From Celebration to Lamentation

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Confirmation Sunday was a great celebration! It is always remarkable to stand by the confirmands and those praying with them as our Bishop Philip speaks the words of knowledge and the Confirmation prayer over them. It has a “rippling effect,” as does the courage of the saints when they stand boldly proclaiming the gospel in word and deed as +Philip mentioned.

But this week the Scriptures will move us from Celebration to Lamentation, and that will take some work beforehand.

To do so, I want you to prepare for Sunday’s lessons by putting yourself in the shoes of an Israelite in 587 BC when Jerusalem was destroyed. The city you loved and lived in is gone. A foreign army has come and killed most of your neighbors, has taken captive the ruling class, and has left only a few people to work and keep the land. In fact, your king fled under cover of darkness slipping through a gap in the city wall only to be hunted down like a dog, brought before the conquering king, have his eyes put out, and sent to Babylon the conquering land. The glorious temple that King Solomon had built for the worship of the living God glory 373 years prior lay in ruins. And every precious item that was used in worshiping God has been plundered and hauled back to Babylon. The roads that lead to the city and the temple are no longer marked by the songs of pilgrims drawing near to worship but by dead bodies.

The book of Lamentations was written in the aftermath of the destruction of Jerusalem, the Temple, and the majority of Judah being led into captivity by their enemy Babylon. The book records five different poems each in acrostic form. These poems were composed in order to remember and give voice to the lament of the people in the wake of this devastating loss. The acrostic form demonstrates the poems’ highly artistic and liturgically useful nature.

This Sunday we’ll take a closer look at Lamentations and the circumstances around its composition. What will God speak to us as we proclaim this word of lament?

See you Sunday -

Jay+

Welcoming New Members, Confirming God’s Work of Faith

This Sunday St. Bart’s will welcome our Bishop Philip Jones as he confirms the newest members of our growing family. Bishop Philip will lead us in this sacramental moment in the Church when the "grace of the Holy Spirit is conveyed in a new or fuller way to those who have already received it” through baptism and their life of faith.

Confirmation is the final step of Membership at St. Bart's, so we’ll be welcoming new people into the church and into the global Anglican family. The Confirmation Service is always powerful as Bishop Jones will call friends and family members up to surround the confirmands. Then, in a moment of quiet and waiting on the Lord, he lays hands on each confirmand and prays specifically for them.

Come expectant and prayerful for those who are being confirmed and joining the Church - I’ve listed their names below so you can pray for them. And, come ready for God to move in your own life as you participate and experience.

Jay+

Learning to Lament with the Weeping Prophet

This coming Sunday we will spend some time with the prophet Jeremiah, and we will clearly see why he has come to be known as the weeping prophet.

My hope is that our time with the weeping prophet will be neither a morose exercise nor a historical curiosity but rather a help for us as we address crucial questions. What do we do with our anger? What do we do with our pain? Is there space within our faith for disappointment and doubt? Or to ask another way, how do we lament?

Jeremiah models for us how lament, how bringing pain and disappointment before God as a matter of prayer is not antithetical to faith but central to it. In his book Prophetic Lament: A Call for Justice in Troubled Times, theologian Soong-Chan Rah describes lament as “a liturgical response to the reality of suffering and engages God in the context of pain and trouble. The hope of lament is that God would respond to human suffering that is wholeheartedly communicated through lament.”

I find Rah’s description striking for a couple of reasons. First, his description of lament as liturgical means that lament is a way of worshipping or, if you aren’t willing to go that far, a way of praying. Think of it. Bringing our pain, our disappointments, our questions, our doubts before God is part of our right worship of him. Second, Rah’s insistence that lament is a matter of hope means that even in the midst of darkness, by crying out to God, the very one who feels absent, we are still praying, and praying is always a matter of hope.

Please join us this Sunday, and if you haven’t already, please consider joining a pastorate.

Chris+

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Wait, What Fire?

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"Did you see it?”
"The smoke was blowing every where!”
“It was like a pyromaniac’s dream!”
“That’s why we looked like meerkats!"

These were some of the words of consolation I heard Sunday night as we kicked off our party. I later learned a fire was blazing somewhere in the neighborhood producing a tiny distraction. Thankfully, as far as we know, everyone is safe and all is well.

No matter, Sunday night was fantastic!! Despite the fire that blazed somewhere nearby, we gathered, celebrated, and feasted to God’s glory as God’s people! It was a wonderful night!

I hope the St. Bart’s Day Festival has you ready to roll into Fall. Pastorates resume this week - sign up info here - and Women’s Bible Study kicks off as well - sign up and info here. We’ll have other opportunities to connect and grow together as well. In the meantime, you won’t want to miss Baptisms this week and Confirmations the next.

It is exciting to see God’s work in our midst at St. Bart’s. We’re embarking on a great season as we follow the example of Bartholomew, our father in the faith, and the leading of our Heavenly Father in the power of the Spirit to proclaim the name and love of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Let’s be still and ready as we follow our Lord wherever he leads.

Jay+

St. Bart's Day Festival

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Bring a friend this Sunday as we mark our second annual St. Bart’s Day Festival! A year ago our Bishop Philip Jones came and dedicated us as our own parish. We’ve watched God work in our midst over the past year, and now comes the time to celebrate that work with a feast!

We give thanks to God for the seen and unseen work he is doing in each of us, and we anticipate all that he will do in this next season. We continue in beholding God and becoming more like him. We continue to partner with God as he builds St. Bart’s into a church that is authentic, whose posture of mission hospitality, that values wholeness and healing, mystery, and rootedness. And we do this so our Lord Jesus Christ may draw people to himself right here in East Dallas.

I’m eager to celebrate with you all that God has done and will continue to do in our midst this year and beyond.

See you Sunday!

Jay+

Not Even The Idol Worshippers Do That

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This Sunday we’ll hear a prophecy of Jeremiah to Israel (Jer 2:4-13). There, God is reminding the people of Israel of his delightful redemption of them; how they came out of slavery in Egypt, wandered through the dark wilderness and were delivered into a plentiful and good land all because God loved them and designed and directed their rescue. Yet now, says the Lord, the people of Israel have wandered from him to serve false gods. And here is the ironic line that has been ringing in my ears:

"For cross to the coasts of Cyprus and see,
or send to Kedar and examine with care;
see if there has been such a thing.
Has a nation changed its gods,
even though they are no gods?
But my people have changed their glory
for that which does not profit.” (2:10-11)

In other words, what Israel has done is unheard of. Not even the residents of Kedar or Cyprus, worshipers of idols, forsake their local deities for some other god. The irony, of course, is that God is not a local deity. He is not bound by a region, a river, or even a nation of people. God called Abram and chose for himself the people of Israel in order that he might show his love to every nation in the world through this peculiar people, his “treasured possession” (Exod 19:5). The great tragedy of Israel is that they experienced the specificity and power of God’s love, yet left that love behind. They had begun “as a bride” with her bridegroom, but now they have wandered as an unfaithful wife. And it is Jeremiah’s vocation to prosecute the unfaithful people, to call out their deeds and call them back.

“Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it; prone to leave the God I love….” Those familiar words also ring in my ears today because I can also identify with Israel. I can wander, forget, and run off to some other false god, dig my own cistern when God has provided in Christ Jesus a “fountain of living waters.” Maybe you can identify with Israel as well.

I love being on this journey of “beholding and becoming” with you. I look forward to sharing more of God’s word with you Sunday.

Jay+

Your Work With Your People

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Liturgy (from the Greek word leitourgia) has been called the ‘work of the people.’ This public, corporate, and active aspect of worship is one thing that drew me to our Anglican tradition over a decade ago. This means when you come to worship at St. Bart’s you’re not going to be passive. You’ll be invited to participate by standing, singing, kneeling, keeping silence, listening, praying, responding, passing the peace of Christ, receiving communion, and ultimately being sent out into the world on mission for God. Sounds like work, doesn’t it?

But more than that, our weekly worship requires the work of the people. Maybe you have noticed that it takes some 20 people to make worship happen at St. Bart’s. We have readers and ushers and chalice bearers and musicians and prayers and teachers and greeters and people who set up and people who tear down. Each member of each of these teams does work so the community can worship.

This Sunday we’ll call attention to our teams and invite you to participate in the work of the people and enable the worship of the St. Bart’s community. Please prayerfully consider joining a couple of teams in order to engage more fully with the life and worship at St. Bart’s.

See you Sunday!

Jay+

Promotion Sunday, Student and Teacher Blessing

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School is almost here! For some, it has already begun. Accordingly we’ll have a couple of special moments this Sunday.

First, this week is “Promotion Sunday” for our children’s classes. That means, they’ll be moving up to their next age or grade level. Our Children’s Coordinator Katie Lemming has done a fantastic job building a culture of welcome, discovery, and safety for our children and workers both paid and volunteer. The basis of our curriculum is immersion in the great narratives of Scripture that, as a result, forms our children to be in awe of God and Jesus Christ his son, to love what He commands and to desire what He promises in the fullness of the Spirit.

In addition, we’ll have a special prayer for all Students and Teachers this Sunday. We all know the return to the school rhythm can be daunting, so we will lift these up to the Lord in blessing this Sunday.

See you soon!

Jay+