THE BEACON: CELEBRATING OUR PAST 150 YEARS...IGNITING THE FUTURE
"This is the Lord's Table and ALL are Welcome!"
"WILL YOU JOIN IN OUR CRUSADE?" -- I was really moved by Deacon Bill Doulos' Sermon. For Sue and me, and actually for our entire family, NOW is the time for action. Two daughters, two sons-in-law and four grandchildren care about our neighbors, the least among us AND the planet, and each is committed to doing something NOW.
So, Paul's challenge to "put on the armor of lightness" did resonate Sunday. Unfortunately, the part about reveling and drunkenness, debauchery and licentiousness and quarreling and jealousy only resonated symbolically, and I wasn't moved by the Holy Gospel of Matthew 24:36-44. Thankfully, Deacon Bill took us forward to Matthew 25 and the "thou shalls" -- feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, welcome the stranger, clothe the naked, comfort the sick and visit the prisoners. These commandments we can deal with, and I truly believe there is an enormous audience out there who would respond in the same way if made aware of what we Christians are trying to accomplish. Who are they, you ask? Talk to any un-churched, young person who voted for Bernie Sanders, for starters.
That said, I am afraid we are hindered by two contemporary roadblocks. First of all, as has been the case ever since I joined the Episcopal Church in 1992, we really have no way to deliver our message broadly. Yes, as a denomination we have responded on line with the Anglican New Service, the Episcopal News Service, the Diocese of Los Angeles E-News and our own weekly E-News. COS even is on Facebook, BUT who reads any of the above? Do you? What we need is a charismatic MESSENGER, some one along the lines of Desmond Tutu, and I don't see anyone like that on the horizon. By the way, I truly believe The Episcopal Church would have a difficult time figuring out how to announce the SECOND COMING!!!
The second roadblock is the form in which the message is framed. The "thou shalls" are clear and compelling, BUT what brought me to tears was not Deacon Bill nor Matthew but Jean Valjean's plea quoted in the Sermon by Bill: "Will you join in our crusade? Who will be strong and stand with me? Somewhere beyond the barricade is there a world you long to see? Do you hear the people sing? Say, do you hear the distant drums? It is the future that we bring when tomorrow comes!"
The Bottom Line: The people who really do share our beliefs and visions need to hear the call in contemporary 2016 terms. Absent the second coming of Desmond Tutu, "'Will you join in our crusade?' here at THE Church of Our Saviour, to be an evangelistic outreach and a beacon of compassion for our neighbors in the San Gabriel Valley and beyond? Will you?...Join in our crusade!"
THE YOUNG GET IT!!! -- As referenced above, the Young of today understand the multiple challenges facing so many of us and particularly the least among us. In fact, I think my generation and perhaps those of you ten to twenty years younger underestimate just how well informed, engaged and caring these folks are. I witnessed a great example of this over Thanksgiving on Facebook when COS young people, organized by Taylor and Gabe Vazquez-Reyes, showed up at Cleaver Hall to prepare 7 turkeys, 2 trays of mashed potatoes and 3 trays of stuffing for the Immanuel Church Thanksgiving Dinner the next day. What an amazing display of unselfishness, of a willingness to serve others, of responding to one of the "thou shalls".
"I WILL SEEK TO DO THEE GOOD." -- This is the last line of the Offertory Anthem "O Pray For The Peace Of Jerusalem" sung magnificently by Brian Dyer. As many of you may know, next to COS, our greatest love is for Fr. Fuad Dagher, his family, and the parishioners of St. Paul's Episcopal Church, our Sister Parish in the Galilee since 2005. In addition, by extension we care enormously for the Palestinian people in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza.
Unfortunately, almost nobody else in the US does -- not in the government, not in the media and not even in The Episcopal Church even though the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem has been in existence since the 1840's. Right now, as many American Christians agonize over the challenge they believe comes from the Muslims, the State of Israel, not a Muslim country, continues to impose an OCCUPATION which impacts the lives of almost 5.8 million Palestinians 24/7. And still, no one cares!!! In Gaza alone over 1.8 million people (817,000 under 14) live in abject poverty in an area no larger than Catalina. And still, no one cares!!! In the West Bank land continues to be confiscated for illegal Jewish Settlements, a process which is no different from what the US imposed on the Native Americans. And still, no one cares!!! In Israel proper 20% of the population exists under laws which served as the catalyst for the Civil Rights Movement led by Dr. Martin Luther King. And still, no one cares!!! Given that we have just entered theSeason of Advent, you might want to keep in mind that there is a 30 FOOT WALL surrounding the Birth Place of Jesus. Not even the Three Wise Men could reach the Manger today!!!
As you celebrate Advent, consider this quote from a mother in Hebron:
"Being a mother in Palestine is different. My job is not like other mothers. My job is not to protect, because I cannot protect. My job is to teach my child how to walk with a straight back through the valley of violence."
CHANGING TIMES: THE GOOD NEWS & THE BAD NEWS - As THE Church of Our Saviour celebrates its 150th Anniversary of worshiping in the same location, the La Cresenta Rotary Club announced that it is folding after 76 years of serving the community. Why include these two institutions together in the same article? Because, each is facing the same sorts of challenges in 2016, and one is coping; the other could not. Last week I mentioned that Reid Allen was upset because of the declining attendance at his beloved Kiwanis Club Meetings. Well, his club obviously is not alone, and neither are main stream Christian denominations. In fact, the causes are somewhat similar. According to the article in Monday's Los Angeles Times, the president of the club said that "what people tell us is that they're just too busy...Younger people already have so much to do, and if you tack on service clubs...they just can't do everything." As a result, the club only has 22 members, and only 12 are active. More telling, the median age is 78! Somewhat poignantly, I think, is the presidents comment that "it has become more difficult to continue regular club activities, such as cleaning up Angeles Crest Highway." Speaking as a 79 year old, I would think so!!! Where's Rotarian Alan Weirick when he is needed?
ST. BILL PEPLOW -- Lots of people, when they retire, go on trips. Bill Peplow went to his wood shop; and from there, year after year, he has been using his wood working talents to improve the Journeys of hundreds of children who frequent Our Saviour Center. In the spring he organizes a Pinewood Derby of racing cars for 80 to 100 boys AND girls; and right now as I type he and his Band of Wood Workers are completing making HUNDREDS OF TRUCKS for a number of community youth groups they support. According to Anne Peplow, these are not just mass produced toys but finely crafted, each and every one of them. I think Bill said his Club will contribute 15 to the OSC Christmas Party. See why I call him a Saint? Yet another example of a COS parishioner doing wonderful work in the greater Community. That's what we do!!!
TO CONCLUDE: THE FOLLOWING INTERCESSION FROM THE BOOK OF COMMON PRAYER WAS PROVIDED BY THE DIOCESE OF LOS ANGELES FOR EVERYONE AT THE ANNUAL CONVENTION AND BEYOND.
"Almighty God, giver of every good gift: Look graciously on your Church, and so guide the minds of those who shall choose a Bishop Coadjutor for this Diocese, that we may receive a faithful pastor, who will care for your people and equip us for our ministries, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen."
Voting begins late Friday morning the Ontario Convention Center. Visitors are invited and ample seating in the Hall is available.