Transition - a passage from one state, stage, subject/person, or place to another: change. We say change is just part of life’s journey, but, if that’s true why do we let fear and anger get in the way of accepting it? Anger, because we are being forced to change when we flat don’t want to? Fear, because we don’t know when the journey will end and who it will end with? I keep telling myself God will take care of us, He will show us the way if we let Him. Unfortunately we humans have a great tendency to let that “IF” tend to be a sticky wicket! The obvious answer is for us to put fear and anger aside, come together as Saint John’s family and get behind and support our Vestry as they lead us on this journey of change, remembering as we do so that we are and always will be in God’s capable hands. Sunday we took a huge step forward putting fear and anger in the rear view mirror where they belong as we came together at our town hall meeting. I was really encouraged by how comfortable everyone felt being completely open with their ideas and how they felt. The challenge now is to keep that ball rolling forward keeping in mind that our Vestry can’t do it alone. That’s easy to say, but we find ourselves asking the questions, what can I do, what do I know, what experience do I have that can make a difference? As I found myself asking those questions and thinking about the journey ahead and the challenges we face a book I read came to mind, a book that taught me a lot about leadership, teamwork and faith. Twelve Ordinary Men by John MacArthur, the story of how Christ chose and trained the 12 Apostles. The first thing to remember about that story are the words “Ordinary Men” an understatement to say the least, more often referred to as a bunch of ruffians. After Jesus choose those 12 Ordinary Men he had less than 18 months to train them, then Christ is crucified and resurrected, and those ordinary ruffians went out and changed the world. For me that puts everything in perspective, the challenges and journey we face are a cake walk compared to what they faced. Together with our faith in God’s help we can do this.
A Blessing I like from Henri-Friedrich Amiel, Swiss Poet & Philosopher, 1821 - 1881.
Life is too short,
and we do not have too much time
to gladden the hearts
of those who travel with us,
so be quick to love
and make haste to be kind.
And may the blessing
of the One who made us,
the one who loves us,
and the one who travels with us,
be with you and those you love
this day and always.
Blessings and love,
I think you will like Pope Francis' comments on Faith. What a truly wonderful God we have!
Blessings and love, Fr. Jack.
"Faith is our response to God's love,
it is finding a safe support in God,
it is entering into communion
with the mystery of a love
which surpasses us and surrounds us.
God gives grace abundantly to all,
but especially to the poor."
This poem was included in a San Diego Union Tribune article on January 18, 2018. The title of the article was "Retired Prostitutes Home a Safe Haven." The author was Adriana Zehbrauskas of the New York Times. The home is called, Casa Xochiquetzal, in Mexico. A resident of this wonderful home wrote this poem. God, she says, was always there for her even in the bad times of her life. And God is always there for you too. -Fr. Jack
I am the one who loves you
I am the one that listens to you when you are sad
I am the one that comforts you in your nights of pain
I am the one that warms you when you are cold
And even when you ignore meI’ll always be there for you.
If you would like to read the whole article, you can find it here: www.independent.co.uk/news/long_reads/mexico-city-prostitution-casa-xochiquetzal-sex-workers-a8160841.html
Musings from Fr. Jack Tolley
I thought you might enjoy a prayer Bishop Brooks wrote. I use it regularly.
O God: Give me strength to live another day;
Let me not turn coward before its difficulties or prove recreant to its duties;
Let me not lose faith in other people;
Keep me sweet and sound of heart, in spite of ingratitude, treachery or meanness;
Preserve me from minding little stings or giving them.
Help me to keep my heart clean, and to live so honestly and fearlessly that no outward failure can dishearten me or take away the joy of conscious integrity;
Open wide the eyes of my soul that I may see good in all things;
Grant me this day some new vision of thy truth;
Inspire me with the spirit of joy and gladness;
and make me the cup of strength to suffering souls;
in the name of the strong Deliverer,
our only Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Written by Phillips Brooks (1835- 1893)
Bishop of Massachusetts,
Renowned Preacher and Pastor
As we enter this rather uncertain, yet exciting, period of transition in the life of the family of Saint John’s Episcopal Church, we would like to introduce you to ourselves, our temporary pastoral transition team:
We are CJA, whom you already know as Pastor Cathey, Father Jack and Father Al. We are the CJA Team. Together, the three of us bring almost a century of pastoral ministry and experience in a vast variety of situations and callings. We are dedicating our spiritual gifts, our experience and ourselves to assist us all on our spiritual sojourn of faith and discovery as the unified Body of Christ here in Chula Vista.
As we begin our joint venture in ministry on Sunday, July 15, 2018 , at Saint John’s, we invite your attention to a few alterations to some of the procedures regarding Sunday services of worship.
At the 8:00 am Service of the Word, a member of the vestry or other congregational leader will bring the formal greeting and invitation o worship prior to the beginning of the service. As always, the Service of the Word will begin at 8:00 am with the entrance of the clergy. Announcements will be made by an appointed individual member of the congregation before the recognition of birthdays, anniversaries and special requests.
The order of the service otherwise will not be altered.
Approximately five minutes prior to the beginning of the 10:00 am Service of the Word , a member of the vestry or other leader of the congregation will bring the formal welcome and invitation to worship, followed by the organ prelude. The Service of the Word will then begin at 10:00 am with the procession of the choir and clergy and the singing of the processional hymn. Announcements will be made by a designated person before the recognition of birthdays, anniversaries or special concerns. On the first Sunday of the month, the Host and Wine will be distributed by the traditional format of members kneeling (as they are able) at the altar rail. On all other Sundays, the elements will be distributed at appointed stations in front of the altar rail, in what is commonly known as continuous communion. The service of worship will otherwise be unaltered.
It is our humble prayer that these alterations will further spiritually enhance and enrich our worship and fellowship experiences together. Your recommendations are always welcome.
To God be the Glory
Saint Peter is credited with writing two letters, called 1 Peter and 2 Peter. In his second letter, which reads like a farewell discourse in faith, he starts with this phrase, Jesus, our Lord and Master, has gratuitously given us the divine ability/power of God toward life through the knowledge of the One-Who-Calls us through glory and virtue. (vs. 2-3, translation mine) The phrase, “gratuitously given,” is a favorite of mine. It means that we were given, without charge or payment, a free and voluntary ability and power to serve God in this life. Let’s let that sink in a bit. There is nothing we have to buy, download, or upgrade to serve the Lord. We already have it, gratuitously given.
This means we have all we need to do exactly what God wants us to do to serve him. And we have it in spades. I have shared with you before that everything Saint John’s needs is already here. Here’s an old church joke: The treasurer stood up and told the congregation, “I have good news and bad news. The good news is we have all the money we need to fund ministry. The bad news? It is still in your pockets.”
As I take my leave, I want you to know that you have all you need, if you believe Peter. Since he is, I think, speaking on behalf of Jesus and all that Peter has experienced walking with Christ it would probably be a mistake not to believe him. When there were five thousand people in a field who turned up to hear Jesus, Peter was concerned about food, yet Jesus said, you have all you need. It is here already. As it turns out, they had more than they needed. A gratuitous amount of bread was collected after everyone was full. Jesus sent the disciples out, two by two, and told them to carry nothing extra because everything they needed would be provided for them, and it was. Fifty days after Jesus’ resurrection, the apostles gathered together and suddenly, the Holy Spirit came upon them and they found they had gifts upon gifts that they didn’t even know they had.
I could sail a boat before I had a license to drive a car. Dad taught me everything I needed to know and the boat was stocked with everything I needed. The rest consisted of going out and actually sailing. Years later, I found out that Dad would periodically check on me with binoculars from a high bluff overlooking Commencement Bay. We didn’t have cell phones back then, or even a ship-to-shore radio. Yet, there he was watching over me. God has given you everything you need to serve in the manner in which God has called you to serve. I won’t be here in person to see it but like my Dad watched me to make sure I was all right, I will hear of the good things you do to help others in the name of the Lord. Individually and as a corporate entity, we have been gratuitously given everything we need to serve; all we have to do is push off from the dock, and sail.
I was given a lovely gift by Mark & Gretchen Jordan, a brass compass held upright in a matching glass case. Instead of “North” the compass says “God” so as the compass hangs inside its case, the dial is always pointed towards God. Until he gave it to me, Mark didn’t know Joshua 1:9 was engraved on the back, “Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” This very Bible passage Mark carries on his person and from time to time he has reminded me of this phrase which helps me do things I didn’t think I had the courage or fortitude to do. This is a very important gift to me, one that I will keep within eyesight.
One of my first sermons at Saint John’s was based on the plumb line in which the prophet Amos had a vision. If you are unfamiliar with plumb lines, they are used by carpenters and engineers to get a true line and direction. One takes a string, attaches a rock at the bottom, and holds the line so the rock is off the ground. The plumb line thus shows you a straight line from which everything else can be measured and compared. Here’s the vision: “The Lord was standing beside a wall built with a plumb line; he had a plumb line in his hand. The Lord said to me, ‘Amos, what do you see?’ And I said, ‘A plumb line.’ Then the Lord said, ‘See, I am setting a plumb line in the midst of my people Israel; I will never again pass them by.’” (Amos 7:8) During a time of confusion for Saint John’s, God gave us a plumb line that showed which way is up and a straight line against which to measure everything else. After the 8 am service that day, Mark loaned me his plumb line as a preaching tool for use at the 10 am service. Since he is a high-end finish carpenter, his plumb line is pretty fancy – a heavy duty line with a brass pointer at the bottom. Since then, Saint John’s has been fixed on a straight line pointing to God. I am thankful for the compass gift which, like the plumb line, reminds me of where I’ve been and can keep me pointed in the right direction in the future.
There is an eight-pointed fountain in the middle of the courtyard. Have you ever wondered about the shape, or tripped over the cement angles that are higher than the lawn? We had a drone on campus one day taking videos. Looking down on the fountain in those drone videos, I suddenly made sense of the shape. It’s a compass. Four points are north, south, east and west with the other four points showing northeast, southeast, southwest, and northwest. Since some of us arrived at Saint John’s from the northeast, some from the southeast, and others, like the Marshalls, arrived from the northwest, we are all represented on the fountain compass and are reminded that in Christ there is no north or south, no east or west.
Over the years, Mark and Gretchen have helped me find the appropriate direction. In fact, Mark’s motion to the Vestry brought me here. Their gift will stand as a symbol to remind me to be strong and courageous and to not be frightened because the Lord my God is with me wherever I go.
It’s not easy being a mom in any century but I can tell you with certainty, it’s not easy being a dad in the 21st century. If you are a new dad looking for a role model, you should probably shy away from movies as a source of inspiration. On a local radio show I heard about a published list of the ten greatest dads in movies. I was shocked so I looked the list up myself. The list comes s from the Telegraph – a daily publication in the UK that has a reputation for quality. I hope you are sitting down; here’s the list from ten to one.
10) Meet the Parents. Jack Byrnes (Robert De Niro) is a CIA assassin who intimidates the main character who is in love with Jack’s daughter.
9) Boyz N The Hood. Lawrence Fishburne does all he can to keep his son out of gangs. Fishburne shows what life might be like for a dad who desperately cares about his son in very, very difficult circumstances.
8) About Time. Bill Nighy champions his son; when his health falters, well, it is very touching and I imagine that many movie-goers called their father at the end of the movie.
7) [Movie title not mentioned due to inappropriate material.] The Dad is played by Eugene Levy… Let’s just say I’m not in favor of this movie being on any list involving virtues.
6) Commando. Arnold Schwarzenegger is a retired elite Black Ops Commando who launches a one-man war against a group of criminals who have kidnapped his daughter; he massacres a whole army in the process.
5) True Romance. Dennis Hopper plays Clifford Worley whose son shoots a pimp and makes off with a bag of cocaine; the dad then realizes he must get in the way of the mob to save his son's life.
4) Taken. Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson) is a CIA agent who travels across Europe and relies on his old skills to save his estranged daughter, who has been kidnapped while on a trip to Paris.
3) The Godfather. Vito Corleone (Marlon Brando) uses family obligations to justify lethal behavior and, let’s face it, is essentially a murderous extortionist.
2) To Kill a Mockingbird. Atticus Finch (Gregory Peck), a single parent, sets a fantastic example for his children as he defends a young black man within a racist justice system while not succumbing to huge social pressure from his community.
1) Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Henry Jones is played by Sean Connery who, by the way, is only 12 years older than Harrison Ford. He is Indiana’s dad; they had a lot of troubles when Indy was young but evading Hitler’s forces has brought them together to find the Holy Grail.
Two retired CIA assassins, one commando, a mob boss and Eugene Levy’s character – this list left me feeling empty. Yes, Atticus Finch is awesome, and Fishburn’s character shows great devotion but when looking at the list, don’t you feel there are better role models for dads in this century?
There certainly are, but one shouldn’t look for them in the movies. Scripture points to important virtues for being a father – patience, respect, fortitude, hope, faith and love. … and the greatest of these for any dad in any age is love. Suffice it to say, my list of the top ten dads would be quite different from the one we have just discussed probably because I would start with my own.
News this past week from NASA reveals a discovery on Mars. 3-billion-year-old rocks show organic molecules. The rocks were on the bottom of what most believe to be an ancient lake bed similar to Florida's shallow Lake Okeechobee. This is a big discovery.
I have a friend, Lucas, who is an astrobiologist. He probably knows a lot more about this discovery than I do. Lucas told me in seminary that one difficulty in being an astrobiologist is determining what life is and is not. Once we can define life we then can look for things that meet that definition in space. He bases his view of life entirely on Earth; he believes we can only define it based on what we know. And one thing we know about life is that it makes more life. Life begets life, if you will.
We have a hanging plant in our backyard. One day, a shoot of some unknown weed was seen three inches above the flowers. We wanted to see what it would do so we left it alone. It kept growing until it was touching the hook holding the entire flower pot. We didn't plant it but it must have come in from somewhere. Lucas would call this life. A bunch of grass is growing in the most unlikely place, next to the curb at the corner of 1st and L Street. I've been watching it for months. It is now a three-foot wide swath of five-inch tall grass growing amongst a sea of concrete; cars run it over probably six times an hour. That's life. We know it's life because it is begetting in a most inhospitable place.
Back to Mars, an astrobiologist associated with the latest finding said that she's fascinated by the idea that life never really got started there. It would not take long for any alien probe to find life on Earth. Even if the probe landed at the bottom of the deepest ocean, it would find life. In the middle of Death Valley, it would find life. Even if it landed in the boiling hot sulfur lakes in Yellowstone, it would still find life. That is because life is abundant and it grows in the most unlikely places. Nevertheless, we have spent billions of dollars and countless hours looking for life on Mars and have yet to find it like we can at 1st and L.
I would never say we should give up on Mars. A fascinating piece of evidence shows seasonal methane gas increases in the Martian atmosphere. On Earth, methane is produced by organic, living matter. If you've ever been around a cow pasture, you'll know what I'm talking about. Notwithstanding, methane can also be produced geologically so even this piece of evidence raises doubts.
For me, theologically speaking, I believe that there is life out there because God is a God of Life. I also believe, as science has shown, God uses the same DNA building blocks in all of life. Scientists can take a DNA strand from a salmon and implant it into a strawberry to make it transport better from the farm to the table. We're made from all the same stuff. I believe that God's fingerprint is in the DNA of all life and therefore, if/when life is found on Mars, it comes from the same source. Life is abundant on Earth. God is the master of abundance. God created all things. Therefore, when astro-biological life is found, we will find it in abundance.