December 20, 2012 There isn’t enough time. There just isn’t enough time between bona fide tragedies in our world. We barely have time to catch our breath before we hear about something new. Last week it was the horrific school shootings in Newtown, Conn. So this week, instead of counting down the days until Christmas, devastated families are counting down the funerals for slain kids.

It’s hard to know how to respond. As I said on Sunday, people seem to be sliding back-and-forth between guilty feelings and shallow feelings. Some people are so crushed that they’re actually taking down Christmas decorations - they feel guilty celebrating anything in the midst of such pain, sorrow and evil. Other people (or even the same people just a few minutes later!) say that tragedies like this really “put things in perspective.” It’s a nice sentiment, but it completely ignores the brokenness that assaults our world.

Truth is, neither of these reactions - guilty feelings or shallow feelings - actually do anything to touch the agony. But that’s just it, very few of us are interested in actually touching the agony of our world (myself included). And perhaps, just perhaps, that’s part of the reason we feel so assaulted by the tragedies that surround us. Every day we’re subjected to an overwhelming number of tragic stories. We’re flooded with a catalogue of events that are crushing peoples’ lives: from the Sudan to Syria, from Hurricane Sandy to Sandy Hook Elementary School. The cycle never ends, and it’s easy to end up feeling helpless and angry, wondering where that agony will eventually reach us… or maybe it already has.

The Good News at Christmas is that God is touching the agony of our world. It’s easy to look at everything that’s still wrong, but 2,000 years later we can’t stop celebrating a story about an insignificant baby, in an insignificant family, in an insignificant part of the world - because we believe this story is where God began personally touching the agony of our world. Ultimately, our faith isn’t about a set of moral teachings or rules. It’s about a relationship with a loving God who relentlessly calls us - and all of creation - to new life. And it becomes personal in Jesus.

This year, and every Christmas, we’re invited to personally touch the agony of our world. It doesn’t mean that we all need to be racing around the globe, chasing down tragedies (although we certainly need people who do that). It means that we all need to be a people of prayer. Christian prayer is all about our belief that God is not far away. He is personal, Emmanuel, “with us.” So our prayer becomes one of the ways that God Himself continues touching the pain, sorrow and evil of our world; and not just touching it with guilty feelings or shallow feelings, but touching it - and all of creation - with new life. And when you get right down to it, that’s something worth celebrating with all our might.

Merry Christmas,

Eric+

The Rev’d. Eric M. Hillegas

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AuthorEric Hillegas
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Last week during the Instructed Eucharist Rev. Eric introduced a new, shared resource for our weekly worship: The St. C's Prayer Journal. It's intended for everyone - including you! Read Rev. Eric's description and invitation below. PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE

The Creed unites us with our ancestors in the faith and with each other - just like our prayers. Every Sunday we offer the Prayers of the People; not just the priest, but all of us. During our Sunday worship we always pray for these six categories: the Church, the world, the nation, the local community, the suffering, and the dead. If there is any single moment at church we’re meant learn something - even more than the sermon - it’s here: prayer. The gathered Church is our teacher, our trainer, our guide. In fact it's so important that we call our entire service book, The Book of Common PRAYER.

One of the important things we learn at church is that our prayers don’t begin with us. Our feelings and concerns matter, yes, but even more important than any of those, our prayers are first a response to God’s Word. Every Sunday we only pray after we’ve first heard God speak to us; only after we’ve first heard God's word to us in Scripture and Song. And just like none of us would probably think to pray for all of our brothers and sisters in different countries of the world - let alone our neighbors right here in Massachusetts - so God’s Word in Scripture also reminds us, leads us, trains us and shapes our individual hearts for prayer.

Because prayer is such an important part of our worship, we’re introducing a new resource for everyone. Every Sunday we’re going to have a Prayer Journal at the back of the church. Every Sunday when you arrive you’ll find it near the Guest Register and it’s meant for you to write down your prayers. Please, let me invite you to use it. It’s not meant to repeat the prayers already listed in our bulletin (all of that is going to stay the same). This is a journal to offer prayers that you’ve brought with you - concerns or celebrations, big or small. It’s a concrete way every single Sunday to include each of our voices in our gathered, common prayer. Not only that, but the more we hear prayers from each other, the more we’re reminded that Christian prayer doesn’t depend on us alone; our individual feelings or even what we think is most important. Christian Prayer exists before us, it’s bigger than any single one of us, and the worshiping congregation is the heartbeat and the center from which we pray. Amen.

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AuthorEric Hillegas

July 5, 2012 The clock is ticking. As I write this letter it’s down to 22 days, 7 hours, and 10 minutes… then the Olympics begin! For a little more than 2 weeks this summer the eyes of the world will be fixed on London. And it’s not just about gold, glory, or the quest for a new world record. The Olympics are a human drama, summed up nicely in this year’s motto: Inspire a Generation. Because even if you’re not a “sports fan” most of the time, it’s easy to get caught up in the drama, energy, and devotion of the Olympic Games.

Games like the Olympics have been inspiring people for thousands of years. They even inspired St. Paul!

Don’t you know that all the runners in the stadium run, but only one gets the prize? So run to win.Everyone who competes practices self-discipline in everything. The runners do this to get a crown of leaves that shrivel up and die, but we do it to receive a crown that never dies. (1 Cor 9.24–26)

That’s right, St. Paul told the earliest Christians to think of themselves as athletes training for the Games. After all, he was writing to Christians in Corinth and in Paul’s day the Corinthians hosted the Isthmian Games - second in fame only to the Olympics.

Paul’s point was simply this: Christianity isn’t a spectator sport. It also isn’t a competition, but Christian life involves a similar kind of drama, energy, and devotion. Just like Olympic (or Isthmian!) athletes, our training is less about “keeping the rules” and more about striving for a goal. In our case it’s about following Jesus and reflecting God’s love into the world. It’s about reflecting God’s love in all of our worship, all of our relationships, and all of our work. And if you’ve ever tried to do that for very long - you know it takes practice, even training.

That’s one of the places where stewardship and pledging come in. They’re part of our training and practice. They’re about committing our life, our energy, and our resources toward the goal of following Jesus and reflecting God’s love. And here’s where it gets really exciting. Because even though training and practice aren’t very flashy, when churches like ours get caught up in the energy and devotion of following Jesus and reflecting God’s love, it becomes the ultimate human drama. It’s not about gold or glory, but when we’re caught up in this human drama our church life takes on a whole new meaning. In fact, it’s the kind of thing that might even capture the world’s attention.

Thank you for giving your time, your resources, and your prayers to the life of St.C’s. Please help us through the summer months by staying current with your financial pledge. It’s already been a year of tremendous progress and we’ve even set some new records in financial giving. You are one of the reasons we’ve been “running to win” in our life and worship. And I can say with full gratitude and humility: it’s been inspiring to join you.

Sincerely,

Eric+

The Rev’d. Eric M. Hillegas

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AuthorEric Hillegas
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