January 15, 2020

A Message from Father Ben

Dear Friends,

As we continue in a very troubling time in our nation, let us pray for peace saying, “Eternal God, in whose perfect kingdom no sword is drawn but the sword of righteousness, no strength known but the strength of love: So mightily spread abroad your Spirit, that all peoples may be gathered under the banner of the Prince of Peace, as children of one Father; to whom be dominion and glory, now and for ever.”  Amen.

I have been searching for words to write to you today, but actually I cannot find any that may be comforting.  Wherever you fall on the political spectrum, wherever your allegiances rest, what has been going on over the past month or more has to be troubling.  This is not who we are as a nation.  It hurts my soul to see us being torn apart by violence and destruction.  I pray God to be with us, to direct and guide us in all that we say and in all that we do.  Pray for your family and friends, for our wonderful church family, for those ministering to those with COVID and those who have died and pray for our country. 

Let us also pray for the Human Family, saying, “O God, you made us in your own image and redeemed us through Jesus your Son: Look with compassion on the whole human family; take away the arrogance and hatred which infect our hearts; break down the walls that separate us; unite us in bonds of love; and work through our struggle and confusion to accomplish your purposes on earth; that, in your good time, all nations and races may serve you in harmony around your heavenly throne; through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Amen.

Love in Christ,

Thoughts from Sally

This past Sunday we remembered the Baptism of our Lord. The gospel recounts Jesus’ baptism in the river Jordan by John, and God proclaims, this is my son, my beloved, with whom I am well pleased. In a sermon I heard, I was reminded of a saying, “She brings out the best in me.” Of course you could replace “she” with anything – an event, a practice, anything, however, the preacher was referring to baptism. Our baptism is the beginning of a transformation process, it is the beginning of an insoluble bond between us and God, a bond that can never be broken. It is not dependent on our faith or good deeds but on God’s grace.  Our baptism brings out in us the potential that was placed there at creation, by God.

When my oldest daughter was baptized, she screamed, not just a protesting whimper but she really let loose a wail. The congregation laughed and of course as a new parent I was alarmed and a bit embarrassed, she was definitely not the angelic, peaceful baby that I had so often witnessed at baptisms. As she grew up the priest who had baptized her would occasionally tell me he thought he had put too much Holy Spirit in her. I would laugh but it seemed true – she was a spitfire from day one and is still quite a force to be reckoned with.

But in reality it’s one of her best qualities. She can face almost anything and be able to immediately find a way to deal with it. She’s a hard worker, compassionate and generous while at the same time she doesn’t put up with anything out of anyone, especially her three little boys. She is incredibly loyal and if someone she cares about is threatened, well let’s just say this child is not afraid of the devil. I do think baptism brought out the best in her.

When Nathanael asked Philip how could anything good come out of Nazareth, he clearly was underestimating who Jesus is. He mistakenly assumed that the messiah could never come from such a small unimportant village or from parents who had no stature in the community. The prophets had declared that the messiah would be a descendent of David, so his parents must be of royal lineage; little did he know that Jesus had the most royal of all parents.

Nazareth had never even been mentioned in the writings of the Hebrew scriptures. It was also part of what had been the kingdom of Israel and the messiah was foretold to come from the kingdom of Judah. Even though Nathanael had expressed doubt, his first encounter changed his mind. We tell our children that first impressions matter and in this case it did. Nathanael recognized the divine presence who was Jesus. His encounter with Jesus was nothing less than an encounter with the living God.

Nathanael made the mistake that I know I so often make – he underestimated someone based on limited knowledge. It’s way too easy to make a snap decision about someone after only hearing a partial piece of the story. There’s always more to know, more to see in an individual. And in this case Jesus’ lack of “pedigree papers” did not reflect who he truly is. This inability to see or accept who Jesus is was an obstacle for many of the people Jesus met, and ultimately is the great tragedy of the gospel.

Unfortunately, we still fail to recognize Christ. Oftentimes the appearance or behavior of someone does not meet the expectations we seem to hold for who children of God are supposed to be and we miss the divine hiding just beneath the surface. Seeing everyone, even those who are disenfranchised, difficult to be comfortable with, much less embrace as a fellow child of God, is possibly the hardest thing as Christians we are called to do. Christ explained that there are two commandments that are of utmost importance: to love God with all our heart and all our soul and all our mind, and to love our neighbor as ourselves. As members of the body of Christ, this is our life’s mission. If we can do nothing else, let’s try to love those who are not easy to like but need our love.

Baptism does bring out the best in us. At Jesus’ baptism his place in the kingdom, as God’s beloved son, was revealed by the Holy Spirit. At our baptism we were made members of the Body of Christ and for the rest of our lives embodied by God, by Christ and by the Holy Spirit. Our baptism is a lifelong transformation process. We are still being made into the image of God, we are still being transformed. It’s a lifelong process, one that is only fulfilled in God’s time and in God’s kingdom. We all have much to learn and ways we can follow Christ more closely. Be patient with yourself, God certainly is.  The best is yet to come!

Blessings and peace for the New Year,

Memorial to Neal Shirley

Yesterday, Neal Shirley’s memorial service was held at St. Catherine’s. In loving memory of Neal, an oak tree has been planted in front of the garden. As the tree buds out and continues to grow this spring it will serve as a living memorial to Neal.

Email Scam — Again

E-mail pranksters and scammers are at work again. If you should receive an email from Fr. Ben saying he needs a favor, or that he needs your help, do not respond. This, once again, is a scam. If he should need your help, he will give you a call and talk to you in person.

St Catherine’s Drive Thru Pantry — Our Beans and Rice Ministry

As we start the new year and prepare for our Drive-thru Pantry on January 16th, we are asking how we can do a better job serving families who find themselves challenged during these difficult times. We are wide open to suggestions for improvement. Just because we have always done things the way we do doesn’t mean we can’t do it better. Join us on January 16th from 9:00 to 11:00 am, take a look, make suggestions for ways we can all work together to make our pantry more welcoming, more efficient, and more helpful. We hope to see you then!

Feed My Sheep

RAM (Remote Area Medical)

We begin the new year with hope that everyone will receive vaccinations that will finally bring Covid-19 under control. While not holding our breath or going anywhere without our masks, we are wondering how and where we might serve our neighbors in need.

It was roughly a year ago when we were introduced to Remote Area Medical (RAM) who provide “pop-up” clinics for licensed volunteer practitioners to treat patients just as they would at a regular doctor’s visit. On average RAM treat 500 patients during a two-day clinic. Several years ago, St. Catherine’s was a venue when our local health care workers provided these services in Chelsea. Unfortunately those days are past but RAM has been doing this around the country and plans to bring their services closer to Chelsea in the near future.

These services including medical, vision, and dental are provided to patients without insurance. So, how can we help? RAM will need medical volunteers from the above specialties. They also need volunteers to help welcome, direct traffic from the waiting areas to the location to meet with the doctor, handle the paperwork, give referrals for follow-up visits for tooth extractions etc. once the screening have been accomplished and more serious office visits are required.

Each of us can become a core volunteer: They need both general and professional volunteers to help carry Remote Area Medical’s mission. Please visit their website for more information and to register as a volunteer, or call RAM Headquarters and speak to one of their volunteer coordinators. 

RAMUSA.ORG        (865) 579-1530

Parish Prayer List

“If we genuinely love people, we desire for them more than it is within our power to give, and that will cause us to pray.” 

If you wish to place someone on the Prayer List, email Father Ben at rector@stcatherinesal.com or you may click here.   As always, names will remain on the list for about a month unless you indicate otherwise, will appear in the weekly Dialogue and will be included in the Prayers of the People during Sunday worship services.