From Father Beddingfield: Do we look up or do we look out?
“And while they were gazing into heaven as [Jesus] went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, and said, ‘Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven?’”—Acts 1:10-11a
After the resurrection of Jesus, the disciples enjoyed forty days during which Jesus continued to appear to them, to teach them, to invite them closer, and to lead them. And then he was gone. He ascended into heaven, returning to the Father, allowing the Holy Spirit free movement on earth. I can imagine those first disciples, looking upward in confusion and awe. I imagine there might have been other feelings too, as Jesus was taken from them. I expect they might have been angry that he was leaving them, afraid of being abandoned, worried about what might come next, wondering who now might lead them.
As we move through the days after the Ascension, there are a number of reasons for us to feel a little of what the disciples might have felt. As a nation, we continue to face confusing changes in the economy and in the threat of terrorism and war. As Christians, we cling to what has sustained us and nurtured us through the years, but are perplexed that most of our churches seem not to be growing, while other faiths and a multitude of individualized spiritualities seem to grow. As a parish, we are in transition. Father Smith and Father Weiler are both leaving us. Several of our most faithful parishioners will be moving later this summer. Increasingly, there are stranger and newcomers among us. In the next few months, we will be looking for a new administrative assistant, adjusting staff roles, and trying some new programs and events aimed at attracting newcomers and keeping them, as well as sustaining and increasing the involvement of our core parish.
My temptation is sometimes to gaze into heaven. I can feel overwhelmed and afraid. I am unsure of the next step. I don’t want things to change, but I understand that change and growth and life are all interconnected. I want everyone to be happy, and want to avoid conflict and anything that might cause discomfort or agitation. But then, I’m reminded of those angels whose words must have shook those early disciples out of their daze of denial and delay. “Why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”
The angels’ words wake us up and ask us to choose whether to keep looking up, or to begin to look out. When they say to the disciples that Jesus will come in the same way that he ascended, I don’t think they mean that he will solely come in clouds and with smoke at the end of time. Instead, I think the angels suggest that Jesus comes as he continues to surprise, to astound, to do and to cause the unexpected for the kingdom of heaven. While the Acts of the Apostles may not convey an exact chronology of events, it seems that after the Ascension, those early disciples went back to Jerusalem and regrouped. They relied upon each other and their shared experience of Jesus. They prayed and they worshipped and they awaited the Holy Spirit. Even then, they were beginning to understand the promise of Jesus, that he would not leave them comfortless. That he would be continue to be in their midst, but in a new way.
In these days after the Ascension, as we prepare to say some good-byes and as we say several hellos, I invite you to pray for Saint Mary’s. Pray for those who are leaving and pray for those who are coming. Pray with confidence and joy because the Holy Spirit is already among us and is busy both within and without. I invite you not to look up for Jesus, gazing into the clouds, but look out. Look out into the eyes of one another and see there the risen Lord, the Body of Christ that lives and lives for ever. –John Beddingfield
PRAYER LIST . . . Your prayers are asked for Alice who is gravely ill, for Marjorie who is hospitalized, and for Lois, Joan, Joanne, Eva, Nicholas, Bart, Brett, Nicole, Jack, Thomas, Annie, Patricia, Paul, Robert, Gloria, Jerri, Margaret, Marion, Olga, Rick, and Charles, priest; for the members of our Armed Forces on active duty, especially Timothy, Jonathan, Patrick, Edward, Keith, Kevin, Christopher, Andrew, Joseph, Mark, Ned, Timothy, David, John and Colin. . . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . . June 1: 1993 Kenneth William Cloughley, Jr.; June 6: 1959 Grace Frisby Conklin; 1959: Dudley Harrison Briggs.
LITURGICAL NOTES . . . The Sunday Proper: Acts 1: 15-26, Psalm 47, 1 John 5: 9-15, John 17: 11b-19 . . . Confessions will be heard on Saturday, May 31, by Father Weiler, and on Saturday, June 7, by Father Smith.
NOTES ON MUSIC . . . This week we again welcome Mr. Dale Bonenberger who will play for the Sung Mass. The prelude and postlude will be Fugues of Jean-François Dandrieu (c. 1682-1738). At the Solemn Mass, played by assistant organist Robert McDermitt, the prelude will be Cantabile from Trois Pièces by César Franck (1822-1890) and the postlude will be Heut triumphieret Gottes Sohn, BWV 630 by J. S. Bach (1685-1750). The setting of the Mass ordinary is Missa brevis by Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina (1525-1594) and the anthem at Communion is O God, the King of glory by Henry Purcell (1659-1695). We continue our organ recital series before Solemn Evensong & Benediction. This week, we welcome Mr. B Andrew Mills, organist and choirmaster of Saint Agnes’ Church, Manhattan, who will play works of J. S. Bach.
AROUND THE PARISH . . . Confessions will be heard on Saturday, May 24, and on Saturday, May 31 . . . The Rector will be away from the parish until Thursday, June 5. Father Weiler will be in residence during this time. The home telephone numbers of the rector and the curates are listed in the Manhattan white pages under their own names so that they can be reached in case of emergency . . .Father Beddingfield will be away from Tuesday, May 27 through Friday, May 30, attending the Automated Church Systems conference in Nashville. The conference offers classes and conversations with other church database users about ways to use technology for evangelism, outreach, fiscal management and parish growth . . . Attendance last Sunday 260.
The Calendar of the Week
Sunday The Seventh Sunday of Easter
Monday Martyrs of Lyon
Tuesday Martyrs of Uganda
Wednesday Easter Weekday
Thursday Boniface, archbishop & martyr
Friday Easter Weekday No Abstinence
Saturday Of Our Lady
The Parish Clergy
The Reverend Stephen Gerth, rector,
The Reverend Matthew Weiler, The Reverend John Beddingfield, curates,
The Reverend James Ross Smith, assistant,
The Reverend Rosemari Sullivan, assisting priest,
The Reverend Canon Edgar F. Wells, rector emeritus.