Stewardship Moment #4

Dear Parishioners,

Here are the Stewardship Moments provided by your fellow Parish members leading up to Consecration Sunday.  Please take some time to read the wonderful stories that are submitted each week!

          My money follows my heart, which follows the love. Part of my heart is here, at Ascension. The rest of it is scattered among family, friends, memories, lifetime pursuits, etc. You get the picture, but…sigh....my heart is consistently (and persistently) bigger than my money.

          Perhaps I can’t “pick up the tab”, but I can “pick up the yoke.” The yoke is not a symbol of drudgery, but a symbol of a field well tilled and a plentiful harvest.

            Ascension is a community where I find connection and caring with others. A community I want to support with my money, talents, and time. There are so many things to do which keep Ascension thriving. All things we can participate in: the worship service itself as a reader of the Lessons and the Prayers of the People, offering wine as the Cup of Salvation, assisting as Acolyte, taking Communion out to those who are ill or infirm.

            I do my best to increase my pledge each year and then my best to keep it. All that I can give goes to service to God, whether it helps pay the power bill, the phone bill, or buy the flowers on the altar. Every offering of money, no matter the amount, helps keep our community alive.

            C'mon y'all! There are so many other ways to bring our talents to the table, just ask to participate in the thing that captures your imagination: grounds (Holy Mowers), food (Coffee Hour/Receptions), flora (Flower Guild), children (Sunday School), host/hostess (Ushers), feeding others (Food Pantry). It was a year or so before I figured out that it was ok to ask to participate. I have just flattened your learning curve! All you have to do is ask!

Respectfully Submitted by,

Leata Selby

Stewardship Moment #3

Dear Parishioners,

Here are the Stewardship Moments provided by your fellow Parish members leading up to Consecration Sunday.  Please take some time to read the wonderful stories that are submitted each week!

My Dear Ascension Family,

            I regard stewardship not only as contributing money, but also the gifts of my time and hopefully talent. 

            I feel that giving of time is as important as monetary donations.  Of course, I give money I pledged to give – I also give of my free time.  My grandmother taught me that giving is a great responsibility and should be done with a spirit of gratitude that all we have, all we possess, all are gifts from God.  Through our gratefulness, we should give as freely as possible.

            I give of my time in many various ways, always with a grateful heart that I’m actually able to do so. 

            When I came to Ascension about six years ago, I knew immediately that this would be my spiritual home and outlet and that I wanted to stay here as long as possible.  I was lost in the world at the time and this church family has been an enormous help in me finding my way again.  So stewardship to me is a gift and my sense toward giving is a joy to behold.  

Respectfully Submitted by,

Dan Bennett

Forgiveness: Part [Infinity]

Sermon Summary for Sunday, October 1st, 2017 | Respectfully Submitted by Meghann K. Humphreys

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Forgiveness is always there for us.

Forgiveness opens a future for us every day.

Every moment is there for us to be forgiven.

          Is there anything holding us back from receiving that grace? Are any of us stuck in our relationships with God?

          Jesus ticks off the chief priest and elders and doesn’t help matters with his story about the two sons – one who says “no” but goes, the second who says “yes” but doesn’t go. We don’t know the motivation of the sons or what their backstories are. There are things we don’t know about one another. We are all different and we feel strongly about our differences.

          We are encouraged to engage in conversations with people who think differently, to understand, to grow in compassion and mercy.

          It is by God’s mercy that we can forgive and grow together. 

Stewardship Moment #2

Dear Parishioners,

Here are the Stewardship Moments provided by your fellow Parish members leading up to Consecration Sunday.  Please take some time to read the wonderful stories that are submitted each week!

Three personal beliefs on Stewardship as an interior journey, a spiritual discipline and an outward symbol of my love for God and God's people.

One: Everything I have is from God and all that God has given me is pure gift.  Abilities, intellect, and money all come from God. This idea places me in a position of asking, "How am I being called to give back a portion of what I have been given?"  With this question, money then becomes a sacrament and ownership a responsibility.  

Two: No one has everything to give and no one has nothing to give. We need each other.  Sometimes we have more energy or time or even money than other times. In a heathy community, this changes constantly and we are called to pick up the slack for each other.  Simply stated, I can't do it all, but neither can I sit in a pew week after week doing nothing and expect to feel a part of this community.  If I do it all, I get resentful and burn out. If I do nothing, I drop out.

Three: This is at the heart of my stewardship understanding. While I am in possession of what I have, I have some control over how I handle my possessions. In my life, I have either operated from a position of scarcity or generosity.  Either position spills easily into how I move through the world.  God doesn't need my money and this parish will continue if I withdraw my money tomorrow; however, I need to give because how I give does determine the type person I become.   

Respectfully Submitted by, 

Connie Evans

Jesus: Pastor, Prophet, and Poet

Sermon Summary for Sunday, September 24th, 2017 | Respectfully Submitted by Kelley Dial

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Jesus tells us the story of the workers and their wages.  On a superficial level, most of us are made uncomfortable as the generous landowner pays those who worked only a short time the same amount as those who worked all day.  Human nature causes us to put ourselves in the place of the worker who toils for many hours and we believe the late arriving workers are unjustly enriched.  Jesus, however, means for us to go beyond the superficial, to reject an existence written in, as Bishop Wright puts it, "cold, scared, prose". 

Jesus provides a different, counter-intuitive mindset.  He removes us from our narrow, self-centered perspective and helps us zoom out and see the entire landscape.  He takes us from prose to poetry and poetry is what we remember when we think on a "soul" level.  On that level, Jesus urges us to think in terms of generosity to all, to live out our Baptismal Covenant as we "respect the dignity of every human being" - not just in thought but in deeds.  In eloquent, poetic, God-like deeds.

Thanks be to God,

Kelley Dial

Stewardship Moment #1

Dear Parishioners,

Here are the Stewardship Moments provided by your fellow Parish members leading up to Consecration Sunday.  Please take some time to read the wonderful stories that are submitted each week!

I was not a cradle raised Episcopalian. I was baptized and raised from birth to age 8 as a Roman Catholic. Ever since my family moved to this church it has been a blessing being in such a wonderful community. It has given me a space to feel safe and loved and wanted, a place where a difference of opinion wouldn't be frowned upon but instead communicated and respected. This church introduced me to Camp Mikell, one of the most loving and accepting communities I have ever witnessed. It has given me a place in my youth society and most of my greatest friends.

Respectfully Submitted by,

Sam Braid

Baptism and Forgiveness

Sermon Summary for Sunday, September 17th, 2017 | Respectfully Submitted by Meghann K. Humphreys

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“What if we create a forgiving culture and carry that forgiveness out into the world?”

Our baptism is deeply entwined with our forgiveness and forgiveness toward others. Forgiveness is:

  • about love;
  • what we are called to do;
  • sometimes understood or implied;
  • sometimes needs to be spoken – “I am sorry. Please forgive me.”
  • hard;
  • feels good;
  • a journey;
  • a path to freedom;
  • can’t be done by ourselves – that is, we forgive with God’s help.

“Unforgiveness” is like cancer that eats us from the inside out. It blocks us from moving on and from repairing our relationships with others. Relationships need forgiveness to continue to love. To paraphrase the English proverb shared with us, “We all have faults. Faults are thick where love is thin. Faults are thin where love is thick.”

Check out these links for Mary Johnson and Oshea Israel’s journey to forgiveness:

https://youtu.be/AEvGf_U9soc

http://theforgivenessproject.com/stories/mary-johnson-oshea-israel-usa/

Communication

Sermon Summary for Sunday, September 10th, 2017 | Respectfully Submitted by Brenda Worley

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For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.
— Matthew 18:20

What a blessed Sunday!  God was truly among us.  We welcomed Mother Mary home with wonderful services followed by decadent brunches.  The Canterbury Choir returned from their summer break to assist in leading our worship at the 11:00 service.  Mother Mary was presented with a beautiful fountain containing all the stones representing our prayers for her during her sabbatical.  All and all, a very good day!

The Gospel reading was from Matthew and gave instructions as to how we are to lovingly confront each other during times of stress and conflict.  These verses are not to affirm the power and authority of the Church, though for many churches they are used in that way.  The verses are more profound and love-filled than that.  They are preceded by the parable of the lost sheep and followed by the lesson on how many times we are to forgive.  These verses are to build up the community and help us to grow in love for one another.  We are asked to speak openly, directly, and authentically to our neighbors and that can be a scary thing in our strife ridden world.

At this point, Mother Mary shared two classic stories of how indirect communication hurts and divides us.  The first was of a young family who left the church because the behavior of their children was criticized to the priest and not directly to them.  They were embarrassed and hurt.  The second story involved anonymous communications to the priest about the immoral behavior of another parishioner.  When the priest asked the complainant to talk directly to the offender, many reasons were given to avoid the intervention.  The priest responded by quoting this Gospel reading and reminded them about the importance of staying in community.

Social media has not helped foster this type of communication at all.  We are allowed to speak without listening to others. It takes courage and commitment to be as open and direct as we are called to be in these verses.  Jesus’ words about dying to ourselves are drowned out by our loud egos.  Though we are “consecrated” at the time of our baptisms, we often forget how precious we are to him and how we must work diligently to build an authentic community.  We are not alone in our efforts because Jesus promises to “show up” as we struggle to love one another. 

The world is in such need of loving kindness and understanding.  On this special Sunday, we were sent out with the challenge to intentionally look around and work toward being a Godly presence in our community.  How can you help?   

The Three Prodigals

Sermon Summary for Sunday, September 3rd, 2017 | Respectfully Submitted by Mal Underwood

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The Very Reverend Richard Pocalyko officiated the final Eucharist of Mother Mary’s sabbatical on Sunday.  His message was based on the Gospel lesson in Matthew 16:21-28 in which Jesus’ message is that God the Father’s primary desire for us is to love one another as He loves us. The story Jesus tells in this passage is commonly known as the Parable of the Prodigal Son.  Fr. Richard’s opinion is that it is more a parable of the loving father, who despite the religious and social mores of the day welcomes his lost son with open arms and grandly displays his love for him.  According to the traditions of the religious elite of the day, the prodigal son would have been dismissed as “dead in their eyes” and the father considered spiritually remiss for taking him back.  The third main character in the story is the elder son who is enraged that the father would throw a party for his wasteful, disobedient younger brother after he has spent his entire life as an obedient and trustworthy worker on the estate. To further demonstrate the central theme, Fr. Richard reminds us that during the complete discourse with his disciples Jesus tells three parables – first is the the lost sheep, the second is the lost coin, and the third is the prodigal son.  In all three, Jesus wants us to understand the extent to which our Heavenly Father will go to save one of his lost children from sin and death, thus emphasizing his limitless capacity of love for each one of us.

The definition of prodigal is recklessly or wastefully extravagant spending.  Fr. Richard’s idea is that all three main characters are “prodigal” in their own way.  The younger son was prodigal in the traditional definition of the word by wasting his inheritance on lavish, wasteful spending. The elder son was prodigal in the extravagance of hate he displays for his brother as opposed to recognizing his father’s love for both sons and celebrating with him in saving his brother’s life. Fr. Richard says the most prodigal character of all was the father by showing his extravagant love for both sons.  Not only did he celebrate the return of the lost son, he sincerely and gently responded to his elder son’s outrage by pleading with him to join the celebration and understanding the purpose of it.  After all, he reminds him that all his possessions have always been his to have.  The father in the parable is a perfect illustration of how our Father in heaven loves all his children and does not want to lose a single one.

What is our takeaway?  God loves the sinner; He seeks the sinner; He patiently waits for the sinner to come to him for love and redemption.  It is the Gospel in a nutshell.  God loves us with a love our human minds cannot comprehend.  We are to acknowledge and give thanks for God’s love and are called to share it as best we can at all times.  It is the very definition of the two greatest commandments - to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength and to love our neighbors as ourselves.  Who is our neighbor?  It is every child of God on the earth.  While we cannot possibly help every child of God on earth, we can help the ones whom God puts in our path.  When He does, God calls us to respond with all we can to live out the love with which we are so lavishly blessed.

The Center of Life

Sermon Summary for Sunday, August 27th, 2017 | Respectfully Submitted by Meghann K. Humphreys

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People who can’t be satisfied until they get their own way are troubled people.

            The gospel this week from Matthew contains a parable about a vineyard owner with evil tenants who kill off three different people who go to check up on them – even the vineyard owner’s son for his inheritance! The people listening to the parable find this all quite fascinating, but don’t seem to get that this story is about them. We all start out with God’s trust. All we have to do is cultivate it. When we put human values at the center, the center doesn’t hold and things fall apart. The kingdom will go to the nation that yields proper fruit.

            But…there are those of us who may never yield that proper fruit because we must always get our own way. We forget to think about who is in charge, whose creation this is, and who gives and takes away authority. It’s like the lady with the tacky Christmas sweater that Father Richard Pocalyko dealt with when he was at St. Dunstan’s in Atlanta. She couldn’t stand it when teenaged boys skimmed rocks on her lake. When it was pointed out that she didn’t actually own it, she had it drained and skimmed to remove the rocks. Of course, the lake naturally refilled and was soon populated by ducks. (I’m pretty sure the duck population dwindled because of her sweater decorating needs.)

            In short, we need to be the nation that yields proper fruit and set aside our desire to only have it our way. God needs to be the center of life, otherwise, things fall apart.