The Fourth Sunday of Easter

May 3,2020 The Rev. Joe Cochran

The Gospel: John 10:1-10

Jesus said, “Very truly, I tell you, anyone who does not enter the sheepfold by the gate but climbs in by another way is a thief and a bandit. The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. They will not follow a stranger, but they will run from him because they do not know the voice of strangers.” Jesus used this figure of speech with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them.

So again Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and bandits; but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”

Saint James Online Worship Continues

Statement from the Rev. Joseph M. Cochran, Rector:

On Friday May 15 at 5 pm, the State-wide stay at home order issued by Governor Hogan will be lifted, allowing localities to move toward re-opening as local conditions warrant.  Baltimore County continues in a stay-at-home posture, with businesses and houses of worship remaining closed.  The Bishop has made it clear that any steps toward in-person worship in a parish of the Diocese of Maryland must be pre-approved by the Diocese and that our denomination will proceed at its own pace.  Therefore, we at St. James continue to look to our governmental authorities and our Bishop for direction.  The Vestry has formed a committee to develop plans for parishioners at St. James to return to in-person worship and other gatherings.  Our return to in-person gatherings will be achieved in phases, and over a long period of time.  So, for the time being, we continue to worship online.  Please continue to participate in our online daily worship and Sunday worship offerings.  We will keep you posted on developments.

Habits of Grace – May 12 2020

Habits of Grace, May 12, 2020: An invitation for you, from Presiding Bishop Curry
[May 12, 2020] As we learn how to adjust our lives given the reality of the coronavirus and the request to do our part to slow its spread by practicing social distancing, I invite you to join me each week to take a moment to cultivate a ‘habit of grace.’ A new meditation will be posted on Tuesdays through May. These meditations can be watched at any time by clicking here.

May 12, 2020: Our time is in God’s hands

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Hello to everyone who is kind enough to watch and listen to Habits of Grace. I just wanted to give you an alert, not a spoiler alert, but just a simple alert that when you listen to this video you will hear in the background the sound of construction at the elementary school on the other side of our backyard. We’ve listened to the video and you can hear it. But I just wanted to let you know that that noise that you hear is remodeling a school so that little children can go to a school that is modern and nice and meet and right so to do. God love you and you keep the faith.

I don’t know about you, but one of the things that has been a bit confusing during this pandemic has been sort of a discombobulation or a confusion about what time it is and what day it is. I found myself on more than one occasion just asking someone, “What day is today?” There’s a Psalm in the Hebrew scriptures, Psalm 31. It’s actually quoted in the service of Compline, which is a late night prayer service, and it’s also quoted by Jesus on the cross. It says this:

In you, O Lord, have I taken refuge;
let me never be put to shame:
deliver me in your righteousness.

And then it goes on and says,

(Lord) Be my strong rock, a castle to keep me safe,
for you are my crag and my stronghold;
for the sake of your Name, lead me and guide me. . .

Into your hands I commend my spirit,
for you have redeemed me,
O Lord, the God of truth.

On the cross Jesus quoted this psalm as he commended his life into the hands of the father. Into thy hands I commend my spirit. But as the psalm goes on, later on in the psalm it says, “My times are always in your hand.” It may well be that if we have little reminders as the day goes on, we will have a sense of time not determined by a clock but determined by God.

In Psalm 55 the Psalmist says, “In the morning, at noonday and at evening I cry out to you, oh Lord.” Maybe a little habit of grace during this time may be a moment of prayer in the morning, another one at midday, and another in the evening, whether using a prayer book or just a moment to pause and be silent. Whatever way you do it take a moment – morning, midday, evening. Father into thy hands I commend my spirit. For my times are always in your hand.

In 1931 a man named Thomas Dorsey composed a hymn, the words of which and the song have been a long-standing favorite with many people. Lyndon Johnson, President Johnson asked for it to be sung at his funeral. Martin Luther King asked that it be sung at his funeral. Mahalia Jackson sang it. Aretha Franklin sang it. B.B. King played it and sang it. Tennessee Ernie Ford sang it. Johnny Cash sang it. It was composed by Thomas Dorsey living in a time when his times were very much discombobulated. His wife died in childbirth, both she and the child died. In his time of grieving he wrote the words of the hymn that say just simply, “Precious Lord take my hand.”

My times are in thy hand, oh Lord. Father into thy hands I commend my spirit this morning, in noonday, and in the evening.

God love you. God bless you. May God hold us all in those almighty hands of love.

Habits of Grace: Look for the Helpers

Habits of Grace, May 4, 2020: An invitation for you, from Presiding Bishop Curry

[May 4, 2020] As we learn how to adjust our lives given the reality of the coronavirus and the request to do our part to slow its spread by practicing social distancing, I invite you to join me each week to take a moment to cultivate a ‘habit of grace.’ A new meditation will be posted on Mondaysthrough May. These meditations can be watched at any time by clicking here.

May 4, 2020Look for the helpers

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Hello, this is the week of May the third in the year of our Lord 2020. This past week, for some reason I thought of Mr. Rogers, who once said that his mother told him when he was a little boy and he asked her about scary things in the news and about difficult and painful things in the news. And his mother gave him some simple advice of how to handle that. She said to him, “Always look for the helpers.” I have a sneaking suspicion that signs of God’s continued watchful care, signs of hope, are in the helpers.

This past April 27, was the 100th birthday of one of those helpers.

Captain Tom Moore, retired Royal Air Force, celebrated his 100th birthday. But even of more significance than that, earlier in April, Captain Moore who had just had hip surgery and who was 99 at the time, began trying to raise money for the health system in Britain. And he hoped to raise about a thousand pounds by walking and asking people to give on a website. Well, he raised more than a thousand pounds. In fact, between the beginning of April and his birthday on April the 27th he raised more than $40 million. People from all over the world gave money to support and help the National Health System during this crisis. People from all over the world, from England itself. Mr. Rogers’ mother was right. If you want to see the hand of God, even in the midst of the most difficult times, look for the helpers.

There were helpers who raised $40 million and there was a helper named Captain Tom Moore, retired Royal Air Force, who turned 100 last week.

There’s a prayer on the website of the Episcopal church under the COVID-19 response that prays for the helpers.

Compassionate God, support and strengthen all those who reach out in love, concern, and prayer for the sick and the distressed. In their acts of compassion, may they know that they are your instruments. In their concerns and fears, may they know your peace. In their prayer, may they know your steadfast love. May they not grow weary or fainthearted for your mercy’s sake. Amen. [EOW2, 93]

Love God. Love your neighbor. Love yourself. God bless you and keep the faith. Amen.

Habits of Grace

Habits of Grace, April 28, 2020: An invitation for you, from Presiding Bishop Curry
[April 28, 2020] As we learn how to adjust our lives given the reality of the coronavirus and the request to do our part to slow its spread by practicing social distancing, I invite you to join me each week to take a moment to cultivate a ‘habit of grace.’ A new meditation will be posted on Mondaysthrough May. These meditations can be watched at any time by clicking here.
April 28, 2020Meeting Jesus
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There’s an interesting pattern in some of the stories of the resurrection. In Luke 24, for example, some of the followers of Jesus are traveling from Jerusalem itself to the small village of Emmaus a few miles down the road. A stranger comes up to them, walks with them and carries on a conversation with them and all along, the stranger was Jesus raised from the dead. They didn’t recognize him. They didn’t see that it was Jesus until, as the Bible says, their eyes were open as if they turned and actually saw him in the breaking of the bread and saw him alive.

A similar thing happened to Mary Magdalene in the 20th chapter of John’s Gospel, where she is frantically running around looking for his body, and she comes up to someone she mistakes for the gardener in the cemetery. It’s actually Jesus raised from the dead. But again, she doesn’t recognize him until he speaks, “Mary,” the way he always said it and he says though she stopped, and you know how we say did a double take, turned and saw that it was Jesus and cried out, “Rabboni!” That pattern may well be reminding us who hear those stories generations after it all happened that the risen Christ, that the Lord Jesus, that our God, is actually walking with us even when we cannot see, feel or sense his presence. Sometimes we just have to stop, be still, and turn and behold.

Psalm 46 says, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. . . Though the mountains be toppled into the midst of the sea, God is our stronghold.”

Be still and know that I am God.

In a prayer in our prayer book, says much the same thing:

Oh God of peace who has taught us that in returning and rest we shall be saved in quietness and in confidence shall be our strength. By the might of thy spirit, lift us we pray thee to thy presence where we may be still and know that thou art God through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Jesus said at the end of Matthew’s Gospel, at the end of the messages about the resurrection, “I will be with you always, even to the end of the age.”

God love you, God bless you and may God hold us all in those almighty hand of love.

Habits of Grace

Habits of Grace, April 20, 2020: An invitation for you, from Presiding Bishop Curry

[April 20, 2020] As we learn how to adjust our lives given the reality of the coronavirus and the request to do our part to slow its spread by practicing social distancing, I invite you to join me each week to take a moment to cultivate a ‘habit of grace.’ A new meditation will be posted on Mondaysthrough May. These meditations can be watched at any time by clicking here.

 April 20, 2020:  God Hears Our Prayers

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The late professor Walter Wink, in one of his books, says that “History belongs to the intercessors who believe and pray a new future into being.” None of us know the mystery of prayer and how it works. I don’t know the intricacies of prayer’s mysteries. What I do know and believe, is that prayer makes a difference. It’s not a magic foot. It’s not a way to… It’s not a form of wish fulfillment, but it is a way of bringing our deepest needs and concerns and our very life into our consciousness and into the very presence of God.

There’s an interesting story in the eighth chapter of the Book of Revelation, just a few of the verses, where you have this swirling of events happening in history and a world in chaos and the text says, “There was silence in heaven for half an hour.” Walter Wink and others looking at that say that in its highly symbolic language, the Book of Revelation may be trying to tell us that even in the midst of all the chaos of the world, the prayers of God’s people actually make a difference. Because if you look at that small section of the first few chapters of chapter eight in Revelation, during that silence of heaven, it says that the prayers of the saints are mingled with the incense before the throne of God and that those prayers are taken right to God. God hears our prayers. God responds in God’s way and we respond.

Prayer matters. It’s not magic, but it makes a difference. There’s a prayer in the prayer book that I thought you might like. It’s a prayer for in times of sickness, for use by the sick person, but maybe it’s a prayer that can apply to us all.

This is another day, O Lord. I know not what it will bring forth, but make me ready, Lord, for whatever shall be. If I am to stand up, help me to stand bravely. If I am to sit still, help me to sit quietly. If I am to lie low, help me to do it patiently. If I am to do nothing, let me do it gallantly. Make these words more than words and give me the spirit of Jesus.

What a friend we have in Jesus. All our sins and griefs to bear. What a privilege to carry, everything to God in prayer. God love you. God bless you and may God hold you and this whole world, the entire human family and the whole of creation in those almighty hands of love.

Monday Meditation from the Presiding Bishop

Habits of Grace, April 6, 2020: An invitation for you, from Presiding Bishop Curry

[April 6, 2020] As we learn how to adjust our lives given the reality of the coronavirus and the request to do our part to slow its spread by practicing social distancing, I invite you to join me each week to take a moment to cultivate a ‘habit of grace.’ A new meditation will be posted on Mondays through May.

April 6, 2020:  His Eye is on the Sparrow

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There is a prayer that begins the Good Friday liturgy that may be perfect for this time. It’s found on page 276 in the prayer book and it prays, “Almighty God, we pray you graciously to behold this, your family, for whom our Lord Jesus Christ was willing to be betrayed and given into the hands of sinners and to suffer death upon the cross. Who now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God forever and ever. Amen.” That may well be a prayer for us this Holy Week.

“Almighty God, we pray you graciously to behold this, your family, for whom our Lord Jesus Christ was willing to be betrayed.” Over the years that I’ve prayed that prayer, almost some 40 years now as a priest, I’ve often asked myself the question, who’s the family? Who’s the family we are asking God to behold? Is it the family of faith? Those who have been baptized and accepted and follow Jesus as savior and Lord? I think that’s true. But is it bigger than that? And during this Holy Week, in the midst of COVID-19, I believe we must pray it, praying it bigger than praying for ourselves. I have a feeling this prayer is for the entire human family of God.

John 3:16, speaking of Jesus giving his life as an act of love on the cross, says, “God so loved the world.” Not just the church, not just his faithful followers, not just any particular nation or any particular race or any particular ideology or religion. No, no, no. “God so loved the world that he gave his only son.” The family in the prayer, let it be the human family of God. Let it be all of us. Asking God to behold us now. To behold us in these moments. To behold those who are sick, who suffer, who die. To behold their families and loved ones. Behold all who care for them. Behold us all.

When I hear that word behold, praying God behold this your family, particularly during this Holy Week, which may be one of the toughest times during this pandemic, I remember that old song that says this, “Why should I feel discouraged? Why should the shadows come? Why should my heart be lonely and long for heaven and home when Jesus is my portion, my constant friend is he? His eye is on the sparrow and I know he watches me.” And then the next verse says, “Let not your hearts be troubled. His tender word I hear. And resting on his goodness, I lose my doubts and fears. Though by the path he leadeth, but one step I may see, his eye is on the sparrow, and I know he watches me. Oh, I sing because I’m happy, I sing because I’m free. His eye is on the sparrow, and I know he watches me.”

God love you, God bless you, and may God hold us all, the entire human family of God, in those almighty hands of love.

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