The Grace Given to Each of Us

 

My job is to make clear to everyone just what the secret plan is, the purpose that’s been hidden from the very beginning of the world in God who created all things. This is it: that God’s wisdom, in all its rich variety, was to be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places – through the church.” The Apostle Paul, Ephesian 3: 9 & 10

 

This weekend is our church’s 150th anniversary of the chapel. The church: St. Mark’s, named after the Evangelist.

St. Mark, the Evangelist

The Anniversary booklet states,

St. Mark’s origins go back to the earliest days of Geneva, around 1830, when Episcopal services were held in a log house belonging to Mrs. Charity Herrirngton, which stood at what is now State Street near River Lane. These were the first religious services held in Geneva [IL].

And this,

Early in 1868 plans were drawn and a contractor selected to erect a church in the Gothic style, built of local riverstone with limestone sills and hood moldings, to seat 250….

There is much more of St. Mark’s history to recount. But here, I’ll share my St. Mark’s experience and the photos I shot today after the 8:00 service.

 

I came to St. Mark’s after moving into the area. At the same time, I was moving away from attending Bible churches. Raised in Evangelical churches and then attending them for years as an adult, I became desirous of a higher church setting, one that honored the beauty of words, of music, of architecture and the sacred. The Bible churches and many others, it seemed to me, were becoming more and more like the surrounding culture in their desire to be relevant.

I like Anglicanism’s emphasis on the Word and Sacrament along with the informing elements of tradition (the practices of the historical church) and reason (involving the intellectual). I like how the liturgy (worship hymns, reading of Scripture, offering, sermon, confession, the Creed, the Peace) points to the apex of the service – the Eucharist. In the churches I attended previously the service is centered around Scripturally illiterate sermons.

The words of The Book of Common Prayer have a stately beauty and sacredness to them. The wording should be so. We are petitioning royalty. Who in turn, points me to the Eucharist — the REAL Presence of Jesus Christ offered to me each week. It is the main reason I attend St. Mark’s.

The church has been a tremendous blessing to me over the almost eleven years I have attended. And, that is why I also must mention the many good people of St. Marks. They have been generous with their grace towards me. What they have received they have passed on to me.

One last word. I have spent many a time alone in St. Mark’s Chapel. This occurs during the Good Friday night vigil. I sign up for an hour alone before the cross, keeping watch. As such, it is a sacred time at 4:00 am. It is my time to come away and meditate on the cross. I come away from the chapel with a gift of grace, given to me “according to the measure the king used when he was distributing gifts. That’s why it says…

When he went up on high

He led bondage itself into bondage

And he gave gifts to people.

(Ephesians 4:7 & 8)

 

St. Marks’ is a gift of grace to me. Rulers and authorities would be wise to take note.

Pentecost mural by Louis Frederick Grell (1919)

Burning Bush

 

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Imagine 150 years of marriages and baptisms and confirmations and funerals and friendships and giving, and the Eucharist, and witness for Christ to the community. Imagine the Kingdom Continuum.

Current Resident

“Americans are right that the bonds of our communities have withered, and we are right to fear that this transformation has very real costs…” ―Robert D. Putnam, Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community

“Over the course of the last generation or two, a variety of technological, economic and social changes have rendered obsolete the stuff of American social capital.” ―Robert D. Putnam

 “Faith communities in which people worship together are arguably the single most important repository of social capital in America.” ―Robert D. Putnam

“Busy people tend to forgo the one activity – TV watching – that is most lethal to community involvement.” ―Robert D. Putnam

 

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community events

When was the last time you participated in a community event?  When was the last time you attended a village board meeting or a school board meeting? When was the last time you attended a church function? I had to ask myself these questions in the face of my own discontent with things as they and more so out of a sense of alienation from the neighborhood. The Current Resident is being addressed here.

It should be obvious:  TV and social media (blogs, Twitter, Facebook, etc.) do nothing to provide social context or human interaction.  The virtual reality of electronic devices only provides a momentary piqued interest in a certain topic or worse, entertainment. Social media are employed to reinforce excessive individualism and a false sense of acceptance. It replaces the human element with self-mirrored data bytes which are constantly and instantly cleared from your RAM to make memory available for the next “Breaking News”, news which causes one to hunker down even more so away from community.

One of the harbingers of our current dysfunctional society has been the Millennial drive for the elevated believe-in-self ego.  Social media responds in kind to Self.

A common element in schools is for a child not to learn to push himself to learn and therefore enter the civic arena ready to take on responsibility for one’s neighbor, but rather to believe in himself first and foremost– an individualist mantra – and at the same time accept all forms of relativist culture – the good, the bad and the ugly; a collectivist mantra – in the name of diversity and inclusion. In other words, make a child insensitive to another’s ersatz behavior while accepting one’s own ersatz behavior as good.  It takes a village…to marginalize and isolate your child into some political identity while doing so in the name of inclusion. An island of Lost Boys and Girls is the result, never a community

Adults add to the loss of community with a lack of knowledge.  Languishing with your spouse in front of a TV set is de rigueur these days.  Entertainment has supplanted deep thought. Critical thinking about political, economic and world matters is waylaid on the path to finding ourselves. We don’t want to be the needle in the haystack. We want to be asleep on the haystack!

Civic involvement has dropped off dramatically. Oh, yes.  We think we are civically involved when we Tweet our opinions.  But how lame!

A sense of community via nationalism is strenuously objected to by liberals.  Liberals hate flag waving.  Liberals see themselves above the mores of tradition, a major component of nationalism. They see themselves standing athwart history yelling “Anything Goes.”

What further fractures communities?  Identity studies in colleges and universities (e.g., African-American, queer and feminist studies).  America isn’t marginalizing you, you are self-marginalizing! Each of the identity studies seeks to have communities fit around them and not the other way around.

It is interesting to note that for Collectivists self-based individualism is given the imprimatur of personal pronouns (I, me, you) under Randian Objectivist “Me First” letterhead. One glaring recent example:  In 33-Minute Speech on Guns, Obama Refers to Himself 76 Times

In Obama’s “fundamentally transformed” America Self has become preeminent. The nuclear self (abortion, gay marriage, etc.) has replaced the nuclear family and with Glee.

Community Disorganizer:  After seven plus years of an administration where self-important executive orders regularly scorn We the People’s representatives, Obama can now be considered the most legacy-of-self, divisive and acrimonious president ever. And where the sixties brought almost 180-degree race and community progress Obama’s retorts have reversed modern history so as to relive it in his terms. The racial divide is pushed by Obama – recreate a problem and then see yourSelf as the answer.

Communities have suffered terribly under Obama’s Self-directed ignorance. Mushroom clouds of community immolation can be seen over decimated cities such as Baltimore. Protesters demand Self to be recognized and Community be damned.

baltimore-burnings-2015

Suffice it to say, our modern society is characterized by excessive individualism spent on a reinforced inbreeding of Self.  This is due to a desperate sense of alienation and a deficit of personal relationships.  The removal of society’s cornerstone – tradition – occurs during the razing of community so that Self can be built.

And so, for the Current Resident, the real inequality, the real discrimination, the real marginalization, the real greed and selfishness, the real sense of loss in this day and age is life without one another or community.

Community-1000x360

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And then there is this:

 

The dereliction of duty

by Daniel Johnson, The New Criterion

The deliberate neglect of our civic virtues has left our institutions hollowed out.