From the Rector: On Being Community

By now most of you are aware of the tragic deaths this past weekend of two students at Skyline High School. The deaths were due to accidental drug overdoses of fentanyl, an opioid that has caused thousands of death in our country. It’s almost instinctive to immediately react to such news with disbelief, shock, anger, and deep sadness, and often we look for someone or something to blame. But as the shock wears off and we are able to sift through emotions, it is possible to gain clarity. We have a problem in our community that will only be addressed when we admit there is a problem and come together to address it. To use “churchy” language, it’s confession and repentance. For many of us those two words carry a negative connotation, but the reality is that both are gifts given to us so that we can identify those things holding us back from the fullness of life Jesus promised and begin to make choices that are life-giving. This work, however, cannot be done alone. Do you notice that in our church we begin the confession with “we”: WE confess that WE have sinned. The hard but life-giving work of facing a problem and dealing with it is not done in isolation; we do it together as Beloved Community in a variety of ways.

Over the past few days, I’ve watched our community come together to mourn, pray, and support one another, especially our students. I think we’ve been shaken, too, by these deaths and am hopeful that there is a willingness to look the problem in the eye, name it, and work to address it. Many have asked me “what can I (we) do?” Together, and with God’s help and our commitment to address a very real problem in our community, we can take action that will make a difference. You will be hearing more about how our city leaders, school officials, law enforcement agencies, and faith groups are responding in the coming days. In the meantime, I offer the following of things all of us can do right now:

  • Pray. Pray for our students, parents, teachers, school officials, and community leaders. Pray for the students who have died, for their families and friends, and for those who seek to comfort and support them. Pray for those who struggle with addiction. The Book of Common Prayer offers us this prayer for pray for the victims of addiction:
    “O Blessed Lord, you ministered to all who came to you: Look with compassion upon all who through addiction have lost their health and freedom. Restore to them the assurance of your unfailing mercy; remove from them the fears that beset them; strengthen them in the work of their recovery; and to those who care for them, give patient understanding and persevering love. Amen.”
  • See. Acknowledge and get to know the children and youth in our parish. Let them know that they are visible, that we see them, welcome them, and support them. Just a simple “hello” or “that’s a pretty dress” or “what grade are you in” speaks volumes and will make a difference in the lives of our youth. I daresay most of us who are older can point to moments and persons in our lives who just simply acknowledged us or encouraged us in some way that made a huge impact. Do it this Sunday; let our youth and children know that they are an important part of our community.
  • Get informed. Know what’s going on our community, in our schools. It effects all of us. Did you know that two of our parishioners, Joyce Bottenberg and Tom Ehlers, serve on the City of Sammamish’s Health and Human Services Commission? Talk with them; they have their ears to the ground and can help gain a wider and deeper perspective on the issues.
  • Show up. On Wednesday, October 16, at 7 pm, a community-wide discussion will take place at Skyline High School. All are welcome, and I encourage your attendance. Just showing up makes a statement that we care and want to be a part of the solution.
  • Stay tuned. Our Faith in Action Commission is working with other faith leaders and the Sammamish YMCA to start a mentoring program for youth. Tom Ehlers and I have been part of this initiative. You’ll be hearing more about this in the coming months, and if you’d like to be a part of exploratory group, please speak to Tom or me.

Wherever you are or whatever you are doing when you read this, please join me in this prayer:

Gracious God, you see your children growing up in an unsteady and confusing world: Show them that your ways give more life than the ways of the world, and that following you is better than chasing after selfish goals. Help them to take failure, not as a measure of their worth, but as a chance for a new start. Give them strength to hold their faith in your, and to keep alive their joy in your creation; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen (BCP, p. 829).

Hopefully,

—Fr. Steve+


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From the Rector: The Open Door

If you’ve been in a vestry meeting with me over the past four years, you’ll quickly learn that my “go to” resource for leadership and mission is Peter Steinke. In his book, A Door Set Open, he writes:

Mission is the expression of the church’s deep, abiding beliefs. Mission provides the major standard against which all activities, services, and decisions are evaluated…. It is about God’s love for the world, not about what I like or don’t like about my church. A major function of the congregation’s stewards is to be the creators and guardians of the mission…. They keep the mission alive (p. 78).

I remember sitting in a vestry retreat with Peter years ago in Dallas, Texas, hearing these words and how they washed over our vestry and me. The mission of the local church is rooted in nothing more or less than God’s love for the world. It still blows me away and, to this day, helps keep my work as a priest and pastor focused and grounded.

In September we began a three-month re-visit of our parish’s statement of mission, starting with reflection upon the question of “why?” Why do we exist as a parish? Simply put, and I hope this has been clear, we are here to invite each other and our neighbors to walk in Jesus’ Way of Love. Now we turn to reflect on the “how.” How do we as a parish and individuals go about walking the Way? What does it look like and feel like?

Weirdly enough, we begin our conversation around that question with the celebration of one of the church’s most loved and popular saints: St. Francis of Assisi. And, lest we forget, his spiritual companion and friend, St. Clare, played a very important role in his life, ministry, and legacy. I hope you can join us on Sunday as we reflect on what St. Francis and St. Clare can teach us about how to more faithfully live into our mission and walk Jesus’ Way of Love.

Arrf, arrf. (Translation: Our dog Abi sends her greetings and wants treats and to lick your hand and face and get treats on Sunday!)

—Fr. Steve+


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Deacon Kathryn’s Retirement

Kathryn Ballinger is retiring as a deacon and will be taking a break from ministry this fall! We are so grateful for her service to this parish and The Episcopal Church, and we will be showing our appreciation at a special reception THIS SUNDAY after the second service. Deacon Kathryn and Philip will return to worship at Good Samaritan as a regular members in December.

Deacon Kathryn’s Ministry

Born and raised in Seattle, Kathryn attended Sacred Heart School of Nursing in Spokane and Gonzaga University, receiving a Bachelor’s degree. After her first husband’s death, she completed a Masters in Counseling from Whitworth University, and was a RN for over 40 years. She is also a trained spiritual director with more than 35 years experience. Dcn. Kathryn was ordained a permanent deacon in 2000 in the Diocese of Spokane, and served in two parishes there before moving with her husband, Philip, to the Seattle area in 2003. She served as deacon at St. Thomas in Medina for 13 years. Kathryn was placed at Good Samaritan by Bishop Rickel in December 2016.


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From the Rector: Invest Now!

Looking to make a wise investment with a fabulous return? For only a few hours of your time and energy over the next few months, you can invest in the spiritual life of our children and youth. We offer several ways to invest, ranging from leading children’s activities to chaperoning our youth at off-campus events.
 

Invest in Our Children

Sign up for a volunteer role with Children’s Sunday Formation! There are enough roles for any preference of preparation time and time commitment. If enough people sign up, you may only have to volunteer twice between now and the end of December. Here are the roles of leadership–they do not all happen in the same week.
 
  • STORYTELLERS prepare and lead the telling of a Bible story or an element of the Episcopal tradition using a Godly Play story. Training is provided.
  • FAITH IN ACTION LEADERS prepare and lead a simple service project designed to address a need in our congregation or in the community. Projects could include learning about Guatemala and writing notes to the Gregorys or learning about our sister congregation in Mt. Vernon (Resurrección).
  • FAITH ACTIVITY LEADERS prepare and lead games and activities related to the Lectionary Readings for Sundays. Activities come from Constant Source, and training is provided.
  • FAITH IN COMMUNITY LEADERS prepare an activity for the children’s corner on Sundays when the children are in worship and have a children’s sermon. Along with a helper, leaders sit with the children and supervise their activity during the service.
  • HELPERS are needed every Sunday to assist the leader and be another adult presence in the room.
 

Invest in Our Youth

Volunteering with youth is much more about building relationships and being a positive adult presence in the room and in their lives. There are weekly roles and monthly roles to fit any time schedule.
 
  • FORMATION STUDENT MENTORS assist the leader on Sunday mornings at 9:15 am by being another adult presence in the room. Male mentors are especially needed this year.
  • EVENT CHAPERONES will assist the leaders at the mid-month youth fellowship events (usually beginning around 5 pm), and provide transportation to events away from the church.
  • MID-MONTH DINNER HOSTS provide a light meal for the mid-month youth fellowship events on September 15, October 13, and November 10.
 

Requirements

Please note that anyone working with children and youth in the Episcopal Church must have a current certification of completing the Safeguarding God’s Children training. You will also have to pass a background check.
 
We have two Safeguarding God’s Children trainings scheduled this fall:
  • Saturday, September 28, at 9 am–12 pm
  • Saturday, October 5, at 9 am–12 pm
Please choose the date that matches your schedule and contact Lisa Treadway to register. If you can’t make either date, another time can be arranged.

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Staff Transitions

Dear sisters and brothers in Christ,
 
As often quoted, “change is the only constant in life.” That is an actual quote from the Greek philosopher, Heraclitus. That is certainly true in our personal lives, and no less true in the life of a parish. This summer will mark several staff changes, in addition to the end of Fr. Brian’s curacy program and departure for Guatemala.
 
First, our deacon, The Rev. Kathryn Ballinger, has announced her retirement from active ministry effective September 15, 2019. She will become a deacon emeritus (once ordained a deacon, always a deacon!) at that point, take a short leave from the parish, and be back with her husband, Philip, as members of the parish on the First Sunday of Advent. For those of you who are new to the Episcopal Church, active ordained clergy are not members of the local parish as they serve under the direct authority of the Bishop. Both she and I will have more to say to you in the coming days about her retirement and many years of ordained ministry. Please note that we will honor and celebrate her at a special liturgy during the 10:30 am Eucharist on September 15 and, of course, have a party! I know you will join me and the parishes she has served over the years in addition ours, to thank her for her faithful service and bless her diaconal ministry as it takes on a new shape.
 
Second, India Andrews-Shank, our lead child care provider, will be leaving her post this Sunday, August 25. India, who was baptized at Good Sam last year and taught in our preschool, has taken on a full-time job and with her other responsibilities will not be able to continue to serve on Sunday mornings. She, however, will continue to worship and serve here at Good Sam in other ways. Our children and parents love India, and this Sunday we will honor her at the 10:30 am service. (Shhhhh! Don’t tell her!)
 
Joining our childcare staff is Azar Mirhadi, who will serve as the lead. If you haven’t met her, please introduce yourself and welcome her. Note, too, that we are looking for another person to serve on the Sunday morning childcare staff.
 
Finally, I am very pleased to announce that the Rev. Christina Jillard will be joining our staff part-time on September 1 as Priest Associate. Chris, as she prefers to be called, recently retired as Rector of St. Margaret’s, Bellevue. From 2001–2018, she was the Rector of St. Luke’s Episcopal in Altoona, Pennsylvania, after graduating from General Theological Seminary in New York City and being ordained a priest in 2001. Chris also serves as a trainer in our diocese’s College of Congregational Development and Chair of the Episcopal Diocese of Olympia’s Board of Directors. She and her husband, Rick, have two dogs and live in the Renton Highlands area. They have four children—Bronwen, Kate, Andy and Eric—who are literally scattered from “sea to shining sea!”
 
Chris will join me in preaching, teaching, and celebrating the Sacraments, and assist and lead in other ministries as assigned. Chris is a gifted preacher, a wise leader, and experienced priest. God willing, she will serve as priest-in-charge while I am away on sabbatical next summer. While Chris will not have direct responsibility for providing clergy leadership to our children’s, youth, and family ministries, she will serve with me as a resource and clergy support to our lay leaders in these areas. In the meantime, the search for a youth and family minister or curate will continue with the hope that we will have one or the other in place by next May. I will keep you updated, and if you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me or any member of the vestry.
 
Blessings, Fr. Steve+

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Saying Goodbye to the Gregorys

This Sunday, August 4, we will say goodbye to the Gregorys as they leave ministry in our parish to serve the people of Guatemala in Christ’s name. At the 9:30 am service, Fr. Brian will preach and celebrate, and I’ll lead us in a liturgy to acknowledge the end of Fr. Brian’s pastoral relationship with Good Samaritan and to commission the Gregorys to serve as missionaries to Guatemala. You are invited to write a note of encouragement and appreciation and place it in the large basket in the Narthex on Sunday, along with a financial gift or pledge to their mission, if you have not done so already. Notecards and envelopes will be provided just in case you forgot! A BBQ will ensue after the service, and you can go here to RSVP or here to sign up to bring food.
 
It really will be an emotionally mixed day for our parish and for me. Fr. Brian came to us as a freshly ordained Deacon in July 2017, and was placed in our parish as a Curate. (A Curate serves for two years in a parish setting as a priest-in-training, in case you are unfamiliar with the ordination process of the Episcopal Church.) We had the great privilege of hosting his ordination to the Sacred Order of Priests in February 2018. Fr. Brian has given a great deal of attention to our children and youth ministries, played a major role in our identity/vision/mission work, vastly improved our communication and online presence, led the youth mission trip last summer to Mt. Vernon, led us to establish relationships with La Iglesia Episcopal de la Resurrección and Primm Tabernacle AME Church, in addition to preaching, celebrating, pastoring, and doing the work of priest. I believe his ministry among us will have a lasting impact on our parish. His family has become dear to us, as well. Kelly initiated and led our women’s ministry, and we have been so blessed to watch Ellsley and Westin grow two years older and be a part of their formative years.
 
I have had the privilege of watching Fr. Brian grow in and embrace his calling to be a priest in the Episcopal Church. He has been a trusted colleague, adviser, and fellow presbyter. His love for our Lord and the Church has been a constant source of encouragement. I am grateful that God brought him to our parish. I am thankful, too, that the work we have done is not ended, but all part of the larger work we all do together for sake of the Kingdom of God. God will take the good work we have done together—Brian’s, yours, and mine—and multiply it in ways that we can never imagine this side of heaven.
 
Some of you have asked for some more specific information about the money we are raising to support the Gregory’s mission to Guatemala. The Gregory’s need $53,000 to pay for their living expenses while in Guatemala. This includes airfare to Guatemala, housing, transportation, food, medical insurance, pension contribution, repatriation, and any other expenses needed to support a family of four for a year. To date, approximately $43,000 has been raised in gifts or pledges, about $13,000 of that amount coming from our parish. Another $10,000 is needed to reach the goal, and I believe that goal will be reached before the Gregory’s leave for Guatemala. Your monetary gifts of support will be housed and administered by Good Samaritan, so whatever you give is tax deductible. You can write a check to Good Samaritan with “Guatemala Fund” in the memo line, or visit the Gregorys’ website to find out how to give online.
 
I ask for your generous support of their mission to Guatemala, and, more importantly, for your prayers as they leave us to serve the Lord in a different place.
 
With gratitude,
Fr. Steve+

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Off the Rails?

A couple of weeks ago Fr. Brian mentioned in his sermon that over the course of the summer we were going off the rails of the Lectionary track for a few weeks. The rubrics (instructions) in the Book of Common Prayer allow for this, and although I rarely do it, I chose to focus our attention over the summer on the Fruit of the Spirit. I did this for two reasons.
 
First, since the beginning of 2019 we’ve been on a Journey with Jesus, walking with him from his Baptism to the Resurrection. Then, walking with the early Christians on their journey from Easter and the promise of the Holy Spirit to Pentecost. Because the Holy Spirit fills us with the Spirit of Jesus, what does it actually mean in very practical terms to be a follower of Jesus filled with his Spirit? What difference does it make in our lives? How do we live and grow deeper in that reality?
 
The second reason has to do with our national conversation and, in particular, the co-opting of the Christian faith for political purposes. When one claims to be a follower of Christ, what does that actually mean? Does it mean simply that Jesus saves us from our sins so we can go to heaven when we die, but we can do pretty much whatever we please in the meantime? Does it mean that we can recite the Creed and with the same mouth vilify people who are different or disagree?
 
This is why I believe we as Episcopalians have a clear message to share with our friends and neighbors. To be a Christian is to pattern our lives after Jesus of Nazareth–to talk about and treat others with the respect we ourselves would expect were we the subject. I believe St. Paul wrote his description of the Fruit of the Spirit in Galatians with Jesus as his example. If we are followers of Christ and his Spirit lives in us, then we take on the characteristics of love, joy, peace, patience, and so on. To be a Christian—a Christ follower—means that we are seeking, with God’s and each other’s help, to form our character after the character of Jesus.
 
Now, I want to be quick to say that none of us perfectly manifests all of the Fruit of the Spirit. We are on a Journey, as our mission statement suggests. Sometimes we are very patient, and then we blow our cool in traffic! We seek to be more loving, then we listen to the news or something happens that makes it hard for us to respond with love and grace. So, we take two steps forward, and when we take one or two steps back, we lean into God’s mercy and ask forgiveness from those we’ve offended. Then, we continue to move forward, asking for God’s help to open our lives to grace, so that we actually reflect the character of Christ more and more. This is not an option for Christians. Jesus commanded us to love one another, and, yes, to love our enemies. Jesus was clear that how we treat the poor, the sick, the stranger, and the marginalized is how we treat our Lord himself.
 
The good news is that God, by the Spirit, will help us bear all the Fruit of the Spirit. We have God’s help, and the help of fellow Christians. That’s why worshiping and learning together as a Christian community is not just important, it’s absolutely critical if we want to live a Jesus kind of life. And, let’s be honest, who doesn’t want to live a life overflowing with joy, love, peace, patience, and generosity? And the really great news is that this kind of life is possible.
 
So, I hope you’ll be in church as often as you can this summer as we “go off the rails” of what we normally would do in preaching to drill down on what life in the Spirit is all about. God knows I need to hear it, and so does our hurting, broken world.
 
On the Journey,
Fr. Steve+

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From the Rector: The Least of These

Jesus replied, “Whenever you did it for the least of these, you did it to me.”
 
We are all aware that issues related to immigration to this country and the situation at our southern border have been thrust to the forefront in recent weeks. For persons of faith and anyone of good will, the images and reports of conditions at immigrant detention centers, especially for children, are deeply disturbing. Issues regarding immigration in this country are not new. Chinese immigrants faced opposition and persecution on the West Coast in the 19th century. Irish and European immigrants in the early 20th century faced similar treatment. In recent years, our national conversation about immigration policies have degenerated into partisan battles, name-calling, and—let’s face it—the tendency of many in our country to treat and talk about immigrants in terms that are less than human. The fear of the “other” stretches way back into our human history, beginning with the story of Cain and Abel. Remember when God confronts Cain for his treatment of his brother Abel? Cain responds to God, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” The Law of Moses, the Prophets, and the writings of the New Testament answer that question for Cain and for us. Yes, we are our sisters’ and brothers’ keepers.
 
For Christians of any political persuasion, when faced with any ethical, moral, or social issue, the final authority is the founder of our faith: Jesus. As trite as it may seem, we have to ask ourselves, “What would Jesus do?” How would Jesus instruct us to treat immigrants, to talk about them, and yes, to talk with one another about the issue? If you’re unsure about how to answer those questions, read the Gospels. Jesus seems to be pretty clear on how we treat the stranger and the vulnerable. Jesus often excoriated religious and political leaders because of their mistreatment of the vulnerable. And, yes, it was political because Jesus spoke to the political authorities and leaders of his day about the unfair and inhumane policies directed toward persons who, despite their social class or racial identity, were not treated with the respect due to persons created in the image of the Living God.
 
I am not naïve. The issues related to immigration are complex. Our political leaders have tried (or not) to address these issues, and yet here we are. As Christian citizens, we have a moral obligation to engage in the conversation, to call for the protection of the most vulnerable and challenge our political leaders when policies and actions fly in the face of Jesus’ teaching. We also have an obligation to pray for our leaders, regardless of political party, and the many government personnel on our borders who go about their jobs with compassion and integrity. We are to pray, too, for justice and mercy for all people—not just those who look and think like us.
 
This week the bishops of the Episcopal dioceses bordering Mexico released a joint statement. I commend it to you. You can find it here. Join me tomorrow night, too, for the prayer vigil at CWU. However you decide to respond and engage on this or any other human rights issue, remember that whatever you do in serving the “least of these” you are doing for Christ himself.
 
In Christ,
Fr. Steve+
 
 

Lights for Liberty: A Vigil to End Human Concentration Camps Friday, July 12, at 7:45 pm (CWU Sammamish)

Plateaupians for Peace are organizing participation with Lights for Liberty to hold a vigil protesting the inhumane conditions faced by refugees along our very own borders. If you would like to join a group from Good Samaritan going to this vigil, contact Fr. Steve.

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From the Rector: Celebrating Freedom

“We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.” —The Declaration of Independence
 
A good way to celebrate the 4th of July is by reading the Declaration of Independence, written by Thomas Jefferson and edited by Benjamin Franklin 246 years ago. It is an amazing document. It announces to the world that the thirteen British colonies in the New World are now independent, and it eloquently expresses the reasons why.
 
It is signed by the delegates elected by the thirteen colonial assemblies and sent to Philadelphia to meet as a Continental Congress. John Adams signed there in his neat, legible hand. John Hancock signed with a flourish easy to spot. Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and Benjamin Rush signed too. Not surprisingly, 32 out of the 56 signers were Anglican.
 
If you look carefully in the next-to-last column, about two-thirds of the way down, you will see the signature of John Witherspoon. I respect the wisdom and intellect of Jefferson, Franklin, and Adams, but Witherspoon is a particular favorite character of mine. He was a Presbyterian minister, the president of the College of New Jersey, which became Princeton University, originally a thoroughly Presbyterian institution. He was the only clergy to sign the Declaration, and when he did, he said something about it being better to sign that document and be hanged as a traitor than to die of old age.
 
When the 56 signers declared that all men are created equal and that governments derive their power from the consent of the governed, they were contradicting at least 5,000 years of human experience and history. Equality and consent of the governed were radical new ideas. The new republic and its founders were not perfect, but think of how that new, fragile concept of liberty has evolved and grown over the years. It was launched in 1776 by a group of white men, most of whom owned slaves. The Constitution was ratified in 1789, the Bill of Rights was added in 1791, and the project didn’t get around to abolishing slavery until 1865. In 1870, nearly a century after the founding, the Fifteenth Amendment declared that no person could be denied the right to vote on the basis of color or race. Women were not added to that list until 1920, when the Nineteenth Amendment was passed. Add to the list the Voting Rights Act and the Supreme Court decision that legalized same-sex marriage, two acts still in recent memory for many. We are a work in progress.
 
Perhaps the best part of the whole experiment, along with religious freedom, is the idea of the dignity, autonomy, and worth of the individual. Of course, looking at it from the Christian perspective, this idea of the dignity of every human being is rooted in the biblical revelation of God. God creates humankind, gives them autonomy, dignity, and purpose, and even when they abuse these divinely given gifts, the Creator does not abandon them or withdraw his blessing, but through the redemptive work of Christ and the Church reveals and restores the imprint of the very image of God on every human being. For Christians who are a part of the great American experiment, living in a country where there is freedom to explore what it means to respect the dignity of every human being is a great gift, as well as a great responsibility.
 
So, we give thanks for this freedom and for those who gave fortune, reputation, and life to secure it, but as the Scriptures tell us, we have not arrived in the Promised Land. One of the great errors the American Christian can make is to believe that America is our Promised Land and, in these troubled days, to go to any extreme to make it so, even at the risk of blatant disobedience to the way of life Jesus called us to. For the Christian, the Kingdom of God is the ultimate allegiance. Our faith calls us to a greater freedom—freedom not enshrined in the Constitution or the laws of the land, but in what we Christians call, interestingly, the law of Christ: loving God with all that we are and have, loving our neighbors as ourselves, turning the other cheek, going the second mile, loving our enemies, protecting and speaking up for the poor, the vulnerable, and the marginalized. For Christians, freedom is not license to do whatever we want when we want, but rather the freedom to live in such an authentic way that the Kingdom of God actually becomes a present reality in our own lives, and in the lives of the people we touch in some way every day.
 
So, on the 4th of July we celebrate two birthrights: the birthright of freedom we have because we are fortunate enough to live here in this country, and the birthright of the freedom we are given in baptism, the freedom to become who God has created us to be, the freedom to work and pray that God’s Kingdom may come and his will may be done on earth as it is in heaven, and the freedom and the call to respect the dignity of every human being.

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By Our Love

Yesterday evening, on June 19, about two dozen Good Samaritans worshiped with the congregation of Primm Tabernacle African Methodist Episcopal Church. Pastor Mercedes reminded us that June 19 was the celebration of “Juneteenth,” the day when African American slaves in Texas finally learned of the Emancipation Proclamation made effective on January 1 of that year. She remarked that we had come a long way, evidenced by our worshiping together, but still had a long way to go in the work of racial reconciliation. Our choir then sang an arrangement of “We are one in the Spirit, we are one in the Lord.” This song was written in the 1960s by Peter Scholtes, a Roman Catholic priest in Chicago, for the parish youth choir. He wrote the song to be used at ecumenical and interracial events in the city. If you lived through the ’60s, you’ll know firsthand the sentiment behind the text of the song.
 
We are one in the Spirit, we are one in the Lord.
We are one in the Spirit, we are one in the Lord.
And we pray that our unity may one day be restored,
And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love,
Yes, they’ll know we are Christians by our love.
 
I remember the first time I heard the song. I was a freshman in college, and attended what was considered a “liberal” Assemblies of God church in Springfield, Missouri. They were considered “liberal” because of the racial mix of the congregation and their emphasis on social justice. I was struck by that last line, “they’ll know we are Christians by our love.” Not by our doctrinal purity, or how religious we are, or what church we belonged to, but “by our love.”
 
The 19th century English writer Henry Drummond wrote, “We have been accustomed to be told that the greatest thing in the religious world is faith. Well, we are wrong.” The greatest thing, as St. Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 13, is love.
 
In Galatians 5, St. Paul mentions love first in his list of “the fruit of the Spirit.” Why? Come to church on Sunday, June 23, and find out! We begin our summer series on the Fruit of the Spirit. I will give you a teaser, however. I think Paul listed love first because all of the other fruit—patience, kindness, peace, etc.—flow out of and are, in a way, elements or expressions of love. Living in love is possible, scripture tells us, because “God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us” (Romans 5:5).
 
Two weeks ago we celebrated the coming of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost, and now we are in the season of Pentecost. It’s a good time to reflect upon and consider the work of the Spirit in the transformation of our own character and the Spirit’s work to help us fulfill our baptismal promise to “proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ.” The best place to start is love.
 
“They’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love. Yes, they’ll know we are Christians by our love.”
 
—Fr. Steve+

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