Archive | Vicar’s Voice

Don’t Take Life for Granted

March 10, 2017

Dear St. Stephen’s Family and Friends,

I admit it: Lent evades me right now. The usual patterns are in place including an additional book on a spiritual concern (Come Be My Light by Mother Teresa) and no meat on Fridays (that isn’t the same as a fast) to remind me to give extra money to the poor and hungry and to remind me of putting my life in God’s hands. It seems my basic character defects are here to stay until God decides to remove them and my sins continue to be all too familiar; daily forgiven and daily familiar. This morning (Tuesday) all I wanted to do was read and rest and meditate. My good protestant work ethic would not allow that to happen so off to my lists about St. Stephen’s, NWPA, home, personal and a look at the end of the day showing what’s been checked off. Nothing wrong with getting things done; makes the world keep moving. Nothing wrong with reading and praying; feeds the spirit within. At the end of the day my heart is grateful for the gift of another day and a certain curiosity about what dreams will come in sleep and what adventures await tomorrow. Maybe Lent, more than any other season, reminds us to not take life for granted and to plumb the depths of each day, each relationship, each opportunity to love and serve God and others. Sounds good. See you on Sunday.

Love and blessings,

Alvin+

Vicar’s Voice – Pillars

March 3, 2017

Dear St. Stephen’s Family and Friends,

A good friend of mine, Dave Pepper of Pepper Construction in Chicago, has the responsibility for the major renovation of Wrigley Field, the home of the Chicago Cubs. There are many challenges to this undertaking but one that has metaphorical implications for us has to do with the steel structures that support the stadium. When Wrigley was first built, there was only one level of stands. Added to the first set of steel supports were the upper deck, lights, and skyboxes. All these additions took place without exploring the strength of the steel supports. As you can imagine, one of the key components in the renovation has been exposing the supports and insuring their strength going forward as essential to further expansion and growth.

A local church is similarly supported. What makes us thrive isn’t always clearly visible to us who are involved. The pillars that support St. Stephen’s are people and we lost two strong pillars of our community recently. Dick Bliley died on February 16 and Jess Thompson died on February 21. Both of them were strong and committed members of St. Stephen’s. You might not have met them as they worshipped at 8 AM on Sundays when they were in town and when health permitted. Their commitment, and the commitment of many others like them for decades, has insured that St. Stephens is alive and continuing to grow as a parish community. They are like the hidden steel pillars of Wrigley Field. They have been here for years, they show some wear and tear, they’ve upheld the church through good times and not so good times, and they held firm so whatever remodeling God has in mind for us will be built on the foundation they have set and for which they have our and my deepest gratitude.

Yes it’s time for the next set of pillars to be developed but they will be tied forever with the strength of those who have gone before; people like Dick Bliley and Jess Thompson.

Love and blessings,

Alvin+

Vicar’s Voice – Ash Wednesday

February 24, 2017

Dear St. Stephen’s Family and Friends,

Ash Wednesday arrives this coming Wednesday, March 1.  Several years ago a group of us from St. Michael’s in Barrington, Illinois were fortunate to be a part of the consecration of the Anglican Cathedral in Renk Diocese of Sudan.  The Archbishop of Canterbury was present for this joyous occasion and a worship service lasting over four hours.

The next day was Ash Wednesday.  All of us from the Episcopal Church and the Church of England were very concerned that we have a service and our hosts willingly accommodated our request.  As the process of planning the service unfolded, three powerful messages arose.  First, if you live in a country where you are never sure of where or how much food you will have, there is no need to fast.  Second, if you live in a country where death walks with you on a daily basis, there is no need to be reminded of one’s mortality.  Third, if what appears to be clouds on the horizon is actually a dust storm forcing one inside and requiring a mask to breathe, one doesn’t need to be reminded that we are all dust.   Ash Wednesday, a day to be reminded of our mortality, our sinfulness, that we are but dust simply isn’t needed in Southern Sudan.  Every day they shout “Alleluia” because simply being alive is a gift.  When they shouted “Alleluia” during the Ash Wednesday service this made sense and I joined in the shouts, and playing the drums, and rejoicing at the gifts of live, love and God…not to mention the faith of the beautiful Sudanese people.

We, however, need Ash Wednesday; we need the firm reminders that God drew us from the dirt and that when our lives come to an end our bodies will return to the dust from which all humanity was originally drawn.  We need to be reminded not only of our sinfulness but also of the grace of forgiveness.  We need to be reminded of the abundance of our lives and the reality that others aren’t so fortunate and we are compelled to help them.  We need to be reminded that we are all created in the image of God; all of us.  ‘Dust we are and to dust we shall return.’

See you Sunday, at Mardi Gras on Tuesday,  and also on Ash Wednesday.

Love and blessings,

Alvin+

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