Leaders from across the province share stories of disciples who are living a life of submission of God’s chosen fast.
March 16, 2018
Posted on: Friday, March 16, 2018
Each Friday, we will feature a passage from The Good of Giving Up: Discovering the Freedom of Lent by Aaron Damiani, rector of Immanuel Anglican Church in Chicago. The book provides a historical, theological, and practical introduction into the season of Lent. Woody Allen is quoted as saying, “Eighty percent of success is showing up.” The same is true when it comes to showing generosity in Lent. Generosity does not start with a transfer of funds. That is likely only to reinforce feelings of inferiority and shame of the recipient as well as a savior complex of the giver. Generosity in the name of Jesus starts with our personal presence, which allows us to see our neighbors who might otherwise be invisible to us. John Ortberg calls this “the proximity factor.” So much comes down to where we spend our time. “Allow yourself to see need,” Ortberg writes, “and eventually you’ll want to help. Maintain your distance, and you probably won’t.” Where do you generally hang out? What roads do you take to work? Which restaurants do you frequent, which parks do you visit, and which neighbors do you notice? With whom do you mingle?... For you, Lenten generosity might begin with the weekly discipline of personal presence to the people you are prone to ignore. You might consider walking around your neighborhood, with a friend or two, and ask the Holy Spirit to lead you to take notice and pray for the people on your block. Or you might choose to volunteer at your local library, school, hospital, nursing home, or consignment shop. When someone asks you for money spend time talking with them. Treat them as an equal. You might even consider taking them to lunch. And if your church has a generosity fund for the needy, contribute as you’re able. Yes, this may be inconvenient. Personal presence is much costlier than simply giving money. My friends Joe and Carrie, who regularly lead mission trips to Southeast Asia, refer to this as having an “interruptible life.” Naturally, we Westerners do not appreciate interruptions. But every mundane moment that we love Christ in our neighbor is worthwhile. Adapted from The Good of Giving Up: Discovering the Freedom of Lent by Aaron Damiani (©2017). Published by Moody Publishers. Used by permission.
March 15, 2018
Imago Dei Anglican Church
idachurch.com, F: idachurch.bangor
Posted on: Thursday, March 15, 2018
"Kill them with kindness." How many times have we heard this phrase? Usually, it’s used in a spiteful way to drive our enemies crazy—because, well, let's face it, they deserve it! Kindness is one of the most crucial yet often neglected Christian fruit. For a number of reasons I suspect, not the least of which is our culture’s embrace of the idol of busyness that drives us further from serving those who may not help us reach our personal goals. Isaiah 58 exhorts us to “share,” “provide,” and to “spend yourself on behalf” of those who lack. As Christians, we underestimate the power of kindness to “break the yoke of the oppressor.” My wife and I have six young children and last summer amidst our ridiculously busy life, my wife baked bread, picked some veggies from the garden and brought them to our immigrant neighbors. They were absolutely dumbstruck—I kid you not. The next morning they showed up at our house with a homemade pie and we ate together! Their children played with our kids outside and we invited them over to enjoy summer fires. We talked about raising kids and faith. They were baptized Orthodox, but not practicing and the husband was a Freudian atheist. We invited them to Alpha and they excitedly agreed—now we were dumbstruck. Through Alpha Course, they received Jesus. One of the questions in our small group was, “If you had never heard the Gospel how would you like it shared with you?” Our friends clamored to be the first to answer. “By kindness,” they said. They had moved to Maine from New York City, and they were taught to be suspicious. “If someone is kind to you, they obviously want something from you.” They testified that though at first they were wary of our initial simple act of kindness, the more we persisted in simple acts of kindness and they observed our family life the more curious they became. Now they have found kindness in the person of Jesus. Kindness is the chosen fast of the Lord because it doesn’t kill—it disarms. It leads to surrender. After all, it is the kindness of God that leads us to repentance.
March 14, 2018
Anglican Relief and Development Fund
Posted on: Wednesday, March 14, 2018
From these stories of generosity from churches and ministries, a common theme emerges. While there are concrete, financial realities that must be met in order to serve those in need, the work neither begins or ends with writing a check. This video from the Anglican Relief and Development Fund explains how the local churches working for change in their communities need our prayer and advocacy. Our most important work is to lift up our brothers and sisters who are working most directly to alleviate suffering and bring justice. As you explore ministries around the world, find projects that align with your passions and begin to pray faithfully on behalf of those who have dedicated their lives to the work. Don’t stop there, though. Share the stories of these servants with your family, your friends, your church. Become a local advocate for international work that advance the gospel. Gather people to pray together, spread awareness, and raise money that will bless the leaders in these communities. You can even learn how you could journey to where the work is being done, through an ARDF Vision Trip. Pray. Advocate. Give. Go. Become an ARDF Advocate! from ARDF on Vimeo.
March 13, 2018
Posted on: Tuesday, March 13, 2018
This week, we have a bonus passage from The Good of Giving Up: Discovering the Freedom of Lent by Aaron Damiani, rector of Immanuel Anglican Church in Chicago. The book provides a historical, theological, and practical introduction into the season of Lent. Most people I know would not describe themselves as a well-watered garden with enough resources to spare. They feel limited in their capacity to give money, energy, and time. Perhaps they are still paying off loans, dealing with chronic fatigue, or working seventy hours a week. For this reason, talk of generosity and almsgiving can trigger guilt or defensiveness. This is why I find Isaiah’s imagery helpful. “You shall be like a watered garden” is a tender promise from a generous God, not a shakedown for resources we do not have. He is a good Father who is calling us to move from fear-based survival to a lifestyle of overflow for the life of the world. Commenting on this passage, Old Testament scholar John Oswalt unpacks the spiritual meaning of the garden imagery: The person who has the light of God in his or her life … whose soul is refreshed in the deserts of life and whose body is strengthened by him will be a watered garden… That is, such a person will have a rich supply of gifts to share with others… Those who know the Lord, as shown by their treatment of the powerless, will never lack for the water of the Holy Spirit in their lives. They will have water for their own lives and more than enough to pour out on the afflicted souls around them. God takes good care of His people, feeding them spiritually and physically. And then He commissions them to take good care of the weak, spiritually and physically. This is not a zero-sum game of ham-fisted exchanges but a teeming and tender expression of heaven and earth. Yes, we are called to cultivate value and work hard in the process. But the margins of that value are reserved for the poor, the sojourner, and the weak. In this way, we reflect God’s generosity to us in Christ, who became impoverished for our sake (2 Cor. 8:9). Adapted from The Good of Giving Up: Discovering the Freedom of Lent by Aaron Damiani (©2017). Published by Moody Publishers. Used by permission.
March 12, 2018
The Cathedral Church of St. Luke and St. Paul
Posted on: Monday, March 12, 2018
Ask people on the street: What makes a true fast? You’ll likely get a collection of ascetic answers centered on the denial of pleasures. Read the 58th chapter of Isaiah and you find a different picture of a “true fast.” If there is subtraction at all, it is addition by subtraction. The “true fast” showcases the paradoxical economy of the Kingdom of God as the prophet declares “if you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday” (v. 10). Edward Simmons first worshipped with us at the Cathedral maybe five or six years ago. He entered our community with grace and courage, though, as a black man with poor clothing and hygiene, it must have been harrowing to be such a distinct minority. As a person who has lived my whole life as part of majority culture, I can only imagine how difficult those steps must have been, especially in such a culturally entrenched moment as Sunday worship. Some passed him by, but those who spent even a moment with him encountered Edward’s sweet spirit, loving kindness, and abiding faith—the unmistakable Imago Dei. The McKinneys and Vices did take the time to get to know Edward, then to love Edward, then to serve Edward. These two families embarked on a long, winding journey that saw Edward’s health, financial wherewithal, guardianship all turned upside down. But Edward had become family, so they did what you do for family and did not hide themselves from their own flesh (v. 7). Much has been added to these families through their “true fast.” The McKinneys marvel at Edward’s kindness and love toward them, and the Vices have said, “We were given the privilege of seeing how God has chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise and the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty.” And Edward has said, “I pray. I have peace. I smile.”
March 9, 2018
Posted on: Friday, March 9, 2018
Each Friday, we will feature a passage from The Good of Giving Up: Discovering the Freedom of Lent by Aaron Damiani, rector of Immanuel Anglican Church in Chicago. The book provides a historical, theological, and practical introduction into the season of Lent. An eighteenth-century French mystic likened humility to a sea vessel being weighed down by a stabilizing mass: As when we load a vessel, the more ballast we put in, the lower it sinks; so the more love we have in the soul, the lower we are abased in self… Let its depths be made known by our readiness to bear the cross. Ships without a load are too flimsy to last on the open waters. Without enough ballast—heavy material like sandbags or lead—weighing the vessel down, the choppy waters and stormy weather would make quick work of any ship. The more ballast, the lower the ship sinks into the water. The lower the ship sinks into the water, the more secure it becomes, and the farther it is able to travel. Such is the humility of Jesus. The more of His Father’s love that He took on board, the lower He sank into the water. No one was more full of God’s love, no one was more willing to become a servant of all, and no one was more secured for His mission. Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him. (John 13:3-5) Can you see Jesus sinking down to wash feet, full of His Father’s blessing? When we seek to bless ourselves, we avoid anything but promotions. But when we read passages like John 13 and Philippians 2, we see that experiencing the love of God, and knowing who we are in Christ, drives us downwards. Jesus’ stature before the Father freed Him to descend to self-emptying, servanthood, humiliation, and death. Taken from The Good of Giving Up: Discovering the Freedom of Lent by Aaron Damiani (©2017). Published by Moody Publishers. Used by permission.
March 8, 2018
Christ Our King Anglican Church
Posted on: Thursday, March 8, 2018
It is one thing to assent to the value of something, it is quite another to pay the price for it. While a member of the Vestry, Ross Ferraro was part of the decision making for Christ Our King to be a founding church in a ministry to the homeless in our community, Family Promise. Like all of the Vestry, he knew that the Lord's heart was for us to "bring the homeless poor into [our] house" (Is. 58:7). So, we agreed to host homeless families in our Ministry Center for a week each quarter as they work to get back on their feet. After the initial leaders' roles changed, Ross was asked to be the parish coordinator for this ministry. He told me, "It doesn't sound very spiritual now, but I had no reason to say no." Probing further, however, I found that his initial involvement with Family Promise was based on his conviction from Matthew 25 that we are to minister to those in need. Ross asserted that the “Lord keeps telling us that this is what we are supposed to be doing.” He coordinates the ministry of 40-50 parishioners who set up beds, make meals, play with the children, and spend the night with the families at the church. With all the help from parishioners, Ross feels like he doesn't do very much. In fact, he says that the “church members who sign up are excited to do it again!” As his Pastor, I see that Ross pays a price for what he values. He not only oversees the ministry, he sacrifices his time and rest in order to be there each night of the week to welcome the families as they return from their job searches; engage the children, modeling the Father’s love to the fatherless; and, along with his wife, spend a night with the families. Yet, he and those who serve with him feel they are blessed more than the families they serve. And isn’t that the way of the Lord? There is a cost to give, but we discover "it truly is more blessed to give than to receive."
March 7, 2018
Church of the Resurrection
churchoftheres.com, F: Resurrection.Church
Posted on: Wednesday, March 7, 2018
The religious leaders of Jesus’ day used food as a way to oppress others. They used meals as a way to determine who was excluded. The “sinful” or the poor were simply not welcome. Even the seating order around a table was determined by a person’s apparent worth or importance. In contrast to all of this, Jesus used meals as a way of including everyone (Mt. 9:9-11). In fact, Jesus’ primary way of pursuing friendship with others was by gathering around a table and sharing a meal. The affluent, suburban context of our parish is often misleading. The surface of our life together in this region suggests abundance—nice cars, trendy clothing, sprawling single-family homes, hundreds of shops and restaurants—you get the idea if you’ve been to any large suburban city in America. Scarcity of anything—especially food—is easy to overlook. But thanks to leaders like John Campbell, we have discovered a tremendous need among the hidden homeless population of Denton County. Through John’s leadership, a ministry called Breaking Bread was formed more than five years ago to both serve and be with those in need in the Denton County area. He took this vision of Jesus’ welcome around the Table and put it into a simple and profound ministry. In the words of Isaiah 58:7, John’s leadership has helped us to discover the power of sharing our “bread with the hungry and bringing the homeless poor into our house.” Twice a month, we host a banquet of Jesus’ love and affection for “the least of these.” We start setting up in the morning, then serve a generously portioned dinner, along with encouraging conversation and prayer for our guests who desire it. After all the dishes have been done, we head home with hearts full of the blessings received from our fellowship with our guests and our Lord. There are many ways our members participate, from pre-banquet set-up, assisting on the serving line, welcoming people as they arrive or just offering to listen and pray with our guests as they often love for you to intercede and pray with them. When we choose God’s fast, we look around the table for ways to create open chairs for those who have been overlooked.
March 6, 2018
Fellowship Of Hope Mentoring
Posted on: Tuesday, March 6, 2018
“So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets” (Matt 7:12) The Golden Rule is at the heart of Fellowship of Hope Mentoring’s (FoHM) first mentor. Christina Johnson had thought about becoming a mentor a number of times over the years, but the timing just wasn't ever right. But God kept pulling on her heartstrings to do more for those in need. So when she heard FoHM was focusing on the needy children in southwest Richardson, Texas, she knew it was time to answer the call. She sums up her experience like this: It was a little scary going to the first Meet and Greet, but I was excited too. I was worried I wouldn’t really “click” with any of the girls, that I might be too old to relate to them, or that our cultural differences might make it awkward. But, I just love kids and want to use my life to make a difference in their lives. I knew that if God was calling me to do this, He would make it all work out so I took a leap of faith. And I am so glad that I did! My relationship with Rosa (my mentee) has been such a rewarding experience for me, and I believe it has been for Rosa, too. We have helped each other get out of our comfort zones. She has stretched me to meet her where she is spiritually and emotionally as I provide her with opportunities to experience God through attending church with me as well as other activities that she may otherwise not have experienced. I’ve also learned that just being there for her—giving her my time and attention—has a lot of value as well. Over this past year, I’ve come to truly care for Rosa and I believe that we've created a bond of friendship that will last many years, and I hope maybe even forever. I look forward to watching her grow and develop into an amazing young woman and I feel privileged to be a small part of it. Isaiah 58 speaks of a fast that is all about giving up our time, talents, and resources for those who are in need. Matthew 25 tells us that what we do for the least of these, we do for Christ Himself. Christina’s devotion to Rosa is a prime example of a fast that is pleasing to the Lord—a fast that leaves her heart full of gratitude for the selflessness of Christ who gave up His life as the sacrificial Lamb of God for sake of the world. As we learn to walk in the way of Christ, we learn to give of ourselves for those in need and offer the hope of a brighter future for those who come to know the love God has in store for them.
March 5, 2018
Trinity Anglican Church
Posted on: Monday, March 5, 2018
Encouraged by one of our members, Robyn Pond, our church joined 175 Austin-area churches in the Austin Disaster Relief Network (ADRN). This network was created to provide assistance to victims of floods, tornadoes, wildfires, and other natural disasters. Little did we know that the Central Texas area was soon to see all the above. It’s only natural that Robyn led us into this partnership. Robyn has been an integral part of our church since our founding in 2009. She has always been our go-to member with a heart for the elderly, children, and the disadvantaged. She founded a group called Lago Vista Volunteers that collects no-longer-needed wheelchairs, potty chairs, walkers, canes, hospital beds, and other durable medical equipment and then loans it out to those in need. She’s in charge of our outreach serving as the liaison with Hill Country Community Ministries, Reveal Ministries (which provides food and clothing to 300 people each week), and now ADRN. Robyn went through all the ADRN training programs which prepared her for the disasters soon to come. The Memorial Day Floods hit Wimberley, Texas in 2015. Eleven people died, 400 homes were destroyed, and 1,000 residents were displaced. Immediately, Robyn and other trained Trinity members rushed in to help. Robyn led the effort to collect money, food, clothing, and building materials. Her training as an ADRN Shepherd and her counseling training allowed her to drive the four-hour roundtrip to provide prayer, counseling, and bereavement support for families and victims. Since then, our region has experienced floods from Hurricane Harvey, wildfires that burned thousands of acres of forest in Bastrop, a fertilizer explosion that leveled much of the town of West, and other disasters in which ADRN mobilizes its volunteers. Largely because of Robyn’s initiative, our church was privileged to love and serve others in the midst of these crises. Robyn has a passion for the Gospel. She has a passion for people. She has a passion for serving as Christ’s hands and feet. Her persistence and dedication has served as a catalyst for other Trinity members to go through disaster relief training with ADRN and to serve alongside Robyn in disasters. I hope your church—and every church—has a Robyn Pond.