 – March 24, 1980), a priest of the Roman Catholic Church in El Salvador. He later became prelate archbishop of San Salvador. He was assassinated on March 24, 1980 by a Salvadoran death squad with ties to the government while he was celebrating communion.

He was awakened to the situation in El Salvador by the deaths of those closest to him just three years earlier. While driving on March 12, 1977, Romero’s close friend and fellow priest, the Rev. Rutilio Grande, was murdered. The elderly man and teenage boy accompanying Grande were also killed. These deaths shook Romero to his core. Grande’s death laid clear for Romero the ugly truth of El Salvador’s political, economic, social and ecclesiastical realities.

The trauma of his friend’s death was a catalyst for change and transformation in Romero. He was a shy, bookish and conservative bishop who had been largely uncritical of the ruling oligarchs in El Salvador. He did not publicly protest against political and military repression but did often levy harsh criticism against progressive forces within the church.

The death of his friend awakened Romero to the truth. He became a fearless and vocal advocate for the poor and vulnerable. Romero became a protector of the poor in a country where the wealthy and powerful held the advantages and spoke out for social justice against torture and repression.

The day before he was murdered, Romero addressed the members of the Salvadoran military in his Sunday homily: “In the name of God, and in the name of this suffering. people who have suffered so much and whose laments cry out to heaven with greater intensity each day, I implore you, I beg you, I order you in the name of God: Stop the repression!” These words, borne out of solidarity with the suffering Salvadoran people, were greeted with thunderous applause in the cathedral. YouTube has several movies about him.

Catherine has preached about him at least twice.

Read more

Sunday Links, March 26, 2023, Lent 5

Thanks to Jan Saylor for creating this Stations of the Cross sign

  • Fifth Sunday of Lent Service 11am

  • Lectionary for March 26, 2023, Fifth Sunday of Lent, Fifth Sunday of Lent
  • Bulletin for March 26, 2023, Bulletin
  • The Psalms study Mon., March 27, 7:00pm Zoom link Meeting ID: 873 0418 9375 Passcode: 092098

    The study is reading through the Psalms each Monday, exploring the meaning and background of the psalms

  • Ecumenical Bible Study, Wed., March 29, 10am-12pm.
  • Reading the lectionary for April 2, Palm Sunday.
  • March, 2023 Newsletter
  • Stations of the Cross in our churchyard
  • Meditate on the last hours of Jesus’ life by walking the Stations of the Cross. Mary Peterman’s moving watercolors and the text for each station are on a series of fourteen banners which you will find placed outside the church for quiet meditation either in solitude or in small groups.

  • All articles for Lent 5, March 26, 2023