May all who enter here find peace.

 

May all who enter find peace.  

The sun is warm to the skin.  It shines over the peaceful property, on this Wednesday in October.   A warm breeze rustles through the leaves and they display colors that no camera can really replicate. There is a peacefulness that is the very counterbalance to the excited, faithful gathering that will occur on a Sunday morning ahead.  Oh, what a blessing it is to return home.  

Returning from Arizona after two weeks of Study and retreat, I am filled with gratitude.  One of the many terrific things about the Episcopal church is the ability to travel around the country and yet always feel like home.  Our prayers, our way of being, can be so different and yet so common.  During my time away I experienced and met people from all over the country.  Our leaders were experienced in many different aspects of the church.  A gratitude list is too long.  What undergirds it all are the blessings of God that surround us.  Gods love is more expansive and vast than we can ever imagine.  Without a doubt, my faith and experience of the living God has yet again been deepened along with the knowledge that I need to trust that loving God more.  

May all who enter here find peace. 

On this Wednesday morning as I returned to St. John's, after checking out the office and the buildings.  Checking the messages and the computer, I go over to the church.  The big red doors stick a bit, and with a good push open wide.  The sun streams through the stain glass windows and a "peace which passes all understanding" welcomes me.  

It is so instinctive to pause, to take a deep breath and thank God for safe travels, and blessed return.  I wander through the chapel and out to the Labyrinth.  How many of us walk this in solitude?  I hope you do. If you haven't, try it.  The ancient form of prayer is ours for the walking.  

The view from the entrance is the cross and altar.  The combination of stone and nature, each come together for a sacred space.  I stand at the entrance, read the inscription, "May all who enter here find peace", and breathe.  How can we muster up the ability to be present, to be really in the moment?  Maybe we just need to show up.  I begin the walk.  

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Fall is a time of beauty and reflection.  It is a time when the color of our landscape here in New England is some of God's most beautiful work.  But we must also remember that it is a time of dying, of putting away, of letting go.  

St. John's has had a wonderful season of spring and summer.  We have welcomed many of our parishioners that winter in other places.  We have greeted new people that have brought joy, laughter, and so much grace to our lives.  We made the hard decision to not have the Calico Fair and instead to have something monthly that would generate community and support our church.  Without a doubt, this decision has been a huge success.  Not only are we just about to reach and possibly surpass our needed financial goal, but a renewed sense of community has been generated.  We had to let something die, we had to let go.  And as a resurrection people, we know that from that comes new life.  Halleluiah!!!!  

This is the time of year at St. John's that we gather together and give thanks for all that has opened up for us.  We also begin to pray about where God may be leading us next.  In the next month, you will be asked to reflect oh why St. John's is important to you.  Where and how do you experience God in this faith community?  What are ways God is calling us all to be the Gospel here in Wakefield? 

We are a wonderful group of people from many different walks of life, different stories and different views.  But we are a people that gather together over the course of a year, that worship a loving and oh so generous God.  We gather in love, laughter, and pain, as life unfolds as it always has and always will.  We gather to give thanks, pray for help, and take in the life and love of Jesus.  We do this so that we can go forth into the world and be the instruments God most needs us to be.  

As I finish the Labyrinth walk, I turn to face the center.  I give thanks for safe travel, a rich and life-giving trip, and a blessed return.  I give thanks for the people and place of St. John's.  I give thanks for the overwhelming abundance and love of God.  It is so good to be home.  

May all who enter here find peace.  

Peace, 

Rev. Sue Poulin 

Look with compassion on the whole human family.

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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.  BCP pg. 815

 

September is upon us.  The leaves are beginning to change and fall is about to arrive.  It has been a fun and busy summer here on the hill.  We have had chicken and spaghetti suppers, an amazing yard sale, and our first big Bingo event.  Our outreach efforts have also been in full swing.  Episco Golf had the most golfers it has ever had and raised $11,000.  This will all be distributed to children's charities in the area.  The ARFF Walk, Animals Raising Funds for Food, is now sponsored by the Wakefield Food Pantry.  ST. John's continues to be a driving force in this ministry.  Judy Gray and Linda Loucony continue in leadership positions.  They were able to raise over $3,000 for the Wakefield Food Pantry.  That will serve over 8,000 meals.  Wow!!!  Our little white church on the hill is a powerful example of God's work continuing to be present in the world.  

Each week, we gather together around God's word and sacrament. We pray to become the people God most needs us to be in the world and on this day and at this time.  How is God changing us?  

Many Sundays I leave the church, and return to the events occuring in our nation and am startled by the violence, fear, and hatred that continues to bubble up around us.  Sometimes it is tempting to keep it all at an arm's length, to think this does not really affect me.   

"Then Jesus told his disciples, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it."  Matthew 16:24

As followers of Jesus, we don't have the luxury to look away.  We are blessed to live in a beautiful place.  We are blessed to worship and thrive in a church that embraces hospitality with joy.  We are blessed to sit side by side with those that are of different thoughts and opinions and listen. learn and pray.  We are blessed.  

How can we embody that out in the world?  How can we be the people Jesus calls us to be?  Jesus never let the disciples stay in one place very long. They were always teaching, healing, being God with skin on in the world.  What are the events in the world right now trying to teach us?  What cross is God calling you to pick up?  

In the Catechism, the question; what is our duty to our neighbors, is posed.  It does not describe the neighbor.  It does not explore in any depth who our neighbors are.  How God, how are we supposed to treat our neighbor?  Here are some of the answers:   

Our duty to our neighbors is to love them as ourselves, and to do to other people as we wish them to do to us; 

  • To show respect for the life God has given us; to work and pray for peace; to bear no malice, prejudice, or hatred in our hearts; and to be kind to all the creatures of God.

  • To be honest and fair in our dealings; to seek justice, freedom, and the necessities of life for all people; and to use our talents and possessions as ones who must answer for them to God; 

  • To speak the truth, and not to mislead others by our silence

  • To resist temptation to envy, greed, and jealousy; to rejoice in other people's gifts and graces; and to do our duty for the love of God who has called us into fellowship with him.  

It requires tremendous courage right now to speak up for what is right and good.  I am not talking about differing opinions about policy and laws.  Those are things that there has been discussion about since time began.  We are called to live in community, to live with each other.  It is important that there be different schools of thought.  I am talking about being called to honesty, respect and the dignity of every human being.  As followers of Jesus we are called to those hard places, where being fair and honest is who God needs us to be.  As followers of Jesus God calls us to seek justice, freedom and necessities of life for all people.  The clarity in scripture and in our Book of Common Prayer is startling sometimes.  

As we enter this fall season, a time when through the brilliance of color the leaves die and fall away, let us pray.  Let us pray to not be silent.  Let us pray for God's guidance and grace to be the women and men we were created to be.  

Gracious God, who has given us this good land for our heritage: We humbly beseech you that we may always prove ourselves a people mindful of your favor and grateful to do your will.  Bless our land with fruitful and honorable industry, sound learning, and kind actions. Save us from violence, discord, and confusion; from pride and arrogance, and from every evil way.  Help us to know and protect our liberties, and join us into one united people the multitudes brought from many lands, kindreds, and tongues.  Grant with the spirit of wisdom those whom in your Name we entrust the authority of government, that there may be justice and peace at home, and that, through obedience to your law, we may show forth your praise among the nations of the earth.  In the time of prosperity, fill our hearts with thankfulness, and in the day of trouble, let our trust in you not fail, all this we ask through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen  

God is calling us in ways we can't imagine and yet, can't ignore.  Let us bring our passion, care and joy into the lives we lead.  Let us be that outward and visible sign of God's love and passion for human dignity.  

*Adapted from the prayer for our country in the BCP, pg. 820

*Catechism information BCP. pg. 846

WE PRAY, THAT'S WHAT WE DO

Almighty God, You have left us the responsibility of this land, we call the Untied States of America.  We pray that we may always prove ourselves a peoplemindful of your favor, worthy of the task, and ever discerning of your will.  Bless our land with honorable and fruitful industry, with sound learning and a respect for all human beings.  Gracious God, save us from violence, discord, and confusion; from pride and arrogance, and from every sinful way that pulls us apart.  Defend our freedom within society from oppressive restrictions imposed by authority on one’s way of life, behavior, or political views.  Gracious God, help us find ways to come together, help us find ways to offer up the many gifts you have blessed us with to serve our common good.  Fill with your spirit of wisdom those to whom we entrust the authority of government, that there may be justice and peace at home and that by loving our neighbors as you have loved us, we may show forth your will and example among the nations of the earth.  In times of prosperity, fill our hearts with thankfulness.  In times of fear, struggle and suffering, let us not lose our faith in you.  All this we ask through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.  

Adapted from BCP pg. 820


I have often said that it is such a blessing that we are not all alike, what a boring world that would be.  There has not been a time I can think of when that is more true than now.  The congregation that I serve is a wonderful example of that.  We gather as a people from all walks of life, varied backgrounds, life experience, and political leanings.  

Recently we lost one of the pillars of our church, Anne Leach.  As many of our parishioners shared love and reflections about her, one of our most ardent democratic members, said with such a warm and loving smile, now there is a republican I really loved.  

We gather around the word and table, that is central to our faith.  As the faith leader in this community no one would be surprised at my political leanings, but I don't preach them.  I believe that it is my call to remind us of our role in public life.  We are called as Episcopalians to engage scripture, tradition and reason, as we make our decisions. Within the context of kindness and mutual respect I have had some really wonderful conversations with those that come to different conclusions than I have. Over the years I find myself going to the Baptismal Covenant more often than not.  

"Will you seek and serve Christ in all person, loving your neighbor as yourself? "

"I will with God's help." 

"Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being? "

"I will with God's help."  

There is no way literally, that I or we, could do this without God's help.  I would go so far as to say, we need others in our lives as well.  We are human after all, God made us that way.  When we are able to gather together and call God, or any form of the divine to be in our midst, we can come together and know what is important, how to treat each other, how to "be" in the world.  But, as we lift our heads, gather our belongings and wander back out into the world, we come to many different conclusions as to what is best.  What is best in our towns, on our school boards, in our states and of course for our country.  

Long before I became interested in politics or even organized religion, human nature had caused this difference to create division.  The divisions are normally around areas of great passion and great need.  It is often hard to not find yourself on one side or the other.  Recently, people from differing beliefs, people from both sides of this divide, have asked me why or how could anyone believe a certain thing. We come to different conclusions and have different ideas about where to go from here.  We live in a country that allows us to exercise our freedom in many different ways. What I believe is that we are all valued, loved children of God.  So where do we go from here?  

We pray, it's what we do.  We are all passionate about different things.  I would ask us all to remember that when we think of God's law for us, we are called to; "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.  This is the first and the great commandment.  The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself." BCP, pg. 851 We will all trip up on this mission.  We will all fall short.  Our faith teaches us to dust ourselves off, or know that by Gods' grace we are loved beyond measure, and we go forth to be the version of ourselves that God most needs us to be that day.  

We pray, that's what we do.  The prayer above is adapted from the prayer in the Book of Common Prayer, For our country.  I used it in the sermon last week and have been praying with it.  The theology and meaning have not been changed, I updated some of the language and fleshed out words like liberty, heritage, obedience to thy law.  Sometimes when I pray it helps to write or type prayers out.  It helps to really wrestle with the words.  

We are each God's beloved children, born with special gifts, talents and our own story.  We all have a different lived experience and see the world through a lens like no other.  This is a blessing.  How often do we really think of it that way?  As we move forward into this new time in our country, let us remember who we are.  Let us cherish our difference, let us learn to communicate in loving and respectful ways and let us know not be pulled off track by our fear or anger.  God is with us.  God is calling us to a new time, and a new path.  God is calling some of us to be more active and more conscious of who we are and what's important.  But, as christians, we are called to pray, it's what we do!