The Episcopal Diocese of Missouri
November 1, 2020
The Feast of All Saints
“Jesus said, ‘I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.’” –John 13:34-35
Dear siblings in the Risen Christ,
As the Church throughout the world celebrates the Feast of All Saints, we are reminded of the holy women and holy men who have gone before us in faith. They have followed, as best they could, in the footsteps of our Savior Jesus Christ and sought to love God, love their neighbors, and love themselves. We are now called for such a time as this to build on the legacy of those who have gone before.
While none of us could have imagined the times in which we find ourselves, we look to the examples of the lives of the saints that have reflected the love of God that continues to work in, through, and among us. The saints have taught us that even in the face of tremendous hardship the love of God behind us is far greater than the challenges ahead of us.
***** We continue to see a dramatic increase in cases of COVID-19 in the State of Missouri and across the world and the economic, financial, and mental uncertainty that it has caused. We continue to live in a time of reckoning with systematic racism in our nation. We continue to see fear and division wielded as a weapon by political parties and politicians as we approach Election Day. We are tired. We are weary. We are worn.
Like you, I long to gather with the people of God to join in the symphony of worship as we sing our faith. Like you, I long for a time when we are all judged by the content of our character and not the color of our skin. Like you, I long for a time when civility and decency are a part of our political discourse and fear and division give way to “ from many, one.”
While we cannot predict what will come of this time of upheaval in our lives, in our communities of faith, or in the world, we know that the steadfast love of God never ceases. God has been, God is, and God will be our refuge and strength. We know that this pandemic will end and we will gather in worship and songs of praise. We know that the work of racial reconciliation and healing will one day be achieved. We know the season of political division will come to a close.
It is important to us as followers of Jesus Christ to remember and hold fast to the understanding that even in the midst of fear we are called to be a people of love. St. Paul in his writings reminds, “Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or
resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”1 We know that love is the way and that perfect love will cast out fear. The question is, are we willing to allow ourselves to be people rooted and grounded in a love that is far greater than our fear?
No matter when this pandemic ceases, no matter at what time we are reconciled one to another, no matter the outcome of the election, the work of Christ’s Church continues. Like the saints who have gone before us, we must be about the work of bringing good news to the poor, setting the captives free, healing the sick, clothing the naked, feeding the hungry, loving our neighbors, and proclaiming the Good News of Jesus Christ. Now more than ever, as people of faith, we are called to be bearers of hope and ambassadors of God’s wild and radical love.
As we face these challenges together, bearing one another’s burdens, I encourage you to join with your siblings in Christ across the Diocese of Missouri and across the Church in being about the work of building the Beloved Community in this time and place. Over the next few day, weeks, and months I invite you to join me in doing three things: pray, act, and care. Pray that we may together endure this time of pandemic and safely gather in worship. Act for the cause of justice and racial harmony. Care especially for those with whom we disagree.
We may be tired, weary, and worn, yet like the saints who have gone before, we walk together in love as Christ loved us and gave himself for us. May we in the midst of all that surrounds us, keep our eyes and hearts firmly fixed on Jesus the Christ, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith.
Let us pray.
Almighty and eternal God, so draw our hearts to you, so guide our minds, so fill our imaginations, so control our wills, that we may be wholly yours, utterly dedicated unto you; and then use us, we pray, as you will, and always to your glory and the welfare of your people; through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen. -Book of Common Prayer 1979 Page 832
May God bless and keep you and those whom you love, and together may we live and know, as St. Julian of Norwich reminds us, “all shall be well. And all shall be well. And all manner of things shall be well.”
Yours in Christ,
The Rt. Rev. Deon K. Johnson
XI Bishop of Missouri
1 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 New Revised Standard Version
In Donald Miller’s Business Made Simple Daily, he provided three indicators that a person is not a leader. He said, people are often put into leadership positions when really, by temperament, they are not leaders. When a leadership role is not a good fit, this is what happens:
When we don’t take the risks involved in our faith, similar indicators are present.
It is important for us each to reflect on these things. We are all different and how we “do faith” is different. But my role as your pastor is to make sure you are growing. Like the Apostle Paul wrote in his letter to the Church in Ephesus (3:16-17), "I pray that from God's glorious, unlimited resources the Spirit will empower you with inner strength. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. (NLT)
Together, we are the body of Jesus in our community, time, and place. Please reach out me if you would like to reflect on your faith walk. Your growth in faith brings God great joy!
This week, the national news was buzzing with a feature about a jogger who was chased by a cougar. He accidentallyran up on her cubs. The video records as he is backing up and the cougar is loping then lunging toward him.
During the whole four minutes of footage, we see the jogger responding to every movement the cougar made. The man yelled at her, waved his arms, and never turned his back to her. Clearly, he was focusing on his fear: the cougar. But, he was also filming. It seems there were two things he wanted: 1. to survive 2. to become a viral video star. Fortunately for him, both goals were achieved.
All along the road be he was jogging, there were the rocks. Big ones! Four minutes in, the guy finally picks up a big rock and throws it at the cougar, and the cougar leaves. Four minutes! The rocks were along the path the whole time.
We are like this too. We see our fears. We ruminate on them. We watch and worry, backing away with our eyes glued on them. We anticipate the very worst, the whole time sharing our anxieties when in fact, there are rocks beneath our feet. These rocks are waiting for us to pick them up.
Now, maybe you are thinking, "Yeah, but the rock might not work. It may not scare off the threat (metaphorically speaking). Maybe it will just make the threat worse." The Apostle Paul wrote in his letter to the Philippians, Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Phil 4:6-7. The rocks under our feet are prayer and thanksgiving. When we make the choice to pray and praise, we actually allow God to be in control. We let go of trying to survive or trying to become whatever we hope to become, and we let God guide our steps. When we do that, we stop surviving, and we start thriving.
I long for that. Don't you? I can assure you, it's not a pipe dream. Our relationship to God in Christ Jesus really can free us from fear and anxiety. As Jesus promised us, "If you continue in My word, you are truly My disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:31-32.
So beloved, if you are feeling the fear of the future, and watching it stalk you down the path of your day, pick up the rock of your salvation and throw it with all the weight of your prayer and thanksgiving. Be free!
-- Pastor Rebecca
If you have had a Facebook profile for years, you may remember the early days. Those were the days we were joing in droves. We all wanted to reconnect with distant family and friends. We were realizing why all the teenagers had MySpace accounts.
Then came the season of dialogue. When those long lost connections began to uncover differences. Opionions and comments became long dialogues. One person expressed an opinion, another gave a rebuttal; another added a comment, and on it went. By and large, the "conversations" were respectful, careful, as earnestly persuasive as possible.
Have you noticed how that has changed? Yup, me too.
I presumed that this was the result of a shift in human behavior. I thought, we as a society were becoming more impolite. I mean, look at our president! While our manners might be deteriorating, the real explanation is the design methods of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other platforms. Social media is designed to 'bait us' into giving our time so that we can be manipulated to buy. And it's not just objects they want us to consume, it's ideas.
The more abrasive the interactions, the more algorythmic attention is given. If you open Facebook news and enter a word like 'climate', what your feed will give you is contingent on where you are in the country.
The more confrontational and heated, sexy and attractive, self-centered and opinionated a post is, the more we are biologically designed to fall into the rabbit hole of engaging it.
The Social Dilemma, is a recently released documentary about this issue. Over 10 former social media executives talked about their concerns. After watching it, I decided to delete my Facebook profile. It felt like what I needed to do. I want to strongly message my 1,300 "friends" that I have real concerns about this platform. And as a Christian, you should too. I'm not saying you should also delete it all. But learn more, pray more, and make your own decision.
Jesus modeled for us a way of being together that fostered genuine inclusion. As a Jesus follower, I want to be 100% giving my time for what moves us toward what is good, true, and gracious for our world. Until social media is reformed to stop imperiling democracy, truth, and societal integrity, I want little part of it. Join me in learning more and evaluating what your faith calls you to do.
-- Pastor Rebecca
The Social Dilemma
How the Facebook Newsfeed Works (The guy featured in this FB created video is also in the documentary)
"What Facebook did to American Democracy" Atlantic Monthly Article
In an NPR interview, the chief of police of Seattle, Carmen Best, she said the following: "We all want the same thing. We want peace in our streets and we want everyone to be treated equally under the law."
Even though it we have so much in common as Americans, we have drawn lines in the sand; standing in opposition to each other. Black Lives Matter against the Police; Pro-Choice against Pro-Life; Republican against Democrat; Mask-wearing Science Advocates against Non Mask Wearers Fearing a Loss of Liberty.
Peter Marty, editor of The Christian Century, reminds us that as Christians we have some very important tools in our tool box for the polarities we perceive all around us.
He suggests we put down our defensiveness. As he puts it "claw marks don't set you free". We must open ourselves up enough that we can re-examine our personal assumptions and perspectives. If we are willing to listen and learn, we will learn - especially from those we fear or distrust. Jesus said, "You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free."
He also encourages us to stop being brittle and reactive. Jesus invites us to take up our cross - essentially that means, embrace the very thing that scares the hell out of you. Face it, face yourself, and allow the grace and power of God to bring resurrection -- that's God's business.
This week, we have seen so much death. We have grieved the news of protesters killed, police killed. We are a nation living under the shadow of death. But more importantly, we are members of the kingdom of God. And that hope will never be extinguished by death. We are called to be peacemakers. May we answer the call.
I WONDER HOW THEY SEE ME
by Jeff Roorda
I wonder how they see me
Behind this shiny shield.
Do they see me for the man I am
My truest self revealed?
Do they see my blemishes and warts
The things I try to hide?
Do they comprehend the evil deeds
Of man I can’t abide?
Do you think they know, with head hung low,
The things I’ve had to see?
Do they reckon I am someone else?
My God, it’s only me!
Can they hear the distant screams I hear
Each time I close my eyes?
Can they feel the warm blood on their hands
Each time someone’s child dies?
As I’m damned with praise on darkest days
Can they perceive my pain?
Do they get I’m not immune to it
Just ‘cause I don’t complain?
Do the children of the cops I love,
Curse me for standing tall?
Emotionless with a stiff, square jaw
As past me goes the pall
Of a fallen brother carted off
To final resting place.
Life taken by the hand of the last
Demon that he faced.
And I wonder how they’ll see me when
It’s me who’s carted by.
Do you think they’ll know how hard I fought?
I didn’t want to die.
Lord, I didn’t want to leave behind
My loved ones and my kids.
I just tried to serve my fellow man
That’s really all I did.
But in the end, my loving God,
I know you’re not surprised
That It only matters how I’m seen
Through Your forgiving eyes.
In honor of fallen Police Officer Tamarris Bohannon, St Louis Metropolitan Police Department, killed in the line of duty last week (shown above). Mr. Jeff Roorda is a member of St. Paul's and works with the STLMPD Police Officers Union.
Rector's Corner posts written by Pastor Rebecca.