Come to me, all you that are weary and carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.Matthew 11:28-30
Lent is not a season for mourning; it is a season for renewal. Look at the land around you at this time of year. It is resting under a blanket of snow, but just beneath the snow are powerful stirrings of life—renewed life—making ready to burst into a glorious and fruitful spring. Indeed, in the Eastern Orthodox tradition, this season is known as the Lenten Spring.
Lent is a fallow season. It is a time when we look inward to the state of our soul. Even our souls need renewal, and the season of Lent calls us to introspection and self-examination so that we may see the work that needs to be done to make us again whole, complete and fruitful in our faith. It is a season to open ourselves to the powerful, healing love of God through Christ Jesus.
Lent is a season to repent—literally to “turn around”—to see where we have been that we may better know where we are headed. It is a season to turn to Jesus and offer up all that weighs us down: our grief, anger, isolation, self-pity, dissatisfaction, envy, un-forgiveness and resentment. Jesus invites us to give him these burdens to bear so that we are freed to take on his burden—the burden of a discipleship filled with love, faith and hope.
Lent is a season for letting go, that is, of letting go of what stands between the way we have been going and the way Jesus bids us to go. This Lent, start to let go of the concerns and burdens that we have taken upon ourselves. Turn off the TV or get off the web for a little while, and in those quiet, fallow moments, think about what is truly important to you. Think about where you have been going, and think about where you would like to be going. Then pray that the Spirit will guide you to new paths and new ways of living.
Look in your hearts and souls for those first stirrings of new life. Then, nurture those stirrings and give them the time, space and food that new life needs to become vibrant, strong and fruitful. Nourish your rested souls with the renewing waters of baptism and the life-giving food of the Lord’s Supper. Be regular in prayer, and be regular in silence. Open yourselves to the new venues God has prepared for you, and with renewed commitment, ask Jesus to give you the courage to follow where he leads you.
Then renewed, forgiven, healed, offer your very best to God in the glory of Eastertide. Resurrect your spirit and your soul to new life in him who rose on Easter that we might live forever in his loving grace. Set aside your old self and embrace the new life you have received through your baptism into Christ’s death and mighty resurrection. Be reborn into the Baptismal Covenant and renew your promises to love and serve God as we love and serve others. Let us go forth into the world in the power of the Spirit!
Almighty and everliving 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.Book of Common Prayer, page 223
- Miss visiting with your friends after church?
- Want to catch up on the news from your fellow parishioners?
Join us for our online Coffee Hour Sunday mornings at 11:30 using Zoom video conferencing.
Never used Zoom? No problem. Deacon Maureen can get you set up to join us. All you need is a computer, tablet, smart phone, or even an old fashioned telephone.
Click below to request an invitation to join us.
Psalm 1 Blessed are the man and the woman who have grown beyond their greed and have put an end to their hatred and no longer nourish illusions. But they delight in the way things are and keep their hearts open, day and night. They are like trees planted near flowing rivers, which bear fruit when they are ready. Their leaves will not fall or wither. Everything they do will succeed. Translation by Stephen Mitchell
Gardens have been much on my heart and in my mind of late. Perhaps this is because our Sunday worship is in a garden; perhaps because of the vibrancy of the colors of the late summer flowers; perhaps because of the lushness of the fruits and vegetables of the summer harvest. Whatever the reason, I know that gardens are important to our understanding of God and our experience of Christian faith. Human existence begins in a garden. Jesus prayed in a garden the night before his crucifixion. The empty tomb of the Resurrection was in a garden.
Like a garden, our souls need tending and nurturing. Prayer, meditation, the Sacraments and the word of God in Scripture all nourish our souls. We are created beings who are more closely linked with creation than we often realize.
We are fortunate at St. Mary’s to be in the midst of magnificent gardens and amazing natural beauty. The historic Afton Town Square Park, Carpenter Nature Center, Afton State Park, St. Croix Bluffs Regional Park and even our own Memorial Garden offer beautiful trees, flowers and landscaping to reconnect us to God and creation. And I know that many of you have attractive yards and gardens at your own homes.
Take some time this summer to “stop and smell the roses.” Explore the gardens and landscapes of the St. Croix Valley, or the natural beauty of the state and regional park system. Turn off the air conditioner and open the windows of your home or automobile to let in the sounds and smells of creation. Tend your soul so it too may grow and flourish in the love of God and the glory of God’s creation. Store up the energy of the sun for the fallow season of winter that is all too close at hand.
As you enjoy the created beauty of the world, take a moment to reflect on our relationships with the whole of creation. Below are some reflections on those relationships by others. Perhaps you will be able to add your own experience of nature to the list. Enjoy, and God bless you.
“The soul cannot thrive in the absence of a garden.”— Thomas Moore
“There is a little plant called reverence in the corner of my soul’s garden, which I love to have watered once a week.”— Oliver Wendell Holmes
Grant me the ability to be alone, May it be my custom to go outdoors each day among the trees and grasses among all growing things and there may I be alone, and enter into prayer to talk with the one that I belong to. Rabbi Nachman of Bratzlav
“I thank You God for this most amazing day; for the leaping greenly spirits of trees and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything which is natural which is infinite which is yes.”— e.e. cummings
At a recent meeting with clergy in charge of parishes, Bishop Loya gave us discretion to begin limited outdoor worship as of July 1. It is my intention to hold “Lawn Chair Liturgies” in the Memorial Garden at St. Mary’s beginning at 9:30 on Sunday morning, July 5th, weather permitting.
Our order of worship will be quite abbreviated, and there will be no celebration of the Holy Eucharist at this time. Worshipers will be expected to comply with all current disease transmission prevention guidelines including:
- Stay home if you feel sick
- Wear an appropriate face covering/face mask
- Observe a minimum of six feet of physical distancing between household groups
We recommend you bring lawn chairs or a blanket to sit on — no chairs will be provided. Remember that the Memorial Garden lawn is a bit uneven and the grass may be quite wet from dew or overnight rain. Worship materials will be provided for one-time use each week.
For now, we will encourage everyone to depart immediately following the worship service. We may be able to stay for some form of a BYO coffee and fellowship time later in the summer if disease transmission levels continue to decrease.
The church building and Guild Hall remain closed pending authorization to reopen from Bishop Loya.
I have mixed feelings about gathering again, even outdoors. While I long to be together with all of you, I have an even greater longing to keep everyone safe and healthy. Most of us fall into the “at increased risk” category for Covid-19 infection. We are relying on you to follow our safety and health guidelines to protect yourself and others.
The danger of infection has not passed, and we must all be diligent in adhering to the disease transmission prevention guidelines. We may need to suspend outdoor worship if there is an increase in the Covid-19 infection rate in the future.
We know that some of you may choose to stay safe at home for a while longer, and we will continue to provide worship resources and pastoral support by email and telephone for the foreseeable future.
Stay safe, stay well, and I look forward to seeing you again soon!
The Holy Eucharist, also known as Holy Communion or the Lord’s Supper or even the Mass, is at the heart of our Sunday worship life at St. Mary’s as it is in most Episcopal parishes.
The Covid-19 outbreak has forced us to suspend our regular celebrations of the Eucharist, and that is leaving a lot of us – including me – feeling very pretty disconnected and disoriented.
Oh sure, absence makes the heart grow fonder and all that is fine. But I miss that feeling of intimacy with Jesus in the Eucharist that is an important part – maybe the most important part – of my Christian faith. So, what do we do?
Well, when in doubt (it is 2020 after all), we can start with an internet search. It turns out that this isn’t the first time Christians have been cut off from regular celebrations of the Eucharist. And then as now, the faithful have turned to a practice known as “Spiritual Communion.” Here’s what Wikipedia has to say:
Spiritual Communion is a Christian practice of desiring union with Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist. It is used as a preparation for Holy Mass and by individuals who cannot receive Holy Communion.
This practice is well established in the Lutheran Churches, Anglican Communion, Methodist Churches, as well as in the Catholic Church, where it has been highly recommended by many saints, according to Pope John Paul II. He explained that practicing this constant desire for Jesus in the Eucharist is rooted in the ultimate perfection of Eucharistic communion, which is the ultimate goal of every human desire.
The practice of Spiritual Communion has been especially used by Christians in times of persecution, such as during the era of state atheism in the Eastern Bloc, as well as in times of plagues, such as during the current COVID-19 pandemic, when many Christians are unable to attend Mass, and therefore not able to receive the Eucharist on the Lord’s Day.
Turning to more reliable and respected authority than the interwebs, here are some thoughts from a few well-known liturgists and theologians. Here’s what Thomas Cranmer had to say in the first Book of Common Prayer (1549):
But yf any man eyther by reason of extremitie of sickenesse, or for lacke of warnyng geven in due tyme, to the curate, or by any other just impedimente, doe not receyne the sacramente of Christes bodye and bloud then the curate shall instruct hym, that yf he doe truely repent hym of his sinnes and stedfastly beleve that Jesus Christ hath suffered death upon the cosse for hym, and shed his bloud for his redempcion, earnestly remembring the benefites he hath therby, and geving hym hertie thankes therfore; he doeth eate and drynke spiritually the bodye and bloud of our savioure Christe, profitably to his soules helth, although he doe not receyve the sacrament with his mouth.
It’s a bit difficult to read, as the language is 16th century English, but here’s a similar paragraph in the 1979 Prayer Book:
If a person desires to receive the Sacrament, but, by reason of extreme sickness or physical disability, is unable to eat and drink the Bread and Wine, the Celebrant is to assure that person that all the benefits of Communion are received, even though the Sacrament is not received with the mouth. (BCP 457)
A nation-wide shut down due to a pandemic fits, I’m sure we’ll agree, with the words “by any other impediment” listed in the first Prayer Book. Jesus will not cut us off from his grace. If we truly desire him, he will come to us, even if we cannot receive the Sacraments he has instituted so that we may receive his grace. This is not a new idea. St Thomas Aquinas, writing nearly 800 years ago, said:
before receiving a sacrament, the reality of the sacrament can be had through the very desire of receiving the sacrament. Accordingly, before actual reception of this sacrament, a man can obtain salvation through the desire of receiving it, just as he can before Baptism through the desire of Baptism, as stated above (Summa, III.73.iii)
St. Thomas Aquinas defined a Spiritual Communion as “an ardent desire to receive Jesus in the Most Holy Sacrament [Communion] and lovingly embracing Him as if we had actually received Him.” In a Spiritual Communion, with a contrite heart, we ask Jesus to come to us in the same way he would if we were able to receive the consecrated bread and wine.
For a more contemporary look at Spiritual Communion, you might want to take a look at an excellent article by my very own liturgy professor, the Rev. Dr. Ruth A. Meyers, entitled, “Spiritual Communion In a Season of Social Distancing.”
One thing is clear: our liturgy assures us of the ability of God’s grace to reach us through every distance and disturbance. It asks us to take the eucharistic gifts “in remembrance that Christ died for you, and feed on him in your hearts by faith, with thanksgiving.” In times like this, it is Jesus himself who inhabits our poor, fragile faith—so often wafer-thin—and feeds us with the True Bread that comes down from heaven.
Here’s one form of the Prayer for Spiritual Communion:
My Jesus, I believe that you are truly present
in the Blessed Sacrament of the Altar.
I desire to offer you praise and thanksgiving;
as I proclaim your resurrection.
I love you above all things,
and long for you in my soul.
Since I cannot receive you in
the Sacrament of your Body and Blood,
come spiritually into my heart.
Cleanse and strengthen me with your grace, Lord Jesus,
and let me never be separated from you.
May I live in you, and you in me
in this life and in the life to come. Amen.
You do not do this with bread and wine at home. This is not home communion or virtual communion – a modern practice that is unknown to the Church. This prayer is said with a sense of sincere desire and longing to be spiritually present with Jesus.
Soon, we will be. Come, Lord Jesus.
Our Annual Harvest Festival Potluck Dinner and Dance is Saturday, November 2. Music by the Back Porch Band begins at 5:00 pm with dinner at 6:00. Bring your friends, neighbors, family and a favorite dish to share. Suggested donation is $10 per adult.
All proceeds benefit area food programs through Second Harvest Heartland Food Bank.