The Mouse for
October 3, 2021
"My goal is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ."

— Colossians 2:2
Blessing of the Animals


Sunday, October 3, 2021

Join us for our annual Celebration of St. Francis and Blessing of the Animals.
Guest preacher: The Rev. Richard Witt.
The service takes place outside.

Please note: There will be no 8 a.m. service on October 3.

If you have not been vaccinated for Covid-19, we ask that you kindly wear a mask while indoors at St. Peter's.
Youth & Family Notes
 
Read the notes from our Youth & Family (re-) organizational meeting last Sunday here. Highlights include:

  • Acolyte Training and Pizza Party 4-5:30 p.m. on Saturday, October 16 (Church & Parish House)
  • Nicole Tapia will direct the 2021 Christmas Pageant
Vicar's Mailbag: "A Vindication of God"
 
Since I am not preaching this week, I am sharing with you a letter I wrote in response to a question I got. It has been edited for publication in The Mouse. If you have theological questions that you would like me to answer, please send them to me.
 
Also, in case you don't know, theodicy means "a vindication of God." — JWD.
 
 
Dear —.,
 
Good to hear back from you and glad to have your response.
 
I noticed that you quoted one of my favorite quotes, Kepler's one about thinking God's thoughts after Him. Funnily enough, I usually take that as my starting point for explaining Calvinism.
 
You wrote, "So I'm having fun thinking about if God, who creates time, and mysteriously chooses to dwell within time, need necessarily know the outcomes of every one of our choices."
 
You seem to be referring to what the Jesuits call "middle knowledge" or Molinism. To quote Hoeksema:
 
"This knowledge of God is called middle because it is conceived as being between the necessary knowledge and the free knowledge of God. Its object is the whole of contingent possibilities; in his decree God takes account of them all, determines them all, and makes provision for them all. He knows what to do if certain conditions are fulfilled, especially by man. His decree is always ready. For all possibilities the decreeing God prepared himself before the foundation of the world."[1]
 
As I see it, the problem with this so-called middle knowledge is that it disallows mystery. In other words, for man, mystery in God or the universe is unacceptable. Man is thought to be ultimate (as in "having the last word") and therefore he can determine his own course through the universe.
 
(In this way of thinking, the mysteries that still exist in the universe are only facts that man has yet to discover and to interpret.)
 
Furthermore, it is God who is left in the dark and must contend with the unknowable. It is God who must "wait and see" for man to reveal himself to his Maker, not the other way around.
 
Man reveals himself to God? That does not sound right to me!
 
Instead, I say that mystery belongs to man, and that mystery is a necessary condition of man as a creature — and of being created. Even in heaven, mystery for us creatures will remain. Scripture never tells us that all of God's secrets will be revealed to us. (Indeed, demanding such a revelation was the first sin.) On the other hand, nothing is a mystery to God. For God not to know, is for God not to be God; in other words, a less than perfect being.
 
You also wrote, "I believe that God is sovereign, that he can choose to set aside some measure of his sovereignty...." At first, it would seem that the Incarnation of Jesus supports your thesis. Here we see God setting aside Himself. As St. Paul puts it in Philippians 2:7, "he made himself nothing." Still, I think that your conclusion — that there is an actual setting aside of God's sovereignty — introduces confusion and goes against the Council of Chalcedon.
 
In Jesus Christ there are two natures (human and divine) in one Person, without any resulting confusion. So, any setting aside of God's sovereignty must be ruled out, even if the "how-does-God-do-that?" part remains a mystery to us.
 
This is an example of allowing mystery to have its proper place. God is mysterious to us — we are even a mystery to ourselves and to each other — but we are in no way mysterious to Him.
 
For instance, it is confusing to say that "God does not know what His creatures will do," or that it is possible for the Creator to lose anything He has created (see the Collect for Ash Wednesday, which begins, "Almighty and everlasting God, who hatest nothing that thou hast made....")
 
To give man the power to reject God is to make man ultimate and to make God not ultimate. A god who is not ultimate is the very definition of an idol, and idols always cause confusion.
 
I agree with you that God still loves the damned, but I think that in their case, God's love is a consuming fire and a never-dying worm. This is because, as St. Paul says, "God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts" (Rom. 1:24). Sin is its own punishment. If you deny the truth, you will never know that there is truth. How awful!
 
Hell is not a place of eternal remorse with no possibility of redemption — that really would make God a monster.
 
Instead, Hell is a place of complete and total self-satisfaction. I suspect the citizens of hell are "happy" if you can call it that. It is also a place of absolute and utter equality. Therefore, there can be no community in hell, because in hell (everyone being absolutely equal) no one has any need of anything from anyone else. You cannot fulfill the Golden Rule in hell, because others have no need of your doing unto them.
 
Created communities only form when there is differentiation, where what one person needs can be supplied by someone else giving it. This creates both economy and community. The Holy Trinity is the only perfect community because it is an uncreated community of differentiation, but without any resulting confusion: of giving without loss to the giver, and of receiving without need or gain by the recipient. Christians participate in the communal life of the Trinity: partially in this life, in all its fullness in the life to come.
 
I think for a working theodicy, you can't beat Calvinism!
 
Faithfully yours,
 
Jake
 
P.S. As a model railroader, Jesuit "middle knowledge" sounds a lot like Centralized Traffic Control on a layout that is connected to a computer. Yes, there are rules and a timetable for trains to follow, but the dispatcher (God) is always on hand, waiting to see what will actually happen, and is prepared for any and every response. If we think we can model the mind of God, then we haven't found God.
 
[1] Herman Hoeksema, Reformed Dogmatics, Vol. 1 (Grandville, MI: Reformed Free Pub. Association, 2004), 127.
Seamen’s Church Institute’s "Knit-in"

In recognition of the Seamen's Church Institute's ongoing Christmas at Sea Project, there will be a "Knit-In" for St. Peter's Sunday School on Sunday Oct. 17 and Sunday Oct 24.

St. Peter's has participated annually for many years. The knitting session will take place during Sunday School hours, incorporating the day's lesson.  Wool, needles, and easy patterns will be provided. Learning to knit is a feature of the session.

The project provides hand-knit scarves, caps, socks, and vests to merchant mariners world wide. All interested persons, especially young people, are invited. Bring what you are working on, or start out fresh. Ingathering of completed items for SCI will be during the 9:30 AM service Sunday Nov. 28, 2021. Items will be packed and sent in early December.

Questions? Call Barbara Lindsley, Knit-In coordinator. 845-677-6401.
Dutchess Deanery Notes

On Tuesday, I attended a meeting of the Dutchess Deanery. This is a gathering of clergy from Episcopal churches in Dutchess County. Our guest was the Rev. Canon Nora Smith, transition officer for the Diocese of New York. The topic was the challenge the Diocese faces in clergy staffing.

Below I share some of my notes with you, as I think they shed light on the state of the church in 2021 as we emerge from the pandemic.

  • There are 183 worshipping communities (aka "parishes") in Diocese of New York
  • 91 have full-time clergy; in other words, the majority of parishes (51%) are staffed part-time
  • 54 parishes changed clergy in the past 36 mos.
  • Forecast for next 12 mos., 78 pulpits will become vacant
  • The challenge: lots of vacancies or soon-to-be vacant pulpits, but there are very few full time positions
  • Most parishes won't call a full-time minister (they can't afford to)
  • When Canon Nora advertises less than full-time positions, the parishes don't get candidates
  • The number of vacancies in EDNY right now is more than the number of parishes in most dioceses in the Episcopal Church
  • Clergy retirements are outpacing ordinations
  • Canon Nora experiences the "clergy shortage" as a "shortage of priests who will work part time, or who will consider working two part time parishes to equal full time"
Sermon transcripts available on the website

Click here and you'll be able to watch recent sermons and read along, as well as download a copy of the transcript.
Annual Designer Vintage Clothing Sale
to benefit
Food of Life Pantry
Columbus Day Weekend — Oct. 9th & 10th

 3 WAYS TO SUPPORT

Donate Designer Clothing:
Go through your closets and choose one to three of your most fabulous, designer items that you no longer wear such as clothing, handbags, scarfs, hats, coats, shoes, and jewelry. Make sure items are dry cleaned, washed, pressed, polished and shined. Drop-off items at St. Peter’s Church in the Old Parish House by Sunday, September 26.

Shop:
Columbus Day Weekend - Oct. 9th & 10th
Franklin Ave., Millbrook, N.Y. (Outside in front of Danielle’s Hair Design, near Babette’s.)

Write a check:
You may also support the work of the Pantry by writing a check. Payable to “Food of Life Pantry” please include in Memo line: CLOTHES SALE. Mail to St. Thomas Episcopal Church, 40 Leedsville Road, Amenia, NY 12501.

The Food of Life Pantry, run by St. Thomas Episcopal Church in Amenia, is a program that we at St. Peter’s Church support through our Outreach Program. To learn more visit https://stthomasamenia.com.
Flowers at St. Peter's

The floral guild is always grateful for donations. If you are interested in dedicating flowers in memoriam or for a special occasion, such as a birthday or anniversary, please send an email to stpeterschurch@optonline.net with the date and the name(s) to whom you would like to dedicate the arrangements.

You can either send a check to St. Peter’s (PO Box 1502, Millbrook, NY 12545) or put the check in the weekly offering with "flowers" on the memo line. You may also add a dedication in the bulletin or leave it anonymous.
Online Giving

St. Peter's is pleased to offer the convenience of online giving via our website. You may make a pledge payment or a one-time gift either by ACH or credit card. From the website menu, click on Serve > Make a gift online, or click here.
Miss an issue of The Mouse?
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Collect for Saint Francis

Most high, omnipotent, good Lord, grant your people grace to renounce gladly the vanities of this world; that, following the way of blessed Francis, we may, for love of you, delight in your whole creation with perfectness of joy; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Text or call the Vicar at (845) 745-8160 for prayer or a pastoral visit.

The Vicar's email address is: jwdell2@pm.me.
To remember St. Peter's in your estate plans, please consider joining The Lithgow Society. To find out more, click here.
Questions about the parish? Please email:
stpeterschurch@optonline.net

The Mouse is compiled and edited each week by the Vicar. He asks that submissions to The Mouse be made by the Wednesday prior to Friday's edition. Please send submissions to jwdell2@pm.me. Thank you.