“For the fruit of all creation…”

In this season of Pentecost when we are called to cultivate our souls and live more deeply into our relationships with God, may you find food for your journey in the words of F. Pratt Green. The words (Hymn 424, The Hymnal 1982) were the opening prayer of my sermon on Sunday past; several persons inquired about them so I thought I would share the source. Over the years, they have served me well in a variety of situations, including times of devotion, thanksgiving gatherings and throughout the day.

For the fruit of all creation, thanks be to God. For his gifts bestowed on every nation, thanks be to God. For the plowing, sowing, reaping, silent growth while we are sleeping, future needs in earth’s safekeeping, thanks be to God.

In the just reward of labor, God’s will is done. In the help we give our neighbor,

God’s will is done. In our worldwide task of caring for the hungry and despairing, in the harvests we are sharing, God’s will is done.

For the harvests of the Spirit, thanks be to God. For the good we all inherit, thanks be to God. For the wonders that astound us, for the truths that still confound us, most of all that love has found us, thanks be to God.

Blessings, peace and grace as we journey together into Christ.

 

Abundance, Glory, and Craze

O God, from whom all good proceeds: Grant that by your inspiration we may think those things that are right, and by your merciful guiding may do them; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. (Collect for the Third Sunday after Pentecost)

In the gift, abundance, glory, and craze of every new day, you and I are invited to immerse ourselves in God – more than anyone or anything else. In thought, word, and deed, we are called to delve deeper into our discipleship. In the mystery of love, as faithful followers of Jesus, we are given the daily opportunity to be all about God, even as we might struggle with the meaning of this.

Today, I am reminded of a collection of prayers and worship resources developed in Salisbury, England, during the 13th century, called the Sarum Primer. It was used throughout England, Scotland, Wales, and Ireland, as well as some parts of continental Europe and continues to be a gem for daily devotion. May the following words from the Primer bless our journeys with the Creator and devotion amid the fullness of life.

God be in my head, and in my understanding;
 God be in mine eyes, and in my looking;
 God be in my mouth, and in my speaking; 
God be in my heart, and in my thinking;
 God be at mine end, and at my departing.

– The Reverend Ollie V. Rencher, Rector

Ordinary Time

Remembering the Sabbath Day in Ordinary Time. The Day of Pentecost (May 19) marked the start of Ordinary Time. This longest season of the Church Year runs until the first Sunday of Advent. Symbolic of a time of growth and maturity in daily expression of faith, our liturgical color has changed to green, except for at baptisms, weddings, and funerals. It is an incredible time to deepen one’s prayer life, read the Scriptures, unite more deeply with Jesus in the Eucharist, and become a more holy and whole person. It is an opportunity for people like us to answer God’s call to discipleship and become better messengers of the Gospel we were commissioned to be through our Baptism. One writer offers that “ordinary time is this day, this moment, now.”

As summertime approaches, school years come to a close, and our lives might have new variety including travel, let us “remember the Sabbath Day and keep it holy.” Not only is this the fourth of the Ten Commandments, it is imbedded in the Baptismal Covenant: Will you continue in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in the prayers? I will, with God’s help. Every Sunday at 8:00 a.m. and 10:45 a.m. and on third Sundays at 5:00 p.m., all who are able are expected to worship God in Word and Sacrament. If Sunday schedules might not permit, St. Peter’s offers Tuesday and Thursday 12:00 Noon worship in the chapel. If you are away from Charlotte on a Sunday or weekday, please worship at any Episcopal or other church and bring me a copy of the worship service leaflet. (I like to see what others are doing and it will remind me of my childhood visits to all sorts of places!)

God always is faithful to us and never takes a break from us. Let us strive, as followers of Jesus, to remember the Sabbath Day in Ordinary Time, and keep it holy.

The Reverend Ollie V. Rencher, Rector

Dancing with God

Almighty and everlasting God, you have given to us your servants grace, by the confession of a true faith, to acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity, and in the power of your divine Majesty to worship the Unity: Keep us steadfast in this faith and worship, and bring us at last to see you in your one and eternal glory, O Father; who with the Son and the Holy Spirit live and reign, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. (Collect for the First Sunday after Pentecost: Trinity Sunday)

Dancing with God. The first Sunday after the Day of Pentecost commemorates and embraces not an event, but the reality of the Holy Trinity. It is one of few celebrations of the Church Year that commemorates a reality and belief rather than a specific event or person. On this day, Christians remember and honor the eternal God: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Symbolic of the unity of the Trinity, it lasts one day and continues to be a both fascinating and controversial dogma of the faith. The mystery of the Trinity does not mean a riddle, but rather that the Trinity is a reality above our human comprehension that we may begin to grasp, but ultimately must know through worship, symbol, and faith. It has been said that mystery is not a wall to run up against, but an ocean in which to swim.

I offer that the Trinity is a three-person dance with God, whereby no partner of the dance can ever break away, loose step or fall out of sync. Instead, every partner remains perfectly in step and bound even as the music inevitably will change. The partnership circle cannot be broken. Every day, we are called to dance with God. Now, let us work on our dance moves and remember always to let God lead.

– The Reverend Ollie V. Rencher, Rector

Spirit of the Living God, Fall Fresh on Us

O God, who on this day taught the hearts of your faithful people by sending to them the light of your Holy Spirit: Grant us by the same Spirit to have a right judgment in all things, and evermore to rejoice in his holy comfort; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. (Collect for the Day of Pentecost: Whitsunday)

Spirit of the Living God, Fall Fresh on Us. As we celebrate Pentecost, the birthday of God’s Church, I am reminded of a certain breathtaking red vase that lives on a window ledge in my office. This pottery piece was crafted and gifted to me during my seminary years by children of the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd from my sponsoring parish in Jackson, Mississippi. It was given as a reminder that the Spirit of the Living God lives within every human being and that we are to share the Spirit with any and all around us.  More, its rich redness is a symbol of blessing and prosperity for the journey of faith.

The Day of Pentecost strikes me as the perfect day on which you and I are either to restore old or to make new covenants of faithfulness with the Creator who gives us breath.  More than two thousand years ago, our Christian ancestors embraced and celebrated the God within and were united because they were able to speak a common language. They were able to speak the hopeful language of one holy, catholic (universal) and apostolic church. Through them, God’s Church was born and the message of God’s love became widespread. Today, we are the heirs and stewards of the redeeming work of Christ to be proclaimed and done in the world at this time and in this place.

May we daily seek ways to be stretched by the Spirit of God and open our hearts increasingly so that we can go where God might lead us. The Spirit of the Living God already has fallen fresh on us. Let our new life with God in Christ begin today. Since Pentecost is our birthday as the body of Christ, let us celebrate and grow together.

– The Reverend Ollie V. Rencher, Rector

The Last Steps of Eastertide

O God, the King of glory, you have exalted your only Son Jesus Christ with great triumph to your kingdom in heaven: Do not leave us comfortless, but send us your Holy Spirit to strengthen us, and exalt us to that place where our Savior Christ has gone before; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen. (Collect for the Seventh Sunday of Easter: The Sunday after Ascension Day)

The Last Steps of Eastertide. As we journey from the Ascension (May 9) to the Day of Pentecost (May 19), our common prayer is that God will never leave us comfortless and that the Holy Spirit will be revealed as a source of strength. As an Easter people, a people who believe in new life, a people who believe God has the capacity to do the impossible, do we know that God lives within us?

You and I are called daily to go to God in prayer (conversation) so that the presence of God within us will make our paths clearer and the world might become better. Through weekly engagement of life at St. Peter’s and the various offerings for worship, formation, and fellowship in this incredible place, the God within will become increasingly known. Transformation by the power of the Holy Spirit is bound to happen within and all around us, especially when our hearts are open and we pray without ceasing. May the last steps of the Eastertide journey bless us “real good” and prepare us for even richer lives in Christ.

– The Reverend Ollie V. Rencher, Rector

Rite-13: A Celebration of the Gift and Challenge of Manhood and Womanhood

St. Peter’s Journey to Adulthood (J2A) offering is a youth ministry program of spiritual formation for sixth through twelfth graders. It encourages relational ministry and uses Bible study, prayer, rites of passage, outreach ministries, theological reflection, and both serious and playful activities to underscore the two guiding principles of the program: manhood and womanhood are free gifts from God; and adulthood must be earned. Throughout the Episcopal Church and other Christian traditions, J2A is being offered as a brilliant and popular way to engage young people more deeply in their journeys with God in Christ.

Since my early twenties when I was a J2A mentor in Jackson, Mississippi, I have witnessed the powerful impact that J2A can make on the lives of those youth and families who engage the program at its fullest and unique degree. And on Sunday, April 28 at 10:45 worship, St. Peter’s will have an opportunity to share in one aspect of J2A called the Rite-13 Liturgy. Grades six and seven celebrate the individuality of each young teen and their creative potential, while exploring Biblical stories of God and God’s people. The Rite-13 liturgy is the community expression of this and serves as a rite of passage from childhood towards adulthood; it will occur during worship before we greet one another at the Peace.

On behalf of the Vestry, I give thanks for our youth, their families, and all who work with them, especially Lyn Holt (Director of Youth Formation) and the J2A mentors.  May our April 28th celebration be one way to meet and connect with our young people and to honor their invaluable gifts as faithful members of the body of Christ.

– The Reverend Ollie V. Rencher, Rector

Eastertide: Listening To The Voice

O God, whose Son Jesus is the good shepherd of your people: Grant that when we hear his voice we may know him who calls us each by name, and follow where he leads; who, with you and the Holy Spirit, lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. (Collect for the Fourth Sunday of Easter)

Christ the Good Shepherd reminds us that God knows each of us by name. To name and to be known by name impress me as holy moments of honor throughout most cultures. Most people take great satisfaction in being known by name and how they received their name. We experience this example during the sacrament of baptism when the priest asks for the name of the child, youth, or adult to be baptized. I remember it well from recently at the Great Vigil of Easter when one adult and four children were named again at their initiation into God’s Church. It was a moment of pride, gratitude, and humility for each before they began their new life in Christ.

Indeed this is the case with the Good Shepherd whose voice we are invited to know intimately. Each of us is called by name to follow wherever he might lead us – journeys of trust and faith. Our simple yet courageous listening to his voice is bound to lead us rightly in thought, word and deed.

May Eastertide and life at St. Peter’s become a time for us to tune our ears to hear the voice of God amid the constant noise of life. God is trying to tell us something about love and hopes that we are listening.

– The Reverend Ollie V. Rencher, Rector

Eastertide: Feasting On The Risen Lord

O God, whose blessed Son made himself known to his disciples in the breaking of bread: Open the eyes of our faith, that we may behold him in all his redeeming work; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen. (Collect for the Third Sunday of Easter)

In celebration of the resurrection, followers of Jesus are called individually to journey deeper into Christ in both Word and Sacrament. The Word of the Lord revealed in the Holy Scriptures and the Blessed Sacrament revealed in the breaking of the bread create the perfect spread for feasting on the risen Lord.

Eastertide invites all who make their spiritual home at St. Peter’s, newcomers and all who seek to know more about God, to engage this feast on a weekly if not daily basis. On Sundays and weekdays, we offer formation classes and the Holy Eucharist so that disciples might equip themselves better with what is necessary to proclaim the good news of God in Christ. God’s food in the form of scripture, bread, and wine is sufficient to fill us with sustainable knowledge and nourishment.

If you are reading this and have not participated in a Sunday or weekday option for spiritual growth, such as the Sunday Scripture Study Class or Rector’s Forum, centering prayer, bible studies, and noonday Eucharist (Tuesday, Thursday), please start doing so and bring others. Any and all that we do will feed us and make us whole. The table is spread and I hope to join you and many others there.

– The Reverend Ollie V. Rencher, Rector

Eastertide: New Life Awaits

“Almighty and everlasting God, who in the Paschal mystery established the new covenant of reconciliation: Grant that all who have been reborn into the fellowship of Christ’s Body may show forth in their lives what they profess by their faith; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.” (Collect for the Second Sunday of Easter)

For many, the resurrection of Our Lord is not a monumental or believable event, because the host of new things that God should have been doing—from an individual’s point of view—have not occurred. Sufferings, disparities, trials, and high hopes persist and the abilities of God remain in question.

The fifty-day season of Easter invites us to begin again, always. This season of the church year calendar challenges us to believe again or maybe for the first time that the God who mysteriously created us [through humans] has the capacity to make things new. It dares us to have faith that the God who mysteriously raised Jesus Christ from the dead is a God of miracles, big and small; that our waking up each day in and of itself is a miracle.

The new covenant of reconciliation made by the Redeemer of the whole world is a new covenant into which we too are called. New life awaits us as we learn to love God with whole heart, soul, and mind; to love neighbor as self; and to be truly sorry and humbly repent for wrongdoing. The capacity for God to raise Jesus from the dead is the same capacity to resurrect the faithfulness of followers of Jesus. Easter boldly calls us forth to experience and give new life. For what are we waiting?

The Reverend Ollie V. Rencher, Rector