The Vicar’s Corner: An Open Sermon In A Welcoming Community

What a wonderful weekend we had at St. Nicholas. Our first "Open Sermon" was a joyful success. The fact is, we all have questions, inquiries and concerns regarding the nature of our church and why we do the things we do. This Open Sermon provided us all the opportunity to ask those questions that have weighed on our minds and hearts. What better place to ask a question about church and faith than in church, during our Liturgy where and when we are celebrating our faith? Exactly. The questions covered plenty of topics. The size of heaven? Only God knows that though our faith assures us, and Jesus promised us there is a place for us all. Jesus said, "in my Father's Kingdom there are many mansions." (John 14:2) For me, I'll always take Jesus at His word!
GospelJuly2015 do we gain a share of Paradise? First, we must make that decision and choose to follow Christ; to lay aside the things of this world and focus on the true prize. Riches on earth fade and rust. Heaven is eternal. Jesus reminds us, "do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. For no one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money." (Matthew 10: 6: 19-21, 24) Those who serve the Lord have great rewards that await them. St. Paul, in his second letter to his beloved Timothy, wrote "Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing." (2 Timothy 4: 8) Being a good Christian is demanding and daunting. All that hard work, sacrifice and dedication however, will reward us with a share of Paradise, just as Jesus promised us.
What distinguishes us as Episcopalians? Another rather loaded question that has layers of responses and answers. First of all, we have our linage directly in and of the apostles who first brought the message of Christ to the world. There has always been a Church of England: once part of the Roman Catholic Church and now, a beautiful, historical and rich-in-tradition Church unto itself and of which we, as the Episcopal Church here in the United States are part. We believe in the full and glorious presence of Christ in the Holy Eucharist, the Holy Communion. This particular point also brought to light the issue of Transubstantiation and Consubstantiation; a subject that is complicated and has personal overtones as varied as we are a community of diversity. We have seven sacraments; though we place a greater emphasis on the first two sacraments (Baptism and Holy Eucharist) as they are the two that Jesus instituted and commissioned Himself. And, as a Church, Episcopalians sing and take great pride in our rich, musical heritage. When we sing a hymn -- whether one verse or ten -- we sing 'em all and rightly so. We talked about the Psalms and why during the year we sometimes sing and sometimes pray them. We touched on the subject of the various and unique Church seasons. There were questions about the various stations in the church; the altar at the Baptismal Font and at the Christus Rex statue. Do we fully immerse an individual at baptism and why is there Holy Water in two different places? Is it required of us to bow or genuflect as we approach the altar and from where and whence does this tradition come? The questions were all over the place; varied and informal, specific and general. I couldn't have asked for any better. Hopefully, as a community and individually, we all gained a better insight into what our Church, the greater Episcopal Community and our own church, St. Nicholas are about. What makes us 'tick.' I look forward to our next Open Sermon Weekend. Until then, we have much to look forward to. For any time we are afforded the gift of gathering as a community of faith, family and friends, we are truly blessed! The next few weeks will provide us a unique opportunity to get engaged in the community is a rather specific and fun way. Our annual St. Nick's Knacks Rummage Sale is fast approaching. Look about the Gathering Space, Noah's Ark Space and the hallway near the bathrooms and you'll see the start of something big about to happen. And our sale is BIG! We need as many of us to get engaged: roll up our sleeves and get to sorting, organizing, pricing and selling. It's a lot of work, my friends, I'll kid you not. But, it is also a lot of fun! While I'm away the week of August 2-9, all are more more than welcome to come on over, grab some stickers and start to price items. Lots of our items will be sold according to bulk pricing. Still, there is so much that has to be priced individually. Yet, before we can even price an item, everything has to be unpacked, unwrapped and placed where it belongs. Again my friends, there is much to do. We've done it before and we've come out on top. We'll do it again and we shall be, God willing, just as successful and still have a fun time at it. The week of August 10th, right up to the opening of the sale on Friday, August 14th at 9am, again, all are welcomed and encouraged to come and help out getting our sale up, running and headed to the finish line where we shall find our desired success. Community celebrates and worships together. Community mourns and rejoices together. Community plays and works together. So, as we go about the work of building God's Kingdom here on earth; as we go about the work of bringing and sharing the Good News of Christ to others, let us be reminded that our efforts do not go unnoticed nor unrewarded. Remember the words of St. Paul in his letter to the Colossians: "Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving." (Colossians 3: 23-24) And may I add and conclude by saying, that truly it is the Lord for whom we toil and labor. But all of us, as sisters and brothers in Christ, benefit from the efforts we put forth, for one another and always for our Lord's greater glory.

God Shed His Grace On Thee

We are a nation of many races and creeds, of ethnic divergences and foreign beginnings. We are truly a melting pot that simmers, steams and on occasion boils red hot. People come to these shores seeking those roads “paved with gold.” And while some do find their way to wealth and fame, others find mere specks of sparkling possibilities, potholes and a sustaining desire for the comforts of the ports left behind while wanting so much to stay, dig deep, plant their seeds and take root in this new land. This America; of waving wheat fields, lakes both great and small, of majestic mountains and low lands that begin to the north at Canada and travel south to Mexico. Bald eagles and buffalo herds, sky scrappers and underground trains, bridges that span gorges and rivers and unites one side to another and walls that soar into the heavens supporting rooftop terraces and palatial apartments and walls of words and opinions that only serves to separate and divide. America is complicated and compelling. America is unique and her people possessive of a ubiquitous spirit. America is red and black, white and brown, blue and gold, silver and bronze. We are a rainbow of people that is alive, yet coming of age and forever seeking wisdom and ever in need of God’s unconditional grace.

Our nations turns 239 this year and in some regards, we are still a young nations. Compare ourselves to England and France, to some Middle Eastern countries, yes, America is a child just beginning to walk of its own abilities.


It is safe to say we all desire and dream, we ponder and pray for a nation that doesn’t just give lip service to the idea of “one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice FOR ALL,” but a government that does all it can to ensure that such is the case, the rule, the abiding law that is upheld for the benefit of all her people. We have a ways to go I suspect. But, it is a venture, an undertaking, a mission I believe we are all eager to see come to full fruition! The past few weeks we’ve witnessed unprecedented and landmark decisions handed down by the highest court in the land. These laws will impact this country in a number of ways: there will be some who will scowl and sneer, while others will bask in the glory, rejoice, regale and revel. These new laws will forever alter us as a nation and like nutrients added to soil to stimulate growth, so our country has had its soil and soul tiled and turned, fortified and enhanced. We wait, patient people we are, we wait to see the growth that will come…

America has grown up quite a bit. The past month alone we have seen a great, growth spurt that necessitated a new suit to be worn: a suit that is far, more “accepting and giving,” a new set of clothes that are “equal and embracing.” You’re looking better and better every day, America!

Baseball, hotdogs, apple pie and Chevrolet.” Remember that jingle? General Motors hit a grand slam with that tune as car sales soared. If you’re from southeastern Michigan, more specifically Metro Detroit, there was this little tune that always made me smile; “Comic books and rubber bands, climb into the tree top. Falling down and holding hands, tricycles and Red Pop. Pony rides and Sunday nights, roller skates and snowball fights. Climb in through the window. Remember when you were a kid? Well, part of you still is. And that’s why we make Faygo. Faygo remembers.” Faygo is still proudly made in Detroit right on Gratiot Avenue just outside downtown and their Red Pop is awesome. (If you’d like to hear this song for yourself, go to Youtube, type in “Faygo song,” sit back and enjoy)

Yes, I do remember when I was a kid. Without any tinge of embarrassment I can say that part of me still is. Maybe keeping that “kid” inside me helps me to stay, feel and be young, at least at heart.

We all grow older and it is my hope that as we age, with grace and dignity, we gain wisdom and insight. Then, we pass on to the youth of our families, our communities our house of worship our aged wisdom and insight.

The times of our youth live on in our memories. Certainly, we cling and cleave to the old black and white photos that grace our picture albums. The other day I heard a young girl ask her mother why so many of her pictures were not in color. Be still my heart! I tell stories to my grand nephews and grand nieces about the days when we had only 6 or 7 television stations and we had to get up and go to the T.V. to change the station or turn up the volume. Really? Yes, really. That is how it was. In turn, I loved to hear the stories told to me of when my parents were young and the way their lives were dictated by the ‘conveniences” of their times. I imagine how it was for them and I can understand and appreciate the amazement of younger people today who question the realities of a time when listening to the radio was the nightly entertainment, a time without color television, returning burnt out light bulbs in exchange for new ones, collecting dishes or encyclopedia volumes with each tank full of gas, red meat and whole milk were recommended as part of a healthy diet, the aforementioned black and white photographs, no computers, bell bottom slacks, paisley patterned shirts and blouses, no air conditioning aside from a box fan in the window, 8 track tape players, leaving the front door of our homes unlocked and churches were open all night.

So, is anyone up for a pick-up game of baseball? How about we go and look for pop bottles, take them to the corner store and get the deposit money? Let’s get a jar and catch us some lightning bugs? Hey, let’s build a club house and you’ll need a secret pass to get in? What about “hide and go seek,” or “tag,” and we’ll get the kids from the other block to play with us? Remember when you were a kid? Do you think about how things will be when we’re all older? We live in the present but a great part of us still dwells and dreams of a time “back when.”

Let’s make it a good day…today, right now and make it the best day possible. Smile at the stranger you pass on the street. Pick a flower from the garden (your garden preferable, please), put it in a vase and just admire its beauty and fragrance. Grab a Red Pop, eat some pop corn, sit on the front porch and wave to the kids riding by on their bikes. We can live in the present with a little of yesterday thrown it, too.



Father Manny150

Holy Week: A Mere Seven Days That Changed The World


Holy Week: a mere seven days the changed the world and remains at the heart and soul of what all Christians hold so sacred and dear.

Palm Sunday is a celebration, a joyous occasion. Jesus is home to Jerusalem and everyone gathers to catch a glimpse of this carpenter’s son, this miracle worker. Capes and palm branches are thrown to the ground in a show of respect and reverence. Jesus rides into town upon a donkey in a show of humility. This sight certainly made people think. People questioned is this truly “the one” who is to be our leader? There is no chariot or team of stallions leading him in. What kind of king is He? Doubt enters their minds. The enthusiasm and exuberance begins to wane.

The joyfulness turns to bitterness and pain. Agony and sorrow defeat and wipe away any remnant of happiness. His closest friends abandon and deny Him. Seven days after Jesus’ triumphant entry in to the city, He undergoes a most Passionate of times and ultimately surrenders, giving over His body to human death.

How can a people change their attitude so quickly? What was it that changed their feelings? Who was it that altered their thinking? What polluted their hearts? What infected their minds? Was it mere human folly, ignorance or fear? Did the people want some one with more strength, more authority, some one much more outspoken and defiant? Or was it simply Scripture being fulfilled?

My sisters and brothers, this week is truly a celebration for in this week we celebrate our salvation. It is in the death of Jesus that we are born to eternal life. His sacrifice brings us the joys of Paradise, for us and for all God’s people.

Let us in earnest prayer be mindful of the immense gifts that we receive. Let us be ever aware that Jesus, our most Holy Redeemer, though he died in human terms, never left us, never abandoned us and never leaves our side. Jesus remains our closest and most loving friend. Is this not reason for celebration? Is this not a cause for rejoicing?

My prayers and blessings are with each and every one of my St. Nicholas community members: I pray that we lay bear our hearts to feel something of Jesus’ suffering. I pray our minds are open to comprehend the totality of this historical encounter, when heaven and earth co-mingled is such a miraculous manner in order to afford us the gift of a life more glorious.

Celebrate and let us keep our eyes fixed on the prize that awaits us.

Let us all celebrate a most blessed and joyful Holy Week.

Let us all celebrate a most blessed and joyful Easter.

God keep, strengthen and sustain us, one and all.



Father Manny150