St. Paul's Episcopal Church   Poughkeepsie, NY 12601

"Making friends while serving God"

The week of February 12-18, 2018       
Lenten Supper Series
 'Lent is not rocket science'

The annual Lenten supper series at St. Paul's starts Wednesday, Feb. 21, at 5:30 pm. This year the text chosen for guided meditations on Lent is "Lent is not rocket science," a book which is described by its publishers as "an exploration of God, creation, and the cosmos." The author, W. Nicholas Knisely, is bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Rhode Island. In addition to his religious education Bishop Knisely holds degrees in physics and astronomy from Franklin and Marshall University in Pennsylvania and the University of Delaware.
The structure of the Lenten supper series is a half hour or so for supper, a half hour or so for the meditations and discussion, and a half hour or so for worship. The supper is provided by different volunteers each week. The supper ordinarily consists of soup, bread and juice.
Signup sheets are in the narthex for the Wednesdays of this year's Lenten supper series. All are encouraged to attend.

Sundays in Lent:
                Becoming the Beloved Community
                Meditations on racial healing and unity

Our diocese, the Episcopal Diocese of New York, has entered into a three-year commitment to awaken and to address the awareness we all have at one level or another of racial disunity in our lives, in our congregations, in our community and beyond. To achieve this the diocese has taken up the challenge of its Reparations Committee to spend a year, this year, attending to Lamentation, another year to Repentance and a third year to Reparations.
To aid us in the fulfillment of that commitment we have been provided meditations intended to accompany guided conversations on the subject. They will use the readings of each of the five Sundays in Lent (Feb 18, 25 and March 4,11 and 18).
Everyone is invited to participate in the conversation following coffee hour in the Parish Hall. Mother Gloria and Father Tyler will serve as moderators for the conversation.

Preparing for Lent

Isaiah 58:1-12; Psalm 103:8-14
2 Corinthians 5:20b,-6:10; Matthew 6:1-6,16-21

Readings now available online

Genesis 9:8-17; Psalm 25:1-9
1 Peter 3:18-22; Matthew 1:9-15
Readings now available online!

This week's lessons 
Lent is right around the corner. As this newsletter is scheduled to be published on Shrove Tuesday it is likely too late to encourage attendance at the Shrove Tuesday supper. But just in case: it helps to enter into a season of penitence if it is preceded by a spirit of indulgence. The consumption of the Shrove Tuesday supper specials (pancakes, butter, sausage) is intended to provide the perfect springboard for the expected (anticipated even) entrance into the restraint of Lent, well established as a season of penitence and fasting.
The collects for the two days remind us of our need for a season like Lent. On Ash Wednesday we ask God to "create and make in us new and contrite hearts." We note that we regret our sins and ask for their remission and our forgiveness. On Sunday we reflect on Jesus' temptation in the wilderness and acknowledge out own temptations and weakness. Realizing God knows us well, we pray that each of us finds God mighty to save, that is, sufficient to guide us into a better way of life.
The prayers and the readings that follow them bring into focus what long ago must have seemed like a good winter project: spiritual self improvement. The contemporary multitude of distractions and alternatives to winter self reflection make the suggestion sound quaint. Regardless, that is the nature of the season and the recommended exploration of our lives and how they conform to our faith.
Our Prayer Book Ash Wednesday liturgy is pointed in its recommendations:
            It describes the church being "...put in mind of the message of pardon and     absolution set forth in the Gospel of our Savior and of the need which all Christians continually have to renew their repentance and faith."
            We are invited "to the observance of a Holy Lent, by self-examination and       repentance; by prayer, fasting, and self-denial; and by reading and meditating on          God's Holy Word."
Despite other demands and distractions, let us all focus on the purpose of Lent this year and use its disciplines to prepare for the coming of Easter.

Fast from hurting words; use kind words
Fast from sadness and be filled with gratitude
Fast from anger and be filled with patience
Fast from pessimism and be filled with hope
Fast from worries and have trust in God
Fast from complaints and contemplate simplicity
Fast from pressures and be prayerful
Fast from bitterness and fill your heart with joy
Fast from selfishness and be compassionate with others
Fast from grudges and be reconciled
Fast from words and be silent so you can listen
--fasting ideas from Pope Francis



The Sunday Sermon
                 Miracles and wonders
SERMON: 6 Epiphany B 2 11 18
It seems to me we spend a lot of time trying to develop an understanding of God. This has been going on for quite a while, I understand. For millennia people have been trying to clear up the mystery of creation, perhaps pre-creation, and everything else that's happened since. It seems to have taken place in a context of wanting to better respond, perhaps even manipulate, the awareness the Almighty has of us. And maybe to inspire the Almighty to lend us a hand, figuratively.
Different religions have different names for this being we mostly call God. The different faiths also have varying ideas of how agreeable or cranky God is. All this is somewhat interesting, but it never gets completely resolved. I have friends who refer to God as The Almighty; others call it the Creator. Muslims call it Allah, and so forth. I have a friend who once got my attention by referring to God as The Combined Forces of the Universe. Another made reference to the Gift of Desperation. Still one more cited Good Orderly Direction.
Do you feel any closer to the big truth about God than I do? I didn't think so. I think the effort is like an amoeba looking back at the scientist using a microscope and trying to figure out what's going on. Way beyond my pay grade. Not to mention my acumen.
What I do know is that there is another approach to understanding God which derives from human experience. For ever and ever people have been relating stories about the way they have witnessed or experienced God in their lives. It is through this sense of the engagement of spiritual authority that people have come to declare that God is available in our lives, that God can participate in our struggles as well as our delights.
Many have told me of moments where they were convinced that God had something to do with what was going on in their lives. Perhaps something complicated suddenly worked out marvelously. Perhaps a period of stress was borne with peace and grace. I have had both those experiences.
Sometimes prayer is involved. Sometimes a prayer results in new insights, making possible something that seemed impossible, or at least disagreeable. When we pray to live with and live into some fact of life that, frankly, we'd rather not, it is surprising how easily peace comes. Where does that petition go, other than to God? I know, I know, Jesus is on the main line, waiting to hear from us. But where does it go? Where is it that Jesus receives the call? Good question, isn't it?
OK, but does it matter? Not one bit, I believe.
We have enough evidence to believe. Maybe not enough to prove. And I think that is the way it is intended to be. Intentionally. By God made that way. So those who believe can have their belief, have faith. And have to persuade others to believe without empirical evidence.
We have before us today two wonderful stories that support my thesis. In fact they inspired me to put down my thoughts, which you just heard. Because I get goosebumps when I hear today's Hebrew Bible reading and today's Gospel.
These two stories tell of two very different people with the same disease: leprosy. The stories relate very different experiences of faith. They describe different responses. And of course they come from different periods, one responding to the God of Israel, the other to Messiah, Jesus.
In the first story valiant and supremely victorious Naaman the Syrian general suffers from leprosy. He learns that there is a prophet in Israel who can heal him, Elisha. He goes to Elisha and the prophet sends a message via a servant, telling him what to do. Naaman throws a fit. (It was probably pretty scary to see General Naaman angry like that.) But one of his own servants persuades him to try it anyway, pleading, "Father, if the prophet had commanded you to do something difficult, would you not have done it?" So Naaman does and is healed. Though it is not in today's reading, we know he then proclaimed, "Now I know there is no God except in Israel."
Think about this story and ponder what in it is so delightful. There are lots of treats in this tale. Maybe the first is that a powerful, successful general can be a leper. Maybe our limitations don't limit us as much as we thought. My second thought is that like most of us, Naaman was eager to rid himself of his limitation. He wasn't so arrogant as to ignore it; he sought help. Third, he was willing to accept it from a prophet in Israel, over which he had been victorious, taking help from any quarter, almost without pride. I say almost, because his pride almost led him to miss the cure. But he didn't. Fourth he could hear his likely terrified servant suggest he try the cure, even though it came by way of a messenger. Finally, despite his power, despite the probable temptation to declare the cure was no more than he deserved and was entitled to, he acknowledged the existence and the power of the God of Israel. I declare, this is such a wonderful story.
The Gospel today is about another leper, this one anonymous. No army, no wealth we know of. However, he approaches Jesus believing that if Jesus is so inclined he can heal the man.
I haven't done an exhaustive search on this claim, but I believe this is the quickest miracle in the Bible. Here it is: A leper came to Jesus begging him, and kneeling he said to him, "If you choose, youcan make me clean." Moved with pity, Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, and said to him, "I do choose. Be made clean!" Immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean.
Pretty short and sweet. Especially sweet.
We look at these two stories and we reflect on the two lepers and we wonder, or we should wonder, what healing might I ask for from God? How might I recover from some problem or defect or disability? What do I need?
Now let me inject here that I do not believe we should approach the healing power of God with a sense of entitlement, as Naaman did. I think the Gospel leper has the better idea: let God know that we believe God's healing is possible and we solicit it in faith. We need also inject into the petition that we seek God's will, not our own. I learned long ago to cushion my requests with "If it be your will."
It goes without saying that we need to pray without the expectation of anything more than being heard. I truly believe that God wants to know what's on our minds. Even when it is self serving, even when it is as improbable as a cure, God still wants to know that we are turning toward God for help. In addition to believing that God welcomes our petitions, I believe that the healing begins when we ask. When we do not pretend that we are in charge. When we admit we have run out of ideas on our own and are turning to the Almighty.
There aren't a lot of times that I turn to our namesake, St. Paul, for what I would call a good example. But whatever thorn he bore, which he admitted to his followers and correspondents, he bore with grace and the understanding that God believed he could do just fine even with the inhibition or limitation of the so-called thorn. So can we.
These wonderful tales of healing, so different yet so alike in principle, bring to an end our Epiphany readings about Jesus' ministry before the season of Lent. As we approach Shrove Tuesday and Ash Wednesday it is incumbent on us to reflect on and recognize the role God has played in our lives, from the Creation forward. When we apprehend the presence of God in our lives, when we rejoice to know that God hears us, even when the answer is something other than the unequivocal "YES!" we would like, when we stay in touch in prayer and meditation and keep no conscious secrets from God, we draw closer to that being which is the Author of our Salvation, the source of all comfort.
Let us humbly and prayerfully conclude the Epiphany season this week with Shrove Tuesday, and enter into a sober, penitential Lent, preparing for the joy of Easter and our Risen Lord once more.
God bless you all!                   Amen
A sermon preached Feb. 11, 2018 at St. Paul's Episcopal Church, Poughkeepsie NY by The Rev. Tyler Jones, Rector
1      Maris Kristapsons                        15      Shawn Prater-Lee
2      Martlyn Tomlinson                                 William Rosborough
        Stacey Plain                                 16      Luis Alberto Barban Jr.
3      Jamal Wethington                        18      Celia Filor
9      Marlene Fisher                             19      Anita Santos-Bravo
12    Aaron Bissessar                           23      William Hyson
13    Annastasia Schmouth                  25      Cynthia Benjamin
14    Brooke Plain                                 26      Sterling Benjamin

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St. Paul's Episcopal Church-Poughkeepsie

1982                 143       The glory of these forty days (Erhalt uns, Herr)

1982                 498       Beneath the cross of Jesus (St. Christopher)

LEVAS-II           189       Great is thy faithfulness, O God my Father (Faithfulness)

1982                 142       Lord, who throughout these forty days (St. Flavian)


FEBRUARY 12-18, 2018

MON 12            7:30am AA Meeting;                     
                        6pm Evening Prayer; Worship/Altar Guild;                      
TUE 13             10am-2pm Office, Food Pantry, Small Blessings Thrift Shop;
                         6pm Evening Prayer; Shrove Tuesday Pancake Supper & Service;
WED 14            7:30am AA Meeting;  
           10am-2pm Office, Food Pantry, Small Blessings Thrift Shop;
           12:15pm Healing Service & Eucharist; Imposition of Ashes;
           5:30pm Ash Wednesday Service;
THUR 15          10am-2pm Office, Food Pantry, Small Blessings Thrift Shop;                      
FRI 16               7:30am AA meeting;

SAT 17            12pm-2pm Chili & Cornbread Take out Dinner Pick Up;                     
SUN 18            8am Rite I
                         8:45am Lessons' Discussion
                         9:30am Choir practice;  
           10am Rite II- Celebrating Birthdays & Anniversaries
           10am Sunday School;
           11:15m Coffee Hour;
           2pm Private PH Event


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