From Father Beddingfield: Living for the Kingdom
This article is adapted from Father’s sermon on Sunday, July 24, 2005.
Last week, Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas, moved into the former Compaq Sports Arena and made it their new home. Now, I wouldn’t have a lot in common with the worship or even much of the theology at Lakewood, but we’re missing something if we don’t look at them with some admiration. Can you imagine a church – any church you know – having the faith to buy a sports arena? Think of the churches in New York City. Our Diocese, having had several opportunities, cannot even pull together enough resources to buy the former Church of the Holy Communion back from the nightclub industry. Say what you will about places like Lakewood, but they know something about living into the kingdom of God, about ordering life as though the kingdom of God is happening right now, right here. Jesus says, “The kingdom of God is at hand.”
A little closer to home is a church in Jamaica, Queens. Former congressman Floyd Flake’s church is now called the Greater Allen AME Cathedral of New York. They don’t have a bishop like we think of a bishop – but they think big and they live for the kingdom of God. With their 23,000 members, the church itself now has spun off 19 non-profits that help the church get its ministry done. They own housing, they run a school, they even have a transportation company. You name it, they have it.
We may not like these churches. We may not approve of the way they worship God. We can enumerate ways we might think they have fallen from tradition or perhaps even veered into heresy – but they know something about the risk and the faith of kingdom living. We can ridicule their success, but at some point don’t we have to ask ourselves, “If our life and work is really about living into the kingdom, then why is it that we are worried about keeping our doors open, and these churches are praising God, loving Jesus, and changing the world – and doing it all with flush bank accounts?”
Part of the answer for us lies in the mustard seed, the leaven and the pearl of great price. One aspect of the kingdom of God is that it unfolds in its own time table. It cannot be fully planned, strategized or outlined. At Saint Mary’s we have some good mustard seeds but they need to be watered. They need to be nurtured. They need to be encouraged. And so I want to challenge us all to do three things over the next few weeks.
We need kingdom thinking. One of you mentioned some time ago, “We talk about growth and wanting to grow but are we praying for it?” The question is a good one. I want all of us to be praying for the growth of God’s kingdom everywhere, but especially at Saint Mary’s. We want to grow not so that we can pay the bills or feel strong, but so that more people can know the transforming love and power of Jesus Christ. We celebrate that love in a special way at Saint Mary’s and we want more people to experience it with us. Kingdom thinking directs our prayers.
We need kingdom talking. August 15 is coming and the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary is celebrated at Saint Mary’s like nowhere else. Invite someone to come to Saint Mary’s with you. If you’re away, that means you need to invite two people, because you need to have someone here in your place. There is no reason why we don’t have 800 people here that night. Kingdom talking invites and shares and includes.
And finally, we need more kingdom living. What is your role at Saint Mary’s? What is your place? Do you simply keep a spot on the pews from being dusty, or do you add something to the mix? Do you pray for the church? Do you volunteer for the church? Do you get your workplace or company to help in some way? Do you fold flyers? Do you simply straighten up the back table when you walk by, or pick up trash? What do you do to contribute to the growth of the kingdom of God from Saint Mary’s? Kingdom living means being involved and staying committed. May God bless us as we grow more faithfully into the Kingdom of God on earth and in heaven. John Beddingfield
PRAYER LIST . . . Your prayers are asked for Lloyd, Mikhail, Deborah, Henry, Charlton, Virginia, William, Naresh, Ajai, Annette, Donna, Mary, Virginia, Tony, Ibo, Penn, Gilbert, Robert, Gloria, Marion, Mamie, Rick, Thomas, priest and Charles, priest; for the members of our Armed Forces on active duty, especially Bruce, Brenden, Jonathan, Joseph, Timothy, Christopher, David, Nestor, Freddie, Derrick, Christina and Barbara and for the repose of the soul of Stephen. . . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . . . July 30: 1986 Elizabeth Collins; August 1: 1969 Mabel Upson; August 4: 1996 Harold Anderson Worrell.
LITURGICAL NOTES . . . The Sunday Proper: Nehemiah 9:16-20, Psalm 78:14-25, Romans, Romans 8:35-39, Matthew 14:13-21. . . Father Mead will be the celebrant and preacher for the 9:00 AM and the 5:20 PM Masses . . . Father Gerth will be the celebrant and preacher for the 10:00 AM Sung Mass the 11:00 AM Solemn Mass . . . On Saturday, July 30, Father Gerth will hear confessions . . . On Saturday, August 6 Father Smith will hear confessions. . . Friday, August 5, is the Eve of the Transfiguration. Sung Mass will be offered at 6:00 PM. Father Beddingfield will be the celebrant and preacher.
THE ORDINARY FRIDAYS of the year are observed by special acts of discipline and self-denial in commemoration of the crucifixion of the Lord.
NOTES ON MUSIC . . . This Sunday at the Solemn Mass, the prelude is Prelude and Fugue in G minor by Healey Willian (1880-1968). The postlude is an improvisation on the hymn tune ‘Austria’, our offertory hymn at Mass. The cantor this Sunday is Ms. Ruth Cunningham, soprano. The setting of Sanctus, Benedictus and Agnus Dei will be improvised by the cantor. At Communion, she will sing Ave Maria by Ed Thompson (b. 1950). Dr. Thompson, minister of music at the Unitarian Church in Westport, Connecticut, is a friend of Ms. Cunningham and an alumnus of the Juilliard School, New York. Robert McCormick
AROUND THE PARISH . . . Eighteen of the faithful braved the heat in Saint Joseph’s Hall for movie night last Friday. Thanks to all who came and brought friends. The next movie night will be Friday, August 26, 2005 following the regular Friday night Said Mass . . . Does anyone in the parish have experience or knowledge of English as a Second Language Programs? If so, please contact Father Beddingfield at firstname.lastname@example.org or speak to him at church . . . St. Mary’s Announcements coming to your inbox soon! We have created an e-mail address for our special announcements of services and events at St. Mary’s. . . Attendance Last Sunday 229.
THE ART TO HELPING THE HOMELESS . . . .In 1992 Ronald Casanova, formerly homeless artist and community organizer, formed a group called Artists for a Better America. The group uses art with homeless persons and the poor to improve self-esteem, change myths about poor people, raise funds, and improve quality of life. Through the end of August, Saint Mary’s will be collecting the following: small canvases, gesso, paintbrushes, paints (acrylic and oil), small notebooks and journals, drawing pads, pencils, and as Mr. Casanova puts it “just about anything else you all may think of.” You may leave things in the bin in Saint Joseph’s Hall or may also write a check to Saint Mary’s (note on your check, “art supplies”). Mr. Casanova will be the speaker at one of our Mission Mondays this fall.
HONDURAS MISSION INFORMATION NIGHT: Monday, September 26 . . . Join Rebecca Weiner, Noel Hennelly, Father Beddingfield and others who went to Honduras last year for an evening of learning and looking forward. We will begin to plan for our 2006 mission. Join us at the Church of St. Luke in the Fields for snacks, stories and information on a trip than can change your life.
LITURGICS 101 . . . About the Real Presence: Since the middle of the first millennium, the nature of the Lord’s Eucharistic presence has been a matter of intense theological debate and controversy among Western Christians. Questions are asked; answers are given. Western Christianity has been shaped by a fundamentalist minimalism. When does the bread become the Body? How much wine do you have to put in the chalice? How much water? How often do I have to come to Mass? What do we do if the Wine spills? Who can eat? Who can drink? How often? How may people have to be present for there to be a Mass? These kinds of questions still grip many Western Christians. Some are not unimportant but they provide a context that tends to separate sacramental signs from the life of God’s people. Western Christianity has had a very hard time seeing and believing in God’s Real Presence among the baptized. Yet the chief sign of God’s presence anywhere in this world, in any physical structure in this world, is the assembly of God’s own people. Jesus said, “I am with you always.” We Episcopalians believe God is truly present in his world, not truly absent, in many ways. He is present in the assembly of the baptized, that is, the Church. He is present when the Church celebrates the Sacraments. He is present in the sacramental signs themselves, yes, truly present in Bread, in Wine, in the laying on of hands, in absolution. God still speaks to us through the Holy Bible. In Matthew’s Gospel Jesus warned his disciples about those who failed to recognize him in the poor, the sick, the hungry, the naked and those in prison. We are called to be people who see and value God’s Presence in all its forms and to let each form of his Presence lead us closer to him.
The Calendar of the Week
Sunday The Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost
Monday Joseph of Arimathea
Friday Weekday Abstinence
Eve of the Transfiguration 6:00 PM
Saturday The Transfiguration of Our Lord Jesus Christ
The Parish Clergy
The Reverend Stephen Gerth, rector,
The Reverend John Beddingfield, The Reverend Matthew Mead, curates,
The Reverend Ian Bruce Montgomery, The Reverend James Ross Smith, assisting priests,
The Reverend R. William Franklin, assisting deacon,
The Reverend Canon Edgar F. Wells, rector emeritus.