Vicar’s Corner: The World Waits

It is a pure joy and honor to be gifted the opportunity to experience the culture and beauty of another country. I had been to Mexico once before and fell in love with the people, the atmosphere and the absolute wonders of the countryside. The rainbow of colors of the plants and flowers; it’s almost too much. As if God and nature just lost control and threw it all out there without any rhyme or reason but only to see just how many colors they could create. Such vibrancy; it would be understandable were someone to say it is overwhelming. I have to admit; I was beginning to believe that our cold, upper Midwestern winters had somehow muted my sense of sight, (could it be that I’m simply getting older?) These colors are unlike anything I’ve seen before. Then again, in time and due season, I shall savor our spring flowers and take in the beauty and bold, blood red of a blooming rose or the bursts of purple, orange and yellow of a climbing clematis. And I will gaze at our St. Nicholas gardens come late summer and early autumn and marvel at the beauty of the mums and the awesome display of hues and shades and I’ll swear I’ve not seen colors such as these.

Yes: all things in due time and all things have a season. As a Church, we remain in the season of Advent. We are about to enter the fourth and final week of this holy season. This weekend we light the last of our four candles. The entire wreath will glow and the feast of the Nativity will be that much closer. This glorious and joyful scene will be played out in every church that has an Advent wreath, in every house of worship that is waiting, anticipating and expecting the joyful news. Regardless where we are; whether in the warmth of Mexico or in the chill of the Midwest, we celebrate what is just, right and good and we do so with excitement and joy.

Perhaps it is because of my Michigan upbringing that Christmas, cold and snow are synonymous. They are supposed to go together, right? Not so in the tropic: for snow there is the sand that blows at will and the cold is the ice that gently slides down the frosted glasses. Still, we — the good people in Mexico, the good people in the north and all Christians the world over — await the birth of the Lord. We anticipate with excitement and glee the bells that will ring to herald the New Born King.

I read recently a quote of the Scottish playwright J.M. Barrie, something that seemed rather well-timed and which I’d like to share with you now: “God gave us memory so that we might have roses in December.” Ah yes, to recall the beauty of such as a rose in the bleak, cold midwinter truly gives our hearts and souls pause for joy and peace.

Yes, the world waits. Whether in the cold of the north or the balmy breezes of the south, we all await the birth of Jesus. To celebrate the anniversary of Jesus’ entry into our world just as we have been celebrating for over 2000 years. All things in due time and in their season.

manny@stnicholasepiscopal.org

Manny

Father Manny150

The Vicar’s Corner: From Green To Purple (and sometimes blue)

AdventWreath200

We’ve seen our fair share of ‘green’ all about the church. From the altar cloth to hanging banners as well as the vestments I wear. It’s all part and parcel to the particular season of the Church year. You see, way back on June 8 when we celebrated Pentecost, from the Sunday that followed, that is, June 15 to last week’s feast of Christ the King, we have been in what is called “Sundays after Pentecost.” Some refer to this extended period as “Ordinary Time.” Both are acceptable. Now, however, we start anew.

While the calendar still has a full month to go before we usher in a new year, the Church year starts anew on the first weekend of Advent. This is what we are to about to celebrate this weekend. Down comes the green and up goes the royal blues and purples. The Advent Wreath is to be built by our very selves, as we place evergreen boughs into the wreath. Each week we shall light a candle: Weeks one and two we light beautiful, blue candles. Week three we light the radiant rose candle as we commemorate that Sunday we call Gaudete, taken from the Latin for “rejoice.” The forth and last Sunday of Advent we light the last of the blue candles. In a few days time, we ring the bells and raise our voices in song and prayer for Jesus is born to us!

But, just what is Advent? Well, let’s see, shall we: Advent is a “Church Season” which refers to a time of waiting and preparation for the great and miraculous feast of the Nativity of Jesus, born to the young, virgin Mary and her soon to be husband Joseph. Advent, in its most purest of forms comes from the Latin word, “coming.” The Latin word “adventus” from which comes the term Advent, is roughly translated from the Greek word “parousia,” which means “official visit, royal presence,” yet liturgically speaking, (Church talk) refers to the Second Coming of Jesus.

So, wait a minute…we’re celebrating the birth of Christ. Yet, from ancient times and the translations of both the Greek and Latin and from a theological point of view, we’re anticipating and preparing for Jesus’ return to earth? His second coming? That is right. That is so. It may not be very “Christmas-like,” but that is what Advent truly and historically signifies and represents.

You see my friends, the Feast of Christmas is our commemoration of Jesus’ birth for which we rejoice and celebrate. It’s our Savior’s birthday and we give thanks for His coming into our world as one of us; a human being. What Advent reminds us of is that Jesus is to come again and we are to be prepared for His arrival. I admit, that’s an awful lot of technical terminology but certainly material we understand and about which we need to be reminded. Simply put: Jesus is coming again. Are we ready for His return?

So, my sisters and brothers, we begin this four-week journey with anxious and eager hearts at the ready to announce that Jesus is born! While we rejoice, let us be ever-vigilant and ready for, as Sacred Scripture reminds us, “You know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night…to the time when we must give up our account, we know it not, nor is it needful that we should. The coming of Christ will be a great surprise.” (1Thessalonian 5:2.) In spite of this rather alarming message, there is a great deal for which we are to celebrate these four weeks. It is my prayer and my hope that as we prepare our homes with festive decor and seasonal ornamentation, more importantly, we are preparing our hearts and souls for Jesus’ return. This is the true message and meaning of Advent. The Blessed Mary said yes to the angel…what is our response to Jesus?

Amen.

manny@stnicholasepiscopal.org

Manny

Father Manny150

The Vicar’s Corner: Opportunity Knocks, Will You Answer?

The Choir of St Nicholas, 2013

The choir is hard at work preparing, training and rehearsing. Their gift of music and song uplifts our Sunday Liturgy…for we are encouraged to “sing and dance before the tabernacle.” Soon, they will be releasing another CD for our listening and sharing pleasure and just in time for the holiday season.

Our Saturday Liturgy has a three-speared effort of music with Mary, Hal and Tony all taking one Saturday each month with a “said liturgy” filling out the Saturday calendar. These dedicated musicians, along with each member of the choir all give so much of themselves to help beautify and make more glorious our worship and celebration of our Christian faith and Episcopal identity. Our choir members, along with Hal and Tony willingly and gratefully volunteer their time and talents to make St. Nicholas such a welcoming, joyful place to worship. And we are all grateful and humbled by their efforts and shared talents.

Brandon Garcia

Brandon continues to prepare the worship programs we all use. He does an amazing job considering he is a full-time high school senior, athlete, choir member and not to mention the chores for which he is responsible at home. Yet, he finds and makes time to volunteer and prepare the program for our use. Soon, we hope to have a couple more members of the community learn how to share in this ministry.

HalVergerChristmas2013

Hal serves as our Verger…a position for which he studied and prepared. He gives this ministry serious time, effort and cost as he gives back to St. Nicholas as St. Nicholas gives back to him.

Pat Kalicki, Douglas VanHouten, and Robert DeHaven share a laugh

Members of the Bishop’s Committee, the Building Committee, the Liturgy Team, Children’s and Youth Formation, Food Pantry Team…all give of themselves, with a spirit of willingness while generously sharing of their gifts so others can be blessed and rewarded.

HandMadeBread

People who volunteer to make coffee, to bake bread, to clean the facility, to mow the lawns, to tend to the gardens, who pull out and cut down shrubs and bushes…each and every one of these beautiful people do so because they care. It is with the same joyful dedication our sisters and brothers share in the reading of the lessons and the sharing of the Cup at our liturgies. Tom Smith and Pat Kalicki bring Jesus to our home-bound members…Jesus travels well and He loves to visit and be with us!

Donations of supplies help St Nicholas devote resources to other ministries

So many of our parish family share their treasures with the church, too. Pledging, open plate offerings and making visits to the Giving Tree…all this goes so very far in securing our present day and future endeavors. These gifts are essential, are necessary and are what keep our doors open, lights on and music playing. No one likes to “talk money,” but we do in casual and simple style because we must do so. Without the financial assistance, we we fade away…we cease to exist. And this, my friends, simply is not part of our plan…this is not in the equation. No sir. No ma’am. We do all this and more because we care…because we love this place…because this is what we are commissioned to do as Christians and members of a faith community.

FatherMannyPeaceHugXmas2013

My friends, there are so many opportunities to be part of this church. Physical presence is a fine start and trust me, I love seeing everyone! Our church is so much more beautiful when we are in there…singing, worshiping, greeting one another at the Sign of Peace, opening our hands and hearts as we say ‘Amen…Yes I believe.’ Yet, there is more we can do. Think of a ministry in which we may wish to be more engaged…choir, baking bread, teaching our children, reading the lessons, preparing the worship programs, cleaning and caring for the facility, volunteering at the food pantry the 1st and 3rd Wednesdays of each month, preparing Coffee Hour on Sundays…you name it, the opportunity is there. Lastly, I ask us all to consider strongly and sincerely the requests that lay before us in the annual Stewardship Drive and the Capital Campaign. Help us keep St. Nicholas moving forward and onward…sustaining and securing a bright, beautiful and bountiful future for us all.

Amen…Yes I believe!

manny@stnicholasepiscopal.org

Manny

Father Manny150