Wednesday, March 2, 2016

The people of God: a community that is given such security in the love of the true God able to forgo all human privileges and rights which it might claim

On this Wednesday in the third week of Lent, we hear from Paul’s first letter to the Church in Corinth:
 
Now concerning food sacrificed to idols: we know that ‘all of us possess knowledge.’ Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. Anyone who claims to know something does not yet have the necessary knowledge; but anyone who loves God is known by him.
 
Hence, as to the eating of food offered to idols, we know that ‘no idol in the world really exists’, and that ‘there is no God but one.’ Indeed, even though there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth—as in fact there are many gods and many lords— yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.
 
It is not everyone, however, who has this knowledge. Since some have become so accustomed to idols until now, they still think of the food they eat as food offered to an idol; and their conscience, being weak, is defiled. ‘Food will not bring us close to God.’ We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do. But take care that this liberty of yours does not somehow become a stumbling-block to the weak. For if others see you, who possess knowledge, eating in the temple of an idol, might they not, since their conscience is weak, be encouraged to the point of eating food sacrificed to idols? So by your knowledge those weak believers for whom Christ died are destroyed. But when you thus sin against members of your family, and wound their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if food is a cause of their falling, I will never eat meat, so that I may not cause one of them to fall. (1 Cor. 8:1-13).
 
Bishop N.T Wright frames the question:
 
[A]lmost all the meat available in a city like Corinth would have been offered at some shrine or other; and idol-temples served not only as butcher's shops but also as restaurants. To avoid idol meat altogether might, then, mean de facto vegetarianism (an option forced on some in any case by economic circumstances). For a Jew, facing this question would pose quite sharply the options we just noted. One major Jewish position regarded pagan worship as idolatry, and insisted that genuine monotheists must not flirt with it. Another major Jewish tradition said that idols were non-existent and irrelevant, and that the one creator God claimed as his own all that idols have usurped. This second way may well have been helped by the kind of speculative Jewish gnosis according to which one's relationship to the one true God elevated one above the problems of the pagan world. The first way could lead to dualism, the second to assimilation. Paul carves out a way which avoids both.
 
N.T. Wright, One God, One Lord, One People: Incarnational Christology for a Church in a Pagan Environment.
 
Paul’s response is rooted in the Shema Israel, “Hear o Israel, the LORD is our God, the LORD alone." N.T Wright reasons that the pagan pantheon is not irrelevant. It must be confronted. One cannot retreat from paganism, just as one must not assimilate. One must instead worship the true God, the one whom paganism parodies. And for Paul this true God is revealed in Jesus of Nazareth. It means, clearly, that love and concern for other members of the community is to be placed ahead of all attempts at personal self-realization. Paul spells this out in terms precisely of Jesus who is God and who died on the cross.  For Paul, Jesus’ crucifixion is not simply about attaining individual salvation; rather, it means the remaking of the community of the people of God into a community that is given such security in the love of the true God that it is able to forgo all human privileges and rights to which it might otherwise lay claim.  Id.
 
Let us pray:  Gracious and living God, you alone are God. In you we live and move and have our being. Soften us that we may stop trying to put ourselves first, that we put aside our arrogance, and remember that we are a people that have been remade into a new creation, and that we are called to make that known to the world.
 
CALENDAR REMINDERS
 
Please keep Bishop Doyle and his family in your prayers as he undergoes surgery, and for a quick and full recovery.
 
Lenten Series: Reconciliation, today at 6PM at Trinity with Fr. Peter and Br. Michael of Holy Cross Monastery as our speakers.
 
Please remember everyone on our Prayer List.
 
Your servant in Christ,
 
Fr. Chester J. Makowski+
St. Augustine of Hippo Episcopal Church
Galveston, Texas 77550

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

St. David of Wales

Image result for st. david of wales

Today, during the third week of Lent, the Church remembers the life and ministry of St. David of Wales, Bishop of Mynyw.  David was born around the year 500.  David was renowned as a teacher and preacher; he founded monasteries and churches in Wales, Dumnonia and Brittany. St David's Cathedral stands on the site of the monastery he founded in the Glyn Rhosyn valley of Pembrokeshire.
 
Around 550, David attended the Synod of Brefi, where his eloquence in opposing Pelagianism (a heresy which taught that we do not need God’s grace and can be good of our own will) inspired his fellow monks to elect him primate (first bishop) of the region. David presided over the Synod of Caerleon (the "Synod of Victory") around 569 which condemned Pelagianism.
 
David’s last words to his followers were in a sermon Sunday before his death: (in Welsh) "Arglwydi, vrodyr, a chwioryd, Bydwch lawen a chedwch ych ffyd a'ch cret, a gwnewch y petheu bychein a glywyssawch ac a welsawch gennyf i. A mynheu a gerdaf y fford yd aeth an tadeu idi", which translates, "Lords, brothers and sisters, Be joyful, and keep your faith and your creed, and do the little things that you have seen me do and heard about. And as for me, I will walk the path that our fathers have trod before us." "Do the little things in life" ("Gwnewch y pethau bychain mewn bywyd") is today a very well-known phrase in Welsh.
 
David was a defender of the faith and a pastor to his people.
 
Let us pray: Almighty God, who called your servant David to be a faithful and wise steward of your mysteries for the people of Wales: Mercifully grant that, following his purity of life and zeal for the gospel of Christ, we may with him receive the crown of everlasting life; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and ever. Amen.
 
CALENDAR REMINDERS
 
Wednesday, at 6 PM at Trinity, we continue our Lenten Series: Reconciliation, with Fr. Peter and Br. Michael of Hoy Cross Monastery, Beaumont.
 
Please remember Bishop Doyle who will be undergoing surgery for prostate cancer, and for everyone on our Prayer List.
 
Your servant in Christ,
 
Fr. Chester J. Makowski+
St. Augustine of Hippo Episcopal Church
Galveston, Texas 77550

Friday, February 26, 2016

Corinth: Sin City

Image result for corinth sin city

On this Friday in the Second Week of Lent, we hear from Paul’s letter to the Church in Corinth.  Paul is often portrayed, and I believe unjustly so, as being against women.  Today’s reading from the Daily Office (the Church’s Daily Prayer), is evidence of Paul’s true attitude:
 
Now concerning the matters about which you wrote: ‘It is well for a man not to touch a woman.’ But because of cases of sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband. The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does; likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. Do not deprive one another except perhaps by agreement for a set time, to devote yourselves to prayer, and then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. This I say by way of concession, not of command. I wish that all were as I myself am. But each has a particular gift from God, one having one kind and another a different kind.
 
To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is well for them to remain unmarried as I am. But if they are not practicing self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to be aflame with passion.  (1 Cor. 7:1-9)
 
Corinth was the “Sin City” in its day.  It was the capital of the Roman province of Achaia and was geographically located in such a place that it inevitably became a trade center of the ancient world. As a result, people from all areas of the world, with different backgrounds and cultures, moved to Corinth. Corinth "had a reputation for commercial prosperity, but she was also a by-word for immoral living. The very word κορινθιαζεσθαι (pronounced “korinthiazesthai”), mean “to live like a Corinthian,” had become a part of the Greek language as a catch phrase for fornication, decadent and immoral living.  In fact, there were 1,000 sacred prostitutes in the temple of Aphrodite on the Acrocorinth, plus plenty of prostitutes for the sailors and business folks coming through, but they were not sacred.  In Corinth, women were an object.  They could not vote, and they really had few rights. Contrast this with Paul.
 
Notice how Paul places men and women on an equal basis: “The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does; likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does.”  Such equality, treating women equally, was unheard of in Paul’s day especially in Corinth.  Paul was able to say that because of Christ.
 
Let us pray the opening collect for the Second Sunday in Lent: O God, whose glory it is always to have mercy: Be gracious to all who have gone astray from your ways, and bring them again with penitent hearts and steadfast faith to embrace and hold fast the unchangeable truth of your Word, Jesus Christ your Son; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
 
PLEASE REMEMBER THE FAMILY OF DOROTHY PLAVNICKY WHO DIED TODAY: Let us pray: O God of grace and glory, we remember before you this day our sister Dorothy. We thank you for giving her to us, her family and friends, to know and to love as a companion on our earthly pilgrimage. In your boundless compassion, console those who mourn. Give us faith to see in death the gate of eternal life, so that in quiet confidence we may continue our course on earth, until, by your call, we are reunited with those who have gone before; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
 
CALENDAR REMINDERS
 
LENTEN SERIES: RECONCILIATION - Next Wednesday, 2 March 2016 at 6 PM at Trinity Episcopal Church, the Benedictine Monks of Holy Cross Monastery, Fr. Peter and Br. Michael, in Beaumont will be our speakers.
 
Please remember everyone on our Prayer List, especially Bob as he is recovering from foot surgery, Audrey, John, Katie, for all those to be baptized, for the Anglican Communion, and for reconciliation.
 

Your servant in Christ,


Fr. Chester J. Makowski+
St. Augustine of Hippo Episcopal Church
Galveston, Texas 77550

Thursday, February 25, 2016

The Rev. John Roberts: Selfless Love

Image result for the rev. john roberts
Today the Episcopal Church remembers the life and ministry of the Rev. John Roberts.  During this season of Lent, Fr. Roberts is a reminder to us of personal sacrifice for the sake of others.
 
Assigned to minister to the Shoshone and Arapahos on the Wind River Reservation, he set about his work by learning all he could about Native American customs and beliefs, believing that by knowing the people he hoped to minister to he would be more effective. He also learned the native languages, eventually translating the gospel for his Native American congregates.
 
Roberts often said the object of his work among the Indians was to make them self-supporting. With this in mind he established two schools, the Indian Boarding School at Ft. Washakie and the Shoshone Indian Mission Boarding School. Roberts cultivated friendships with tribal leaders, including Chief Black Coal and Chief Washakie, whom he later baptized. He earned the trust of the tribal leadership and was often involved in their negotiations with the agents of the federal government. The Indians rewarded Roberts for his fairness in dealing with them by giving him the name "Elder Brother."
 
Roberts also ministered to the non-natives of the state, establishing Episcopal churches in towns across Wyoming. Roberts retired from active missionary work in 1921 but continued to live on the reservation until his death in 1949 at the age of ninety-seven. (Taken from the University of Wyoming)
 
Let us pray: Almighty God, who raised up your servant John Roberts to be a witness among the Shoshone and Arapahoe peoples: May we, inspired by his example and prayers, invite all people to the riches of your grace; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
 
PLEASE PRAY FOR BISHOP ANDY DOYLE WHO HAS BEEN DISGNOSED WITH PROSTATE CANCER
 
What follows is a letter from Bishop Doyle:
 
Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ, 

I'm sending this special note to make you aware that I was diagnosed with prostate cancer in October. 
 
JoAnne and I have been assured by my very capable doctors that this particular cancer is completely treatable with surgery and medication.  I will undergo surgery on March 3, and I look forward to a full recovery. 
 
The shock of this kind of news at any time is upending, to say the least. The cancer diagnosis reminded me, and underscored for me, my complete dependence on a compassionate and merciful God who removes fear and uncertainty. 
 
I have been in prayer, under spiritual direction and on retreat. I am ready for the surgery and what comes after. We have asked a few close friends to be present during my short stay in the hospital.
 
I am grateful for a talented and dedicated diocesan team, who, along with Bishop Dena Harrison and Bishop Jeff Fisher, will be able to manage our ministry very well during my brief absence. I should be back to my regular schedule in a month's time. I plan to return to work April 1, with a renewed appreciation for all of our ministry and gratitude for the ability to be God's hands in the world. 
 
I ask your prayers for my physicians, nurses and family as well as for me during this time. Be assured of my prayers for you.
 
Faithfully,
 
The Rt. Rev. C. Andrew Doyle, IX Bishop of Texas
 
LENTEN SERIES: RECONCILIATION
 
Next Wednesday, 2 March 2016 at 6 PM at Trinity Episcopal Church, the Benedictine Monks of Holy Cross Monastery, Fr. Peter and Br. Michael, in Beaumont will be our speakers.
 
Please remember everyone on our Prayer List, especially Bob as he is recovering from foot surgery, Audrey, John, Katie, for all those to be baptized, for the Anglican Communion, and for reconciliation.
 
Your servant in Christ,
 
Fr. Chester J. Makowski+
St. Augustine of Hippo Episcopal Church
Galveston, Texas 77550

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

God Brings Good Out of All Things, If We But Let Him.

The appointed Old Testament reading for today is taken from Genesis where we read about the destructive nature of jealously within a family:
 
Then they sat down to eat; and looking up they saw a caravan of Ishmaelites coming from Gilead, with their camels carrying gum, balm, and resin, on their way to carry it down to Egypt. Then Judah said to his brothers, ‘What profit is there if we kill our brother and conceal his blood? Come, let us sell him to the Ishmaelites, and not lay our hands on him, for he is our brother, our own flesh.’ And his brothers agreed. When some Midianite traders passed by, they drew Joseph up, lifting him out of the pit, and sold him to the Ishmaelites for twenty pieces of silver. And they took Joseph to Egypt.
 
When Reuben returned to the pit and saw that Joseph was not in the pit, he tore his clothes. He returned to his brothers, and said, ‘The boy is gone; and I, where can I turn?’ Then they took Joseph’s robe, slaughtered a goat, and dipped the robe in the blood. They had the long robe with sleeves taken to their father, and they said, ‘This we have found; see now whether it is your son’s robe or not.’ He recognized it, and said, ‘It is my son’s robe! A wild animal has devoured him; Joseph is without doubt torn to pieces.’ Then Jacob tore his garments, and put sackcloth on his loins, and mourned for his son for many days. All his sons and all his daughters sought to comfort him; but he refused to be comforted, and said, ‘No, I shall go down to Sheol to my son, mourning.’ Thus his father bewailed him. Meanwhile the Midianites had sold him in Egypt to Potiphar, one of Pharaoh’s officials, the captain of the guard.  (Gen. 37:25-36)
 
How many times have we witnessed or experienced the terribly destructive nature of jealousies in our families.  Brothers selling their own brother into a life of slavery because they are jealous of him.  Father separated from son and lied to by his own children thinking that his son is dead.  Unfortunately, this happens quite frequently in families.  God is well aware of our fallen nature.  I for one am thankful that our God is a God who is just, but who has great mercy.  God has a way of taking our weaknesses and bringing good out of them.  He did that in the case of Joseph and his family.  At the end of the Book of Genesis, Joseph, relying on God as his source of strength and life, says: “You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people.” Gen. 50:20.
 
Lord God, we know that you can bring goodness out of our own petty jealousies.  Give us the grace to always love one another as You love us. Amen.
 
Your servant in Christ,
 
Fr. Chester J. Makowski+
St. Augustine of Hippo Episcopal Church
Galveston, Texas 77550

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

What the rich, the powerful, the influential, the popular and the trend setters consider important, God does not.

On this first full week of Lent, we hear from Paul’s letter to the Church in Corinth where he asks:
Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, God decided, through the foolishness of our proclamation, to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling-block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.
 
Consider your own call, brothers and sisters: not many of you were wise by human standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, things that are not, to reduce to nothing things that are, so that no one might boast in the presence of God. He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification and redemption, in order that, as it is written, ‘Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.’ (1 Cor.1:20-31)
 
What the rich, the powerful, the influential, the popular and the trend setters consider important, God does not.  What is remarkable about the Incarnation, is that God takes on our humanity, in all of its weakness, and turns it into strength. God takes those who are seen by the mighty to be useless and powerless, and God identifies with them through Jesus Christ crucified.  That is something to contemplate this Lenten season.
 
Let us pray: Almighty God, whose blessed Son was led by the Spirit to be tempted by Satan; come quickly to help us who are assaulted by many temptations; and, as you know the weaknesses of each of us, let each one find you mighty to save; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
 
CALENDAR REMINDERS
 
Wednesday Lenten Series: this Wednesday starting at 6 PM at Grace Episcopal Church.
 
The Seaside Seniors meet this Thursday at 11 AM in Sutton Hall.  The theme is St. Valentine’s Day.
 
Please remember everyone on our Prayer List.
 
Your servant in Christ,
 
Fr. Chester J. Makowski+
St. Augustine of Hippo Episcopal Church
Galveston, Texas 77550