A Pastoral Letter From Bishop Ron

January 25, 2014

A few parishioners suggested that I adapt last Sunday’s homily into a pastoral letter because they saw the importance of what had been said. After reflecting on this, I thought it might be useful for the whole parish to hear the message, and so i have adapted what I said into this letter. I hope it is meaningful to everyone.

The words of John the Baptist which we have been hearing for a number of weeks, both in Advent and with the feast of Baptism of the Lord are heard once again as we begin the cycle of readings we refer to as Ordinary Time. Ordinary Time is an odd translation of the Latin which simply indicates that it is a time span between the great feasts of Christmas and Easter. It occurs right after Christmas, stops at Lent, and picks up again after the Easter celebrations. So, Ordinary Time in the church calendar is divided into two parts – pre and post Easter.

In general, Ordinary time focuses on the teachings and the miracles of Jesus, the many things Jesus did in those three years leading up to his Passion and Death. So, we began last Sunday in the Gospel with John’s testifying that Jesus was the Son of God, while the  Old Testament reading was Isaiah’s prophecy of what this Son of God, this  Messiah, would be like, with the emphasis on his being a “servant”.

The theme today is that Jesus is God, but a God who is a servant. The reading from St. Paul last Sunday also pointed out that from earliest Christian times Jesus was seen as God. But in Isaiah we also see the prophetic role of the Messiah. God becomes a servant in order to save all people, not just the Jews.

Our responsorial psalm on Sunday echoed the reply of the servant, the Son, who comes only to do the will of the Father. “Here I am Lord, I have come to do your will.” This is Jesus, then, the one whom John the Baptist today recognizes as “lamb of God”. Note that Jesus is the lamb of God, He is not here the shepherd. In the relationship of Father and Son, Jesus is the lamb, the Father is the shepherd, the leader. The lambs follow. And this lamb, this Savior, this servant, this Jesus is able to take away the sins of the world. That is his purpose in coming, the reason he was sent by the Father. This declaration then sets us up for Ordinary Time. We know that Jesus is a servant come to take away our sins, and that he is the Son of God, and that he will offer a new kind of baptism. In the next weeks we see how he goes about doing just that.

A good many Protestant churches today seem to say that each of us has to see Jesus as our own personal Savior. This is never indicated in the Bible. Even in the Isaiah reading today we learn that Jesus came for all – to bring salvation to the ends of the earth. When Paul writes to the church at Corinth, he does more than that by including also “those who are called to be saints”, together with all who call on Jesus. And he is the lamb who takes away the sins of the world.  He is not just my personal Savior, he is everyone’s Savior. He came for us all, he died for us all.  That is why I always place such a stress on communal worship. We are called not to just a personal relationship with Jesus but more so, with a communal relationship, one that attempts to reveal Christ to more and more people.

And how do we do this? We do this first by our communal worship of the Eucharist.  It is far too easy in this day and age to skip our communal service, our Mass. Our coming together has to grow to be more important to you than the rest of your week, simply because we need each other, we are strengthened by each other and we spread the word by our communal actions.

I wish there could be a moratorium on Sunday morning practices, games, hobbies and rehearsals. What I hope for you is that when you have to miss Mass, you really do miss it. We are less without you, and you should feel less without us.

I think the Church has been taking a wrong approach is making missing Mass a sin. We have to come to Mass because we really want to come. Not just to “get something out of it” but to see it as our one hour communal weekly worship of God, to participate in Jesus’ sacrifice, to become one with the other members of the congregation. If we really felt all these things, we would never want to miss. And please don’t think of this as a guilt trip! It is more an attitude that I hope we can develop more and more here.

Secondly, once we have come together, become one in worship, we become visible signs to the rest of the world by what we do. We spread the word of God, the kingdom of God, by the things we are, a community, and the things we do – the acts of charity, the care we show others.  That is the real way we spread God’s kingdom, the way we become lambs of God, the way we help in taking away the sins of the world.

This is great news! The Baptist shows the way today and he proclaims the Good News for all of us to hear. May you all develop this attitude and love of communal worship.

Bishop Ron Stephens


Categories Announcements | Tags: | Posted on January 25, 2014

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Sunday Morning: 10:45 am

Grace Church

Grace Church Road, Casanova, VA


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Contact either Bishop Tony, Father Ron, or Father Mike

St. Andrew the Apostle
Grace Episcopal Church
Grace Church Road
Midland, VA (Near Casanova) 20187
(540) 349-1661