Collect for the Fifth Sunday in Lent

O Almighty God, who alone canst order the unruly wills and affections of sinful men: Grant unto thy people that they may love the thing which thou commandest, and desire that which thou dost promise; that so, among the sundry and manifold changes of the world, our hearts may surely there be fixed where true joys are to be found; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Collect for the season: 

Almighty and everlasting God, who hatest nothing that thou hast made and dost forgive the sins of all those who are penitent: Create and make in us new and contrite hearts, that we, worthily lamenting our sins and acknowledging our wretchedness, may obtain of thee, the God of all mercy, perfect remission and forgiveness; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

This Week at the Advent, April 7-13, 2019

Welcome to the Church of the Advent! If you are new to the area, visiting, or seeking a church home, we are glad you’re here and hope to have a chance to greet you in person.

Child care is offered during the 9 am and 11:15 am services; an usher can guide you to the nursery.

A Coffee Hour following each service is held in Moseley Hall, reached through the side door at the back of the church. A lift is available for anyone who needs it.

Welcome cards are located in each pew; please fill one out so we can keep in touch.


9:00 Coffee Hour: Judy Bell & Fran Piscitelli and Cassie & Jack Gurnon host today. Next week is Palm Sunday and there is no Coffee Hour. New hosts are always needed; please contact Barbara Boles by email, bbolesster@gmail.com or telephone (617-501-7572) if you’re interested or have questions about what is entailed.

Today, Ellie Kiernan, along with some from her local Girl Scout troop, will share information about their Silver Award Community project. They are building community awareness about the work of the Wonderfund, a Boston nonprofit established by First Lady Laura Baker that helps children whose families are served by the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families (DCF). (For more details, visit www.wonderfundma.org.) We hope you will say hello to Ellie and her friends, and ask them about their Silver Award work.

11:15 Coffee Hour: Kyle Pilares, Brian Sirman and Thiago Rêgo host today. Next week is Palm Sunday and there is no Coffee Hour. We are always in need of more volunteers; to view the schedule of available dates and select a date to co-host, please go to http://theadventboston.org/1115-coffee-hour-signup/.  If you have any questions, please contact Frederick Ou (frederick.ou@gmail.com), Roxy Hanson (roxenewu@yahoo.com) or Kyle Pilares (kpilares.uk@gmail.com) or Betsy James (ejames4@nc.rr.com). 


Entr’acte (following the 9 am Mass, in the library): Fr. Hanson and parishioner John Ferrillo conclude their study of Fleming Rutledge’s magisterial work The Crucifixion: Understanding the Death of Jesus Christ.


THIS WEEK


The Wednesday Bible Study, which meets at 10 am in the library, is beginning a study of the epistles of James, Peter, and Jude.


The Lenten Theology Study of The Book of Homilies: A Preached Orthodoxy concludes this Wednesday  at 7 pm in the library. For more information please contact Eric at efialho@eds.edu.


On Thursdays during Lent, at 6 pm, the devotions of The Stations of the Cross and Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament will be offered in the church. The Stations of the Cross is a series of meditations on the Passion, the Crucifixion and the Death of Jesus leading to His burial in the tomb. Many Christians through the ages have found The Stations an aid in focussing their Lenten prayers. Some take on this form of devotion as a part of their Lenten disciplines. At Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament, we meditate on Our Lord’s Risen Presence with us in the Blessed Sacrament, which flows from his atoning and sacrificial death. He had to die in order that we might live with and in Him. That is a truth we think and pray about during the holy season. Stations and Benediction are helpful means to that end. Consider making it a part of your week.


COMING UP


MONDAY COMMUNITY GROUPS: Community Groups at the Advent are the best way for new and long-standing parishioners to meet and come to know true Christian fellowship. A new group will be meeting twice monthly on Monday evenings at different locations in the vicinity of university campuses in Cambridge and Boston. The purpose of the group is to provide members and potential members with opportunities to better get to know one another and enjoy time for friendship, prayer, education and recreation.

 The first gathering will take place this Monday, April 8 at 7 pm, at the home of John Ross Campbell, 471 Memorial Drive, Apt. 1279, Cambridge. We will be having a conversation about the focus of the group as well as activities we would like to do over the next months. All are welcome! Please RSVP to John Ross at jrcamp@mit.edu; he can also provide directions to his home. For any additional questions, contact Fr James.


Can you help the parish Flower Guild?

Preparing the floral decorations for Easter would be utterly impossible without reinforcements from outside the flower guild. Please join us if you can on any or all of the following days:

  • Maundy Thursday, April 18, 10 am–noon and/or 1–3:30 pm.
  • Holy Saturday, April 20, 10 am to 4 pm — please try to arrive by 11 am, but you do not have to stay all afternoon; even an hour or two is helpful.
  • Saturday April 27, 10:30 am (Post-Easter cleanup)

You do not need to have any flower arranging skills; if you can carry a bucket, climb a stepladder, use a broom, or fill a trash bag, we can use you! And if you like flowers but have never made an arrangement, this is a great chance to learn some basic techniques. Help is especially needed on Saturday, April 20.

ALSO: There is an opening for flower memorials or thanksgivings for the High Altar on Sunday, April 28. If you are interested, please contact Jim in the church office.


SPECIAL EVENTS FOR TODDLERS TO TEENAGERS: We ask that parents please take note and mark in their calendars the following events, which will strengthen and enhance our ministry to our young people:

  • Easter Day, we will hold our Easter Egg Hunt following the 9 am Mass in the parish garden, and “resurrect” all the buried Alleluias from the beginning of Lent.
  • On Saturday, April 27 the Middle School and High School students will attend the Presiding Bishop’s Jamboree from 1:30 to 3:00 at the Cathedral. We will meet at 1 pm that Saturday and walk to the Cathedral together.
  • Also at the Cathedral, the parishioners who are prepared for Confirmation (see below) will be confirmed by Bishop Gates on Saturday, June 15 at 10:30 am.

In honor of Saint Francis, on Sunday, October 6, the children will be able to enjoy a petting zoo that morning and bring their animal friends to the church that afternoon for our Blessing of Pets.


Adult Confirmation Class scheduled. It is expected that all adult members of this Church, after appropriate instruction, will have made a mature public affirmation of their faith and commitment to the responsibilities of their Baptism and will have been confirmed or received by the laying on of hands by a Bishop of this Church or by a Bishop of a Church in full communion with this Church. In keeping with the National Canons of The Episcopal Church, we are offering Confirmation Classes beginning after Easter. Classes have been scheduled for any adults (16 years and older) who are desirous of Confirmation or Reception into The Episcopal Church. The classes are scheduled for Wednesday evenings May 1, 8, 15, 22, 29, June 5 and 12, following the Healing Mass at 6:00 pm.


THEOLOGY ON TAP returns on Tuesday, April 30 at 7 pm in the Lower Bar at MAST Restaurant and Drinkery, 45 Province Street, Boston. Tyler VanderWeele will speak on “Religious Communities and Human Flourishing.” Dr VanderWeele is director of the Human Flourishing Program at Harvard, which among other things studies how religious communities affect health, happiness, meaning and purpose, and close social relationships. Theology on Tap is preceded by Evening Prayer at 5:30 pm at the Advent. For more information, contact Fr Hanson.


SAINT MICHAEL’S CONFERENCE: A Conference in the Anglican Tradition for Young Adults of All Christian Communions.

By the end of the week, I was sad to be leaving all the new friends I had made at the Conference. I couldn’t believe that the week had gone by so fast. I had learned so many new things at the Conference that I knew would be valuable life lessons, but most of all I had learned to never judge something without knowing what it is like. This is what Harriet Lewis-Bowen told us about her time spent last summer at Saint Michael’s Conference. This educational conference for high school and college students is a week-long conference held in West Hartford, Connecticut from July 28 to August 3 this summer. We encourage every high school and college-aged student between the ages of fourteen and twenty-one to register and attend. Registration forms are available in the church or on the Conference’s website at www.saintmichaelsconference.com. Please see Father James, Betsy James, Rob Braman, Mark Dwyer, Gabriel Ellsworth, Sam James, or Harriet Lewis-Bowen if you are interested in attending.


ODDS & ENDS


Parishioner and former music librarian Ivan Hansen is offering his vast collection of record albums, CDs, and books to fellow Adventers. You will find this treasure trove in the Library; please help yourself to the items that most appeal — it might be wise to bring a tote bag — and be sure to let Ivan know how much you appreciate his generosity! His address: 81 Phillips St., Boston, 02114.


Discount Vouchers for the Boston Common Garage are available for $9.00 each from Deacon Daphne or Nola Sheffer. You can find them between the 9:00 and 11:15 Masses at the Coffee Hour or Entr’acte. The vouchers can be used after 4:00 pm weekdays, and all day Saturday and Sunday. Questions? email: nsheffer@newview.org.

NOTE: If you will be needing parking vouchers for Holy Week, please plan on purchasing them TODAY, since there is no coffee hour on Palm Sunday.


From the Advent Archives —

An occasional offering of little known facts, amusing anecdotes, and miscellaneous wisdom, in honor of the 175th anniversary of this parish.

In 1865, the average daily weekday attendance was twenty-six persons, but during Lent the average daily attendance rose to 126.

Passiontide Mass in the 1930s
Passiontide Mass in the 1930s

This, please God, will be our thirteenth Lent together, as Rector and people. What note shall sound most clearly in the harmony of our observance? In 1910, we praised God because of His Word; in 1911, we strove for greater charity; in 1912, we desired to know ourselves better; in 1913, we consecrated our intellects to loving God with all our minds; and in 1914 we begged for more of the spirit of Worship and Praise. Every Lent shows us the need of all these: but this year, when the whole world echoes with the groans and lamentations of such anguish as has seldom been known before, I bid you undertake even more earnestly than your wont the fruitful labor of intercession… Men are ready enough to join in material benevolences; and surely they are needed, in these days of wicked and wanton destruction, when Belgium, Poland, and Northern France are laid waste and their people starve, except for the bounty of others less afflicted. You have responded splendidly to our appeals for them. Bur their cause is with the Most High, and our intercessions for those who suffer accomplish far more than our gifts, if they accompany the giving. All the other needs of mankind call to us for succour; and though we may be unable to help much in what are called “practical” ways by those who do not remember the power of prayer, we can intercede with the Giver of every good and perfect gift, confident that He will hear and answer… Let us have, then, a Lent of Intercessions,with our self-denial turned into helpful channels. The Belgian flag flying above the alms-chest will remind you of those who are in greatest need and those whose silent appeal is most eloquent; but we must remember the other who hunger and freeze and wander desolate. Give up altogether for the holy season such luxuries as you may perhaps lawfully use at other times, and turn over what you save to God’s Cause and God’s Poor. Find your way daily to the Habitation of God’s House; and come at least once a week to the Table of the Lord. Above all, love much: love God, love your friends, love your enemies; love God’s Church and all that pertains to her; love the Truth and Peace. And the very God of Peace be with you through the Forty Days and ever.
— The Rev’d William Harman van Allen,
rector, 1902-1929; “A Lent Letter,” 1915

Words cannot contain the mystery of the cross. They serve their purpose when they bring us to our knees. Only in worship will we discover the depth of God’s love. Attend the Holy Week services, therefore, including Saturday, please. By worship, meditation, and fasting, you will be prepared to sing with joy the joy of the first Christians on Easter morning.
— The Rev’d Samuel J. Wiley,
rector, 1960–1966;
“The Message,” 1962.
(The Saturday service consisted of Blessing of the Paschal Candle; Solemn Evensong, and Holy Baptism.)

Lent calls us to greater devotion and self-discipline. Most of us are too busy or disorganized to fit many spiritual exercises into our regular routine. The Church wisely recognizes our frailty and says, “Why not try to put a little more effort into the devotional life for six weeks? When Easter comes, you can relax gratefully into your former indifference. Why not give us some time for this short period?”
— The Rev’d Richard Holloway, rector, 1980–1984;
The Beacon, February 1981


Holy Week Service Schedule

Childcare will be available at all Holy Week services. Caregivers arrive by 6:15 pm and will be in nursery space adjacent to the parish office. Contact Meg Nelson at megwnelson@gmail.com with questions or concerns.


THIS WEEK AT THE ADVENT
April 8-14, 2019

Monday, April 8

Tuesday, April 9
6:00 pm: Community Supper

Wednesday, April 10
10:00 am: Bible Study
6:00 pm: Healing Mass
7:00 pm: Lenten Theology Study
7:00 pm: Bell Ringing

Thursday, April 11
6:00 pm: Stations of the Cross & Benediction
7:00 pm: Advent Choir Rehearsal

Friday, April 12
11:30 am: Rosary

Saturday, April 13
10:00 am: Advent Choir Rehearsal
12:00 noon: Acolyte Rehearsal

Sunday, April 14
Palm Sunday
7:30 am: Morning Prayer
8:00 am: Blessing & Distribution of Palms & Low Mass
9:00 am: Blessing & Distribution of Palms, Procession & Sung Mass
10:15 am: Church School / Childcare
11:15 am: Blessing & Distribution of Palms, Procession & Solemn Mass
8:00 pm: Passiontide Compline

Sermon Preached by the Rev’d Dr Jeffrey A. Hanson at the Church of the Advent, Sunday, March 31, 2019, the Fourth Sunday in Lent

At the center of the ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle’s most famous book on ethics is a memorable portrait of a guy that he thinks is the perfect man. This fellow that Aristotle describes is brave, self-controlled, noble, rich, generous with his friends, openly scornful of his enemies—his deeds are few but impressive. So detailed is Aristotle’s description of this ideal man that he even says of him that he has a deep voice and his way of walking is measured and unhurried.

When teaching this portrait of Aristotle’s perfect person to students, they often find this last detail a little puzzling. Why would Aristotle’s ideal man be known for measured and unhurried walking? Why would that matter?

To explain this I would simply say, “Well, did you ever see a grown man running to catch a bus?” “Wait… Stop… Wait for me…” No. No, that will not do.

No, Aristotle’s perfect man never rushes because he is grave and dignified, and running pell-mell is undignified.

Something else I try to get students to understand is that Aristotle’s vision of the perfect person is in many ways quite unlike the Christian ideal. We see this difference plainly in today’s Gospel reading because the very center of the story of the so-called prodigal son is a totally undignified act.

This most familiar of our Lord’s parables is unique to Luke, and it’s very much worth our careful study and particularly so on this Sunday, Rose Sunday, when we mark a crucial shift in the season of Lent.

We know the setup: The younger of two sons asks his father for his share of the inheritance. This is an impertinent—even insulting—request. Normally in ancient Near Eastern cultures a man’s inheritance is only endowed on his heirs when he is dead. And even when he is alive he still retains his right over its expenditure.

But the younger son doesn’t respect these norms and abandons his family and his homeland, a virtually unthinkable act of desertion.

Because he has cut all ties with family he ends up helpless and alone when he is in need. Having squandered everything he took from his father and being exposed to famine in desperation he works the most degrading possible job for an observant Jew: pigs are unclean, and yet there he is so close to starvation that he is envious of these filthy creatures’ slop. This is what we nowadays call hitting rock bottom. The younger son has nothing, and he has no one to help him.

So he decides—in a word—to repent. “I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me as one of your hired servants.”’

This is what repentance looks like to our Lord’s audience. He is speaking in chapter 15 of Luke’s Gospel to the Pharisees and the scribes. And as far as they are concerned, this is the perfect way to end this story.

Because the younger son’s gesture of repentance is exactly what the Pharisees would approve of. Repentance according to the religious authorities of the day requires us, as the younger son does, to “come to ourselves” and realize that our situation needs fixing. Repentance means confessing that we are not worthy and offering to make restitution.

And this offer to be one of his father’s hired servants is one that a sober, dignified ancient Near Eastern paterfamilias would be tempted to take quite seriously. Maybe the boy has learned his lesson. If he goes to work here in the household then he can earn back some trust. If he sticks it out as a hired servant for a while then his father will know that he really is sorry. And the money he makes can pay back the father for all the wealth he squandered. From the son’s perspective, repentance is a smart move.

And from the father’s perspective accepting that repentance makes good sense too. It restores the father’s honor. It allows him to recover from his son’s insult. It is a dignified solution to an embarrassing family problem.

But the father is not that dignified. What is he? According to verse 20, he is compassionate. And that compassion drives him to drop all dignity. He is not measured and unhurried. He runs. He runs to his child, he runs for compassion, he runs with joy, and he flings his arms around his son’s neck and kisses him.

God is not waiting around for us to show up shame-faced looking for a handout. God doesn’t want us to work off our debt or earn our way back into his good graces.

The Father sees us coming while we are still far off. How does he do that when we are still far off? Because he’s looking for us. He’s actively looking and longing for us, and when he sees us he comes running to welcome us home.

And yes, it’s important that we come to God in repentance, but notice that in the story the younger son doesn’t even get to finish his carefully rehearsed speech. There is no question of becoming a hired servant because repentance cannot earn back relationship with God, that relationship that we have so foolishly spurned.

Relationship with God can only be restored as a free gift from our heavenly Father, one he is eager to give.

This story marks a shift in Lent, as I said. This Sunday, Rose Sunday, is when we shift our attention from our individual repentance, our fasting and self-denial, to a shared anticipation of the coming Great Feast of Easter.

There are two proper prefaces for Lent; the first you have already heard on this season’s past Sundays—it focuses on the temptation of our Lord, how he was tested as we are and yet did not sin.

Today the celebrant will say a different proper preface; this one calls us to prepare with joy for the Paschal Feast.

And the familiar story of the younger son and his compassionate father ends with a feast. The feast is in celebration of nothing less than the younger son’s passage from death to life. And in the same way our Easter feast is in celebration of our Lord’s rising from death to life, which in turn causes us to celebrate our baptism into Christ’s death and rising to new life in him.

This is the good news that awaits us. But not everyone is happy about it. The older son, not without some reason even, is upset that there is a feast at all. He has been at work in the field all day, and nobody has brought him the news. Awkward… He declines to rush with the same joy as his father. He even refuses to his father’s face and in front of the guests to go in to the house, an insult almost as grave as the younger brother’s. He puts the worst possible construction on his younger brother’s activities while away from home, complains that he has never been treated as well by his father, pleads not for his family but for his friends, and generally fails to see the truth that his father reassuringly speaks to him: “Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. It was fitting to make merry and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive.”

Intriguingly this parable ends in suspense: What will the older brother do? Will he join the feast as well? Or will he remain sulking outside?

Our Lord I believe leaves the choice to those who are listening to him. We are hearing him, and we have a choice to make. And who else is his audience, besides us I mean? As I said it is the Pharisees and the scribes; they have a choice to make too. We know this because Luke tells us so at the very opening of chapter 15. And what are the Pharisees and scribes doing? They are not just listening to Jesus; they are murmuring against Jesus.

They are complaining and sulking and in a totally dignified manner I am sure holding themselves aloft and refusing to join in what Jesus is doing because as Luke tells us “the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to Jesus.” Sinners. I’m sure they found that outrageous. A crowd of sinners gathered together to hear the words of Jesus was probably really undignified. And because the tax collectors and sinners were drawing near to him the Pharisees said of Jesus, “This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.”

That’s right. So he did. And so he still does. And he tells us this story to show us why. This parable shows us what God’s attitude toward sinners really is: God sees sinners far off and runs to them. He wraps his arms around them and kisses them. And he invites them to a celebratory feast.

The Great Feast of Easter is coming soon. What a shame it would be for us to miss out for any reason. What a shame to be stopped by embarrassment at our past mistakes; to hold on to our stubborn pride; to cling to our sham dignity, and refuse to go in to the house and join in. Sinners of all kinds are invited. Those who are more like the younger brother and those who are more like the older brother. God wants both of them to come into the house.

God does not greet our repentance grudgingly, with cold indifference; God is longing for you to come home; God is eager to receive you with joy no matter how low you have sunk. If we will have it, then all that is God’s is ours too.

So don’t hold back now. It is fitting that we should make merry and be glad.

Amen.