Dear Saint Matthew’s,
The scriptures we will hear at Sunday worship this weekend will begin with the words of the 1st verse of the 22nd chapter of the book of Genesis:
After these things God tested Abraham. He said to him, "Abraham!" And he said, "Here I am."
Do you remember what comes after that? Whoa, you gotta hear it, though it is likely one of the most difficult words of Scripture to hear, wondered about by Jews, Christians, and Muslims, who share one ancestor in Abraham, for thousands of years now.
Just two things I will say here, perhaps to wet your appetite:
 Whenever God calls, the response of God’s servants in scripture is always what Abraham said that day, “Here I am.” You know it’s meant to be the same for us, if we consider ourselves servants of God. Our attitude to life is fundamentally one of listening expectantly for the voice of God. We not only expect to hear God speak. We expect to hear God’s voice addressed to each of us, sometimes in terms of the nitty-gritty details of our ordinary lives; other times in terms of the big stuff going on around us as we live. Be ready to look up and respond, “Here I am.”
 But there are three words that come earlier in that verse that can be quite disturbing, “God tested Abraham.” All through my life we have liked to assert that God is comfort. And yes, for sure, a God who is defined as ‘love’ is going to be comfort. But at times, love is also a challenge. I believe it is more than okay, that it is real truth, to consider ourselves to be living now in a time of testing. To admit is to be able to engage the test. To admit is to ask for the gift of courage. I need to do that these days. Do you?
This past Sunday the Vestry voted to bring together a committee, a task group made up both of Vestry members and other parishioners, to respond to the guidelines provided by church and state for opening our church building again to use. Churches all around us are at various points in the same process. We are seeking to do so carefully and well, safeguarding the health and wellbeing of all, and keeping in mind the sacred reasons why we gather as a community of faith. I am grateful, as I am sure you will be as well, to our sisters and brothers who are working on the committee. The committee members are:
Dr. Rebecca Kasenge
Please pray through these days for the success of their deliberations.
Do join us this Sunday at 10 and following on the Zoom Coffee Hour to offer our community’s sincere congratulations to our graduates in this year of 2020.
Blessings and peace to all,
Dear Saint Matthew’s,
I pray that you are feeling well this day and this week. It could be that for many of us, perhaps especially among the younger of us, this period is the longest time that we have been asked, for any reason in our lives, to be patient. And that in turn may mean that we experience being patient for a length of time a difficult thing to do. It asks a discipline of us to which we are not accustomed, most likely. Even more, the fact that we are asked to be disciplined at all may be hard for us.
Some of us at Saint Matthew’s have families and earlier lives rooted in other cultures, most often those of the African continent. It may be (I would be interested to hear from you on this) that those cultures perhaps remain closer to what was in the past characteristic of culture here in North America. We have always been a people of hope, and of faith, but in the past certain experiences were expected by our forebears:
The very word patience is instructive. It comes to us from the Old French of the 12th century, and its roots there are directly in Latin. Its meaning then was the quality of suffering or enduring. It was a quality inherent within a person. The patient person would be bearing, supporting; suffering, enduring, . . . tolerant. A person of patience would make it through difficulty. That doesn’t mean it would be easy, only that it would be possible and the person of patience was committed to enduring whatever came. Interestingly, the meaning of the word is completed by the fact that patience also included being firm and unyielding. In other words, not only is patience not a weakness, it is a strength.
Patience is on my mind now because we are well into the time of this pandemic. But we don’t know exactly how far into it we are. We cannot know precisely yet how much more will be asked of us, in this season or in a future one, before the danger and the suffering are past. You will have seen that there are those in our nation who are losing patience. As hard as it can be to accept this discipline, I am convinced that strength lies with the patient, rather than with the peremptory, a word we inherit from the 15th century with the original meaning of destructive. So dear ones, let us pray for patience, for ourselves and for all, each day and hour.
As we wait, the idea has been raised that those who are skilled with cloth among us may be able (and willing?) to fashion masks that we could provide to those who do not have any, and to those living in situations where the danger of contagion is great. There are many instructions online as to how masks can be made. If you might be willing, email to email@example.com with the subject line “Masks.” And thank you!
Finally there are changes these days on our parish website. Please visit there often. You can enter discussion there on our response to Covid-19 as a church, ask for prayers, go directly to the website of our Diocese and more. Beginning today there will be a new page simply called Today. Each day it will note what’s going on for Saint Matthew’s, along with resources and ways of encouragement. So visit it everyday as a part of your patient routine.
Pray over Saint Paul’s words in his first letter to the Church at Corinth in the 4th verse of chapter 13. You have heard these words many times: “Love is patient.”
Yours in the rising Christ,
With thanks to the Online Etymology Dictionary
April 16, 2020
Dear Saint Matthew’s,
Blessings to you this Thursday! There are blessings to be had when we have the eyes and ears and hearts to recognize them. Even now. As our good Presiding Bishop wisely reminded us last Sunday, despite the changed and painful reality of the human world all around us, “It’s Easter anyway.” Christ is risen, and in his risen body is the final reminder of God’s desire for you and me and every human person. That is still worth an Alleluia!
Listening with an open ear to the various updates from government at all levels, and what the news media offer as well, it seems that we are in for a long haul of a changed style of life. Even as - we pray in good time when the data indicates it is as safe as we can know - things begin to open up again around us, some elements of social distancing and other safety measures will be with us for longer. Christianity, as it learned from Judaism, always faces reality head-on (even when it’s ugly), because in the end, God who is Real is found in the reality of each time and place. So we will have to be vigilant about, among other things, the possibility of a resurgence of infection in later seasons of the year. To give but one example; As your priest, my first intention in terms of our life together as Christ’s church is to make sure that you are safe when we are together again at church, whenever that will be.
Right up there with that concern is that we find ways to be solicitous, (no, more than that!) loving in the name of Jesus to one another in our faith community and to the community around us where we have been placed to serve in Christ’s name. This is not simple, but it is at the heart of our mission. As a little step toward our talking about how we continue to be the church throughout this time, I created last evening an online bulletin board dedicated as a place where we can raise needs and ideas around how we are to live faith, hope, and love during the time of the pandemic. I encourage you to be present and active in that conversation. You can click to it through a posting on our Facebook page. It is also found on a new dedicated page on the church website. The page is entitled Saint Matthew’s Cares Covid Response. Finally, you can also arrive at the same bulletin board from your web browser by entering https://tinyurl.com/StMatthewsCares. What might appear there? It could be as simple as a parishioner noting that they could use help getting groceries or picking up a medication at the pharmacy. Then offline and in private, another member of the parish could be in touch and help. Or, someone might raise an idea, or encouragement, about how we as a parish could be of more support right now to the South Worcester Neighborhood Improvement Center or another organization, or how we might be of encouragement to some of the groups who usually meet in our hall but cannot do so presently. The possibilities are many. I would ask you to let your imagination be led by your heart. Visit the bulletin board and participate actively. And in the end, as noted above, all will be done only with constant planning and concern for the safety and health of all.
Two more things in this (excuse me) long note! Now that there is wifi connection in the Rectory (thank you Tim Rossi and all), I am working on the parish website. Check it out and email me your suggestions. One thing I am going to add is another bulletin board, like the Saint Matthew’s Cares one described above, which will be solely for the gathering of prayer intentions in one place. There will be a password for this page for the sake of privacy, which will be sent to all on the parish email list. You may note also that on the homepage of Saint Matthew’s site there is now a section which features the latest updates from us on Facebook. This makes Saint Matthew’s Facebook material now available to those of us not members of Facebook. A step forward.
Be patient, be safe, and look for the blessings in each day.
Yours in the risen Christ,