Greetings brothers and sisters in the Spirit.
Members of Annunciation,
Bishop Reed in conjunction with the latest medical and government information has given us guidance that we should not have any group activity worship and otherwise until April 1 at the earliest. This date is subject to extension depending on the outcome of how the virus is being contained. I am behind Bishop Reed’s advisement and believe his guidance is based in wisdom and sound medical information.
Your vestry will meet by internet Sunday to discuss ways of moving forward as creatively as possible. God has given us his Spirit, a Spirit of Wisdom, the saints would say and can imagine an infinite number of ways how his Will can be created in the midst of this challenge.
In the meantime, Morning Prayer will be held live on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube at 10:30 on Sundays. I am learning how to imagine that I am conversing with you through a tablet screen so please be patient with me. Our technical committee is working to find ways to increase our communication and you will be informed as things progress. We will also read the Office of Compline at 7:00 p.m. on Wednesdays. I am looking at on online format for Bible Study that I have used before on another diocesan ministry committee. I’m sure we can work the bugs out quickly and find ways to nurture ourselves in the Presence of the Lord and one another.
We will be in touch with you again soon. Please contact me via my cell phone at 423-509-2674 with questions, concerns, needs or reports of anyone who might need of pastoral care.
Peace be with you,
Christmas II: Luke 2; 1/3021
I wonder if you ever were separated from your parents when you were young, or perhaps lost track of where your young child. Then it would be easy to identify with the anxiety of Mary and Joseph when they couldn’t find Jesus—especially in the big city of Jerusalem when it was time to leave for home.
How could something like this happen? Men, women and children all worshipped in separate places in the temple. After worship, each group gathers together in their own group for a meal.
There was a separate group for educated teachers to gather and during the meal, discuss and sometimes argue to the point of quarreling, about the Torah and spiritual practices.
Showing great interest, Jesus was invited at age 12, as a new young adult to join in the meal and to listen to the teaching and discussion. The story indicates that Jesus also was involved in the discussion and teaching.
Joseph and Mary expected Jesus to be with his peers and when discovering he did not return with the group to the caravan to return home, with great angst returned to Jerusalem, searching all over until they found him at the temple.
I remember a decade or so ago how during the late news, the announcer would say, “It’s time for the evening news. Do you know where your children are?” In this case, Mary and Joseph did not know where Jesus was. They also were not aware of where his mind, heart and intentions were at the time which led him to leave his peer group and to seek God.
Jesus’ seeking wasn’t finished after worship. His seeking continued.
I think this story has much to teach us as adults:
Christianity is counter-cultural. Children tend to follow the culture and the culture of the family. Jesus at age 12, after his bar-mitzvah, continued to seek God in contrast to the majority of the youth and adults in church who after Confirmation, tend to have the mindset that they’ve graduated from church. Other things in the culture that appear to be more exciting tend to take priority.
Children and youth are more capable and hungry for God than we are aware of.
What do we model, not only for our children but for others? Do we include children and youth and other adults in discussions about our faith at the dinner table? Children on average watch 4 hours of TV a day often during meal time, not including cell phone internet use. They are waiting for us to lead them. If we don’t someone else will. I hesitate to compare how many minutes a week are given to teaching and nurturing in scriptures and tradition. Without God growing at the core of their being, children and youth are left with the maze of confusing and sometimes dangerous messages that leave them at risk. Jesus put a child on his lap and told his preoccupied disciples to forbid them not—by forgetting them. Are we aware of where our children are—not just their location, but what they are carrying in the minds and hearts?
One of the great realizations as a parent is that I have regular conversations with my two daughters in their late thirties about their spiritual journey, talking about how to negotiate the present world in the context of their faith. I have learned that parenting never really ends. It just changes in its process. As we share the journey our relationship continues to deepen.
We have the authority given to us by Christ to be his hands and feet to the younger generation. Sometimes, just spending a few minutes with a young person that we might not even know well will create a blessing. This was reinforced to be when the old track was open in the mornings and I was able to converse with members of the cross country and track teams. +Without realizing it, we may just be Christ to a young person without realizing it and influence their lives in a positive way. Many young people feel isolated and alone even when their persona may cover this.
Summing up, each of us, no matter our age, have the opportunity to reach out to the young. Think of the adults in your younger days who gifted your life with blessings. Now it’s our turn to be that blessing for them. We can model to others by our own choices that prioritize Christ first over cultural aspirations and values.
There are many ways we can metaphorically hug a child. Allow Christ to hug a child through you so that they may experience the Presence of God in the temples of their hearts.
Thus says the high and lofty One who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy, “I dwell in the high and holy place and also with the one who has a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble and to revive the heart of the contrite.” Isaiah 57:15
Confession of Sin
The Officiant says to the people
Let us humbly confess our sins against God and our neighbor:
Silence may be kept.
Officiant and People together, all kneeling
Most merciful God,
we confess that we have sinned against you
in thought, word, and deed,
by what we have done,
and by what we have left undone.
We have not loved you with our whole heart;
we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves.
We are truly sorry and we humbly repent.
For the sake of your Son Jesus Christ,
have mercy on us and forgive us;
that we may delight in your will,
and walk in your ways,
to the glory of your Name. Amen.
The Priest alone says
Almighty God have mercy on you, forgive you all your sins through our Lord Jesus Christ, strengthen you in all goodness, and by the power of the Holy Spirit keep you in eternal life. Amen.
The Invitatory and Psalter
|Officiant||Lord, open our lips.|
|People||And our mouth shall proclaim your praise.|
Officiant and People
Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit: as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be for ever. Amen.
Alleluia. To us a child is born: Come let us adore him. Alleluia.
Venite Psalm 95:1-7
Come, let us sing to the Lord; *
let us shout for joy to the Rock of our salvation.
Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving *
and raise a loud shout to him with psalms.
For the Lord is a great God, *
and a great King above all gods.
In his hand are the caverns of the earth, *
and the heights of the hills are his also.
The sea is his, for he made it, *
and his hands have molded the dry land.
Come, let us bow down, and bend the knee, *
and kneel before the Lord our Maker.
For he is our God,
and we are the people of his pasture and the sheep of his hand. *
Oh, that today you would hearken to his voice!
Psalm 147 or 147:13-21
How good it is to sing praises to our God! *
how pleasant it is to honor him with praise!
2 The Lord rebuilds Jerusalem; *
he gathers the exiles of Israel.
3 He heals the brokenhearted *
and binds up their wounds.
4 He counts the number of the stars *
and calls them all by their names.
5 Great is our Lord and mighty in power; *
there is no limit to his wisdom.
6 The Lord lifts up the lowly, *
but casts the wicked to the ground.
7 Sing to the Lord with thanksgiving; *
make music to our God upon the harp.
8 He covers the heavens with clouds *
and prepares rain for the earth;
9 He makes grass to grow upon the mountains *
and green plants to serve mankind.
10 He provides food for flocks and herds *
and for the young ravens when they cry.
11 He is not impressed by the might of a horse; *
he has no pleasure in the strength of a man;
12 But the Lord has pleasure in those who fear him, *
in those who await his gracious favor.]
13 Worship the Lord, O Jerusalem; *
praise your God, O Zion;
14 For he has strengthened the bars of your gates; *
he has blessed your children within you.
15 He has established peace on your borders; *
he satisfies you with the finest wheat.
16 He sends out his command to the earth, *
and his word runs very swiftly.
17 He gives snow like wool; *
he scatters hoarfrost like ashes.
18 He scatters his hail like bread crumbs; *
who can stand against his cold?
19 He sends forth his word and melts them; *
he blows with his wind, and the waters flow.
20 He declares his word to Jacob, *
his statutes and his judgments to Israel.
21 He has not done so to any other nation; *
to them he has not revealed his judgments.
Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit: as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be for ever. Amen.
I will greatly rejoice in the Lord,
my whole being shall exult in my God;
for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation,
he has covered me with the robe of righteousness,
as a bridegroom decks himself with a garland,
and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
For as the earth brings forth its shoots,
and as a garden causes what is sown in it to spring up,
so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise
to spring up before all the nations.
For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent,
and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not rest,
until her vindication shines out like the dawn,
and her salvation like a burning torch.
The nations shall see your vindication,
and all the kings your glory;
and you shall be called by a new name
that the mouth of the Lord will give.
You shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the Lord,
and a royal diadem in the hand of your God.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.
There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.
He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.
And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth. (John testified to him and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks ahead of me because he was before me.'”) From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known.
The Apostles’ Creed
Officiant and People together
I believe in God, the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth;
I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord.
He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit
and born of the Virgin Mary.
He suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried.
He descended to the dead.
On the third day he rose again.
He ascended into heaven,
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. Amen.
|Officiant||The Lord be with you.|
|People||And also with you.|
|Officiant||Let us pray.|
Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy Name,
thy kingdom come,
thy will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those
who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
and the power, and the glory,
for ever and ever. Amen.
V. Show us your mercy, O Lord;
R. And grant us your salvation.
V. Clothe your ministers with righteousness;
R. Let your people sing with joy.
V. Give peace, O Lord, in all the world;
R. For only in you can we live in safety.
V. Lord, keep this nation under your care;
R. And guide us in the way of justice and truth.
V. Let your way be known upon earth;
R. Your saving health among all nations.
V. Let not the needy, O Lord, be forgotten;
R. Nor the hope of the poor be taken away.
V. Create in us clean hearts, O God;
R. And sustain us with your Holy Spirit.
The Collect for the First Sunday after Christmas
Almighty God, you have poured upon us the new light of your incarnate Word: Grant that this light, enkindled in our hearts, may shine forth in our lives; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
For a Birthday
O God, our times are in your hand: Look with favor, we pray, on all your servants as they begin another year. Grant that they may grow in wisdom and grace, and strengthen their trust in your goodness all the days of theirlives; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
O God, the author of peace and lover of concord, to know you is eternal life and to serve you is perfect freedom: Defend us, your humble servants, in all assaults of our enemies; that we, surely trusting in your defense, may not fear the power of any adversaries; through the might of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
For those in the Armed Forces of our Country
Almighty God, we commend to your gracious care and keeping all the men and women of our armed forces at home and abroad. Defend them day by day with your heavenly grace; strengthen them in their trials and temptations; give them courage to face the perils which beset them; and grant them a sense of your abiding presence wherever they may be; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
A Prayer for Mission
O God, you have made of one blood all the peoples of the earth, and sent your blessed Son to preach peace to those who are far off and to those who are near: Grant that people everywhere may seek after you and find you; bring the nations into your fold; pour out your Spirit upon all flesh; and hasten the coming of your kingdom; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
A General Thanksgiving
Accept, O Lord, our thanks and praise for all that you have done for us.
We thank you for the splendor of the whole creation, for the beauty of this world, for the wonder of life, and for the mystery of love.
We thank you for the blessing of family and friends, and for the loving care which surrounds us on every side.
We thank you for setting us at tasks which demand our best efforts, and for leading us to accomplishments which satisfy and delight us.
We thank you also for those disappointments and failures that lead us to acknowledge our dependence on you alone.
Above all, we thank you for your Son Jesus Christ; for the truth of his Word and the example of his life; for his steadfast obedience, by which he overcame temptation; for his dying, through which he overcame death; and for his rising to life again, in which we are raised to the life of your kingdom.
Grant us the gift of your Spirit, that we may know him and make him known; and through him, at all times and in all places, may give thanks to you in all things. Amen.
Prayer of St. Chrysostom
Almighty God, you have given us grace at this time with one accord to make our common supplication to you; and you have promised through your well-beloved Son that when two or three are gathered together in his Name you will be in the midst of them: Fulfill now, O Lord, our desires and petitions as may be best for us; granting us in this world knowledge of your truth, and in the age to come life everlasting. Amen.
V. Alleluia! Let us bless the Lord.
R. Thanks be to God. Alleluia!
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with us all evermore.
Amen. 2 Corinthians 13:14
May God the Father bless us, God the Son heal us, God the Holy Spirit give us strength. May God the holy and undivided Trinity guard our bodies, save our souls, and bring us safely to his heavenly country; where he lives and reigns for ever and ever. Amen.Closing Hymn
Advent 4B; Luke 1:46 ff; 12/20/20
Do you believe in angels? Have you ever heard the voice of an angel in a quiet moment or seen or heard an angel in a dream? God’s messengers can come to us in many ways.
If you had been visited by an angel, would you hesitate to tell another? If so, we might be able to identify in some way with Mary who didn’t tell anyone about her experience with Gabriel until she traveled to see her cousin Elizabeth. After all, if you saw or heard an angel, who would you tell? Who would listen to you and not back away, give you a funny look, change the subject or all of a sudden excuse themselves, remembering that they had another appointment that they had forgot about.
Gabriel offered compassion to Mary telling her that her cousin Elizabeth was also with child, thus giving her someone with whom to confide. How uncomfortable it is when we have a spiritual experience, or a struggle and there is no one to hear us to break the isolation.
There’s a certain vulnerability in telling the story of our spiritual experience. Jesus remarked on this in Matthew 7 “not to cast our pearls before swine” because of the risk of having our spirit and our experiences dishonored. Yet we face the paradox in Luke 8 when we hear after Jesus heals the Gerasene demoniac from his demons to “tell others what God has done for you.”
The pattern of the early church reveals an eagerness of its disciples to reveal the work of the Spirit in their lives. The Church today is much more timid than Mary’s day, more reluctant I think to tell others what God has done in our lives. I ponder why that is?
Gabriel visits Mary and Mary has a story to tell that she is blessed among women.
Are we not also blessed among others? Do we consider ourselves as beings who are blessed? How have we been blessed? Is being blessed is just for those few special people in the Bible? Or is being blessed for each of us? Do we feel blessed by 3:00 p.m. on Wednesday afternoon after being inundated with phone calls, texts, computers that don’t work, crabby bosses or employees, losing a job, the faucet that broke at home, the assaults and deceptions of the media, sick children or grandchildren, and the list goes on…?
Why would God have sent Gabriel to Mary had it not been to pass the blessing on to us?
When we receive that blessing again on Christmas to whom will we go? What shall we tell them?
Is there not a Mary and an Elizabeth in each of us? Mary has received a story and is bursting at the seams with no one to tell except for a cousin over a day’s journey away. Telling the story is vital for our spiritual health or it becomes dormant within and soon becomes trampled upon and lost by the tasks of the day which are pale in comparison.
Is there not an Elizabeth within us who is able to hear the story of Mary and others who desperately need to tell the good news bequeathed to them or release the sorrow of a painful event?
Gabriel points us to the Mary and Elizabeth within us all—to the necessity of the hearing and the telling the Life of God imparted to us all. Share the Story. Receive the Story. This is our birth rite and the most important daily task we can ever be about.
May the Incarnation be enfleshed in you,
Fr. Mark Bigley
Church of Annunciation, Episcopal
Advent 3: John 1; 12/13/20
We’ve been into recycling in town the last couple of months and I am wondering how it is going for the town. I’m wondering what you’ve heard and how it’s going for you?
We enjoy it because we’re able to recycle more and it saves us a trip to The Green Guy in San Marcos.
Occasionally we’ve heard of strikes by sanitation workers where trash wasn’t picked up for weeks leaving piles of trash laying all over the roadways. Imagine if there was a strike for a month and trash began to build up in streets, yards and highways. Imagine piles of trash strewn along 183. Back in the time of John the Baptist, before the days of recycling and trash pickup, people didn’t know much of what to do with it all. Trash was just strewn across country roads. After a few years the roads in some places were nigh impassible. So it was customary when a special dignitary was coming to prepare by having a large roadside cleanup.
John was keen enough to see the metaphor in connecting repentance to clearing out the trash.
When we get too much trash in an area, it inhibits our ability to live. We cannot move freely about. To play with the metaphor some more, aren’t there times when we just feel trashy?
There’s just stuff in our minds and in our hearts that just give us the blahs and we just don’t fire on all cylinders. Life throws us too many curves and we find ourselves out of mental and spiritual balance. Sometimes there’s too much fear. Fatigue. Anger or resentment takes its toll on our performance. Self-preoccupation can create a situation I saw on line where someone driving a car was angry with someone on a sidewalk and they ran their car into a light pole, turning his car, the pole and his driving record into trash.
John asks us to do a state inspection—an inspection of the state we’re in. To find the trash that’s been piled within and to bring it to the Jordan River and give it to God. After all, someone is coming that we don’t want to miss. A hindered road to meet him whether that road is internal or external need not prevent us from meeting him—receiving him and allowing him to grow in our hearts for another year.
Advent II, Mark 1:1-8; St. Nicholas Day, December 6th, 2020
This may seem like a dumb question, but have you asked yourselves why you are here or watching online this morning? The obvious response would be: “To hear the Word, pray and receive Holy Communion.
Let’s explore this question a little more. What are we seeking? What are our minds and hearts seeking? Could it be that we have something in common with those seeking out John the Baptist? Are they looking for healing for their wounds, for God to fill their emptiness, to commune with the Holy One?
People seeking John were desperate. Israel had been without a prophet for 400 years. What would it be like for a church to be without a priest for 400 years?
People flocked openly to John confessing their sins to John at the Jordan—to a person they didn’t even know. I wonder: If John came down to the San Marcos River, would people flock to him? Would John gain traction in the Episcopal Church in our day with the message: Repent, followed by confessing our sins openly in public?
What was their motivation? To drop what they were doing: weekend plans, a shopping trip, the football game-to confess their sins in public? Think of the restlessness and agitation carried by them for 400 years. There’s a saying: “The fathers have eaten sour grapes and the children’s teeth are set on edge.” Sin has a weight to it—when carried long enough becomes burdensome and becomes heavier over time. Sin that we do not release carries on through us, affecting others and is passed on from generation to generation. Perhaps they were sick and tired of being sick and tired.
John had something they wanted: relief from their burdens in exchange for God and his gifts of Liberty, peace and joy. Confessing sins openly released them, opening a place for God within them to dwell. Repentance is the way of release and recovery of our birth right in God.
Does John offer something we want?
What is John asking the people to turn away from? Sin, anger, judging others, self-condemnation, resentment, false teachings, misplaced priorities, false gods…. Changing one’s heart and mind for the Hebrew is to change one’s action—which requires the conversion that repentance initiates.
John’s message was revolutionary—in how we seek repentance. Previous to John, for two thousand years, the only way sins were remitted was through the shedding of blood—from animal sacrifices. Now, John was baptizing with water, which required an inward repentance to reunion with God. Baptism was a sign of this reunion with God.
Forgiveness manifests itself through the Spirit working good works in us. Repentance empties the heart so God can fill it. John was baptizing with water, which required an inward repentance to reunion with God.
The animal is no longer a way of accomplishing spiritual reunion. The human heart is involved.
Those who sought John, were hungry to release the death they carried within themselves.
From what do we want God to deliver us?
What is the suffering that our minds are cluttered with and our hearts are burdened with that we seek to release?
The time is now.