Choosing the Kingdom

Every time we pray the prayer Jesus gave us, we pray ‘thy kingdom come.’  What, exactly, do we mean?  Today is the Feast of the Ascension, when Jesus rose up into a cloud, leaving the disciples staring up such that two angels appear and ask them, “men of Galilee why do you stand there looking up into heaven?” Many of us have been raised to think of the Kingdom of Heaven as a place we go when we die, when we finally get to be with Jesus “for real.” We are still looking up, but that isn’t where Jesus is nor where the kingdom is to be found.

As long as Jesus was physically present, he was in Galilee or Samaria, in Jerusalem or on the road, but not all those places at once.  Only the physical absence of Jesus from the disciples made possible his actual presence throughout space and time, here with me as I write this and you as you read it.  So what about the kingdom?  We don’t build it or make it, rather we are invited to choose to participate in it every single day.  Remember the prayer Jesus taught us continues, “thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”

In his book Choosing the Kingdom, scholar John Dally reminds us that over and over the New Testament authors offer a central proclamation that in Jesus, God was present in history offering an alternative to human notions of power and destiny and forcing a choice of allegiance…a ‘krisis’ (judgment) that they greet with joy…that is a perpetually available choice afforded human beings to discern the action of God in history and choose to embrace it or walk away from it.  (page 13 & 121).  We, too, are faced with those same choices each and every day.

In the midst of our hurting world, we see evidence of people choosing the kingdom. A few that caught my eye this week were the homeless men who rushed into the chaos to be with the victims in Manchester and the incredible speech given by the mayor of New Orleans before the dismantling of the last Confederate monument there. The tenderness and care of someone encouraging her friend who was struggling and some youth who sought to find the best way to be there for a friend who had posted that they had been cutting.

Where did you see glimpses of the kingdom this week? When did you choose the kingdom, perhaps even when it was difficult or costly to do so?  We pray for eyes to see the alternative worldview God is offering in this moment, coming back to be re-grounded in God’s desire for us as witnessed in Jesus.  Will we live in fear and scarcity or trust and sufficiency, the conviction that there is enough?  Will we focus on our own ‘tribe’ of culture, religion or nation or see God in those who are not like us just as much as in those we love?  Will we choose power and certainty or vulnerability and steadfastness?

Choose the kingdom this day, this moment, and pray that I may do likewise.  May our prayers shape our actions that we may participate in the kingdom of heaven here and now.  Rather than standing there looking up, how are we entering into the kingdom of heaven this day?  Some may wish to join the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Rt Rev. Justin Welby, who has initiated an 11-day global wave of prayer today through June 4 entitled ‘thy kingdom come,’ others may want to sign up for the Feed My Starving Children followed by being the guests at an Iftar hosted by our Muslim brothers and sisters or perhaps deliver meals on wheels to those who are in need.  Jesus invites us to see through his eyes, the eyes of Love, and to let our actions flow out from there. How are you choosing the kingdom?

Hope to see you Sunday,

Pastor Elizabeth

PS.  This summer, we are continuing with our regular 8am and 10am Eucharist schedule, providing opportunities between the services to enjoy each other’s company while learning and growing together.

What Matters

This week the staff held a planning meeting, one of several, to begin mapping out the coming year. In my first parish, the rector called it the long death march through the calendar—painful, but necessary. Actually, we had a lot of fun along the way, and I’m grateful we are working on the project further ahead than in some years.

All too often the tasks of daily life can consume our time and energy such that we lose sight of the big picture. I’m reminded of when we lived in Evanston, right on the border with Northwestern University’s campus, and the students would all walk looking down at the sidewalks, which were plastered with signs announcing this or that upcoming opportunity. Now, of course, students are just as likely to be looking down at their phones while walking, something I’m afraid I’m guilty of as well. But life is more than the immediate demands and expectations. We need to remember to look up, to see further out, to ask the bigger questions.

Author and theologian Frederick Buechner put it this way:

We are much involved, all of us, with questions about things that matter a good deal today but will be forgotten by this time tomorrow—the immediate wheres and whens and hows that face us daily at home and at work—but at the same time we tend to lose track of the questions about things that matter always, life-and-death questions about meaning, purpose, and value. To lose track of such deep questions as these is to risk losing track of who we really are in our own depths and where we are really going. 

Rarely do we move in a perfectly straight line. Making a commitment to giving ourselves time to think about the meaning, purpose and value of our life and to ensure our priorities reflect what truly matters, can help us be sure we are on track, giving our time and energy to those things that are most important to us. I know first hand how hard it is to do and how essential both as an individual and when working as part of a larger community.

Our parish Identity Statement, Celebrating God’s love for all, seeking to embody Christ in the world, is helping to shape and inform the longer range planning of both the staff and the vestry. This Sunday, we’ll have time to explore this more during our vestry town hall meetings, but it is a lens we can all use to reflect on the purpose, meaning and values in our own life as well as within the parish community and ministries. It goes behind the “what” are we doing and moves us into questions about “how” we go about doing whatever it is we do. How do I show up with others? How am I present to and with those who I find easy to love and those who may trigger me, for whatever reason. How am I making decisions about my time, money, energy and other resources, remembering that whatever I put my energy and focus into, grows. What do I want to grow in my life, and how am I investing toward that end?

Church is a place that can and, hopefully does, encourage you to make space to explore these essential questions by fostering opportunities to engage with scripture, with others who are sharing the journey with us, and with ourselves. Thomas Merton said, with God, a little sincerity goes a long way. If we desire to engage in these bigger questions, there will be sufficient space in our lives to do so. In God all things are possible!

Hope to see you Sunday,

Pastor Elizabeth

Walk In Wednesdays

Wednesday evenings—6pm
Looking for a way to get to know the folks at St. Simon’s?  Bring a side dish to share and come join us for our Walk In Wednesday potluck supper!  Every Wednesday evening at 6:00pm, people from the St. Simon’s community get together for a casual dinner and fellowship.  Everyone is welcome!

Learnings from the Living School

Wednesday evenings, 7pm
Join us as Pastor Elizabeth shares insights from her studies at the Living School and learn some of the practices that awaken greater consciousness within.

Pastor Elizabeth is a participant in a two-year academic program offered by the Center for Action and Contemplation. The school, taught by Richard Rohr, Cynthia Bourgeault and James Finley, seeks to awaken participants to a more conscious union with the Holy One who permeates all of creation, and help us to have eyes to see.

Calling Young Families!

Sunday, May 28, 11:15am
We are looking for your input and ideas and we have some exciting bits to share with you as well.  If your children are preschool to third grade we want to hear from you and give you our exciting news.  Snacks and activities will be provided for the children and snacks for grown-ups, of course.  We’re excited to meet with you on Sunday, May 28 at 11:15 (lights out at 11:45!). Looking forward to seeing you then.

Christmas in June

The Outreach Committee is sponsoring “Christmas in June” during May/June. Most of the gift tags were distributed on last Sunday; however, there is just a handful of cards left. These cards will be available next Sunday, May 28, in case you missed the chance to select one. Your unwrapped gift should be returned to the narthex no later than Sunday, June 18. Please contact Susan Reinert or Barb Drummond  with any questions or concerns. Thank you for your support.

Can you help deliver Meals on Wheels?

Imagine struggling to shop and cook for yourself and having someone deliver several meals to your door. By giving just an hour and a half of your time during a day, you can be the difference–and meet some wonderful people along the way.

Meals on Wheels is part of St. Simon’s Outreach program, and June is our month. Please consider signing up to help deliver. It’s great to do with a friend or with your children. It will be greatly appreciated by both the village and those individuals on the receiving end of the meal delivery. The sign up sheet is available online and in the Narthex. Thank you, and if you have any questions please contact Sandy or Jim Ladd.

Help at Feed My Starving Children

Monday, June 19, 6pm
We have a unique opportunity to join together in repairing the world. The Islamic Education Center has invited us to assist them in serving the needy during Ramadan.The evening begins at 6pm at Feed My Starving Children in Schaumburg and is followed by the Prayers and Iftaar Dinner at 8pm at the Islamic Education Center located at 1269 Goodrich Avenue in Glendale Heights. Please sign up to attend this event.  It is a special opportunity you won’t want to miss!

Jo Gantzer

Jo believes that every aspect of life is formational, we are always learning and being changed – whether we know it or not.  Her preference is for intentional, “awake” learning, but she’s comfortable with more subversive methods – think bulletin boards that make you think.

There are two Creation stories in the Bible – one for administration and one for formation.

Bringing order out of chaos, in the first story, is an example of administration. Jo has organized, managed documents for, and supplied programs for more than 30 years. Most recently she served as the Deputy Township Clerk of Milton Township, DuPage County and as Parish Administrator for Annunciation of Our Lady in Gurnee. She has managed programs and associations which are international, regional, diocesan, deanery and parish-level.  She is addicted to task lists, time-lines and multi-colored folders.

The second creation story, the one in the garden, illustrates the ministry of formation.  God gave the people the work of caring for the animals and plants in that place: nurturing, creating safe and healthy space for optimum growth and turning the soil when needed.  In 30 years as a lay professional in the Episcopal Church Jo has developed age-appropriate programs for Christians-in-development from age 2 through 92, coached and trained, taught and prodded. Her passion is helping each person discover their gifts and learn to look for God’s movement in their lives.

Jo and her husband Ed have three grown daughters and three grandsons.  Free time, not spent visiting their out-of-state children, is likely to find Jo reading mysteries or working in the garden.

What Are We Reading Next?

Women’s Book Group
Thursday, May 25, 7:30pm
All women of the parish are invited to participate. This month’s book is A Man Called Ove: A Novel by Fredrik Backman.  Meeting in the St. Matthew Room.

Young Adult Book Group
Monday, June 12, 7pm
Young Adults will meet at the home of Beth Carter.

Men’s Book Group
Tuesday, June 13, 7:30pm
All men of the parish are invited to attend. This month’s book is It Can’t Happen Here by Lewis Sinclair. Meeting at the home of Len Hauskey.