Two Kingdom-of-God Languages
A reflection by the Rev. Doyt L. Conn, Jr.
Language matters, particularly to Anglicans. We are people of the Book of Common Prayer (BCP). The BCP is full of words choreographed into worship and prayers laid out—in some cases directly from the hand of Archbishop Thomas Cranmer—to synchronize our souls with each other and with God. So we are careful with words, ever mindful of what the Apostle James wrote: “How great a forest is set ablaze by a small fire! And the tongue is a fire. The tongue is placed among our members as a world of iniquity; it stains the whole body, setting on fire the cycle of nature and it itself set on fire by hell.” He continues, “From the same mouth comes blessing and cursing” (James 3:5–6 & 10). Thus we consider words, and in particular our words, against the greater Word, which came forth from the mouth of God. As it is written in the Gospel of John: “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was from God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1).
Language matters. As honorable, well-educated people, we know this. And if you are like me, when you think of language you think of words spoken or written on a page. But there are two other languages that are active and actionable in the Kingdom of God. The first facilitates the material life and the second facilitates the spiritual life. The first helps us move, as a physicist might say, from matter to energy. The second helps us move, as a priest might say, from energy to matter. One language is money and the other prayer. They are languages spoken to facilitate action in the Kingdom of God.
It is rather easy to see how money moves matter to energy. It is what inspires us to work, and work is our energy released upon the world. Money is what we use to get others to work as well. Work can be done as a response to what God is inspiring in God’s kingdom; it can be done to build up our own kingdom; or it can be done according to the dictates of the kingdom of darkness toward evil ends. Money is a language that translates matter into energy: for God, for me, or for evil. Just as the tongue both blesses and curses, so too does money.
Prayer works in like manner. It is a language that translates energy to matter. The natural sciences would propose a “closed universe” in which nothing happens apart from the mathematical laws of physics. But prayer is the language of the spirit, and it too influences the physical world. Prayer can be used to bless and to curse. The ancient idea of the “evil eye” is a traditional expression of the spiritual language of prayer in a profane posture. The energy of prayer is employed to change the world of matter. We pray for healing. We pray for wars to cease. We pray for food or whatever is needed in our material life. Prayer is the language that transforms energy into matter. In case you were wondering, that is what happens in the Eucharist each Sunday. It is our core understanding that the power of our prayer connects us to the material nature of Jesus. And this connection then unites us with the eternal presence of God.
Fluency in prayer and money give us actionable languages for use in the Kingdom of God. That is why Jesus so often talks about them as he teaches on the Kingdom of God. Money and prayer are languages worth learning and speaking, so they can have appropriate impact in the world, as God desires and designs.
Epiphany Reads: Simply Jesus
Review by Steve Clemons
Simply Jesus: A New Vision of Who He Was, What He Did, and Why He Matters
by N.T. Wright
I loved reading this book, twice!
Like many people at the evangelical end of the church spectrum, I spent much of my Christian life carrying around a very simple and unquestioned view of Jesus. If you’d asked me why he had to die, I would probably have answered something along the lines of “because he came to fulfill the prophecies and enact God’s plan of salvation.” That answer is, of course, true, but it is far from the whole picture. The reality is more complex. While complexity might be off-putting to those who like their Jesus safe and simple, it also means that those who have questions and doubts stand to discover far more depth, significance and beauty in the life and mission of Jesus than they ever realized was possible. Simply Jesus by N.T. Wright takes this very complex story and makes it understandable.
There are many good things I could highlight in Simply Jesus, but I will limit myself to two aspects that I found particularly helpful.
First, Wright does an excellent job of explaining how and why Jesus’ teaching, actions, and ultimately his death and resurrection fulfilled not only specific prophecies, but also the hopes of an entire people and God’s eternal plan of redemption, in a surprising and unexpected way.
And second, from Jesus’ own understanding of his life and mission, Wright draws out a portrait of what it means to be a citizen of the Kingdom of God. Those who thirst for a meaning to the Christian life that is more than “be good, go to church, and you’ll get to heaven” will at last begin to see not only the scale of Jesus’ Kingdom “Project.” but the surprising and intriguing means by which the Kingdom is established.
Wright is one of the most highly regarded New Testament scholars alive today. If you know me, you will know that I am a big fan of his and have found his books absolutely magnificent. But, I would be remiss if I didn’t offer some words of warning:
Those who are entirely comfortable and happy with Jesus as their “personal savior” and Christianity as a club that entitles them to church membership and a ticket to heaven are advised not to read this book. If, on the other hand, your soul longs to get beyond the safe, one-dimensional Jesus Lite that is so promoted in our culture today, and to discover Jesus as he really was, and hence as he really is, this book is most definitely for you.
The Halloween Drive Begins This Sunday!
Help children living in YWCA housing to celebrate Halloween! You can bring pumpkins, carving sets, costumes, and any other festive items to the donation bins in the back of the church, anytime between Sunday, October 2, and Sunday, October 23.
Two Upcoming Music Guild Events: Choral Evensong
The Church of England’s evening service, adapted after the Reformation from the monastic hour of Vespers, is a wondrous phenomenon. Even the word “Evensong” is poetic. It hangs on the wall of English life like an old familiar cloak passed down through the generations. Rich with prayer and scripture, it is nevertheless totally non-threatening. It is a service into which all can stumble without censure—a rambling old house where everyone can find some corner in which to sit and think or to listen with half-attention, trailing a few absent-minded fingers of faith or doubt in its passing stream.
Most religious celebrations gather us around a table of some sort. They hand us a book, or a plate, or speak a word demanding a response. They want to “touch” us. Choral Evensong is a liturgical expression of Christ’s Nolle me tangere: “Do not touch me. I have not yet ascended to my Father.” It reminds us that thresholds can be powerful places of contemplation and that leaving someone alone with their thoughts is not always denying them hospitality or welcome.
—Stephen Hough, British concert pianist, composer, and writer
Evensong: Americana with Epiphany Choir
Sunday, October 9, at 5 pm in the Church
Please join the Epiphany Choir as they sing the timeless service of Choral Evensong. The music will be from noted twentieth-century American composers and well-known evening hymns will be included in the service.
Evensong: Purcell with Epiphany Schola
Sunday, November 13, at 5 pm in the Chapel
The service of Choral Evensong will be sung by a smaller group of singers in the chapel.
Parish Prayer List
Sunday Lectionary Corner
October 2, 2016
Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost
2 Timothy 1:1–14
Upcoming Events in the Life of Epiphany
This Week at Epiphany
October 1: Monthly Women’s Mini-Retreat
On the first Saturday of every month, women of Epiphany gather for prayer, laughter, and fellowship with coffee and treats at 9 am in the Fireside Room. Women of all ages are welcome!
October 1: St. Francis Day Celebration
This year the Blessing of the Animals will move outside our Sunday liturgy and into a dedicated liturgy on Saturday, October 1, at 1 pm. There will be dog treats, people treats, an art station, autographs by “Good Dog Carl” and the author of his books! There will also be a dog-wash! Come at 1 pm sharp for the Blessing of the Animals and a special performance by the Choristers, and stay to meet your friends’ pets. Invite your neighbors and their pets, too!
October 2: First Sunday Brunch
On the first Sunday of every month (excepting September and January), join us in the Great Hall for brunch during Everybody Hour at 10 am. Our parish may be spread across four different celebrations of Eucharist on any given Sunday, but this brunch is meant to be your opportunity to catch up with everybody. This month the Formation Team will host and share about their plan for the coming year.
October 2: Faith in the Shadow of Grief Class Begins
Whether it is the death of a loved one, a natural disaster, the loss of a dream, our health, our youth, a marriage, a significant relationship, or a career, loss always finds us, and we are changed as a result. We anticipate anxiety, grief, depression, and anger with these transitions, but the road to healing can also offer us surprise and transformation. The goal of this 7-week session is to support and guide you on this sacred and scary path in an atmosphere of confidentiality and safety. Your leaders for this group are Meredith Nelson and Carmen Hoffman. If you have an interest in joining us, please contact Carmen Hoffman for more information and to register.
October 6: New Christian Worldviews Minyan
Join us this fall in a small group studying the life of Jesus and the central role of the Kingdom of God in his teachings. We will work through N. T. Wright’s online course Simply Jesus on Tuesday evenings at 7:30 pm in the Christie House Library. The minyan has already launched, but feel free to join in the middle. Contact Steve Clemons for more information.
October 9: Adult Forum – The Holy Sepulchre
After being destroyed and reconstructed multiple times, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem remains perhaps the holiest shrine for Christian pilgrims, and its fascinating history is a metaphor for the theme of resurrection that began there almost two millennia ago. Doug Oles will tell this remarkable story at 10 am in the Great Hall.
October 9: Music Guild Event – Evensong with Epiphany Choir
Please join us at 5 pm in the church when Epiphany Choir sings the timeless service of Choral Evensong. The Rev. Todd Foster will officiate the liturgy. The music will be from noted 20th century American composers and well-known evening hymns will be included in the service.
October 13: Bible Study with the Rev. Peter Snow Begins
The Rev. Peter Snow will be moving his weekly Bible study on the Gospels to Parkshore on Thursdays at 3:30 pm. All are welcome to attend—residents and visitors. For more information and the room assignment email Peter Snow.
October 16: Adult Forum – The Spiritual Discipline of Pilgrimage
Join George Moberly for a discussion of pilgrimage as a discipline with the goal of real presence and intimacy with God that helps us to deepen our relationship with God, with ourselves, and with each other. This is also an opportunity to ask questions about the Walking Pilgrimage being planned for this spring in England.
October 5: Orientation for Tutoring at Madrona K–8
Madrona K–8 is seeking tutors to work with children in small groups or one on one. Tutoring happens on Wednesday afternoons, and there is an orientation for new tutors on Wednesday at 3:30 pm. For more information, check out Invest in Youth or talk to Todd or Doyt.
Through October 22: Joyful Noise at Taproot Theatre
Come see parishioner Frank Lawler in Taproot Theatre’s production of Joyful Noise! Based on true events, Joyful Noise tells the story of the creation of Handel’s Messiah. Frank plays King George II, the composer’s reluctant patron. Suffering both humiliation and scandal, how will Handel come to write one of the best-known choral works in Western music? See the show and find out!
November 5: Madrona Community Council Wine Tasting Fundraiser
The Madrona Community Council collaborates with Leschi Market on this annual fundraiser. Leschi Market assembles vinters and representatives, and on the night of the event you taste and many, many wines that are sold at a discount. Just leave your completed order at the exit, and when your order is ready, Leschi Market will call you for pick up. Click here to get your tickets.