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The service of Blue Christmas will be held on Sunday, December 13th, at 4:00 PM. Blue Christmas is a time to bring our whole selves and our whole lives into the presence of God, particularly those parts that make us sad, or “blue.” Whether it is the loss of a loved one, a change for the worse in health, or any difficult life situation, God longs to be with us and to let us know God’s love and comfort. At the service of Blue Christmas we gather, hear and reflect on God’s word, and share the bread and wine, Christ’s body and blood, broken and shed for us, as Christ was one of us. We have the opportunity to allow God to comfort us and those around us. All are invited.
Join us as the children of All Saints help to lead worship! The Christmas Pageant is a beloved tradition at All Saints, in which the children tell the Christmas story and the congregation sings carols. The service concludes with Eucharist and is a joyful, family-friendly time of worship for Christmas.
Choral Prelude begins at 9:40
This service is both joyful and solemn as we celebrate the Incarnation of Christ. The church is lit with hand candles as we sing carols and listen to the traditional Christmas readings. The service concludes with Eucharist. The music is sublime as extra musicians supplement our organist and choir. Instrumental music begins half an hour before the service: come early and listen. A true traditional Christmas worship experience.
One service only this Sunday
Join us for this beautiful service inspired by the service of Kings College Cambridge. Carols, reading and Eucharist. All are welcome.
I once heard a band sing a song that included the line: “Don’t just do something, sit there!” These words jumped into my mind as I was thinking about the wonderful Centering Prayer time we are offering at All Saints now. On Tuesday mornings at 11:30, anyone who wishes gathers in a circle of chairs in the chancel. Our leader, Sally Smith (who leads several Centering Prayer groups and is very experienced in Centering Prayer), reads a brief spoken prayer and then rings a small gong three times, followed by the words: “Be still and know that I am God. Be still and know. Be still. Be.” Then, we sit there! We sit together in silence for twenty minutes, until the gong rings again to bring us gently back.
If you haven’t ever experienced this type of prayer, you may be wondering what we do during those twenty minutes. The answer is: nothing! We sit, with the intention of being in the presence of God, and when our minds wander (as they inevitably do) we gently bring them back to the intention of being in the presence of God.
It doesn’t sound like much, but this kind of prayer is a cornerstone of my own life of faith. I find that it changes me, that it opens me to God, and that I become aware of God’s presence.
I highly recommend experimenting with Centering Prayer, either by coming on a Tuesday morning or by sitting by yourself for twenty minutes, doing nothing but holding the intention of being in God’s presence. (Find more information about Centering Prayer here.) Centering Prayer has the potential to deepen your connection with God and to transform your spiritual journey. Give it a try!
Thoughts and updates from All Saints
First, the Easel –
The “Roots” of All Saints:
We are a truly welcoming community. Our circle expands to fit whoever comes. We care for and love one another. We honor doubt and strive for authenticity in our spiritual life together. Our liturgy and music is traditional and we take it seriously; at the same time we have fun with it and it is never stuffy.
One of the other signs says:
Becoming more deeply who we are as Episcopalians;
sharing who we are with the world.
The “roots,” you may remember, were something that the whole community commented on a couple of years ago (remember Betsey’s “trees”?). The rest of what is up there is the result of the work of last Fall’s vestry retreat.
What this amounts to is a discernment of who we are as a community, and a vision of who we will carry and build on this in the future. I’m reminding you all of this today because this is still the plan which the vestry and the clergy of All Saints are using as we move forward. Each decision that we make comes with this vision in mind. How does what we are doing or proposing to do fit in with the kind of community we are? And how does it further the mission of the church, which at the core is becoming more deeply disciples of Christ and inviting others to do the same?
We came to the conclusion that the best way we, the All Saints Community, could do this was to ground ourselves more deeply in the tradition we represent. We believe that the Episcopal way is a great avenue to Christ; and that the best way for us to fulfill on our call to ministry was to emphasize the strengths of that tradition in which we are already grounded. This means two things: first, that we recognize that our tradition has been ‘undersold,’ that it has much to offer the world but we’ve been too quiet about it; and second, that to do this, we have to begin by understanding it better ourselves. All this is why we are consciously making an effort to both explore and practice our tradition. That is why we have added a new worship opportunity on Tuesdays at Noon based on the Episcopal Daily Office; it is also why we are currently offering an “advanced bible” class on Sunday, not just to understand the Bible better, but to understand better the way our tradition offers us tools to understand what the Bible means to us. And of course, we’ll be doing more based on these principles going forward.
Above all of this, of course, is the root of what it means to be a Christian community. The goal is to understand better what it means to be disciples of Jesus, both so that we can be better disciples ourselves, and to offer an example of disciples to others in the wider community around us.
That’s what we’re doing. I just thought you’d like to know.
Ash Wednesday is on March 1st, and All Saints will offer two worship services, one at noon and the other at 7pm. Both services will include imposition of ashes and Eucharist. Childcare is available at both services, and, as always, children are also welcome in worship.
All Saints Episcopal Church
2076 Sutterville Road
Sacramento, California 95822
8:00 am Sunday Holy Eucharist, Rite II
9:15 am Sunday Adult Bible Study
10:00 am Sunday Holy Eucharist, Rite II
Nursery and Sunday School at the 10 am service.
All Saints Church is located across the street from Sacramento City College. Each semester we offer students the opportunity to purchase a pass to park in our parking lot Monday through Friday from 7:00 to 4:00. For more information see our parking pass information page.
Sermon given November 26, 2017
Today, the last Sunday after Pentecost, and so the last Sunday before Advent begins, is known as “Christ the King.” I suppose that you can say that as the last Sunday of the Church year, it also represents the culmination, the end goal, the realization of the Kingdom of God. That is why we have so many parable about the Kingdom for the last few weeks, and why you can plausibly interpret many of them as being about the end times. I don’t necessarily think that it is best to limit our interpretation of these readings to something that predicts the future…we should have a broader notion of what Jesus is saying to us: a description that says to us what the point of all this is, where we are going, but also why we are going there, and what the first principles of following Jesus really are.
This Sunday, called “Christ the King” also isn’t just about glorifying Jesus. Yes, it says that Jesus is “King of Kings and Lord of Lords,” but that isn’t just something we say to say how great he is. It’s the nature of his kingship and lordship that is the question. It’s about why what it represents is what we should consider true greatness. But even more than that, it challenges us to consider what our response to that greatness ought to be, and what it means to be Jesus’ disciples.
Now, the readings today make it clear what ‘side’ God is on, if you will. It ought to be no secret to anyone who calls themselves a Christian what that side that ought to be. Not just Jesus, but the whole tradition before him, and since, has made clear that we cannot ignore the poor, the downtrodden, and those that suffer because of injustice. It ought, as I said, be obvious, but it is apparent to me that it never ceases to be important to say it. God isn’t necessarily on the side of those with the greatest wealth, or the biggest armies. God cares about the victims, and the suffering,and those whom we otherwise might be inclined to ignore. Just to be clear on that once again…
So when Ezekiel speaks with God’s voice, comparing himself to a shepherd, he doesn’t say something like ‘I care for maintaining the strongest sheep because they are the most valuable ones’ or something like that. Instead, he says that he will seek out the weak and the lost, and the starving – not the actions of a shepherd who is only out to seek a profit. He will care for the ones who are most in need of caring, and feed the ones most in need of food.
And the Gospel today follows these themes, but even more so. In fact, no one I think who professes faith in Jesus ought to be able to hear or read this passage from Matthew without a little fear. After all, Jesus says that whatever you do to others, you do to him. If you give food to another, you give food to Jesus. If you clothe some one who has no clothes, you clothe Jesus. And if you refuse to feed someone, you refuse to feed a hungry Jesus, or if you don’t give clothes to someone who needs them, you’re refusing to clothe a naked Jesus. It should give everyone of us pause, every time we interact with another human being.
Jesus, as always, is speaking in big terms, saying things that may sound outrageous, but they’re meant to be; this is something that we need to pay attention to, and we fail to do it at our peril.
Now, it is important, and we should always remind ourselves of these things; but I think that it is equally important to realize that if we remember what faith in our God means, and if we have truly absorbed the message of God’s love revealed in Jesus, that most likely we will be oriented this way already. But equally, if we are not oriented this way, it reveals something amiss in our own spirituality. And that’s where the danger really lies. How we respond to the needs of others reflects on the nature of our faith. If we are deficient in our love for others, we must look as well at our relationship with God. Our connection to God’s love through Jesus is reflected in our love for others; and if our love for others just isn’t there, then our love of God probably isn’t either. That’s the point of Jesus’ story in the Gospel today: love of God and love of neighbor isn’t just related – it’s actually part of the same thing. What you do do someone else, you do to Jesus, and the other way around, too.
Well, as I’ve said, all of this should be obvious to Christians. And while a certain amount of complacency and self-satisfaction are out there, it is also true that there are many Christians doing good in the world, sharing what they have, feeding the hungry and generally taking care of one another.
But the image of Jesus as King says more than just just giving things away. It also says that his kingship represents the way the world should be governed. It means that we shouldn’t just stop at just giving things to people. Feeding the hungry is important, but a king does more than that; a king who is just delivers justice. And so it is with us; we are to seek not only that people should have what they need, but also what is right. The victims of injustice are also our brothers and sisters. But more, the systems of injustice are affronts to God’s purposes; Christ, as king sets a standard of justice. We are to see and recognize injustice when we see it, to critique our systems and to do what we can to change them. That is hard work, and we may not always know how to do it, or even agree on the details of how to do it. But we can never ignore the injustices in our systems. We must deal with them honestly, doing what we are able to do about them.
But the idea of Christ as King has even more to say us. If Christ is king, it means he is the standard, the one setting the true agenda, the one reflecting how things are supposed to be. It means that the standard of Christ is the standard of love, and that that’s the way the word is really ordered. And what I think that means is that we are called to something that isn’t just a duty or a command. We are called to follow the worlds as it is.
What I mean by that is that while it may seem a difficulty or a burden to follow the way that Jesus teaches, in fact it is the path to rewarding and meaningful life. We are not simply called to a duty to give things away; we are called to see life’s meaning in living in a manner that reflects God’s love. The abundant life that Jesus promises is not a burden, but a kind of liberation.
You see, it comes back again to the fact that Jesus is not, in the end, trying to scare us into being good. It isn’t really about saying ‘do what I say, be good, or else God will send you to hell!’ It is about inviting us to accept God’s love, and share it. It is about accepting that the world is really governed by God’s love, and acting accordingly. It is about inviting us to a way of life – a way of faith – that will, in the long run, be far more rewarding than the life we would otherwise lead. Because, you see, living as if others matter also means that we matter – and that leads to life that is connected to others, and that gives us a place and a context into which we can live. Life, in other words, with meaning.
As Jesus says, in another part of Matthew’s Gospel “my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” What is asked of us isn’t as hard as the alternative: meaning and community instead of isolation and despair. What is asked of us that seems like a burden or a duty, is actually good for us – or more than good for us, it’s the best thing for us of all.
This last week was a rough one for me and for many others, perhaps many of you listening to me today. I love this country very much. I appreciate that we have a Declaration of Independence that says, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.