This Week at the Advent, July 28-August 3, 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. Please join us downstairs following the service for a coffee hour.

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

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


9:00 Coffee Hour: Hosting this morning are John Boyd and Matt McNeff & David Russo. If you would like to sign up to host coffee hour, please contact Barbara Boles by phone, 617-501-7572, or email, bbolesster@gmail.com, if you’re interested or have questions.

11:15 Coffee Hour: Today’s hosts are Meg & Brent Nelson, Frank Olney, and Robb Scholten. 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 Betsy James (ejames4@nc.rr.com).

Also at the 11:15 Coffee Hour, we have the opportunity to bid farewell to Brian Sirman and in absentia, Thiago Rego, who has already left for a new position. Brian will begin three years of law school at The College of William and Mary in Virginia. We will miss him and Thiago but are praying that they will return often. They have been a special part of our parish family and we will miss their friendship and their dedication and devotion to The Advent.

Saint Michael’s Conference begins this afternoon; Harriet Lewis-Bowen, Penelope Pulsone, and Emily Zadig from our parish will be attending. The mission of this week-long educational conference for high school and college students from across the United States is to strengthen and deepen the lives of young people through the grace given by Jesus Christ and His Church. They form a community where worship, fellowship, teaching, and prayer build up their spiritual resources to win the fight against anything the world has to offer. Please pray for the Conference, for our young people attending the Conference, and for Betsy James, Rob Braman, Mark Dwyer, and Father James, all serving on the Conference Staff. To learn more, visit saintmichaelsconference.com.


COMING UP


Over the weekend of August 23–25, the Advent will host expert bell ringers from throughout the United States and Canada for a weekend-long demonstration of change ringing, including a special 9:00 coffee hour on Sunday and participation of the ringers during Mass. Some events are still being finalized, but we expect more details next week.


Mark Your Calendars: here are some keys dates for the fall:

Sun, Sep 15: Church School registration

Sun, Sep 22: Church School and Advent Choirs return from summer recess

Sat, Sep 28: Vestry Retreat and Meeting

Sun, Sep 29: Michaelmas

Sun, Oct 6: Blessing of Animals/Petting Zoo

Sun, Oct 20: Entr’acte and Evensong & Benediction resume

Sun, Nov 3: Sunday of All Saints

Fri-Sat, Nov 8-9: Guild of All Souls meeting

Thu, Nov 28: Thanksgiving

Sun, Dec 1: Advent Sunday; Bishop’s Visit; 175th Anniversary

Thu-Fri, Dec 5-6: Anglo-Catholic Conference (at The Advent)

More information will, of course, be forthcoming. Stay tuned. 


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.

August 21, 1902: The successful ringers. Miss Margaret Nichols, front; her father, Dr. Arthur H. Nichols, right rear. From Lively Days: Some Memories of Margaret Homer Shurcliff.

“Bell ringing is the poetry of steeples,” said Ben Jonson. The poetry that emanates from the Advent’s steeple on Sundays and for funerals (for the traditional Tolling of the Tailors) and festivities (such as the Fourth of July) dates to 1900, when Robert Codman (1823–1901) gave a ring of eight bells in memory of his wife, Catherine Hurd Codman (1829–1892). Gifts from Dr. Arthur Nichols and others secured the hanging apparatus.

Dr. Nichols taught his intrepid daughter, Margaret, to ring, and on a visit to the Whitechapel Foundry she witnessed the casting of the bells for the Church of the Advent. Margaret— now Mrs. Shurcliff—was one of the ringers at the installation and blessing of the bells in 1900.

Practice had been only with the clappers tied, because bells should not sound until after the blessing. The original sounds that day, therefore, were a clash of “sweet bells jangling,” for the ringers had never heard the voice of their own bells. Parenthetically, Mrs. Shurcliff, while still Miss Nichols, in 1902, rang in four full peals in four days, the first citizen of the United States to ring a peal, the second woman to do so; and her first peal on handbells was the difficult Stedman Triples method.


THIS WEEK AT THE ADVENT
July 29-August 4, 2019

Monday, July 29
Mary & Martha of Bethany

Tuesday, July 30
William Wilberforce
6:00 pm: Community Supper

Wednesday, July 31
Joseph of Arimathaea
10:00 am: Bible Study
6:00 pm: Healing Mass
7:00 pm: Bellringers

Thursday, August 1

Friday, August 2
11:30 am: Rosary

Saturday, August 3
10:00 am: Flower Guild

Sunday, August 4
The Eighth Sunday after Pentecost
7:30 am: Morning Prayer
8:00 am: Low Mass
9:00 am: Sung Mass
11:15 am: Solemn Mass

Sermon Preached by the Rev’d Dr Jeffrey A. Hanson at the Church of the Advent, July 21, 2019, the Sixth Sunday after Pentecost

The story of Jesus’s visit with Martha and her sister Mary is one with a lesson, about the importance of cutting through distractions and focusing on the essential. Our Lord Jesus uses Martha’s experience as illustrative of this point, because she is the one who seems obviously to be carried away with secondary matters, but if I am right about what is going on in this episode from Luke’s Gospel then Mary has already overcome some potential obstacles standing between her and the Lord Jesus. A few things to notice about the way Luke sets up this story might tell us how that is so.

First of all we are told that Jesus and his disciples have gone on their way. Jesus just sent 70 disciples ahead of him and out to the villages that he himself intends to visit. Those disciples he sent out to households in pairs, yet Jesus is received into a house by himself. And he is received by Martha, who as his host Luke strongly implies is the owner of her own home, which is a bit unusual in this time and place.

The only other person present is not Martha’s husband or some other male relative, which would be customary, but her sister Mary.

Mary’s behavior is a bit unusual too. First, Luke tells us that Mary is sitting at Jesus’s feet. This is not a throwaway description of something as trivial as her bodily posture. This is an idiom that means she is his disciple. To “sit at someone’s feet” in the language of the Bible is to be that person’s student and follower.

Second, Luke calls Jesus here not by his name but by his proper title, “the Lord.” Luke is telling us that while perhaps Mary does not fully understand the whole truth of who Jesus is, Luke himself as the narrator does understand this and is suggesting that the Lordship of Christ is the subject of his teaching to his enthusiastic and devoted disciple and student, Mary.

Third, Luke tells us that Mary is listening to what our translation calls the Lord’s “teaching.” That’s a fine translation, nothing wrong with it, but literally what Luke says is Mary is listening to the “word” of the Lord Christ. This too could be read as a hint; Luke is hinting that the substance of what Jesus is telling Mary is not a variety of words on a variety of subjects but the word, the one true word he has to offer about himself, the word of God, the essential message of salvation.

This is also a chance for Jesus to practice what he himself has preached. In this very same chapter he just told the 70 disciples he sent ahead of himself to remain in whatever house receives them, to eat and drink whatever is offered there, and to proclaim that the kingdom of God is at hand.

So here he is, receiving hospitality from Martha, accepting what he is offered, and proclaiming the truth about himself and the kingdom of God he announces to Mary.

And yet while according to his earlier instructions his disciples should bring peace upon any household that receives them, this household is not entirely at peace.

Martha the householder is carried away with “much serving,” and she is perhaps understandably annoyed that Mary is no help at all.

Hospitality was incredibly important in the ancient Near Eastern world. To receive someone in your home was to owe them a profound service. In Martha’s mind as the home owner she is obligated to her guest and certainly so to a guest who is a religious teacher whose message you are tacitly accepting by welcoming them in to your home.

So all the more is it the case that hospitality is owed to the Lord. Luke even goes so far as to use the Greek word “diakonia” for the “serving” that Martha is busy with; this is the word from which we get our word “deacon,” and Luke certainly knows that a deacon is of course someone specially ordained to serve the body of Christ and particularly to look after the church’s practical needs. So once again we can see here a little hint on Luke’s part that the work Martha is doing is not just ordinary household chores but a form of religiously significant service.

We also know from Luke’s Gospel that Jesus is not hesitant to criticize a lack of hospitality when he encounters it. In chapter 7 he reproaches Simon the Pharisee for inviting him to his home but then failing to receive him properly while a woman of ill repute lavishly welcomes him by washing his feet, kissing them, and anointing them with oil.

That incident is quite a scandalous one, because the woman who welcomes Jesus so intimately is a known sinner, and Simon the Pharisee host is grumbling about this much as Martha is grumbling about her sister’s attention to Jesus.

So here’s the one thing missing in most studies of the Martha and Mary episode. To a contemporary reader of Luke’s Gospel, the story of Martha and Mary I suspect is almost as scandalous as the one about the sinful woman who anointed Jesus’s feet.

Because here is the thing: Simply by being present to the Lord Jesus and receiving his teaching Mary is probably courting scandal herself. And this might explain why Martha is upset: not just because she is not being helped but because something a bit upsetting is happening in her home.

Jesus, a rabbi, is alone in a room with Mary, and he is teaching her as if she were his disciple. But no rabbi would take a woman as a disciple because you only take on disciples to make of them teachers in their own right when their discipleship is over, and no woman can be a teacher.

This way of thinking is still with us in some quarters. Just last semester one of my students at Harvard was a gifted and thoughtful young lady who had been reared in a Hasidic community in Brooklyn. I was telling her about some of my favorite 20th-century Jewish philosophers, none of whom it turned out she had read. When I asked why she was unfamiliar with these works that belong more to her tradition than mine she complained that her education at home had been deficient in a number of ways, not least in that as a young woman she was not allowed even to study Torah thoroughly. I admit I was surprised to hear this. It’s not my place to pass judgment on other practitioners’ of other religions’ policies. I bring it up just to point out that if a woman can be denied theological education today, imagine how outrageous it is that Jesus is teaching a woman in her home in his day.

This I think is why Jesus gently rebukes Martha and puts her back on the right track. It would be totally inconsistent for Luke to teach that practical service and tangible hospitality is not important. In this very same chapter we just read the story of the Good Samaritan, which obviously teaches that practical help to meet people’s material needs is the work that Jesus Christ would have his followers do.

And yet Jesus says that Mary has chosen the good portion, one that cannot be taken away. Martha is troubled about many things, but only one thing matters. That one thing is attention to Christ himself, listening to his word about himself, devotion to his teaching.

Besides the obligation to serve, there is much else about Mary’s world—with all its social norms and expectations—that stands in the way of her attending to this one thing needful, and yet she overcomes those obstacles for the sake of the essential. And so must we.

Most people hearing me now lead very busy lives. We spend a lot of time and energy on many things. A lot of those things I am sure are good things too, acts of service and valuable contributions to the lives of those we love. All that we need though is to hear what the Lord Jesus is telling us about himself and about his will for us. If we can’t hear this, then we can be as busy as we like, but our actions will lack divine direction.

Service is important, but service must be guided by the one we are to serve.

Hospitality is important, but the point of it is to enjoy the presence of the one we have received.

And there is nothing wrong with being busy with many things, but the one thing we really need is to be still and hear the one word that teaches us the truth of all things. Amen.

Collect for the Sixth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 11)

Almighty God, the fountain of all wisdom, who knowest our necessities before we ask and our ignorance in asking: Have compassion, we beseech thee, upon our infirmities, and those things which for our unworthiness we dare not, and for our blindness we cannot ask, mercifully give us for the worthiness of thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

This Week at the Advent, July 21-27, 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. Please join us downstairs following the service for a coffee hour.

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

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


The flowers at the High Altar are given to the Glory of God and in loving memory of Phyllis Peacock Hinchman.


9:00 Coffee Hour: Hosting this morning are Betsy Ridge Madsen and Carolyn Shadid & Jason Lewis. If you would like to sign up to host coffee hour, please contact Barbara Boles by phone, 617-501-7572, or email, bbolesster@gmail.com, if you’re interested or have questions.

11:15 Coffee Hour: Today’s hosts are Jason Grant, Roxy Hanson, and Karen Harrington. 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 Betsy James (ejames4@nc.rr.com).


COMING UP


At the Coffee Hour following next Sunday’s 11:15 Mass, we will have the opportunity to bid farewell to Brian Sirman and, in absentia, Thiago Rego, who has already left for a new position. Brian will begin three years of law school at The College of William and Mary in Virginia. We will miss him and Thiago but are praying that they will return often. They have been a special part of our parish family and we will miss their dedication and devotion to The Advent.


Pray for Saint Michael’s Conference: Harriet Lewis-Bowen, Penelope Pulsone, and Emily Zadig from our parish will be attending Saint Michael’s Conference beginning next Sunday, July 28. The mission of this week-long educational conference for high school and college students from across the United States is to strengthen and deepen the lives of young people through the grace given by Jesus Christ and His Church. They form a community where worship, fellowship, teaching, and prayer build up their spiritual resources to win the fight against anything the world has to offer. Please pray for the Conference, for our young people attending the Conference, and for Betsy James, Rob Braman, Mark Dwyer, and Father James who serve on the Conference Staff. To learn more about the Conference go to www.saintmichaelsconference.com.


Over the weekend of August 23-25, the Advent will host expert bell ringers from throughout the United States and Canada for a weekend-long demonstration of change ringing. More details coming soon!


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.

A plaque on the first column nearest the pulpit honors Jonathan Myrick Daniels (1939–1965), martyr of the Civil Rights movement. At the time of his murder in Selma, Alabama, Jonathan was a seminarian at the Episcopal Theological School, preparing for ordination as a priest. In advance of his feast day—August 14—we offer this look at Jonathan (back row, second from left) as a young camper, together with a poem (see below) written after Jonathan’s death in 1965 by his counselor at Camp Takodah, Jack Whitcomb.Jonathan Daniels and other campers at Camp Takodah, undated

Jonathan Daniels

Knobby knees, grimy nails, ears that show
Sneakers knotted instead of a bow
A kid with a notion in perpetual motion
That is the Jonathan I know 

Through day’s travail to evensong
Hard right bettered easy wrong
Untried youth learned the truth
That differences make us strong 

To climb a mountain and watch the dawn
Leading the pack would likely be Jon
He led the way that shameful day
Human rights were trampled on 

Though he lived and died
For a cause that bigotry denied
His chippy face
Has a special place
The darkness cannot hide.

 – Jack Whitcomb


THIS WEEK AT THE ADVENT
July 22-28, 2019

Monday, July 22
St Mary Magdalene

Tuesday, July 23
6:00 pm: Community Supper

Wednesday, July 24
Thomas a Kempis
10:00 am: Bible Study
6:00 pm: Healing Mass
7:00 pm: Bellringers

Thursday, July 25
St James
6:15 pm: Vestry

Friday, July 26
Parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary
11:30 am: Rosary

Saturday, July 27
10:00 am: Flower Guild

Sunday, July 28
The Seventh Sunday after Pentecost
7:30 am: Morning Prayer
8:00 am: Low Mass
9:00 am: Sung Mass
11:15 am: Solemn Mass

Sermon Preached by the Rev’d Daphne B. Noyes at the Church of the Advent, Sunday, July 14, 2019, the Fifth Sunday after Pentecost

The Good Samaritan

The familiar and beloved story of the Good Samaritan has provided inspiration and identity for charitable institutions for centuries. Take, for example, The Pennsylvania Hospital, founded in 1751 by Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Bond. The Hospital was very specific regarding who it would admit: “No patient shall be admitted whose Cases are judged incurable” nor “persons suffering with ‘infectious distempers’…” For the hospital’s official seal, Franklin chose a depiction of the wounded man of the story on a donkey, as he is delivered from the hands of the Samaritan who rescued him to the innkeeper who will care for him. “Take care of him and I will repay thee” is inscribed below the image.

Closer to home, the Boston Dispensary was founded in 1796, with a mission of providing free medical care to the poor. (Bear in mind, this was decades before the existence of any of our now-renowned hospitals.) The Dispensary, also, chose a representation of the tale of the Good Samaritan as its identifying image — one that would surely be understood even by those who could not read. It shows the Samaritan tending to the wounded man while the donkey grazes peacefully to one side. When the original Dispensary moved to a new building in 1883, those who came seeking relief were greeted by a bas-relief over the door, based on the original image, but minus the donkey. It still exists, now part of Tufts Medical Center.

Then there’s the Ether Monument, in the Boston Public Garden. It’s the Garden’s oldest monument, erected in 1868. Perched atop the 40-foot spire, the Good Samaritan tends to the wounded man, his act of mercy being linked to the discovery that “the inhaling of ether causes insensibility to pain.” By using the Biblical image, the monument cleverly avoids the controversy that marked ether’s introduction, as Dr. William Morton and Dr. Charles Thomas Jackson each claimed to be the originator. Their competing claims resulted in a fight called the Ether Controversy. Oliver Wendell Holmes, also a physician, remarked that the monument was to “ether or either,” alluding to the claimants of the discovery.

The Advent’s early records include many notations of pastoral visits — often made at the request of a Sister of St. Margaret, frequently to administer baptism — to the House of the Good Samaritan, founded in 1861 in what is now known as the Longwood Medical Area. In the early 20th century, Advent parishioners Catherine Codman (1857-1945) and her brother Edmund (1864-1947) were on the board of the House of the Good Samaritan, which later became part of Children’s Hospital.

These vignettes convey the deep resonance this parable has held over the years and continues to hold today.

Yet I cannot acknowledge this resonance without also acknowledging the uncomfortable conundrums and unavoidable conflicts that arise from the question, Who is my neighbor? This is especially apparent in the description of House of the Good Samaritan in their 1917 annual report, “A hospital for white women and children without condition of religion, nationality, or residence.”

This place of discomfort — can we really honestly say that we love our neighbor as ourselves? — allows us to enter into the story in some unusual ways. Let me speak for myself. As much as I’d like to model my life on the compassion and mercy of the Good Samaritan, I know I fall short every time I avoid or ignore someone in need — from the person waiting for response to an email or phone message, to the overlooked woman sitting on the sidewalk asking for spare change, to the unanswered appeal for funds from a worthy organization. And as much as I’d like to slip into the role of the kind and generous innkeeper, I am all too aware of my shortcomings when I make decisions about resources of time or money (for example) that benefit me more than others.

And in the end, I am all too aware that it’s a nearly insurmountable challenge for me to love God with *all* my heart, *all* my soul, *all* my strength, *all* my mind.

# # #

There’s another way in which discomfort plays an important role in this story. The phrase “Good Samaritan” has become so ingrained in our vernacular that it has become, inaccurately, a way of describing pretty much anyone who does pretty much anything kind for a stranger. Sadly, this serves to blunt the impact of the story. To fully appreciate the tale as Jesus told it and his disciples heard it, first consider the present discord that divides this country (and many others). Now: think of a group furthest removed from, or in strongest opposition to, your beliefs and values. Then: imagine a person from that group, a person unknown to you, the least likely person you can imagine, unexpectedly coming to help you in a time of crisis or deepest need — help you without asking anything in return. That approximates the shock value embedded in the story of the Good Samaritan.

This is not simply a tale of the kindness of strangers. The story insists that enemies can prove to be neighbors, that compassion has no boundaries, and that judging people on the basis of their religion or ethnicity (or —- fill in the blank) will leave us dying in a ditch.

The lawyer asks, What shall I do…? And indeed this is one of the enduring questions of faith. The story of the Good Samaritan is a reminder that the quest for eternal life is firmly grounded in the here-and-now. Each moment of this mortal, finite existence is an opportunity to do as Jesus says: “Go and do likewise.”

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.

May the Lord who gives us the will to do these things give us the grace and power to perform them. Amen.

This Week at the Advent, July 14-20, 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. Please join us downstairs following the service for a coffee hour.

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

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


The flowers at the High Altar are given to the Glory of God and in loving memory of William Malcolm Mill, Alexina Wilkins Talmadge, and Robert Mill.

The flowers at the crossing are given to the Glory of God and in loving memory of Pearl Pfeffer.


9:00 Coffee Hour: Hosting this morning are Maggie Dunbar and Carolyn & Tom McDermott. If you would like to sign up to host coffee hour, please contact Barbara Boles by phone, 617-501-7572, or email, bbolesster@gmail.com, if you’re interested or have questions.

11:15 Coffee Hour: Today’s hosts are Br. Ciaran Anthony DellaFera, Alfred Duhamel and Michael Gnozzio. 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 Betsy James (ejames4@nc.rr.com).


Compline will be said at 8:00 p.m. this evening in the chancel.  Please join us for this contemplative office.


UPDATE FROM THE WARDENS


Dear Members and Friends of the Church of the Advent:

As the calendar moves out of “procession-tide” into high summer, we write to provide a brief update on activities at the Advent. 

Now that the Parish Profile has been published, the Search Committee has begun accepting applications from potential candidates to be our next Rector.  You can find the profile, along with the instructions and initial questions to all applicants, on the “Rector Search” page of the website.  The deadline for initial submissions is in mid-August.  At that point, the Search Committee will begin its review of applications and discussion of the candidates.  Encourage any priest you may know who is a potential candidate to visit the website and review the profile and application instructions.  You may also feel free to provide any comments or suggestions to the Search Committee by sending an email to AdventSearchCommittee@gmail.com; or by writing to the attention of Lynda Blair, Chair of the Advent Search Committee, Charles Street Station, P.O. Box 306, Boston MA 02114.  Please note that the Committee and its members will not be in a position to respond to any specific communication.

At its June meeting, the Vestry heard the report of the Administration Committee and had an extensive discussion with members of that group about their analysis and recommendations for improving a number of aspects of our operations and administration.  Next comes the task of considering these ideas in more detail.  The Vestry will devote a good deal of time to this over the next several months.  We are enormously grateful to David Lapin, the committee chair, and all of the members who devoted time and talent to the effort of this substantial project.  While much remains to be done, we have made a great start of things.  As a point of reference, we believe that this is the first time that the Advent’s Vestry has ever considered anything like a “strategic planning” proposal.  So in addition to giving the Vestry much to consider in carrying out its responsibility for the proper care of the Parish’s secular affairs, the Administration Committee’s work has been a great opportunity for the Advent to learn how to draw more effectively on the enormous well of talent among our parishioners.

The status of our search process and administrative review are in fact quite remarkable:  just six months into a transition period, we have done a parish-wide questionnaire and conducted open forums, completed a profile, opened up an application period, and delved deeply into a major review of our Parish operations.  All the while, the worship, ministries, and community life of the Advent have continued apace.  For maintaining and guiding that momentum we are particularly thankful to Father Welch, and to the Parish clergy and staff.  We wish them all some well-deserved rest time in the summer.  We also welcome, and are thankful for, the work of Father Alistair Macdonald-Radcliff, who will provide (as he has in past years) some additional clerical support over the summer while others are away.

Finally, we note a few things in advance of the fall to mark on your calendars.  This coming Advent Sunday is the Parish’s 175th anniversary.  Bishop Gates will visit us that day, and there will be a number of special events associated with the occasion.  Please keep an eye out for further announcements from the Advent 175 Committee.  Meanwhile, we thank Deacon Noyes in particular for the work she has done and will do supporting the Advent 175 celebrations.  Also, on Saturday, November 9, the Advent will host the Annual Requiem and Meeting of the Guild of All Souls, as we last did in 2014.  (Father Warren is a long-time member of the Guild’s Council; and you can find the Guild’s Intercessory Paper on the leaflet-table outside the parish office.)  Devotional societies such as the Guild of All Souls provide us with excellent opportunities to share fellowship with other Anglo-Catholic Parishes in the Episcopal Church and the wider Anglican Communion.  So please mark your calendar and join the Guild to commemorate and pray for the faithful departed.

We wish you all a relaxing and restful summer, in advance of a busy and exciting church year ahead of us.

Faithfully your brothers in Christ,

Thomas Brown & Paul J. Roberts,
Churchwardens.


THIS WEEK


“Take Me Out to the Ball Game.” The Advent Swingers, our up-and-coming softball team, play their next game this Saturday, July 20th at 9:00 a.m. at the Boston Common Softball Field.  Please come and cheer them to victory.


COMING UP


August 23-25, the Advent will host expert bell ringers from throughout the United States and Canada for a weekend-long demonstration of change ringing. More details coming soon!


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.

From Fr. van Allen’s weekly notes:

Repeating here what I said last Sunday about the Orphelinat des Armées, we have the splendid opportunity of coming to the aid of glorious France at once, in a way effective, gracious, and gratifying to ourselves. There will be three hundred thousand little half-orphans, children of French soldiers killed in the war for freedom, whose mothers must be helped to support them. Under the patronage of the President of France, local committees will supervise the education of these children, and assure them the training for careers to which they show most aptitude. To this end, we are asked to assume a certain responsibility for individual children. Ten cents a day for two years, $74 in all, measures that responsibility in money; and those guaranteeing this sum are brought into relations with the children, learn their names and addresses, can have their photographs, and are informed as to their progress. Above all, we shall feel that we are helping France to build up the next generation as a worthy successor to this which is serving civilization and the very principle of freedom by its incalculable sacrifices. Those who are willing to undertake the “adoption” of one or more children on this basis will please communicate direct with me. I hope that our parish societies may also take each one or two orphans. So far, thirty have been “adopted.” Vive la France!

World War I poster advertising help for French war orphans
1778-1783. America owes France the most unalterable gratitude
1917: French Comrade your children shall be as our children.

1918 poster by Lucien Jonas (1880–1947). University of North Texas digital collection

THIS WEEK AT THE ADVENT
July 15-21, 2019

Monday, July 15

Tuesday, July 16
6:00 pm: Community Supper

Wednesday, July 17
William White, Bishop of Pennsylvania
10:00 am: Bible Study
5:00 pm: Beacon Hill Civic Association
6:00 pm: Healing Mass
7:00 pm: Bellringers

Thursday, July 18
5:15 pm: Property Committee
6:15 pm: Vestry

Friday, July 19
11:30 am: Rosary

Saturday, July 20
9:00 am: Softball Game
10:00 am: Flower Guild

Sunday, July 21
The Sixth Sunday after Pentecost
7:30 am: Morning Prayer
8:00 am: Low Mass
9:00 am: Sung Mass
11:15 am: Solemn Mass

Sermon Preached by the Rev’d Canon Alistair Macdonald-Radcliff at the Church of the Advent, Sunday, July 7, 2019, the Fourth Sunday after Pentecost

In the Name of God the Father, Son and Holy Ghost, Amen

Having listened with your customary attention to the words of today’s Gospel I am sure that many of you are in consequence — as I speak– wrestling with the question of “snake handling”.My reference is to that closing verse:

“I have given you authority to tread on snakes and scorpions,…
and nothing will hurt you” 

That verse will, in turn, have doubtless called to mind the passage in Mark which reads:

17 And these signs shall follow them that believe;
In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues;
18 They shall take up serpents;
and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them;
                                    Mark 16:17-18 (King James Version, KJV)

Not to mention the record in Acts of what happened when St Paul visited Malta and after he:

3 ….had gathered a bundle of sticks, and laid them on the fire, there came a viper out of the heat, and fastened on his hand.
4 And when the barbarians saw the venomous beast hang on his hand, they said among themselves, No doubt this man is a murderer, whom, though he hath escaped the sea, yet vengeance suffereth not to live.
5 And he shook off the beast into the fire, and felt no harm.
6 Howbeit they looked when he should have swollen, or fallen down dead suddenly: but after they had looked a great while, and saw no harm come to him, they changed their minds, and said that he was a god.
(Acts 28)

It was after all these very verses (especially those in St Mark’s Gospel) that led, round the year 1910, a then well known Church of God preacher named George Went Hensley of Grasshopper Valley in southeastern Tennessee, (to begin)… to embark upon the practice of handling venomous snakes during worship in the mountains of Appalachia.

A rather later account of this tradition from the Appalachian Magazine (which is evidently authoritative in such liturgical matters) records that

Worship services usually include singing, praying, speaking in tongues and preaching. The front of the church, behind the pulpit, is the designated area for handling snakes. Rattlesnakes, cottonmouths, and copperheads ….are the most common, but even cobras have been used. During the service, believers may approach the front and pick up the snakes, usually raising them into the air…. The snakes are considered incarnations of demons, and handling the snakes demonstrates one’s power over them. Members are not required to handle the snakes. Some believers will also engage in drinking poison (most commonly strychnine) at this time….

If a handler is bitten, it is generally interpreted as a lack of faith or failure to follow the leadership of the Holy Spirit. Bitten believers usually do not seek medical help, but look to God for their healing. George Went Hensley died in Florida in 1955 from a venomous snakebite.” [1]

By comparison with such excitements the liturgy here today may risk seeming overly sedate – not,  I hasten to add,  that I wish in any way to impugn the skills in the domain of spiritual herpetology of the clergy of the parish –should they wish at some point to demonstrate them

– though in that instance I would seek to observe from a respectful distance (there being no recorded case of an observer coming to harm among snake handling congregations).[2]

All of which brings us to two rather interesting questions that arise as we look at the reading from Galatians,  on the one hand, and the Gospel of Luke on the other.

Here I mean the relation between freedom and the earlier (Mosaic) law on the one hand And on the other: the expansion of the church’s mission (post Pentecost) into an epochal transition — namely to embrace the whole world of the Gentiles.

Though just how these points connect with snake handling, I will leave you to ponder….

Expanding Mission to embrace the Gentiles

If we bring together the testimony of Luke (24. 47-9) and Acts (1. 8)  we have first the promise of the risen Lord to the eleven apostles that they will receive power through the Holy Spirit and that they will be his witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judaea and Samaria, and ‘to the end of the earth’.[3]  – a phrase which could be taken to mean Rome (though it would still be representing the centre of the Gentile world)  or, as I take to be more probable, the furthest extent of the inhabited world.[4]

What is set out in Acts is — a promise that also contains a revelation:

Namely that what is witnessed to, namely the gospel and the risen Lord,

is for the whole world, Jews and Gentiles.

But an interesting question is to exactly whom was the Commission first given?

To the Twelve alone, the Twelve plus Paul, or to the church as a whole, (Luke taking the twelve as representative of the church)?[5] And indeed what was the role of the 70 spoken of in today’s Gospel? (To which the short answer is that they were sent out to implement the vision of evangelism first seen at Pentecost but they were not the source of that vision).

On the one hand, the Apostles function as an historical and defined group connecting the church to Jesus which as such uniquely received the promise, commission and revelation of Christ as ‘witnesses’ to his life, death, and resurrection. But they are also representative believers implementing the mission of the church, which is to be directed to Jerusalem, Judaea, Samaria and the end of the earth, (and the Twelve are not depicted by Luke as missionaries outside Palestine; while Paul and others are).

But, however we seek to resolve the questions of history – the fact of a hugely important shift from a relatively local initial evangelistic context,  framed by Judaism, to a message of salvation made available to the whole world is one of the most fundamental shifts in the entire history of the early church and indeed our very world itself.

Yet there is a dynamic within and framing that change which I suggest we find embedded in the Epistle to the Galatians – and this  lies in the Christian call to authentic freedom which it contains

II

Tellingly,  in Galatians,  St Paul emphasizes primarily Christ’s Advent rather than his parousia and Second Coming at the end of the world. It is the Advent of Christ that marks the fundamental beginning of the new cosmic era.  Something that is set against a strongly apocalyptic background of expectancy in certain strands of Judaism at the time

Thus, there were many Jews eagerly anticipating an apocalyptic event that would see the demise of their present evil age and the rise of a new age to come, when God would rule supreme and exclusively in their midst.  Yet, as the story of the Passion made clear, some were not at all open to the possibility that this hope was to be found in Christ.

Something parallel to this, is clearly present in some of the language of St Paul,  as when he speaks of the ‘present evil age’ and means by this, the life of the world before and without Christ. A life which he sees as lived according to way of flesh (Gal 4:23, 29) and sin (Gal 3:22).  In saying this,  however, it was not our necessarily incarnate condition –as creatures–  that was the problem[6] but rather man’s choice to live according to the dictates of the corrupted world in opposition to God.[7] Thus the present age is evil for St. Paul (Gal 1,4) owing to man’s natural inclination,  (ever since Adam’s fall in the Garden of Eden),  to allow himself to submit to this fallen existence.

St. Paul then further reacts very negatively to something introduced originally as a remedy and response to this condition,  namely the Mosaic law.                                                                                                                                                                  This, he states, was introduced because of man’s transgression (Gal 3:19). Accordingly, Law as such,  was not part of God’s original design, rather it was only introduced  after the promise given to Abraham to equip believers with guidance on his will.

Paul thus – as befits a former Pharisee– is positive about this original role for the Mosaic law which he recognizes as divinely given (Gal 3,19-20) while also being emphatic that this settlement and indeed Covenant, only held until the advent of the Son of God namely Jesus Christ (Gal 3:16).

One way to interpret St Paul’s analysis is to see that for him the prior legalist dispensation could never truly allow man to attain the goal to which it pointed – which was perfect obedience. It thus (paradoxically) resulted in establishing all too clearly the inevitability of man– left to his own resources– sinning — in terms of the law, which only emphasized his plight as never ultimately justified before a God –from whom he must be thus forever alienated. (A theme to recur later in a different way in Luther).

Covenantal remedies, might provide temporary relief through law but could not enable man not to sin and provided no remedy for the effects of that sin. Indeed, the law posed a new danger from distraction,  insofar as mankind became enslaved to the pursuit of the law’s myriad precepts rather than to the life of faith. Viewed In this way, law could be seen as an instrument of sin that merely ensnared those who attempted to follow it.

It was for precisely these reasons, therefore, that St Paul was so hostile to those who wanted to maintain the tradition of circumcision. For him this action was of a piece with all the identity markers, cultic, ceremonial, dietary and calendrical laws that comprised the whole Judaic legal system.

Accordingly, to him,  those who wished the early church to revert to circumcision were simply seeking a reversion to the slavish legalism of the old dispensation. Whereas, Christian freedom by contrast, was utterly and radically different and the result of Christ’s liberating those who believe in him, while also setting out a goal and direction for the life of the Christian (and thus offering an ‘imperative’ content) as well.

The richness of thought here is well captured in the words of one commentator who wrote that:

“Theologically, Paul states that there can be no existence in freedom unless man is first given the opportunity of freedom,

but that the opportunity of freedom is given only as the task for freedom…

This task is then defined as the preservation of freedom”[8]

Life in Christ is a life in freedom by virtue of being the life in which we are enabled to be ourselves most fully, and it has to be preserved from any form of slavery. In the same vein, believers had to put it into practice, as assuredly as Christ had to put into practice,  that which God willed for the purpose of saving us. …. For only by taking up the freedom obtained by Christ and by sharing in his act, could freedom really come to fruition.

But here too is a deep theological answer to the question of why the early church was able to see that the message of salvation in Christ was one for all mankind and not one restricted to his own Jewish people alone.

For the message of Christ was one of access to the true freedom found in the fullness of what it is to be our human selves most fully – and that was a message that by definition stood for all mankind – for whom Christ had died – whereby he alone could make possible our atonement with and before God.

And that is why too – however paradoxical it may at first seem, in the Pauline sense, “‘to be free’ means to participate in Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection” too.[9]

For, “True Christian freedom, therefore, is the subjective experience of the restoration of the image of God through union with Christ” [10] and it is through this also that God’s holiness and righteousness can come to expression in ethical conduct that is in conformity with love.   (Gal 5:13-14).[11]

Notable in all this is the implicit challenge that St Paul makes,  by asking ultimately if the most effective God-honouring ethic can truly be the fruit of external laws?

St Paul saw a clear contrast between the notions of works of the flesh (Gal 5:19) and fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22) while in Gal 5:14, he also states (As our Eucharistic text reminds us) that the whole law is fulfilled in the love command.  Thus for him, the fruit of the Spirit, starting with love, ends with self-control and other good things all of which is consistent with his view that in those who have been received into the body of Christ, (which is to say those in whom the Spirit of Christ is active and who have a share in the gifts of this living fellowship), the outworking of this – the fruit – appears naturally and is not as it were manufactured from laws on the outside as it were. [12]

Accordingly the authentic ‘pneumatological ethic’ of freedom can yield neither licentiousness nor laissez faire anarchy. But is rather  to be found in a well-ordered life maintained in the absence of law’s dictates, yet in accordance with the divine and loving inner guidance of the Spirit.

Where one is not reduced to being unthinkingly reliant merely upon some form of external code but rather engages responsibly in doing the hard work of figuring out God’s will in a given situation. The believer’s ethical responsibility cannot be abdicated mechanically in favour of a set of external codes (where actions stand merely in relation to adherence or deviation from sets rules or predetermined norms). Rather the believer must seek to do God’s will in every given situation, and thus to love one’s neighbour, in concretely considered ways that manifest this highest goal of actualizing love.

Thus, the believer is called to be responsible so to speak on both a vertical level (which is his relationship with God), while also seeking to live life in the Spirit such that each one of us can truly fulfil our horizontal responsibility to love our neighbour as well. (For the second is entailed by and instantiates the first).

BUT where are the snakes in all this?  You may ask…. Where do they fit?

Well the short answer is that they do not – they are a distraction!

And what matters is to understand why….

For while in one sense,  snake handling might seem an eccentric testimony both to human freedom and trust in God. In fact this phenomenon represents the opposite.

It reflects an underlying legalist and transactional relation to God – who will not –as we have been warned in the Bible,  be thus “put to the test”,  but it also represents a dark misuse of our capacity for freedom as is amply demonstrated by its failure to promote fullness of human flourishing and the sad record of injury and death such conduct left behind it.

By contrast let us remember the words from Isaiah

You shall see, and your heart shall rejoice;
your bodies shall flourish like the grass;…

and it shall be known that the hand of the Lord is with his servants,

AMEN.


[1] “A Glimpse Into the Snake Handling Churches of Appalachia”,  Appalachian Magazine, April 3, 2017.

[2] For a fuller history of this curious religious phenomenon see, David L Kimbrough Taking Up Serpents: A History of Snake Handling,  2002.

[3] Although the promise is given only to the eleven we may assume the Twelve are meant.

[4] The phrase itself is derived from Isa. 49. 6, and is used again in Acts 13. 47 in relation to the Gentile mission.

[5] Since in Acts, Paul is later given an individual commission, the second possibility is unlikely

In the actual mission activity of the church, if we leave aside Paul and his co-workers, the only evangelists Luke presents are Peter and John, Stephen and Philip; the apostles remain in Jerusalem at 7. 1. There is no point in which we are shown the general activity of the church in mission.

[6] Cf. Bultmann’s living “in the flesh”: Theologie des Neuen Testaments. Tübingen: Moore-Siebeck1953, 231-234.

[7] Cf. H.N. Ridderbos, Paul: An Outline of His Theology. Grand Rapids:1975, p. 66; Hans Kung 1968, The Church, 8. 151-3.

[8] H.D. Betz, A Commentary on Paul’s Letter to the Churches in Galatia, Philadelphia, 1979, p 256.

[9] Ibid, p.256.  When the Galatians experienced the Spirit of God in all his wonder (Gal 3:1-5), it was not an experience unrelated to Christ’s work of salvation. The Spirit was presented to them as nothing less than the Spirit of Christ. St Paul depicts their experience of the reception of the Spirit (in Gal 3:1-2) very vividly (“before whose eyes”) as a portrayal of Christ’s crucifixion. It was thus, because of Christ’s Spirit having been sent to them, that they could partake in his redemptive act of liberation; that is, his crucifixion and resurrection.  It was because of the Spirit’s mission to them that they were able to confess what Paul himself does in Gal 2:20 namely – “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.”

Hence St. Paul’s reference to the believer’s new status as, a “new creation” (Gal 6:15) where the believer has been re-oriented to life and can no longer live life merely as before. Through the Spirit’s baptising of the believer into Christ and his salvation, the believer is free from the slavery of the present evil age. And it is because of this freedom the believer can produce the fruit of the Spirit. Hence also the conclusion that: “If you are led by the Spirit you are not under law” (Gal 5:18) – as there is simply no need for it. The new situation is that salvation was brought about by the faithfulness of Christ (Gal 2:16) (Cf. Hays The Faith of Jesus Christ : An Investigation of the Substructure of Paul’s Theology in Galatians 3:1, 1983, 249-50)

and revealed to believers’ hearts by the Spirit (Gal 3:3). Believers are now themselves crucified with Christ (Gal 2:20) and dead to the world and the world to them (Gal 6:14). This new life has to be lived in the very same faithfulness of Christ (Gal 2:20), and in step with the Spirit (Gal 5:25). This reality is characterised by the opposite alignment to that of the old dispensation, namely by the alignment of Spirit, faith, freedom and promise

[10] G.W. Hansen, ‘Resurrection and the Christian Life in Paul’s Letters’, 203-224, in R.N. Longenecker (Ed.), Life in the Face of Death. The Resurrection Message of the New Testament, Grand Rapids, 1999.

[11] Hansen, Ibid, 1999, 212.

[12] Through subsequent history there has been a recurring fear that all this talk of freedom and release from the law might simply result in licentiousness. (And just such a fear that has repeatedly opened the way for some new form of legalism or neo-nomistic ethic with the result that while introduced with the noblest of intentions, most especially when undertaken with the intent to honour God it ends up undermining what it was intended to protect.

This Week at the Advent, July 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. Please join us downstairs following the service for a coffee hour.

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

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


The flowers at the High Altar are given to the Glory of God and in loving memory of David Eugene McClure.


9:00 Coffee Hour: Melissa Fox and Barbara Boles host. Next Sunday’s hosts are Maggie Dunbar and Carolyn & Tom McDermott. If you would like to sign up to host coffee hour, please contact Barbara Boles by phone, 617-501-7572, or email, bbolesster@gmail.com, if you’re interested or have questions.

11:15 Coffee Hour: Today’s hosts are Betsy James, Olivia James, and Daniel & Marcos German-Domingues. 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 Betsy James (ejames4@nc.rr.com).


We welcome the Reverend Canon Alistair Macdonald-Radcliff back to our parish and into our pulpit this morning. Father Macdonald-Radcliff will be with us through the months of July and August, assisting with all the preaching, sacramental, and pastoral areas of our parish life. He is Director General of the World Dialogue Council, which promotes better relations between the many worlds of Islam and the West. He was formerly Dean of All Saints’ Cathedral in Cairo where he has also served as advisor to the Anglican Bishop of Egypt, North Africa, and the Horn of Africa–the Most Rev’d Dr. Mounir Anis, who is currently Primate of the Anglican Province of Jerusalem and the Middle East. Father Macdonald-Radcliff is a long-time friend of our parish and we are delighted to have him with us once again. Please welcome him at the coffee hours following the 9:00 and 11:15 Masses.


This morning, the Advent Choir begins their well-earned summer break. A soloist from the choir will sing at the 11:15 mass for the Sundays of July. Beginning on the first Sunday in August, our smaller Summer Choir will sing for the 11:15 Mass, offering motets and mass settings, until Sunday September 22, when the full choirs return at both masses.

Our repertoire list may always be found here: https://www.theadventboston.org/1115-music-schedule/

Many, many thanks to our nine o’clock Parish Choir for their choral work this year. Their contribution to our worship is immeasurable. They have begun their summer break, but please express your thanks to choir members personally when you spy them in the pews or at coffee hour!


THIS WEEK


“Take Me Out to the Ball Game.” The Advent Swingers, our softball team, is well into the season and is doing a great job during this “building year.” If you want to attend the next game and cheer on The Swingers please come to the Boston Common field this Saturday, July 13 at 11 am. The Swingers will be taking on Citylife Church.


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.

Born in Hinsdale, New Hampshire, in 1869, Ann Maria Mitchell graduated from Wellesley College in 1890. She wrote articles on such varied topics as “A Novel Garden Party” (Good Housekeeping, 1896), “Old Days and New in Northfield” (New England Magazine, 1897), and “The White Blackberry” (Rhodora, 1899).

Her article, “The Advent Parish, Boston — Pioneer of the Catholic Revival” (a portion of which appears in Sunday’s leaflets), was published in The Living Church in December 1935, by which time she was serving as parish historian. The Advent Archives have typescripts of her notes on Charles Chapman Grafton; Martha Sever, the Civil War nurse whose bequest made possible the South Porch (Mt. Vernon Street entrance); and an unfinished work, “Annals of the Advent Parish, Boston.”

By the 1930s, she was living at Morville House, 273 Clarendon Street, a “home for aged women” owned by the Diocese of Massachusetts. She died in April 1942; the Rev. Whitney Hale presided at her funeral.


THIS WEEK AT THE ADVENT
July 8-14, 2019

Monday, July 8

Tuesday, July 9
6:00 pm: Community Supper

Wednesday, July 10
10:00 am: Bible Study
6:00 pm: Healing Mass
7:00 pm: Bellringers

Thursday, July 11
Benedict of Nursia

Friday, July 12
11:30 am: Rosary

Saturday, July 13
10:00 am: Flower Guild
10:30 am: Search Committee

Sunday, July 14
The Fifth Sunday after Pentecost
7:30 am: Morning Prayer
8:00 am: Low Mass
9:00 am: Sung Mass
11:15 am: Solemn Mass