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Dear St. Luke’s Community,

This Sunday is Trinity Sunday. As I mentioned last weekend, it has been said that it is likely impossible to talk for more than a few minutes about the Trinity without uttering some sort of heresy. I suspect that’s true. It is most certainly true if we adhere to the following definition of heresy from the American Heritage New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy:

heresy–a belief or teaching considered unacceptable by a religious group.

If we apply this definition it is little wonder that Christians down through the ages have cried ‘heresy’ to those who have the temerity to announce the just possibly God is doing a new thing. Before we get to wrapped up in the heresies (and heretics) of the Christian Church after establishment under the Emperor Constantine in the 4th Century, it may be worthwhile to examine the Scriptural record (both Hebrew and Christian Testaments) and see that ‘heresy’ (as defined above) is a common trait among many whom have become for us examples of faithful living.

Nearly all of the prophets, beginning with Moses, got into trouble (at least in part) for challenging the religious establishment’s understanding of who God is and what God does, who God likes and how those who don’t behave are going to upset things. There are many others, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Hosea, Amos, Obadiah, Nathan, David, Jonathan, and of course Jesus. Each of them, in one way or another, were the heretics of their day.

In Christian history the Common of Saints is littered with those who, in their day, were accused of heresy only to be vindicated as the conversation about the nature of God pushed beyond its present limits to widen the understanding of God’s nature, character and attitude to the entire Creation that is God’s Magnum Opus. Whether proved (?) forever beyond the reach of orthodoxy (that is right belief) or not, each of those who utter heresy (in the best scenario) help bring clarity to the discernment of the Body of Christ about what the authentic nature of God is as we can understand and experience it at any given time. The ancient heresies of the Church weren’t useless. They, each in their own way, help to bring to clarity the expression of God’s nature by the faithful. Vindication, for some, was/is a long time in coming.

There is no little bit of anxiety about being ‘right’ about God’s nature even in our day. In many ways, nothing much ever changes. While the conversations are important, they primary importance has to do with our faithful living and is not a threat to the authentic nature of God. The reality is that God is as God is whether or not our descriptions, understandings or pronouncements are accurate. The moving toward God is always a process, never a completed action.

So I suspect it is not only preachers who stray into heretical waters when daring to talk about the Living God, it is all of us who dare to wonder about God’s nature. To be called a heretic (at least potentially) is a small price to pay for coming to any kind of depth of experience and understanding about the Divine Nature that gives life and breath to everything in heaven and on earth. I hope you’ll join me in daring to be wrong in daring to approach God. To my way of thinking it’s not only worth it, but one of the risks that faith requires.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting that we want to be reckless and challenges the accepted and time-tested understandings and experiences of God’s nature. For example, I’m not suggesting that we challenge the reality of God’s nature as a loving and nurturing Creator, I’m simply saying that for us to push on the accepted boundaries of God’s goodness and what it means for the life of the world is part of the theological project. I’m not interested in doing reckless and bad theology, but I’m not interested in ‘safe’ theology either. To push to the edge of understanding is the pioneering spirit that has led God’s people into the presence of the Divine throughout the ages. I, for one, am not sure we should harden the edges. In fact, someone told me recently, that most of really good spiritual growth entails softening our edges while strengthening our center.

If our center remains on the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, I suspect that we’ll survive our theological wanderings and the Good Shepherd will stop at nothing to bring us back to our heart’s true home.

Peace and Good,

The Rev. Warren Earl Hicks, Rector
St. Luke’s Episcopal Church
921 Pleasant St.
Worcester, MA 01602
508-756-1990 (Office)
508-756-8277 (Fax)

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Dear St. Luke’s Community,

Memorial Day is upon us and the Program Year for St. Luke’s is coming to a close. Over the course of this first year (nearly) I have been very impressed at the diversity of ministries here and the passion that surrounds them. I want to thank you all for the way in which you embraced our first Ministry Fair which we held in September. I’m looking forward to many more of them. The day provided me (and many others) with an opportunity to see all that goes on here at St. Luke’s in a way that is easily accessible and inviting.

Having said that, I am still aware that we are at our best when we are diligent about inviting folks to ‘Taste and See’ that life here at St. Luke’s Church can be very nourishing indeed. When we do this, however, we also have to be aware of how deeply rooted we are in the ‘success’ culture of our environment. Jesus seems to make very clear that the exercise of being faithful is about ‘doing the work’ more than it is about ‘getting the results’. Perhaps just having come of the traditional ‘Rogation’ or planting days, of the church, we’d do well to revisit some of Jesus’ parables that have to do with planting, tending and harvesting.

“Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to complete his work.

35 Do you not say, ‘Four months more, then comes the harvest’? But I tell you, look around you, and see how the fields are ripe for harvesting.

36 The reaper is already receiving wages and is gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together.

37 For here the saying holds true, ‘One sows and another reaps.’” (John 4:34b-37)

2 Jesus began to teach them many things in parables, and in his teaching he said to them:

3 “Listen! A sower went out to sow.

4 And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path, and the birds came and ate it up.

5 Other seed fell on rocky ground, where it did not have much soil, and it sprang up quickly, since it had no depth of soil.

6 And when the sun rose, it was scorched; and since it had no root, it withered away.

7 Other seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no grain.

8 Other seed fell into good soil and brought forth grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thirty and sixty and a hundredfold.”

9 And he said, “Let anyone with ears to hear listen!”

10 When he was alone, those who were around him along with the twelve asked him about the parables.

11 And he said to them, “To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside, everything comes in parables;

12 in order that ‘they may indeed look, but not perceive, and may indeed listen, but not understand; so that they may not turn again and be forgiven.'”

13 And he said to them, “Do you not understand this parable? Then how will you understand all the parables?

14 The sower sows the word.

15 These are the ones on the path where the word is sown: when they hear, Satan immediately comes and takes away the word that is sown in them.

16 And these are the ones sown on rocky ground: when they hear the word, they immediately receive it with joy.

17 But they have no root, and endure only for a while; then, when trouble or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately they fall away.

18 And others are those sown among the thorns: these are the ones who hear the word,

19 but the cares of the world, and the lure of wealth, and the desire for other things come in and choke the word, and it yields nothing.

20 And these are the ones sown on the good soil: they hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirty and sixty and a hundredfold.”(Mark 4:2-20)

Our work is to keep telling the story. Our work is to keep casting the seed out there. We cannot always ensure that it will take root. The fact of the matter is that no gardener makes anything grow, not really. All any gardener can do is put plants in fertile soil in places where they have the best chance of taking root, thriving and producing flowers, fruit and seed all in due season. We (God’s gardeners) cannot make anything grow faster than it will grow. We cannot make plants that love the sun grow in the shade. We cannot make the lemon tree produce oranges….you get the idea.

What we can and must do is pay attention to soil conditions, rainfall and the suitability of our garden and put the seeds of ministry in the most likely places for them to take root and grow. We can fertilize. We can weed and we can water to a certain extent. But growth itself is a matter between the plant and its very nature. Nature is God’s work the best attention we can pay is the nurture that gives the implanted word its best shot at flourishing.

Keep inviting folks to find their place in the Garden of Life. Bask in the warm sun that gives growth in due season and continue to grow well where God has planted you!

Peace and Good,

The Rev. Warren Earl Hicks, Rector
St. Luke’s Episcopal Church
921 Pleasant St.
Worcester, MA 01602
508-756-1990 (Office)
508-756-8277 (Fax)

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May 2007

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