Remembering and Forgetting

Dear Friends,

I saw the cartoon from The Simpsons on someone’s Facebook page. It showed Homer Simpson reading the local paper. The headline on the front page read, “Today we remember Martin Luther King, Jr.” Beneath it, in a smaller font were the words, “Tomorrow we forget him.”

The cartoon caught the challenge we often face in marking off special times for celebrations and commemorations. We may hear again and again portions of the “I Have a Dream” speech on Martin Luther King’s birthday. How often do we reflect on its meaning or engage in the work of fulfilling it the rest of the year?

The same can be true of our celebrations as a church. We know that the Incarnation of Jesus Christ was not confined to a manger in Bethlehem. But as we pack away the creche figures, do we pack away the meaning of God’s coming to us as well? Easter is not one Sunday in the spring. Indeed, every Sunday liturgy is meant to be a celebration of the resurrection, and all of its implications for us.

Though we may have packed away the baby Jesus, our weekly scripture readings call us to remember, rather than forget. As we did last week, this week we will listen to an account of the adult Jesus coming amongst us and saying,”Follow me.” And so we will follow. And if we do so with eyes, ears, hearts, and minds open,  then we will do more than remember. We will discover how Jesus is calling us in this present day, and in every day to come.

Faithfully,

Tom

 

Act In Love: I Was Hungry and You Gave Me Food

Rise Against Hunger: Packaging Meals for Those in Need – Saturday February 10
Several of us participated last year in a Boston Harbor Deanery mission event: packaging meals for Rise Against Hunger, an organization that provides food for emergency relief in times of natural disaster and places where there are severe food shortages. The mission of Rise Against Hunger is to end hunger in our lifetime by providing food and life-changing aid to the world’s most vulnerable people and creating a global commitment to mobilize the necessary resources.
Boston Harbor Deanery churches are invited to send volunteers to Church of the Advent, Beacon Hill, on Saturday, February 10, from 10am to noon. Children are welcome and encouraged to be volunteers!
 Packages of dry food, enough for one meal, are assembled by the volunteers. Forty volunteers are needed to help package 10,000 meals. Monetary donations will also be welcome.  Last year, Bev Anderson, Maureen Lavely, Bridget Nyhan and children, and Whitney Hayden and children were among our volunteers. Speak to them and find out how enjoyable their morning of mission was.
Please let Bridget Nyhan know if you want to register as a volunteer:
bgnyhan@yahoo.com
Monetary donations can be made by making a check out to Church of the Advent, and placing it in the offering plate or sending it to the church office.
Thank you!
Renewing Our Commitment to Harvest On Vine
Harvest on Vine is Charlestown’s Emergency Food Pantry, offering distributions of food twice a month, and on special occasions such as Thanksgiving, to Charlestown families in need. Adrienne Sweetser will be making regular deliveries from St. John’s to the Food Pantry, and we want to encourage everyone in the parish to consider bringing some food items on a weekly basis.
Currently, the needs are:
White Rice
Cans of  soup
Cans of  ravioli
Cans of beef stew
All items can be placed in the Harvest on Vine Basket – on the left as you enter the church. Let’s see if we will need to get a larger basket!

A Quiet Gift

Dear Friends,

There is something wondrous about the silence a snowfall brings. I read recently of the reason that sounds are muffled during a snowstorm:

When light, fluffy snow accumulates on the ground, it acts as a sound absorber, dampening sound waves much like commercial sound absorbing products.

“Snow is going to be porous, and typically porous materials such as fibers and foams, and things of that sort, absorb sound pretty well,” said David Herrin, a professor at the University of Kentucky’s College of Engineering who studies acoustics.*

For all of the inconvenience that a heavy snow can bring, it can also bring moments of seeing God’s beauty, and time to contemplate in quiet what our place in the world is meant to be. Quiet is rarer and rarer in our world today, as is the requirement to sit or stand and simply contemplate.

In the psalm we read this past Sunday, we were told by the psalmist that God

…gives snow like wool:
he scatters hoarfrost like ashes.

We know that God does not direct the particular aspects of any weather event. Still, we trust that this is the same God, who the same psalmist declares,

“counts the number of the stars,
and calls them all by their names.”

And God knows our names as well.

I hope that in the midst of shoveling, scraping, and dealing with reconfigured schedules, you can nonetheless take at least a moment today to dwell in the quietness around you. Receive that quiet as a gift from God, in which you may contemplate your place in this beautiful cosmos, and your response to the One who knows you by name.

Faithfully in Christ,

Tom

 

The Shortest Day

Dear Friends,

I was up extra early this morning – for whatever reason, our dog was ready to go out and about at 5 am today. I usually do not walk her that early, and in a part of the woods where she can be off the leash, I had a hard time seeing her as she ran about. Her black coat blended in perfectly with the surrounding dark.

Of course, the longer we were out there, the more the light increased. I am accustomed to being outdoors at the end of a day, when the light diminishes and night overtakes us. I am not nearly as accustomed to watching the subtle growth of light, even before the sun has risen. On this shortest day of the year, it gave me pause to realize that with patience, I would see more and more – both of Esther, and of the world. In that pause I gave thanks, and was reminded that the light of God does not always burst upon us like a brilliant sunrise, but sometimes slowly envelops us in ways that give us hope. The light may not come  in a blaze of glory, but  be like a lamp hanging in a stable, providing just enough of a glow for new life and new hope to be born.

Wherever you celebrate Christmas this year, I hope the light of God in Jesus Christ will give  you hope, and vision to see, and act, in love.

Faithfully,

Tom

 

From Our Rector

Be Not Afraid

Dear Friends,

On my recent trip to New York City, I visited for the first time the Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park. Located on the tip of Roosevelt Island in the East River, the memorial commemorates what Roosevelt, in his 1941 State of the Union address, identified as four essential human freedoms: freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want, and freedom from fear. With these words, Roosevelt sought to resist the increasing isolationism that he encountered throughout the nation, at a time when international events threatened all those freedoms.

Though Roosevelt listed freedom from fear as the last of those freedoms, it strikes me that fearfulness often is the root of threats to the other three freedoms. When we fear another’s viewpoint, or question the reliability of facts when making political decisions that affect us all, we are tempted to discount the importance of freedom of speech. When we are encouraged to fear or ban others from our shores based on their religious beliefs, freedom to worship for all persons is endangered. And if fear and anxiety make us accumulate as much as we can without regard for others, then the true wants of those in need will not be addressed, and our humanity is diminished.

As Christians, we do not deny the reality of fear. Fear is a very human emotion. Yet in this season especially, we remember the words,  “Be not afraid.” Those were the words that Gabriel spoke to Mary in a small home in Nazareth. Those were the words that angels offered to frightened shepherds on a hillside as the brought tidings of great joy. Those were and are the words that Jesus offered to his disciples, and to us.

Each of us has the freedom to respond to what we perceive as threats with all the reason, skill, and compassion that God has given us. Each of us has the capacity to defend those four freedoms.

If we wonder how we can do that, when the larger events of the world seem beyond our control, perhaps we can listen to the words of Eleanor Roosevelt. After her husband’s death, she was instrumental in drafting the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which enshrined those four freedoms. Reflecting on the challenge of defending human rights, she wrote, “Where after all, do universal rights begin? In small places, close to home…unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere.”

Freedom of speech, freedom to worship, freedom from want, and freedom from fear. May they have meaning for us here in this “small place,” this parish that we love, so that our witness may resonate with in a world so in need of all these freedoms.

Faithfully,

Tom

Adapted from the rector’s  Clergy Viewpoint column of the Charlestown Patriot-Bridge, December 14.

From Our Rector

Dear Friends,

“Everything is already all right.” Those were words of wisdom a mother used to offer her daughter when her daughter was facing challenges of one sort or another. Years later, when that daughter was grown and suffering with cancer, those words gave her strength.

Of course, when one is facing a life-threatening disease, everything is not all right.  The words could be understood as offering a hopelessly naive take on life. Is everything ever all right in our lives, let alone in our communities, and in the world? As I read the morning news, the first words that come to mind are not that “everything is all right.”

Yet in this Advent season, we continually hear words of hope, encouragement, and an invitation to look beyond the present moment.  As Christians, we believe that in Christ’s resurrection, death and the powers of evil have been overcome. No matter the circumstances we face, be they personal illness or structures of society that seem to crumble around us, we act with a quiet but confident assurance that, as Julian of Norwich once wrote, “All shall be well again, and all manner of things shall be well.”

The words a mother offered her daughter were not meant to deny the sufferings of the present. Instead, I hear in them a reminder of the underlying reality of our lives, the gracious God who will work through all manner of things and all kinds of persons for the healing of our lives and the world.

Faithfully,

Tom

 

From Our Priest Associate

It’s Not Easy Being Me, a City Tree

Most days, if I’m honest, there’s just too much to pray for, too many things and people who need care, too much mail—asking, asking, asking. But several Sundays ago I saw this one small thing that made me say: Hey, why not?

It was perspective piece in the Boston Globe’s Sunday Magazine, November 12, 2017, by Amy Sutherland of Charlestown: “I Speak for the Trees: Water Me (and Keep Your Dog Away From My Trunk)”  http://tinyurl.com/yd47zg76

Trees speak to me of God’ creativity and beauty. Some people admire trees in leafy dress, but I am drawn to naked winter trees. In their nakedness, I can see their real shape—elegant and true down to the tiniest twigs —all by divine design.

Amy Sutherland has lived in Charlestown for thirteen years. She is a prize-wining author in love with saving lives—of animals, and now of city trees, especially young struggling ones who thirst. Her research indicates that Charlestown trees are thirsty. Like all living things, they need care and love to survive. Is that our business?  Oh no, it’s too much.

I, like Sutherland assumed that the city took care of its trees. They do, and still, they need all the help they can get. Being a tree on a city street is like living in a foreign environment. We take loving care of trees in our own garden.

What if St. John’s adopted a tree or two outside its own garden?  What if we worked with the city and other local organizations to extend ourselves beyond ourselves and our needs, as important as these are?  It’s not as overwhelming as it may seem at first. All you need is a hose, a water bucket, a bag of mulch, a watchful eye, and others who love our city trees too.

The itchy question always is who will do this? The answer is: whoever is inspired. Read Sutherland’s piece, think, wonder, and pray. I will too.

The Rev. Lyn G. Brakeman, Priest Associate

 

 

 

 

 

Advent Approaches

Dear Friends,

I have been eagerly hearing your stories of all that has been accomplished while I was away on my sabbatical. At the same time, I find myself looking forward. Advent approaches! For the Christian community Advent means, among other things, the beginning of a new liturgical year.  On the first Sunday of Advent, December 3, we will begin a new cycle of scripture lessons in our Sunday liturgies. Our gospel lessons will be drawn primarily from the Gospel of Mark.

Advent is also considered a season of preparation. Familiar to many of us is the idea of preparing for the celebration of the birth of Jesus. The readings and hymns of the season, however, will also ask us to anticipate and prepare for the return of Christ, not as an infant, but as the one who comes to fulfill God’s reign, addressing us all with his profound and mysterious combination of judgement and mercy.

For me, a longstanding tradition of the Advent season is the creation of an Advent devotional calendar, which has been a collaborative project with my friend and colleague, Merry Watters, for over 25 years. You can find and download this year’s calendar at my website here.  It will also be available on cardstock at the church over the next several weeks.

As I have done for the past several years, I will be sending out  by email a daily reflection on each day’s scripture and suggested devotion. If you have received it in the past, you will be getting it this year, and I will be sending out the parish email list as well.  My hope is that it will be one way in which we can make the Advent journey together. On that journey, we will approach both the babe in the manger and the one who, “in such form as none would guess, will surely come to judge and bless.”

Faithfully,

Tom

 

Support The Harvest on Vine Emergency Food Pantry Thanksgiving Basket Distribution

Harvest on Vine, Charlestown’s Emergency Food Pantry, will be distributing all the fixings for  Thanksgiving dinners to families in need on Tuesday, November 21 at 2 pm.  It costs $35 to create a dinner, and you are welcome to make contributions to Harvest on Vine for these dinners.  Donations of any amount are welcome, and checks can be mailed to: Harvest on Vine, 46 Winthrop Street, Charlestown, MA, 02129.