Tag Archive | "Saint Peter’s Anglican Church"

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CLERGY CORNER: “. . . stand ye in the ways and ye shall find rest for your soul.”

Posted on 31 January 2019 by LeslieM

Our God teaches us the things we need to know in many different ways. He is the God of Creation, and gives us the wonder we see with our eyes and feel in our souls when we look out at His world. He is the God of Order, and assures us that His world evolves exactly according to His design. He is the God of History and, although things may look bleak in the short term, the long view shows that He is in charge of the final outcome. He is the God of Love, and teaches us how to find rest in our souls by teaching us about Himself. And, to make sure we don’t misunderstand His teachings, He has given us many wonderful stories that reveal Himself to us. The story of the Wedding at Cana is such a story.

We have all read the story of how the wine was about to run out before the end of the wedding festivities and how this would have been a great embarrassment to the bridegroom. So what was our Lord’s response to this situation? He merely took jugs of water and miraculously turned them into jugs of wine! We learn something wonderful about our Lord’s character in the way He reacted to the young bridegroom’s predicament. We learn that our Lord knows, and is sympathetic to, what takes place in our lives and, when our best interests will be served, He will come to our assistance.

The next thing we learn about the character of our Lord has a lot to do with where the miraculous event at Cana happened — it happened at a wedding. We see our Lord perfectly at ease at such an event. He was no killjoy! Why? Because our Lord had a missionary spirit and He loved to share in the joy and happiness of all the people He encountered. Someone a lot smarter than me once said, “More souls will be led to heaven by people who have heaven on their faces then by those who have hell in their looks.”

And then, we learn something about the character of our Lord from the place in which the miracle happened. It happened in a home, a humble honest home in a tiny village in the Galilee. It did not happen at some great state event or in the presence of a vast crowd of people, or within the walls of a royal palace. Our Lord chose to be among simple people, in an ordinary home, to show us the side of His character that honors the places we call home, the places where nothing but our best is good enough – either for our families or for the friends we invite to the places where we live. Our Lord showed us the side of His character that wants to be one with us in our bodies, in our homes, and in all our days.

The story of the Wedding at Cana is a miracle story about something our Lord did at one time in Galilee but is doing again and again to this very day. It is a story that teaches us that when our Lord comes into our lives and reveals his divine character of joy, humility, understanding and love – he brings a miraculous new quality into our lives. And what do you and I get out of this story? Saint John tells us, “If you want a new life, then become a follower of our Lord, and there will come a change in your life which will be like turning water into wine.

Rev. M. Tracy Smith, SSA, Rector is from the Saint Peter’s Anglican Church, 1416 SE 2 Terr., Deerfield Beach, FL 33441. For more information, call 954-695-0336. Wednesday: Holy Communion at 10 a.m., Sunday: Holy Communion at 10 a.m.

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CLERGY CORNER: … freely you have received, freely give

Posted on 29 November 2018 by LeslieM

Many of our most fervent prayers include reminders of lessons our Lord teaches us. A number of years ago I read a prayer, used at the end of a worship service, to dismiss the congregation. The prayer included an important reminder – “freely you have received, freely give.” I have used this prayer of dismissal ever since. It seems particularly important at this time of year.

Our Lord created a world with seasonal cycles. The book of Ecclesiastes reminds us that “to every thing there is a season . . . a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted.” Western Christianity observes the time of planting in the spring of each year. The observance is called Rogation Days and includes this prayer for a bountiful harvest: “Almighty God, we beseech thee to pour forth thy blessing upon this land, and to give us a fruitful season.” And then, as the seasons of the years progress, most religions and cultures have traditions of giving thanks, during the harvest season, for what our good earth has provided. Here in the United States, we give thanks, on Thanksgiving Day, often times with this prayer: “Almighty God, we give thee humble and hearty thanks for this thy bounty; beseeching thee to continue thy loving-kindness to us, that our land may still yield her increase.”

Our Lord’s promise to us is that we will freely receive what we truly need. However, there is a caveat to this promise which is spelled out in the book of Deuteronomy: “Every man shall give as he is able, according to the blessings of the Lord thy God which he hath given thee.” What does this mean? It may be helpful to think of this giving and receiving as our bank account with God. He will always provide us with the basics — his unconditional love and support — but if we look to receive anything beyond that, then what we can expect is dependent upon what we give back to God from what he has given us. If we give back nothing, if we put nothing in our bank account with him, then we cannot expect to receive anything beyond the basics. Our relationship with God is simple; all we need to do is listen and live according to his lessons.

Why is the freely giving part particularly important at this time of year? The answer is obvious. Most governments, institutions, and churches are making their plans and budgets for the coming year in support of the needs of our commonweal. Whether these needs may be met is dependent, to a great degree, on the willingness of God’s people, to generously give back a portion of the time, treasure and talent they have received from Him. Can our God count on each of us? I recently saw a survey which indicated that charitable giving increased in 2017 by 5 percent. This sounds encouraging, but the survey also indicated that current giving is about 2.5 percent of income, whereas it was 3.3 percent during the Great Depression. Not a hopeful trend!

If we are to model our lives based on the teachings of our Lord, and if we are to uphold the brave words in our Declaration of Independence to further “preserve and protect life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” then the challenge to be met by God’s people is clear. When we gather at our Thanksgiving tables this year, we must thank God for the blessings we have “freely received” from him, and then commit to “freely give” back to him a generous portion of those blessings so that in this world, his will be done. Holy Scripture teaches us that “the harvest truly is plenteous, but the laborers are few.” The harvest is God’s will and we are the laborers that will bring it to fruition. May our God bless us all during this Thanksgiving season.

Rev. M. Tracy Smith, SSA, Rector is from the Saint Peter’s Anglican Church, 1416 SE 2 Terr., Deerfield Beach, FL 33441. For more information, call 954-695-0336. Wednesday: Holy Communion at 10 a.m., Sunday: Holy Communion at 10 a.m.

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CLERGY CORNER: “This could be the start of something big”

Posted on 29 August 2018 by LeslieM

Aretha Franklin, God rest her soul, sang many wonderful songs and one of my favorites is “This could be the start of something big.” It is certainly not one of her greatest hits, but the reason I am drawn to it is because it is a song for optimists, a song for those about to start a new and exciting adventure in their lives. There are many new starts in each of our lives – a new interest, year, job, home, town, friend, or love, and each one offers us an opportunity to use our talents in new ways and to learn new things about our world and the people we encounter.

Most of us have young people in our lives who, at this time of year, are starting a new and exciting adventure in their lives – a new school year. Now, I am the first to concede that the life lessons we learn are not all taught in our schools. My parents and grandparents had limited schooling, but they taught us many of the things we needed to know about life, family and relationships. Our schools, however, are our formal places of learning. It is in our schools that we are taught how to make a living, how the world works, how our human history progresses, and what we did, thought and created along the way, as well as what we need to know in order to co-exist, with civility, in the future of our multi-cultural and multi-ethnic world.

What should we expect of teachers when we turn our young people over to them and ask them to advance their education? When the course of study involves one of the many skilled trades that are vital to the effective functioning of our world, then the skills to be taught are obvious. If something needs to be built, teach them how to build it; if something needs to be installed, teach them how to install it; and, if something needs to be repaired, teach them how to repair it. Walt Whitman wrote of the nobility of this work and the dedication that is necessary to do it well: “I hear America singing / the carpenter, the mason, the boatman, the shoemaker, the wood-cutter and the ploughboy / each singing what belongs to him or her and to none other.”

When the course of study involves the natural world, or one of our many scientific disciplines, then a critical skill that needs to be taught, or enhanced, is the power of observation. Men like Aristotle, Copernicus, Ben Franklin and Alexander Fleming, used their powers of observation; they looked at the world, and into the heavens, and saw things differently than what their predecessors had seen. Were it not for them, we would still think the Earth is flat and that it is the center of the universe. We would still be reading by candlelight and helpless against infectious diseases. And, finally, when the course of study involves the liberal arts – religion, literature, language, history, philosophy, political science, sociology, fine arts and creative writing – the critical skill that needs to be taught is imagination. Without imagination, none of us are able to see how all our studies fit together in an operational whole.

That brings us to the most awesome gift we receive from education – the gift of curiosity, and curiosity is the responsibility of those who learn as well as those who teach. The skills of dedication, observation, imagination are all tied together by curiosity and make us lifetime learners. We become optimists with the ability to see and understand our world, and our place in it, as well as God’s will for us and the strength we need to follow Him. Learn something new every day, it “could be the start of something big.”

Rev. M. Tracy Smith, SSA, Rector is from the Saint Peter’s Anglican Church, 1416 SE 2 Terr., Deerfield Beach, FL 33441. For more information, call 954-695-0336. Wednesday: Holy Communion at 10 a.m., Sunday: Holy Communion at 10 a.m.

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CLERGY CORNER: . . . and that’s what mothers do

Posted on 31 May 2018 by LeslieM

Yes, I know Mother’s Day was a week or so ago, but it’s never too late, or the time is never inappropriate, to write a few words about our mothers. Their day brings to mind past memories and present realities like few other days; some bring joy and some bring sorrow. However we may think of our mothers, one thing is for sure, no matter how many mothers there are in the world, each one was made special by our God. The pages of his Bible are filled with a wonderful assortment of mothers whose stories invite us to take another look at our own mothers who taught us with their tears, with their humor, and with their love.

First, our mothers are often the storytellers in our families. They may not write anything down but they make certain our family heritage, traditions and beliefs are orally transmitted from generation to generation. The world of the Bible was a male-dominated world, but just beneath the surface was a world in which women played a vital teaching role. We see this in Second Timothy when Paul tells us that Timothy, from childhood, was taught by his mother and grandmother. This custom continues to the present day. We can experience the beauty of this custom if we listen to Dvořák’s Songs My Mother Taught Me. No English translation of the lyrics does justice to the original German, which tells the story of a mother, who tearfully tells her children the stories her mother taught her. I recommend Renée Flemings’ glorious rendition.

Second, our mothers often use humor to teach us, when they can’t get through to us, in any other way. The Bible tells the story of a woman who came to Jesus and sought a cure for her daughter who was plagued by an evil spirit. She was turned away because she was a Canaanite and not a child of Israel. She was undeterred and obtained the blessing she sought by using a somewhat humorous tactic. She replied to Jesus, “Yes Lord, but even family pets eat the crumbs that fall from the table of children.”

This story reminds me of an interview between a reporter and a prominent politician. The reporter asked who made the important decisions in the family. Without a moment’s hesitation, the politician responded that he made all the important decisions; but then, he looked questioningly at his wife and asked: “But honey, why in 25 years of marriage, have you never asked me to make any important decisions?” Her only response was a sly grin. As far as that Canaanite woman is concerned, I don’t know who her husband was, but, like the politician, he must have been putty in her hands.

Lastly, and in this, our mothers sometimes succeed and sometimes fail. They are charged by God to model the love He brought into the world. There is no end of instances in the Bible that show the primacy of love, whether to our God, our neighbor or ourselves. But on Mother’s Day, it is a good way to honor our mothers, by looking at the ways they modeled love for us. I remember a number of years ago we planned a family vacation at a lovely resort. We told our two girls they could each bring a friend to keep them company. When I was ready to zip up our suitcases, my wife came with her arms filled with stuffed animals for the girls. I was floored, “Darling, where do you think we can pack all those stuffed animals?” I don’t remember the details, but when we got to the resort and opened the suitcases, out popped those stuffed animals. You see, my darling had repacked everything until she found room. She knew what she was doing and she was right. She knew the girls would be sleeping in a strange place, with strange shadows and sounds, and would need something familiar to cuddle when they went to bed. I packed with my head and with reason, my darling packed with her heart and with love . . . she was a mother . . . and that’s what mothers do.

Rev. M. Tracy Smith, SSA, Rector is from the Saint Peter’s Anglican Church, 1416 SE 2 Terr., Deerfield Beach, FL 33441. For more information, call 954-695-0336. Wednesday: Holy Communion at 10 a.m., Sunday: Holy Communion at 10 a.m.

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Posted on 29 March 2018 by LeslieM

Who knows why we experience what we do, meet who we do, or read something when we do. Some say the what, who, and when of our lives are elements in a divine plan, and some say they are nothing more than pure serendipity. Whatever the case, they are the parts that make up our lives and formulate our view of the world. I recently had a what, who and when experience that put a more hopeful spin, at least for me, on our troubled world.

The what part of the experience were words attributed to Plato which acknowledge that love, in all its glorious manifestations, is what each of us seek in our lives. The who part of the experience, was David Christian, from San Diego State University, and his explanation of DNA, from which our search for love logically proceeds. The when part of the experience was re-reading The First Epistle of John, and specifically the words “God is love,” which for me, tied the whole experience together.

Now before going any further, we need to acknowledge that most theologians identify four different kinds of love: empathy, friendship, erotic and unconditional. The love at the core of our being is not apportioned by these distinctions; it is just there, as necessary to our well-being as is the air we breathe.

First, Plato’s words are as true today as they were when he wrote them in the 4th century BC: “Every heart sings a song, incomplete, until another heart whispers back.” Yes, God created us as unique individuals but our creation is defined and completed by our relationships with God, with our fellow men and with those we love. We have probably all considered the question: “If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” This question also applies to human beings: “If we wander through the days of our lives without any meaningful relationships, do we even exist?” The answer is an affirmative. Yes, a tree does make a sound, and yes, we do exist. Plato reminds us of this truth about ourselves with his words: “Those who wish to sing always find a song.”

Second, each of us has some measure of control over our relationships and whether or not we lift up our voices in song. However, the makeup of our DNA is another question. The essential components of our DNA are beyond our control.

David Christian described DNA as two chains each containing clusters of atoms. These two chains bond together when the atoms of one chain exactly match the sequence of the atoms of the other chain. Mea culpa if my understanding of Professor Christian’s description of DNA goes down the wrong track, but if it helps to remind us that our hearts are only complete “when another heart whispers back,” then I think we are on the right track to understanding that we are created for meaningful relationships; it’s in our DNA.

Finally, there is Saint John’s declaration that “God is love.” This is where the what-who-when experience gets complicated. If “God is love,” and if the first chapter of Genesis tells us that “God created man in His own image,” then how do we explain evil and hatred in the world? The answer, of course, involves God’s “gift” of free will. This gift enables us to act either in love or in hatred. Why were we given such a gift? We were given free will because, without it, our expressions of love or hatred would be meaningless; they would only be mindless reactions to the people and events around us. Our reactions are only meaningful if they emanate from our free will.

God’s gift of free will to mankind assures us that there is hope in the world. It enables us to respond to people and events by finding a song to sing based on the love God sang to the world, from the moment of creation; a melody He placed in each of our hearts.

Rev. M. Tracy Smith, SSA, Rector is from the Saint Peter’s Anglican Church, 1416 SE 2 Terr., Deerfield Beach, FL 33441. For more information, call 954-695-0336. Wednesday: Holy Communion at 10 a.m., Sunday: Holy Communion at 10 a.m.

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CLERGY CORNER: Thanksgiving in Vermont

Posted on 30 November 2017 by LeslieM

As we all made our plans for Thanksgiving Day this year, surely the remembrance of past Thanksgivings, some good and some perhaps not so good, seeped into our memories. I was raised on a farm in Vermont and Thanksgiving Day was a big deal. The growing season was at an end by November, and it was time to celebrate and thank our Lord for whatever bounty He had provided.

We had a small family farm on a country road that led to the top of George Hill where my grandfather had his dairy farm. He raised fodder grain and tended his cows, while my grandmother raised turkeys and chickens and tended her vegetable garden. The country road was dotted with family farms that made up a closely knit community. There were years of plenty and years of scarcity; years when our root cellars and storerooms were full, and years when we wondered how we would make it through the winter until spring. No matter what each year brought, our community would gather together on Thanksgiving Day, at my grandfather’s farm, and give thanks to our Lord and share whatever we had.

Thanksgiving Day always unfolded based on a two-part plan that never strayed far from our community’s deep love and dependence on our Lord to provide what we needed.

My grandmother came from a long line of country cooks. She knew what to do in the kitchen so her part in the plan was to organize the food preparation. She provided the roast turkey; my mother brought the stuffing which used homemade caraway-rye bread [the caraway seeds were picked from the school yard across the road from our farm] and sausage made from hogs raised by Barbara’s husband; mashed potatoes and parsnips from Gwendolen’s root cellar; creamed onions from Ethel’s storeroom and, the pièce de résistance, crab apple pie, using apples picked from the trees behind Helene’s farm house. When I wandered into the kitchen, I could always hear my grandmother reminding the cooks that our meal, in any given year, was based on the bounty provided by our Lord, which we raised and harvested with our own hands.

Part two of the plan involved my grandfather. In addition to being a dairy farmer, he was a country preacher. He built his own church next to his farmhouse, drove his buggy along that country road on Sunday mornings, picked up his parishioners, took them to his church, preached to them and took them back to their homes.

On Thanksgiving Day, he would gather all the kids into his parlor and quiz us on what we knew about our Lord and what we wanted to thank Him for. One Thanksgiving, he asked us to give voice to our most fervent prayer. My prayer was that Daniel, my favorite uncle, would come home safe and sound. You see, Uncle Dan was in the army and fighting a war in Europe. My grandfather’s answer was, “Our Lord hears and answers our prayers, but in His own time, and as is best suited for each of us.”

There was an empty chair at the dining room table that year. I asked my grandfather who it was for. He dropped his eyes and said, “Do you know Rabbi Eleazar from town? Well, he says the empty chair at his table is for the prophet Elijah. The rabbi says Elijah will bring news we need to hear from our Father in heaven.” Before the meal ended, there was a knock at the door. My grandfather asked me to see who was there. Spoiler alert – it was my Uncle Dan, handsomely dressed in his army uniform. I jumped into his arms and he carried me back to the dining room table amid the cheers from everyone and the broad grins on the faces of my grandparents.

They never fessed up to it, but I always suspected that my grandparents knew Daniel was coming home and choreographed it all to teach us a lesson about living in the hands of a benevolent God who hears and answers prayers, and provides for the well-being of his children. I pray this for each of you during this Thanksgiving season and always.

Rev. M. Tracy Smith, SSA, Rector is from the Saint Peter’s Anglican Church, 1416 SE 2 Terr., Deerfield Beach, FL 33441. For more information, call 954-695-0336. Wednesdays and Sundays: Holy Communion at 10 a.m.

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CLERGY CORNER: Our Lord’s Beautiful World

Posted on 29 June 2017 by LeslieM

Yes … the world our Lord gave us is beautiful in so many respects!

John Denver wasn’t the only one to see beauty in a rocky mountain high. We see it every day in the beautiful sunrises over our sandy Florida beaches. The Greek sculptor of the Venus de Milo wasn’t the only one to see beauty in the human form. We see it every day in the faces of those we meet. The pilgrims, on that first Thanksgiving Day, weren’t the only ones to be blessed by our Lord’s bounty. We are likewise blessed by the abundance spread before us at produce counters and farmers’ markets. We live in a beautiful, wonderful and abundant world created by our Lord. But it’s not always the paradise we would like it to be; so often, cruelty and anger hold sway. What is missing?

Saint John gives us a one word answer in his exquisitely crafted First Epistle, “God is love, and he that does not love, does not know God.” This simple statement is not a teaching about what love is, as much as an invitation to consider the effect of God’s love on our lives.

The first effect is to give us the assurance that we live in the hands of a benevolent God. If God is love, then it follows that He creates in love, rules in love and judges in love. His love is ever flowing in our lives, and, during those times when it seems He has turned his face from us, the reality is we have likely forsaken our trust in Him. Our assurance of God’s love, in good and bad times, is best realized directionally and positionally, that is, turning toward God on bended knees.

A second effect of God’s love is to make Him known to us. Theologians are quick to contend that knowing God is beyond the ability of the human mind; maybe so, but not beyond the potential of the human heart. God gave us hearts to power our bodies, but He also encoded our hearts to get and give love. Anyone who has ever been truly loved by another person, or anyone who has ever been willing to give their all for their beloved, has been given some hint of God’s love for us. We come closest to knowing God when we open our hearts and share our love with those with whom we share His Body. We can’t think our way to God with our minds; we can only approach Him with our hearts.

And, finally, a most important effect of God’s love, is that it helps dispel the shadow of fear that cruelty and anger casts over our beautiful world and over our individual lives. Dealing with our fears can be tricky because we can’t always eliminate their causes. One way God’s love helps us deal with them is by telling us over and over again that He will not let us “go it alone.” Holy Scripture, from beginning to end, teaches this truth about God’s love. The Old Testament tells us, “Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and he shall sustain thee” [Psalm 55:22]. The New Testament continues and expands on this teaching, “The God of all comfort; who comforts us in all our tribulation, so we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble” [1 Corinthians 1:3-4]. God created us, freed us from sin and teaches us what we need to know to spend eternity with Him … and He does it all with one word, love.

Johann Arndt, a man much smarter than me, once said, “At the Last Judgement, God will not ask us what we know, but rather how we have loved.” — Yes!

Rev. M. Tracy Smith, SSA, Rector is from the Saint Peter’s Anglican Church, 1416 SE 2 Terr., Deerfield Beach, FL 33441. For more information, call 954-695-0336. Wednesday: Holy Communion at 10 a.m., Sunday: Holy Communion at 10 a.m.

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CLERGY CORNER: Springtime and God’s Grace

Posted on 30 March 2017 by LeslieM

The first day of spring arrived on Monday, March 20. Spring is a season that evokes a range of feelings in each of us. Some of these feelings involve memories of people or events that were pleasant, or not so pleasant. Then there are other feelings generated by what is happening currently in our lives — feelings of joy or feelings of sorrow. Also, spring is the beginning of a new season in our lives, a new season that will define the future course of our lives, and that future course will lead to fulfillment or disappointment. These are the range of thoughts and feelings that are inevitably swirling around our innermost beings as we enter this new season. But no matter how uncertain all this may seem to us, there is a constant that is always there to help us sort things out. That constant is our Lord.

How do we know he is there when we really need him? Of course the easy answer is faith. But to many of us, or to our brothers and sisters, faith may seem to be among the missing, when our days are darkest. That’s where our Lord’s grace comes in. His gift to us is the knowledge that he is present in our lives when nothing else seems to make sense.

I recently visited a city where I once lived. I drove on familiar streets and experienced pleasant and also not so pleasant memories. Then I turned on to a drive I had traveled a thousand times, but this time it was ablaze with color. The azaleas and camellias in the roadway median were in full bloom, and Spanish moss festooned the majestic live oak trees. At that moment, I knew our Lord had prepared that experience for me and by his grace had banished all my unpleasant memories. Our Lord’s grace is there for each of us to help us sort out what is worth keeping in our memories.

Yes, our Lord can certainly help us come to grips with things that have happened in the past, but what about things of the present? Can his grace help us deal with these? I often speak with one of the many young men who help with the grounds keeping in the community where I live. We talk of the many challenges he faces in his present life, challenges that are etched in sorrow on his face. He recently asked me to look at something he had discovered in one of our beautiful flowering bougainvillea; it was a nest which tenderly embraced several tiny baby mockingbirds! The sorrows usually etched on the young man’s face had disappeared and were replaced by an expression of sheer joy and wonder. What I witnessed was a living metaphor of our Lord’s answer to our concerns about the present time, “Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?”

And, finally, what about our future? Does our Lord’s grace give us any hope in this area of our lives? The Old Testament has a wonderful story that answers this question for each of us – the story of Hagar and Ishmael. When they were cast out by Abraham, and left to wander in a trackless wilderness, they saw no hope for their future. But our Lord shadowed their journey, provided them with food and water, and led them to safety. Did they know why our Lord graced their lives? Probably not; all they knew was that, in their darkest hour, the Lord reached out and wrapped his loving and compassionate arms around them. This is what our Lord and Creator does for each one of us. He has no concern for our righteousness because his righteousness is more than enough to cover any and all of our failures. All he wants from us, this spring and always, is that we come to him in faith and with the knowledge, as Saint Paul said, that “in him, we live and move and have our being.”

Rev. M. Tracy Smith, SSA, Rector is from the Saint Peter’s Anglican Church, 1416 SE 2 Terr., Deerfield Beach, FL 33441. For more information, call 954-695-0336. Wednesday: Morning Prayer at 10 a.m., Thursday, Holy Communion at 6 p.m., Sunday: Holy Communion at 10 a.m.

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CLERGY CORNER: A Shepherd’s Story

Posted on 29 December 2016 by LeslieM

The first human beings to know about the birth of our Lord were a bunch of shepherds. This is a story about one of those shepherds, but you won’t find anything about him anywhere, because shepherds weren’t well thought of in those days. This shepherd was a young boy on the night our Lord was born. He was excited that his father let him stay up late and be with the other shepherd boys. After a while, his father called him so they could make one final check of their flock to make certain all the sheep were accounted for and none were distracted by the lights in Bethlehem. Bethlehem was a hub of activity in those days, because all who were descended from King David were there to register for the census.

After they checked their flock and settled down by their fire, a gloriously angelic being appeared to them. The boy and his father were terrified, but the angel’s words calmed them, “Fear not, I bring you tidings of great joy.” He spoke of a baby who was born that night and told them to go and see him because he was the promised Messiah. The boy turned to his father and they stood looking at each other with tears of joy streaming down their cheeks. They had heard their rabbi speak of a Messiah, but never expected to be the first to see him.

They gazed up into the night sky and one star appeared brighter than all the others. They followed that star to a stable, and saw a man with the clothes and rough hands of a carpenter. He was standing protectively at the side of a young woman who was holding a new-born baby.

Can this be what the Messiah looks like,” thought the shepherd boy. “He’s just a baby.”

After a while, the boy and his father went back to their flock, but they knew their lives would never be the same. He later found out the man’s name was Joseph and the woman’s name was Mary.

They stayed for a while in Bethlehem, but then went to Egypt to escape King Herod’s order that all young boys were to be killed by his soldiers. He feared that one of them might grow up and challenge him as “King of the Jews.”

Years later, the shepherd boy grew up and had his own flock. He heard of a prophet from Nazareth whose name was Jesus. He remembered that Joseph and Mary were from Nazareth, so he decided to go and see the prophet for himself. He found him by the Sea of Galilee and he thought to himself, “My heart is filled with the same joy and hope I felt that night in Bethlehem so many years ago. I like how he calls himself our shepherd, and how he promises to keep us from being lost and to protect us from predators.”

A couple of years later, the shepherd was in Jerusalem for the Passover with his wife and children. Jesus was there also, but he was taken prisoner by Pontius Pilate, and he was tried and scourged. The shepherd followed him through the streets of Jerusalem as he carried his cross to a hill outside of town, to a place where the Roman soldiers crucified Him. The shepherd sought out his disciples and stood with them three days later at the Resurrection. It was then that all the promises Jesus made came true.

The shepherd thought, “He wasn’t the King we expected, but he was the one we needed. And looking back on that night in Bethlehem, I realize that many people may never understand what happened. I was an eyewitness and I hardly understand myself, but this much I do understand, on that night, a bunch of lowly shepherds became sheep, and the Lamb of God became our shepherd.”

Rev. M. Tracy Smith, SSA, is the rector at St. Peter’s Anglican Church at 1416 SE 2nd Terrace in Deerfield Beach, FL 33441. Morning prayer is Wednesday at 10 a.m., Holy Communion is Thursday at 7 p.m. and Sunday at 10 a.m. For more information, call 954-695-0336.

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CLERGY CORNER: What are your plans for the fall season?

Posted on 29 September 2016 by LeslieM

Now that most of us have had our summer vacations, it’s time to look at the calendar and plan for the things we can do this fall season. Our places of worship are certainly planning a full schedule of services and events to honor our Lord, encourage our fellowship and foster the commonweal. Our Lord is also making plans for each of us, and our enjoyment of what He has in store for us will not be nearly as costly as our vacations and will likely be more rewarding. Our Lord doesn’t charge for the splendors He has to give us!

Some of us are “morning people” and some of us are “evening people;” but it makes no difference to our Lord because He has gifts for us all. As for me, I’m a morning person and nothing gives me greater pleasure than to begin my day looking eastward at a glorious Florida sunrise and feeling the touch of our Lord in the warmth of His sun’s rays. I’m also an evening person, and how better can a day end than to spend some time in the coolness of a fall evening illuminated by the light of the moon which our Lord hung in the sky for our pleasure. These are times meant for reflection about our days, for wonderment at our Lord’s creation, for dialogue with Him, and to listen to what He has to say to us. If you include these times for reflection in your fall plans, our Lord will richly reward you for the time you spend with Him.

Our Lord has gifted us with Holy Scriptures so we can study and understand His will for us and make it a part of our lives. He has also inspired creative artists and enabled them to project His will in their artistry by using the language and imagery of their own generations. We are indeed fortunate here in South Florida to have so many venues where our Lord’s will is on display in the works of our creative artists – our museums are wonderful examples of this and many of them have “free admission days” – so you can enjoy them without even having to reach into your pocket! The Norton Museum, in West Palm Beach, has Paul Gauguin’s Christ in the Garden of Olives, a dramatic oil painting to help us understand Christ’s agony on the night before His crucifixion. The NSU Art Museum, in Fort Lauderdale, will soon offer a new exhibition of works by Anselm Kiefer, a contemporary German artist who depicts the human response to human suffering. Holy Scripture deals with this in the Book of Job; Kiefer deals with it with brush and paint. And then, there is the Pérez Art Museum in Miami. When you go there, please don’t miss the wonderfully moving painted plaster sculpture by George Segal of Abraham’s Farewell to Ishmael. It helps us understand that there are times our Lord may ask us to do something that is painful in the short term but needed in the long term. Make a museum visit part of your fall plans and you will have an opportunity to “read” Holy Scripture in a new and contemporary language.

And now for music. Why? Because as Thomas Carlyle said: “Music is the speech of angels.” You can make an argument that Holy Scripture is laid out like a classical symphony in four movements. First, there is chaos, until “the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.” Then, there are generations of disobedience while mankind learned to live under our Lord’s laws until He “put His spirit within us, and caused us to walk in His statutes and keep His judgements.” Third, our Lord became incarnate and walked among us to make certain we understood He will keep every promise He ever made. And the symphonic story is resolved in the Book of Revelation. We see the Divine Presence on a throne, not dealing with chaos, but looking out upon a peaceful “sea of glass like unto crystal.”

We are very fortunate in South Florida because there are many places for us to go and hear the musical “speech of angels.” If you’ve got a few bucks, get a ticket to one of Seraphic Fire’s concerts. You ain’t heard an angel sing until you’ve heard them!

Finally, I’m the first to admit that I’m not as familiar as I should be with the music of our current generation. I don’t know how much of what they’re doing is a reflection of our Lord’s will in the world. If it isn’t, then I challenge our young musicians to listen to our Lord, and project His will in their music; it may be the first time their audience has ever heard from our Lord in a language they understand. That would be missionary work of the highest order.

Rev. M. Tracy Smith, SSA, is a rector at St. Peter’s Anglican Church at 1416 SE 2nd Terrace in Deerfield Beach, FL 33441. Morning prayer is Wednesday at 10 a.m., Holy Communion is Thursday at 7 p.m. and Sunday at 10 a.m. For more information, call 954-695-0336.

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