The Third Sunday after Pentecost (06-10-18)

Many thanks to Clare Filko for these lovely photos which were taken Sunday. Despite the rain, it was a lovely day at Trinity.

 “O God, from whom all good proceeds: Grant that by your inspiration we may think those things that are right, and by your merciful guiding may do them; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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Our new phone system

Telephone

With thanks to the Vestry, and most especially to our Senior Warden, Ross Mangina, we now have a new and functioning phone system. Several months ago, our old NEC phone system began to fail and finally “died.” We called in experts to evaluate it and discovered that it was not even possible to procure replacement parts for the phone system. After doing a good deal of research and after speaking with several providers, the contract was awarded to Guyette. They came last week and installed the new system for us. It offers greater functionality than the previous system and will enable to us to work more efficiently.

Many thanks to our parish family for your incredible patience with us. It should now be easier to stay in touch with us. Our core staff will receive training in the new system this afternoon. If you have any difficulties calling us or connecting with us, please let us know right away.

When you call the office, you do not need to listen to the greeting (unless you wish to do so). You may immediately enter the extension numbers and be connected.  Just in case you do not remember, here are the primary extension numbers:

The main Parish Number is (610) 867-4741. Our Fax number is (610) 867-5206

The Parish Office, x 301 (millard@trinitybeth.org)
Deacon Liz or the Soup Kitchen, x. 302 (liz@trinitybeth.org)
The Rector’s Office, x 304 (donna@trinitybeth.org)

The Business Office, x. 303 (bookkeeper@trinitybeth.org)

We also have an emergency number which will quickly put you in touch with Donna. When the office is closed, please enter the number 1. At other times, you may dial (610) 625-1490.

“Abide in peace. The Lord has put away all your sins.”

A sermon for the
Third Sunday after Pentecost
preached at
Trinity Episcopal Church
in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania
June 10, 2018

Millard S. Cook, Parish Administrator and Pastoral Assistant

Now there is rejoicing in heaven; for you were lost, and
are found; you were dead, and are now alive in Christ Jesus
our Lord. Abide in peace. The Lord has put away all
your sins. Amen.”
From “The Reconciliation of a Penitent,” The Book of Common Prayer, p. 451

Episcopalians do not seem to often speak about sin. I actually think that is a good thing! Having been raised in a Southern Baptist family in rural Western North Carolina, I heard a lot about sin growing up. All it did was to cause me to think that I was an evil and horrible person. It did very little to ever cause me to want to be a better person. Even worse, it caused me to be afraid of God—and filled me with a sense of terror–“I was going to Hell and there was not anything I could do about it.” It also gave me a horrible sense of guilt.

Years later, when I became Roman Catholic, I remember going to Confession for the first time—at the age of seventeen. Thankfully, I was blessed to have an amazing Confessor. After hearing my Confession, he told me, “You said at least four or five times that you felt guilty over things that you had done. I do not think that God ever wants us to feel guilty. Guilt is a trap—it is like falling into quicksand. We tell ourselves that we are bad and that is just who we are. We can’t do any better.

God wants us to feel “contrition.” Contrition says, I am a good person who has made mistakes. I have intentionally chosen to do things which are wrong. But that is not who I really am. With God’s help, I can apologize for those wrong things and now do better.” I can not tell you how relieved I felt when I left that day! It literally felt like the weight of the world had been lifted from my shoulders. I felt free of years of bad self-image and self-accusation. For the first time I really felt that it was possible that God actually loved me, and that God might be willing to give me a chance after all.

The problem, I think, is the word itself. When we hear the word sin, it is almost as if our eyes glaze-over. We think, “Here it comes.” We mentally prepare ourselves for the onslaught that we know is coming. And, we start to feel defensive. Our mind works quickly to come up with a defense. Oddly enough, we seem to regress to childhood—and not in a good way.

It reminds me of those amazing conversations that I recall hearing between my sisters and their children when the boys were very small. “He started it! It was his fault. He touched me.” And then one would scream at his brother or cousin, “Stop looking at me.” Observing it from the outside, it was funny. And there are times that I have been tempted to think that this is how God sometimes views our own attempts to avoid accepting responsibility when we realize that we have done wrong things. Like a good parent, God patiently listens to us, allows us to squirm, and then lovingly confronts us with the truth—when we are finally able to hear it.

When I read the beautiful passage from Genesis, which we heard a few moments ago, that is what comes to mind. Adam and Eve knew that they had done wrong. Rather than admit it, though,  they hid. Then when God found them, they blamed anyone and everyone else. But, in the end, they had to “fess up”. Sadly, this particular passage is a “cliff-hanger.” It does not tell us the “rest of the story.” If we want to know what happens next, we have to keep reading. Despite all the talk of punishment, which we remember so well, there is great compassion and kindness. God does forgive them. God does not give up on them. God clothes them and shows them mercy. To protect them from the danger of gaining immortality—and having to live forever with unending regret here on earth—God removes them from temptation— from the garden. Most interestingly, God gives them a new beginning. Now they will have to work to “make a living,” But, they will be given gifts, talents, and abilities. Now they will become co-creators with God and will be given the chance to work to “repair” creation—which has also been impacted by their choices. They are hardly the totally fallen, totally depraved reprobates that some hard-line-fundamentalists have depicted them to be.

Before going any further, it might be helpful to step back for a moment and define our terms. What is sin anyway? I have often found the definition of St. Alphonsus Liguori to be very helpful. Serious sin, he tells us, has three components: serious matter, sufficient reflection, and free consent of the will. In other words, it has to be something which will damage, hurt or break my connection with God, with another human person, or with creation. I have to have enough time to understand the consequences of my actions, and I have to freely choose to do it.

I have to admit that in my own life, there have been times when I have made this choice. My actions wounded and hurt my relationship with God, with others, and with creation. Thankfully, I later came to understand and to realize that what I had chosen to do was wrong, hurtful—and yes— even sinful. I repented, asked for forgiveness and tried to right the wrong I had done.

Very helpful too for me in that process was the Sacrament of Reconciliation. For those of you who have never experienced that Sacrament, I suggest that you give it a try. And no, it is not something which only Roman Catholics do! In our own Book of Common Prayer (beginning on page 447) is the Rite for the Reconciliation of a Penitent. You might be surprised what you find there if you read it! The beauty of the Anglican Tradition, of course, is that this is offered to you if you think it will be of use to you. No one is obligated to use it. But, like that old phrase so beautifully tells us “All may, none must, some should.”

I have been deeply touched, for instance, in the way in which a number of dioceses—including the Episcopal Diocese of New York, have celebrated Public Litanies of Lamentation, in which the whole Diocese and each individual parish have prayed for forgiveness, healing and reconciliation from the sin of Racism. I think that can be very helpful to us. It reminds us that we are part of a larger community and that we sin collectively—in thought, word and deed—when we do what is wrong—or when we fail to do what is right. As a community we truly need to ask for forgiveness, healing and reconciliation.

Suppose, though, that we were to lay aside the word sin. Suppose that rather than talking about specific actions, we talked about a “scale of integration.” On one side we would have “integrated” which would be synonymous with “connected, healthy, and whole.” On the other end of the scale we would have “disconnected,” meaning “dis-integrated, unhealthy and broken or wounded—perhaps even incomplete.” Using this continuum, we would focus less on individual or collective responsibility and accountability and more on the reality of our connection. We might ask ourselves then, “To what extent am I connected to God, to others, and to creation? Do I have people in my life  whom I love and who love me? Am I part of a community? Do I actively seek to use the gifts, talents and abilities which God has entrusted to me to make a positive difference—to make the world a better place?” These same questions must also be asked of us as a parish, as a diocese and as a larger Christian body!

This is a most important concept, because our modern experience suggests that in a very mobile and increasingly complicated and urban world, most of us get lost and confused at times. Without often meaning to do so, we make small decisions which have a cumulative effect of isolating us from sources of love, support, and growth. Many feel lonely, disconnected and frustrated.

Add to this mix two important challenges—and let me be clear here, these have NOTHING to do with sin—depression and addiction. When one struggles with either depression or addiction, it becomes even more difficult—and often impossible—to be well, whole, complete, connected,  and integrated. In almost every single case,  the person becomes increasingly lonely and isolated.

Recently, I think we have all been saddened by the tragedy of suicide. In just the past few days, two well known persons have died from complications of the disease of depression. Clearly, they were not capable of making wise decisions and were so overwhelmed by their illness that they lost hope.

Rather than judging them, let us pray for them—and for those who loved them and now mourn their loss. But let us learn from this tragedy. Let us make an effort to reach out to others and to tell them that we love them, that they are important to us, and that we are grateful for the gift which they are to us. On the outside they may appear happy and content. But we never really know what they are feeling unless we take the risk of asking them.

A few weeks ago, I shared with a friend that I would be preaching this weekend. He told me that this weekend is an important one for A.A. because June 10th is the anniversary of the founding of Alcoholics Anonymous. I did not know that. I do know, though, that from everything I read—and from what I see with my own eyes—addiction is negatively impacting every aspect of our society.

In addition to alcohol and other drugs—one of the worst seems to be heroin—the opioid crisis has reached unimaginable levels. When the Governor of New Jersey made a series of commercials last fall to talk about how this was adversely impacting the state, it drove home to me the fact that this was unprecedented. We have never experienced this kind of an addiction crisis before. We all need to be concerned about those who are suffering from addiction! Trinity, for instance, opens our doors almost every day to A.A. meetings. That is indeed a step in the right direction. Twelve-Step groups offer a strategy which gives hope and strength to those who suffer from addiction. So far as I know, it is the only option with a proven track record of helping the addicted maintain sobriety and recovery.

Our gospel reading today has something quite interesting to say to this. It is fascinating to reflect on the depiction of the biological family of Jesus as presented to us in the Gospel of Mark. Clearly, they love Jesus. Clearly, his welfare and safety are very important to them. When their friends and acquaintances begin to tell them “crazy stories about him,” they drop everything and go to find him. Thinking that he might be out of his mind, they act to protect him. They want to keep him safe, and so plan to “restrain him” to keep him from harming himself or anyone else.

Contrary to what we might think, Jesus does not dismiss them or put them down! Rather he speaks clearly to make sure that they understand that he is indeed in his right mind. But, he refuses to allow them to control him or limit him. He will not allow them to dictate his actions or his words. He must truly be about “his Father’s business.” And that is something which his family may never really understand or approve—but which they will have to accept.

Our Lord goes on, though, to reach out in appreciation to those who are also family to him—even though they are not connected to him through flesh and blood. His words are clear, “Whoever does God’s will is Mother and Sister and Brother to me.” They—and we– are as deeply connected to him as is his biological family.

What, then are we to take from all this? God made us to long for connection. Our choices either help us to be connected more fully or lead us to isolation. May we always choose to be connected, then—to God, to others and to creation. May we also reach out to help others find the way to integration and to community—most especially those who suffer from depression and addiction!

 

A letter from Kevin, our Bishop-Elect

This morning we received an electronic email containing a letter to the Diocese from our Bishop-Elect.

O eternal God, who settest the solitary in families and fillest the hungry with good things, visit this home and family with thy grace and favor; knit them together in thy love through good times and bad, bless their comings in and their goings out, give them thankful hearts for their daily bread and for each other, and bring them at the last into thy heavenly dwelling place; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

This favorite prayer by Robert Rodenmayer, author of “The Pastor’s Prayerbook,” is particularly poignant for me right now. Our home for the past 21 years is now on the market and soon we will be moving. The news of my election as bishop of Bethlehem was met with elation and pride by my family, yet the reality of leaving a beloved family home has been bittersweet for all of us–more difficult for me than I ever imagined. In hopes of easing some of the loss associated with this transition, I asked our four children and three grandchildren to share their favorite memories of our home. Of course this was done via a group text message, and the steady “dinging” signaled another memory that brought needed laughter, smiles and even a few tears. Here is some of what they shared:

The time that we thought our brand new car was stolen from our garage.  Lo and behold a neighbor discovered it teetering on the hill in front of our house. Apparently we forgot to put on the emergency break and it rolled down the driveway! The police officer arrived and couldn’t stop laughing.

The day Lindsay received word that an organ donor was located and she needed to board an Angel Flight to Pittsburgh for a transplant!  Off she and her mom went with the prayers of so many.

The annual Easter egg hunt – there was no mercy for the little ones or even a pregnant mom! Everyone in search of the golden egg.

As we reminisced through the many memorable moments of the last two decades, it became helpful to see that some of these are traditions that can be carried on or even re-created in some form in a new home or a new place. We were also reminded of God’s many blessings. That in our “comings in” and our “goings out,” God was somehow knitting us together–strengthening us for the journey that lies ahead. When we paused, we were reminded that this place, this home, provided us a safe haven where we could be ourselves whether we were at our best or not. Here we were nourished, fed and reminded how much we are loved and need each other’s love.

For me, this is not unlike the knitting together that occurs in our churches–our spiritual homes. As I prepare to say goodbye to my larger community as well, I am reminded of so many joy filled traditions that have grounded me, held me together, warmed my heart and strengthened my  soul. What would we be without our homes–spiritual and otherwise? Today I give thanks for the many people who have opened their homes for me and my family. Today I begin to let go of my hold on one home and reach out to another. I can’t wait to see what God has in store.

In God’s Love,

Kevin

 

Congratulations to Pastor Jerry!

Trinity Episcopal Church in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania
Congratulates The Rev. Dr. Gerard R Gaeta Obl.S.B.
our Priest Associate
on the Fiftieth Anniversary of his Ordination
as a Pastor
in Christ’s one holy catholic and apostolic church

Jane and Jerry

M. Div. from Trinity Lutheran Seminary, Columbus, Ohio (1968)
S.T.M. and D. Min. from New York Theological Seminary (1978 and 1981)

Ordained as Pastor on Pentecost III in June 23, 1968, at
Lutheran Church of the Redeemer, Ramsey, NJ (hometown).
Rostered in the Metropolitan New York Synod, ELCA

Vicar:
Faith Lutheran Church, Portland, Ore.

Pastor:
Faith Lutheran Church, Pittsburg, Pa
Lord of Life Lutheran Church, North Haledon, NJ
Grace Lutheran Church, Scarsdale, NY
Planning Association of Bronx Lutheran Churches
(Pan Lutheran Coalition of 21 parishes)
St. John’s Lutheran Church, Lindenhurst, NY
(co-Pastor with Pastor Jane Gaeta)

Interim:
Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, Rockville Center, NY
Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, Plainview, NY
Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, Levittown, NY
St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, Walden, NY (Diocese of New York)
Christ Episcopal Church, Stroudsburg, Pa (Diocese of Bethlehem)

Serving at Trinity Episcopal Church, in the Episcopal Diocese of Bethlehem, since November 2011.  Under guidelines of the Call to Common Mission establishing full communion between the ELCA and the Episcopal Church in 2000, clergy from either Church may serve by License to Officiate issued by the Bishop of the Diocese/Synod.

Congratulations to Deacon Liz

Congratulations to The Reverend Elizabeth Miller, Deacon and Soup Kitchen Coordinator, on the Fifteenth Anniversary (May 31st) of her Ordination
to the Sacred Order of Deacons
in Christ’s one, holy, catholic and apostolic church.

Liz Proclaiming the GospelLiz at Thanksgiving

This is the Prayer of Consecration by the Bishop at the ordination of Deacons from the Book of Common Prayer (p. 355):

 The Bishop then says this Prayer of Consecration
O God, most merciful Father, we praise you for sending your
Son Jesus Christ, who took on himself the form of a servant,
and humbled himself, becoming obedient even to death on
the cross. We praise you that you have highly exalted him,
and made him Lord of all; and that, through him, we know
that whoever would be great must be servant of all. We praise
you for the many ministries in your Church, and for calling
this your servant to the order of deacons.

Here the Bishop lays hands upon the head of the ordinand, and prays
Therefore, Father, through Jesus Christ your Son, give your
Holy Spirit to Elizabeth; fill her with grace and power, and make
her a deacon in your Church.

The Bishop continues
Make her, O Lord, modest and humble, strong and constant,
to observe the discipline of Christ. Let her life and teaching so
reflect your commandments, that through her many may
come to know you and love you. As your Son came not to be
served but to serve, may this deacon share in Christ’s service,
and come to the unending glory of him who, with you and
the Holy Spirit, lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever.

The People in a loud voice respond Amen.

The new deacon is now vested according to the order of deacons.

The Bishop then gives a Bible to the newly ordained, saying
Receive this Bible as the sign of your authority to proclaim
God’s Word and to assist in the ministration of his holy
Sacraments.

“Of the Holy Eucharist” — The Feast of Corpus Christi

God our Father, whose Son our Lord Jesus Christ in a
wonderful Sacrament has left us a memorial of his passion:
Grant us so to venerate the sacred mysteries of his Body and
Blood, that we may ever perceive within ourselves the fruit
of his redemption; who lives and reigns with you and the
Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Donna with Elements

(This photo was taken at the Eucharist on The Seventh Sunday of Easter on May 13, 2018)

The Encyclopedia of the Episcopal Church has this to say about Corpus Christi:

Corpus Christi, Feast of

This feast commemorates the institution of the eucharist by Jesus on the night of his betrayal and arrest. It is often associated with a festive procession that follows the celebration of the eucharist. A consecrated host in a monstrance is prominently displayed in this procession. It is treated as the triumphant Christ the King. This feast is observed in the Roman Catholic Church on the Thursday after Trinity Sunday. Emphasis on Jesus’ Passion in the Maundy Thursday service led to selection of another day for celebration of the Feast of Corpus Christi, even though the eucharist was instituted by Jesus on the Thursday before his death. The Feast of Corpus Christi is not included in the feasts of our Lord or other feasts of the Episcopal calendar of the church year. However, it is celebrated by some Episcopal parishes, especially those with an Anglo-catholic piety.

The BCP provides a proper collect and readings for the celebration “Of the Holy Eucharist” among the “Various Occasions” for optional use. This service is a commemoration of the institution of the eucharist. It may be celebrated at any time, subject to the rules set forth in the calendar of the church year. A Prayer Book rubric notes that this celebration is especially suitable for Thursdays. The collect for this celebration is a revised version of the collect composed by St. Thomas Aquinas (c. 1225-1274) for the Feast of Corpus Christi (BCP, p. 252). The BCP provides another version of this prayer for use “After Receiving Communion” (p. 834).

Observance of this feast dates from the thirteenth century. The nun Juliana of Liège (d. 1258), in Belgium, became an advocate for such a feast in response to a vision. The first Feast of Corpus Christi was celebrated at Liège around 1247. Its observance by the western church was commanded by Pope Urban IV in 1264.

A procession of the host has been a prominent part of the celebration since the fourteenth century. Historically, in medieval times, cycles of mystery plays were performed around the time of the Feast of Corpus Christi in France, Germany, and England. These plays dramatized salvation history with stories from the OT and NT.

Anglican and Episcopal ambivalence about the Feast of Corpus Christi is likely related to its historic association with the Roman Catholic dogma of transubstantiation. Urban IV commissioned Aquinas to compose the special Mass and offices for the feast. Aquinas also composed hymns for this celebration. Aquinas’s hymn, “Lauda Sion,” was originally composed as the sequence hymn for the eucharist on the Feast of Corpus Christi. The “Tantum ergo” was originally Aquinas’s hymn for vespers on the Feast of Corpus Christi. The Hymnal 1982 includes both the “Lauda Sion” (Hymn 320) and the “Tantum ergo” (Hymn 330; Hymns 329/331, stanzas 5-6), but with Aquinas’s original references to transubstantiation omitted.