Friday, February 26, 2021

Announcements are updated weekly on Fridays. Next update: March 5

A Message from Father Ben

Hello Friends,

In our Old Testament reading for Sunday from the 17th chapter of Genesis, we hear about the name change for Abram and Sarai, becoming Abraham and Sarah.  First, what did their original names mean? Abram meant “high or lofty father.”  Abram was not a father yet, but God had already come to Abram and revealed his plan of action years earlier. In chapter 15, we are told that in a vision Abram was told by God to “Look at the sky and try to count the stars; you will have as many descendants as that.”  In our reading for Sunday from chapter 17, God says to Abraham, “I make this covenant with you: I promise that you will be the ancestor of many nations.”  And with that God changed Abram’s name of Abraham, which means “father of many.”

How about Sarai?  Sarai’s name meant “princess or the heroine.” God changed her name to Sarah because God had planned something magnificent for her.  Even though Sarah was beyond child-bearing years, God told Abraham, “I will give you a son by her.” Sarah’s name meant, “mother of nations.”

Name changes meant a completely altered life from the one the person had lived before.  Name changes determined one’s purpose in life.  How well are we living up to the name God gave us at our Baptism: Christian? 

As we walk with Christ and carry his name and bear the sign of his cross on our foreheads, how well are we doing at fulfilling our mission? We have been called to make an eternal spiritual difference in the world each day.  We have been called to “Go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation” (Mk. 14:15). This is what we are called to do as Christians.  We may proclaim the good news using words.  We may proclaim the good news by the way we live, as well.  How well are we doing?  Lent is a time to take stock on what it means to be a Christian.

God’s nearness to all of you,
Ben+

Thoughts from Sally

In my sermon this past Sunday, one of my points was the difficulty we all seem to have letting go of preconceived notions of how our life is supposed to go, or preconceived expectations we have of certain people or things in our lives.  For example, the medical doctor who has exemplified self-confidence, self-assurance and expertise who confesses they don’t have the answer to a devastating diagnosis. Our reaction might be disappointment or anger, or maybe we refuse to accept that they can’t fix everything.

You can probably think of lots of examples of times you’ve been disappointed in someone and refused to face the reality that was staring you in the face. What about the parent who insists her children are perfect, without any fault. No matter how desperate the child is for her to see who they really are and just love them unconditionally, warts and all, bad grades or whatever the offense may be, she simply doesn’t “see” them. She also doesn’t see how hard it can be to live up to someone else’s expectations, to be someone you’re not.

This week’s Gospel picks up with this same sort of scenario. Jesus wants to know who the disciples think he is, but unfortunately Peter like the rest of them can’t let go of the strong invincible image they have of who the Messiah is supposed to be. They confess the Messiah and then when Jesus describes the messy, difficult side of what this title will mean for him, they can’t deal with this image that they are not familiar with. Jesus cannot be who they want him to be.

Up until now Jesus has been doing a lot of showing who he is. The disciples have seen him heal and perform miracles, but sometimes you just need to say it. And in this Sunday’s gospel reading Jesus does just that and Peter is thrown for a loop. What do you mean you will suffer and be condemned to death on a cross? How can we blame him for being confused? As a small child I was confused when my favorite aunt couldn’t fix everything – until she told me that she loved me more than anything but that was not who she was – she was not the one to make my life easy or to fix everything for me, but she was the one who would always love me and when necessary would remind me of who I was supposed to be.

I was reminded of a saying this past week that runners are fond of: “Courage is knowing something might hurt and doing it anyway. Stupidity is the same, and that is why life is hard.” Jesus tries repeatedly to teach the disciples and us the difference between doing something out of faithfulness and trust in God’s grace, and doing something out of a false sense of importance or because a false god has tempted us. He repeatedly tries to teach through actions and words that following him takes more than willing to be improved, it takes the willingness to be fully transformed to the point that we are called to sacrifice. For Christians, a life following Christ requires that we live out our baptismal vows everyday of our life. It requires turning away from our temptations, those things that may separate us from God, and actually giving until it’s uncomfortable or, some might say, until it hurts; until it’s not just something we do because it feels good, but something we do because it’s the right thing to do even though we know it’s going to hurt. We follow Christ out of faith in the sacrifice he made for all of us.

Richard Rohr defines real solidarity as joining in the world’s pain, to allow other’s pain or needs to influence us in a real way. His point is that we need to move beyond our own needs and personal feelings and take in the whole. This was who Jesus was trying to explain to Peter that he was. This is tough. It’s not easy to give up a comfortable “seat at the table.”

Peter had a tough time with this, but Christ never lost hope in him. As with any change we hope to incorporate in our lives, it begins by taking small steps; like giving up something not just because we know it’s not good for us, but something that will not only increase our focus on Jesus but will help someone else in the act.  For instance, give up a day off to volunteer in a community food bank, or give up a purchase in order to give to a charity. As much as I love coffee, giving up my favorite latte would put several dollars in the collection plate and I can tell you I would feel the absence – it would definitely hurt and that for me might take courage!
 
I close with prayers for each of us during this Holy Lent,
 
Sally

Adult Sunday School

Adult Sunday School returns this week. Adults will gather in the nave from 9:30 am until 10:00 am for a class led by Ben and Sally. The focus of each class will be the day’s lectionary reading.

If you wish, you may join the class via Zoom. Click here for the link to join the class on computer, tablet, or smartphone; the password is scripture

To dial in from your cell phone or landline, dial +1 312 626 6799 and use the information below.

Meeting ID: 819 1204 0733 
Passcode: 994468318 

Hope to see you Sunday, either in person or via Zoom!

St Catherine’s Website

St. Catherine’s website has undergone a tune-up! Much as your car would be when it needs a tune-up, our webpage was suffering from odds and ends that no longer functioned properly – buttons that no longer worked, links that were broken, etc. Check it out now. It is as if it has been given a squirt or two of virtual WD-40. You will find that it loads much faster and what was non-functioning has been restored.

Also, our web address has changed slightly. We are now stcatherinesal.org rather than stcatherinesal.com (note: .org rather than .com)

St. Catherine’s Worship Poll

After a chaotic pandemic year, it looks as if we may be able to begin easing back into something that seems more normal to us all. As we make these changes, your worship committee would like guidance from you in how we move forward. What online presence do we wish to have for St. Catherine’s? Even when we fully resume our in-person life at St. Catherine’s, an online presence can be an effective form of evangelism for us – it can help us tell our story to our community.

Please click here to view and fill out a short survey that addresses these issues. The survey is anonymous – we value your honest thoughts and opinions.  Your input is greatly appreciated.

On-line Lenten Offerings from the Diocese

The Diocese is offering the following Lenten services through their Facebook page:

* Prophets & Praise – A service of prayers, scriptures, song, and a short homily will be held Wednesdays at noon in Linn Park in downtown Birmingham. The service will also be streamed on the Facebook page for the Diocese of Alabama

Lenten Reflections with Bishop G – Join Bishop G on Facebook each Wednesday at 3 p.m. for a short Lenten Refection.

ECW (Episcopal Church Women)

After a hiatus of several months, the ECW will resume their monthly meetings tomorrow (February 27). Sally will open our meeting with a short devotional. and then we will turn to the very important business of the day – catching up with each other and planning for the rest of our year together. Please plan to join us in the Parish Hall at St. Catherine’s at 12:00 noon. Lunch will be provided.

St. Catherine’s Drive Thru Food Pantry — Our Beans and Rice Ministry

Our next Drive Thru Pantry will be Saturday, March 20. That gives us almost a month to get ready.

There are several ways you can take part in the preparation for “Beans and Rice Saturday”. Listed below are the activities that take place each month in preparation for the big day when we open the food pantry: 

1. Dried pinto beans and rice are repackaged from 50 pound bags into smaller portions.

2. Our canned goods are put into trays with 12 cans each so that our guest families receive a variety of items.

3. Dry items such as pasta, mac & cheese, dried beans and peas, raisins, nuts, and a host of other things, are divided up so that each family receives a large bag filled with items helpful for feeding them.

4. Volunteers pick up day old bread and sweets from Publix every week. On “Beans and Rice” week some of this goes to our pantry. During the month volunteers also deliver it to the Women’s Shelter, The Headquarters for Girls’ Homes and to shut-in folks and others in need of a hand.

5.Some folks take a look at what’s missing in the Beans and Rice Food Pantry itself and then drop off supplies they realize are needed.

6. Others simply place a check designated for “Beans and Rice” in the offering plate.  

If you would like to help with any of the above tasks involved in each month’s Drive Thru Food Pantry, please contact Bill Wheeler. You can click here to send him an email. 

Episcopal Relief and Development Disaster Fund

PLEASE HELP —  MILLIONS REMAIN WITHOUT POWER AND WATER IN THE SOUTHERN STATES.

As extreme weather continues to devastate communities in Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Louisiana and beyond, please help us work with our local partners to provide relief and support. Click here to make an urgent tax-deductible donation to Episcopal Relief & Development today.

Your gift today will help provide emergency shelter, groceries, and gas — as well as serve cooked meals to families in affected areas. We are also working with a network of Episcopal dioceses to create shelters, recognizing COVID-19 precautions, for vulnerable people impacted by the storms and power outages, including those without electricity, without homes or living in poorly-insulated housing.