Thanksgiving is around the corner, then we begin the season of Advent.
Yes, we realize many stores have already put up Christmas decorations and some radio stations began playing Christmas music the day after Halloween. But as Christians, we wait and watch with Christ, even when that means taking each holy day as they come and not rushing ahead.
So for now, we give thanks. Thanksgiving is an essential part of our prayer life. Throughout holy scripture, the people of God gave thanks. Mister Eckhart reminds us, "If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is thank you, it will be enough."
So how will you give thanks? We have some resources for adults, youth, and children to create time for giving thanks.
Do you know the real history of Thanksgiving? No, it didn't actually begin with Pilgrims and Native Americans. Humans have celebrated some feast for thanks for eons. Here's a great story about the history of Thanksgiving, not only our National Day, but the history of harvest festivals before the onset of winter throughout history.
Have children (and maybe some adults) singing the refrain, "We're bored!" over the holiday weekend? Check out this link for crafts that engage hands and heart with opportunties for sharing and reflection on giving Thanks.
As we gather for our Thanksgiving meal, may we begin it with prayer. If you're looking for some prayer ideas, ask each person to share something for which they give thanks. Invite people to say one word that represents the feeling of gratitude. Or use one of these prayers to begin and even maybe end your meal.
And may we not forget those who are hungry, cold, and alone this season. If you are going to engage in shopping (that' s okay - most of us do) after Thanksgiving, why not add a few extra items to your grocery cart to give to your local food bank - we have bins at the church for God's Pantry. Most homeless shelters are in need of adult socks, gloves, and hats this time of year. Or you could give them much needed cash. Imagine totaling up what you spend for your Thanksgiving meal and tithing (giving 10%) to God's Pantry or your local food bank or other charity that helps those in need.
We are entering a season of giving and thanks. Engage it, be present to it, and give thanks.
As we settle into fall, the Church celebrates the Autumn Triduum, the three holy days in the season of fall. All Hallows Eve, All Saints' Day, and All Souls' Day are three days that invite us to enter the shadows as days get shorter and nights get longer and encounter, quite honestly, death.
All Hallows Eve, more commonly known as Halloween, has roots in ancient Western European harvest celebrations. Communities lit bonfires and celebrated the last of the summer harvest as they prepared for the coming winter. Christianity joined the party when November 1st was designated at All Saints' Day. All major feast days have vigils on the evening before, so Christians would gather on October 31st in prayer for those who had died. That name, All Hallows' Eve, got shortened to Hallowe'en (hallow is an old word for holy). Cultural traditions and Christian traditions became intertwined over the years. Costumes, trick-or-treating, carving pumpkins, and skeletons became part of the celebration of Halloween.
Some Christians state Halloween is not a Christian holiday. It most certainly is. We dress up as things that scare us. We hear ghost stories and watch scary movies. We laugh in the midst of our fears as we remember that God is with us. We remember that being scared is part of being human, and even in our fear, God never leaves us. So have fun this Halloween being scared!
Halloween is followed by All Saints' Day, a day to remember the saints of the church, those women and men of heroic faith whose lives are examples for us. Some historians think the first Halloween costumes were Christians dressing up as saints. A great activity with families is to find 2 or 3 saints and explore their lives. Learn about who they were and why they were named saints. We will celebrate All Saints' Day at St. Michael's on Sunday, November 5th.
All Souls' Day ends our three holy days of fall. On this day we remember all those we love who have died. Some churches (including St. Michael's) have special services where we remember by name those who have died from our congregation. Some families use this day to visit the graves of loved ones and place flowers on them. On All Souls' Day, spend some time remembering those you have loved who have died. What do you miss most about them? Maybe write a letter to them, put a photograph or memento in a special place and light a candle, and say prayers thanking God for the life this person lived.
Autumn is a time of change. Summer has passed. Winter is coming. We are getting ready to welcome the new year in Advent. So these three holy days are a time of celebration, remembrance, and reflection.
The Bible is a foundational part of our faith. The stories of humanity's encounter with God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit inspire us, guide us, and challenge us. The Bible is made up of 2 main sections, the Old Testament and the New Testament. The Episcopal Church and some other denominations also read the Apocrypha.
The Bible is not one long, coherent story read from the first chapter through to the end. It's instead like a library made up of various books. The name Bible means books. The books may be history, poetry, prophecy, myths and fables. They may be Gospels (a particular name given to the four accounts of Jesus and his ministry), letters, and more history. Some books of the Bible tell the same story but were written during different eras, the books of Kings and Chronicles, for example.
Each Sunday, we read 4 portions of Holy Scripture. Two readings are from the Old Testament, also called the Hebrew Scriptures, since most of the books were originally written in Hebrew. One of these readings often includes a Psalm, a collection of Jewish poetry and hymnody. Two readings are from the New Testament, originally written in Greek, and one of these readings will always be from one of the four Gospels.
The Gospels, a word meaning good news, were written by people as they shared their encounters with Jesus so future generations would know the stories. They are, in order of appearance in the New Testament, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. While they all have similarities, they also have differences.
Most people, if they try to read the Bible, become overwhelmed and discouraged after a few tries. It's a long collection of books. Thankfully, there are some great helps out there if you'd like to read the Bible. One is The Bible Challenge from Forward Movement, a book that guides readers through the entire Bible in a year. We will begin at St. Michael's on October 29th a Journey through the Bible that will invite readers to explore and engage Holy Scripture in some imaginative and fun ways - if you'd like more information, there's a sign up sheet on the bulletin board. And here's a link for a great survey of children's Bibles to make reading the Bible a family event. Some other ideas for reading the Bible include starting with one book, like the Gospel we're currently reading in Church (that's Matthew, in case you're wondering) or reading a Psalm or two each day.
Why read and study the Bible?
Well, first because it is the story of our faith. Thousands of years of humans and their joys, grief, insights, and spectacular failures as they follow God are important to us. When we read and study the Bible, we engage and encounter God. Reading the Bible is an act of worship and prayer.
Secondly, because people quote the Bible ALL THE TIME, and often incorrectly. How will you know if the Bible really says all the things its accused of saying if you've never read it? Well, you can't. If you've never read the Bible for yourself, you have to depend on the person telling you what it says, and that can be a risky proposition given what some people say.
And thirdly, because reading the Bible is a gift. We often are quick to forget that not that long ago, women and men died - yep, you read that right - DIED - for the very act of reading the Bible in their native language. For centuries, only certain people, mostly clergy, were allowed the right to read the Bible and common people (read: most of us) were not allowed to read the Bible. That changed with the Reformation 500 years ago and with the printing press. Many faithful women and men translated, printed and smuggled copies of the Bible to people in Europe so they could read the Word of God for themselves. Reading the Bible as God's Word is an act of faith and an act of thanksgiving.
If you're interested in engaging the Bible, join us as we begin a journey through Holy Scripture. Even if you can't attend every class, you can get some ideas on how you can make the Word of God present in your life through the Bible.
With the news cycle about Charlottesville and our own city of Lexington's conversations about relocated two statues of confederate soldiers, how do we talk to our children about racism?
The temptation might be to gloss over the issue, but as Christians we are guided to speak the truth in love. Speaking with children at an age-appropriate level and listening to their fears and questions are two foundational ways to start. Wendy Claire Barrie has some excellent suggestions and links to resources in her blog post found here.
As Episcopalians, we promise to seek and serve God in all people. This implicitly means we value our diversity. As Wendy says, as Christians we must talk about our race and racial justice in the context of our faith. Jesus always welcomes those who are diverse.
We as Christians are called to follow his example.
At the end of the Sunday Holy Eucharist, our final words are to go in peace to love and serve the Lord. We commission ourselves to live our faith each day in love and service.
Not just on Sunday mornings when we gather for our worship service. Not just when we remember to pray before some big event, but each and every moment.
Which often leads us to ask, "How?"
How do we live our faith at home, at work, at school, when we are shopping...all those places that aren't the traditional church building.
So welcome to Faith at Home, a blog of St. Michael's Church that provides ideas, inspiration, and guidance as we live our faith. Links, insights, and practices will give information on ways we can love and serve God and each other.
Welcome to faith at home, because God doesn't end at the door of the church, and our faith doesn't either.
While we rejoice in our time together during worship and other activities, we know that spiritual life is not confined to our beautiful building. We also gather online, using social media to stay connected.
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