Weekly Word for October 31, 2014

October 29th, 2014

To download a PDF of the November Monthly Message, click here.

Daylight Savings Time ends on Sunday at 2 am!

Set your clock back and enjoy and extra hour of sleep before church.

Annoyed by Grace: There’s a Guy Named Jesus

A reflection by The Rev. Doyt Conn

Dear Epiphany, The story of the Prodigal Son is a Christian favorite. The theme of grace is driven home as the father throws his arms around the son, the wayward son, when he returns. It is an image I want to own. It is a way I hope to act—as a father with open arms, as a priest with open arms, as a person full of grace.

But there are times when I feel more like the older brother. He was the one who stayed with the father as his younger brother went gallivanting away. He was the one who asked: “What have you done for me lately?” “I have been here all this time, and you never gave me a fatted calf.” “I have done what I was supposed to do, and yet you throw a party for my wasteful brother.” “Shame on you, father.” “I have minded the shop, I have cared for the crops, and I have managed the resources, and he got what was good.” “Where is my reward?” I feel like that sometimes.

It is a feeling, not a fact, of course. It is not set by any objective measure. It is a perception, not a reality, observed from my own point of view. But isn’t that true for all of us? Trapped by our perspective, which, at least in my case, is the only perspective that gives insight and truth to a situation. Grace annoys us, or at least grace annoyed me. I am annoyed by grace, as applied to other people. That is an older son’s mentality, and that is often the religious mentality.

Religion means to be united or joined with something. The word religion comes from Latin where re means “to tie or bind,” lig comes from the word “ligament,” and ion means “to rely upon.” The missing association here is the final piece, the piece where all minds go when the word religion is spoken: God. Are you religious? Our answer to that question is often directly correlated to our relationship with church. But church and religion is not the same thing, nor are they correlative. Everyone has a religion. Everyone has a thing they worship, an idea that holds supremacy in their mind, an allegiance that prevails over all else. Everyone has a religion, and rarely does it have anything to do with Jesus, Christianity, or even going to church. That is as true with the elder son as it is with any hardened atheist and wishy-washy agnostic. That is true with me as well.

Jesus came to abolish religion. Think of all of the stories of Jesus in hot debate with the Pharisees and Sadducees. Jesus was and is all about grace. Here is how Jefferson Bethke put it in his book Jesus > Religion:

“Religion says do. Jesus says done. Religion is man searching for God. Jesus is God searching for man. Religion is pursuing God by our moral efforts. Jesus is God pursuing us despite our moral efforts. Religious people kill for what they believe in. Jesus followers die for what they believe in.”

I asked myself about my religion this morning. I woke up very late for me—5:45 am on a Tuesday stands way outside the standard deviating norm for me. I went to pray, and I wondered if it would be “OK” if I just meditated rather than reading my Hour by Hour plus meditating. Doing, effort, moral obedience, belief—these were the objects of my meditation. And then I thought about grace. I thought that maybe today I need a little grace. It was a silly thought. I need a little bit of grace every day, whether I read my Hour by Hour and meditate, or just meditate, or do nothing at all. And every day I am given a huge pile of overwhelming, super-abundant, wildly loving heaps, mounds, and stacks of grace; just like the oldest son was given heaps, mounds, and stacks of grace. He didn’t deserve it. It isn’t correlated to his religion, his doing, his effort, moral obedience, or belief. Grace is not a thing, a feeling, an ascent, or an understanding. Grace is a person, who freely gave himself to you and me and all people over all time as a free gift.

Grace is a guy named Jesus. And our response is not that of action, it is community, association, and friendship. It is the hug of the father to the younger son. It is the father extending himself to the older son, even as he is standing outside the party sulking over the treatment of his younger brother. Grace is a guy who loves everyone, and sometimes that annoys me, like it did the older brother. And when I get annoyed by fairness and my efforts verses someone else’s efforts, or lack there of, I consider the guy named Jesus. I consider community, association, and friendship.

Grace is not a fixed pie. Grace is bigger than the world. We swim in it. My pool is Epiphany. My water is Christianity. This is the method I obey as a pattern for linking my ligaments to the one who loved me first.

—Doyt

Stewardship Witness: Diane Carlisle

God Loves a Cheerful Giver?

I have many wonderful early memories of attending church at Church of the Resurrection in Bellevue. I was baptized there, and we were the first parishioners to worship in our new building, bringing folding chairs and pillows into the nave to worship (I was too little to carry a chair, but I could handle a pillow). One puzzling memory was something I heard in Sunday school. My teacher told us that God loves a cheerful giver. We were told to give a portion of our allowance to God and to be happy as we did so. I obediently pasted that happy look on my face, but in reality I wasn’t so happy giving my money to God, never to be seen again. I didn’t know what God was going to do with my money, but it was expected, and I wanted God’s love, and although I wasn’t sure how the two were connected, I did it anyway.

Fast forward to young adulthood. Terry and I found ourselves drawn to the vibrant community of Epiphany in 1982. Following marriage money was scarce, but time before children was abundant. We cheerfully gave of our time to Epiphany, but not so much of our money. Terry and I taught Sunday school, ushered, served at the altar, served on the vestry, and volunteered our time for other ministries as well. We gave what we thought we could. After all, it appeared to us Epiphany didn’t need our money. It seemed others who had more than us were helping balance Epiphany’s budget. Years passed, children came, and our income increased. We “tried” to increase our pledge but there was always something else that demanded our money: saxophone lessons, daycare, school trips, leaky roofs, etc. Time became scarcer as well. We always fulfilled our pledge, but it was just another bill we paid. To me it was something like paying dues to belong to a club that we enjoyed being a part of. Cheerful? Not quite, but Epiphany was our church, and it was something we did.

As the years passed I found my relationship with Epiphany and God changing. Epiphany became much more than a community with whom I worshiped God. It is at Epiphany that I learned of God’s love for each of us, and that I truly experienced that love in a way I had never dreamed was possible. The joy of that love that manifested through worship, study, and prayer is extraordinary. I now know that the more I pray, worship God, and learn, the more I live in God’s Kingdom. God is very present in my life! Truly remarkable! And that is something worthy of giving great thanks for.

When considering our pledge now, Terry and I have shifted away from “What does Epiphany need to maintain or expand its programs?” or “What can we afford?” or “By what percentage should we increase our pledge?” and shifted toward “How much can we give in thanksgiving for all that God has done for us?” We find ourselves wanting to tithe, wanting to give more and more. Our gift is just that: a gift. It is extravagant. It is given in joy. It is our first consideration when looking at our income, not what is left over. It is not tied to what we think Epiphany needs. We trust the leaders of Epiphany to use our gift in a way that continues to maintain and grow Epiphany as an outpost of the Kingdom of God.

Back to cheerful giving. I now consider myself a cheerful giver. I understand that giving back to God what God has given to us is a tangible outward sign of deep gratitude, a gift given in love for the gift of love given to us. However, along the way I have also learned that God loves everyone. He loves us when we give. He loves us when we aren’t so cheerful in our giving, and He even loves us when we don’t give anything at all. But I can honestly say that our giving is cheerful, and brings us great joy. May you consider your giving cheerfully in thanksgiving and glory to God!

—Diane Carlisle

You Are Invited to Join a Worship Review Focus Group

Many thanks to all of you who completed the worship survey. We are excited about the long-term prospects of worship at Epiphany and especially those that involve expanded opportunities once construction is complete. Our upcoming construction beginning on January may feel akin to musical chairs as we accommodate worship and the many activities that are held in our common parish home, but we will happily adjust and readjust as construction moves from one side of the campus to the other.

In order to allow plenty of time for planning services that will begin once construction is complete, we’ve are now inviting you to participate in focus groups for your further input on worship. Please join us on a date and time that best suits your schedule. All of the focus group meetings will be held in the Christie House library unless otherwise indicated.

  • Friday, November 7, noon–1 pm
  • Sunday, November 9, 9–10 am and noon–1 pm
  • Sunday, November 16, 9–10 am
  • Tuesday, November 18, 7–8 pm
  • Thursday, November 20, 8:30–9:30 am (Fireside Room)

If you are unable to attend a focus group meeting but want to send added input, please feel free to send your further input with subject line “Epiphany worship review” to email address: putnamjulia@juno.com

Worship Review Survey Team
Julia S. Putnam, Brad Neary, Ann Beck, Steve Day, Kate Wesch

Remembering Our Departed Loved Ones in November

During the month of November, it is the custom at Epiphany to give Members of our community the opportunity to remember and honor family members and friends who have died. This year we will be commemorating our departed loved ones with:

An Altar of Remembrance will begin on November 2, All Souls’ Day, in the Chapel and continue through Sunday, November 30. You are invited to bring a photo of your departed loved one to leave on the altar for the month. Make sure you put your name on the back so it can be returned.

The Book of Remembrance is by the Altar of Remembrance in the chapel during the month of November. You are invited to write the names of your departed loved ones in this book so that they may be prayed for by the Parish. The Chapel is open daily from 8 am to 5 pm.

Delilah: A Palestinian Hairdresser

An Imaginative Exploration by Libby Goldstein

My name is Delilah. Oh, I know, you say, “that evil woman, that tramp.” But let me tell you my story. I am a Philistine woman, (you call us Palestinians today). I was a single woman trying to support myself, and that was even harder in my day than today, let me tell you! There weren’t many options for a single woman to make a living. I became a hairdresser, and a good one at that, still struggling to make ends meet, no pun intended. One day leaders of my town came to me with a proposition I couldn’t resist. They offered to pay me a handsome sum of money (1,100 silver shekels) if I would cozy up to the Israeli hero Samson, and find out the secret of his strength so they could defeat him. Of course I took their offer; it would give me economic security for years to come!

Now you probably think of Samson as a great hero, but to me he was brash, arrogant, and egotistical with a bad temper, to mention a few of his traits. Let me tell you one story about him, and you’ll understand what I mean. One day he noticed a Palestinian woman in his town, and he liked the way she looked, so he went home and told his parents: “I want her, go get her for me.” Now, it was not the custom for an Israelite to marry one of us, his parents knew that and they were not pleased. But they hated to argue with their precious son so they did as he asked and arranged a marriage.

During the wedding feast Samson posed a riddle to the Palestinian men who were at the wedding. If they guessed correctly he would give them a prize, and if not they would give him one. The men went to the bride and got her to question Samson about the riddle, which she did. She got the answer from him and when Samson found out he was furious. He stomped out of the wedding feast, deserting his bride before the wedding night, and so her father gave her to another man.

Time went by, and Samson got to thinking about the woman again, and went back to claim her. When he found out her father had given her to another man, he was very angry. He caught 300 little foxes and tied them tail to tail putting torches between their tails, and let them loose in the fields. The fire destroyed everything, land, wheat, orchards, olive groves, the vineyards. What wanton destruction! That’s not my idea of a hero! After that the men went and killed the poor woman, blaming her for the destruction.

Shortly after that I met Samson. I knew who he was, and what he had done. Who would have thought that the secret of his strength was in his hair? What poetic justice, that I, the hairdresser, got to un-man the great hero by doing his hair! And then I got the reputation of being a hussy.

—Libby Goldstein, 2009

An Update from the Building Team

Dear Epiphany,

The Building Team has been working with the Epiphany Staff and caretakers of the St. Francis Garden to develop a plan for moving some of the plants out of the garden and transplanting them to various locations around campus. We continue to refine the lighting design and work with LCL on the site logistics plan. Did you know that all of the Building Team updates are archived on Epiphany’s website? Click here to view that page.

—Ben Bradstreet

The Next 100 Years Building Team
Ed Emerson, Laura Blackmore, Bob Barnes, Jim Marlow, Ben Bradstreet
Contact the Building Team at 100yearproject@epiphanyseattle.org

Parish Prayer List

Click here to download a PDF of this week’s Parish Prayer List.

Sunday Lectionary Corner

November 2, 2014
All Saints Day
Revelation 7:9–17
Psalm 34:1–10,22
1 Thessalonians 2:9–13
Matthew 23:1–12

Upcoming Events

For all the details on upcoming events at Epiphany, click here.