<![CDATA[Christ Episcopal Church - Thoughts from Canon Zook]]>Thu, 30 Nov 2017 12:10:33 -0800Weebly<![CDATA[Being, Losing, Seeking, Finding]]>Thu, 30 Nov 2017 19:45:59 GMThttp://christchurchchippewa.com/thoughts-from-canon-zook/being-losing-seeking-findingThis world and the world to come are two enemies. We cannot therefore be friends to both; but we must decide which we will forsake and which we will enjoy. 
~ Clement of Rome
Advent is the time when we prepare for the incarnation of our God in a manner that few predicted and even fewer recognized.  It is a time of deep evaluation about our God and ourselves, and specifically, our expectations for both.  Who do we imagine our God really is in our lives?  How do we see ourselves relating to that God?  How much do we give ourselves credit for, when we should be condemning our behavior?  These are the questions of Advent.  Who is He and who are we to Him?
The words above from St. Clement are very appropriate at any time of year.  However, they seem to me to be extremely appropriate as we enter the Season of Advent.  This preparatory season can be very frustrating.  It is a season in which we are pulled in so many directions at once, in which we fill our days with shopping, decorating, traveling and coordinating schedules for an intensely busy Christmas Season, in which our Celebration of the Incarnation often takes a back seat to all of our Secular obligations.  When we begin to find ourselves pulled off-center by the obligations of this world, it can quickly lead to a feeling as though we are untethered from God.  Maintaining that strong connection to the Divine is crucial to our well-being and an essential part of living into those wonderful things for which we were created.
As we usually do in Advent, we will be gathering in the undercroft of Christ Church on Wednesday nights at 6:30 to study and consider the nature of our relationship with God.  This year, we will be looking at the four major states of that relationship.   Being, Losing, Seeking, and Finding.  We will use stories from Christian Scripture, sacred texts from other religions, literature and more to delve into the state of Being in relationship with God, Losing that relationship, Seeking to reconcile with God and Finding that intimate, immediate connection again.  If our past gatherings are any evidence, the topic will lead us into a bevy of personal discussions as well.  Join us to learn, to listen and, if appropriate, to share.  Feel free to arrive between 6:00 and 6:30 and join us for a light soup/bread type of meal and try to let me or Deacon Rose know if you plan to attend to help us prepare an appropriate amount of food. 
~Rev. Canon Aaron Zook
Feast of Margaret of Scots, 2017
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<![CDATA[Pentecost and Diluted Reflection]]>Thu, 30 Nov 2017 19:43:54 GMThttp://christchurchchippewa.com/thoughts-from-canon-zook/pentecost-and-diluted-reflection“Hospitality means primarily the creation of free space where the stranger can enter and become a friend instead of an enemy. Hospitality is not to change people, but to offer them space where change can take place. It is not to bring men and women over to our side, but to offer freedom not disturbed by dividing lines.”
~ Henri J.M. Nouwen, Reaching Out: The Three Movements of the Spiritual Life

In many ways, the Season of Pentecost is the strangest part of the Church Year.  Unlike Lent and Advent, which set aside the brief, Penitential part of year, Pentecost is usually fairly active and cheerful.  Unlike Eastertide and Christmastide, when we take a short respite from the secular world and revel in the Joy that those two monumental moments bring, Pentecost feels largely amorphous, lacking those clearly defined, and foundational principles.  Unlike Epiphany, which breaks two short seasons (Christmas and Lent) with a short examination of the nature of Christ, Pentecost seems to jump from one theological concept to another over several months.  In short, each of the other Seasons of the Church Year provide a narrow focus, through which we can assess our faith and our relationships in specific terms, then quickly move to the next Season and the next concept.
Pentecost does not provide the same structure.  To begin, it is long. Very long.  In fact, it can stretch to as many as 30 weeks when Easter lands at the earliest date possible.  Possibly because of the immense length of the Season, it does not provide that intense focus that we feel during other parts of the year.  On a given Sunday, we might be discussing Justification or Christology or the Christian Vocation with few threads covering more than a week or two.  In short, it is a free-for-all, theologically speaking, in terms of what we might be presented with.  That, however, is exactly the point.
Pentecost does not provide those easy, concentrated periods of specific reflection.  Instead, it provides us with a more accurate depiction of the Christian Life.  As people, we cannot let parts of our lives be ignored while we contemplate on one aspect of our lives.  We must continually juggle our families, our homes, our vocations, and other obligations while we struggle to find meaning through whatever sacramental moments with which we find ourselves confronted.  Pentecost is long and odd and difficult to define…just like the Christian Life.  As we continue to wrestle through this odd Season, let us remember that it is teaching us how to be incarnational in our Faith by responding to the world around us with varied worship, prayer and success.
~Rev. Canon Aaron Zook
The Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost, 2017

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<![CDATA[Commonality in Prayer]]>Thu, 30 Nov 2017 19:41:50 GMThttp://christchurchchippewa.com/thoughts-from-canon-zook/commonality-in-prayer“Almighty God, you have given us grace at this time with one accord to make our common supplication to you; and you have promised through your well-beloved Son that when two or three are gathered together in his Name you will be in the midst of them: Fulfill now, O Lord, our desires and petitions as may be best for us; granting us in this world knowledge of your truth, and in the age to come life everlasting. Amen.”
 ~A Prayer of St. Chrysostom
​After the Feast of the Ascension and the quick succession of the Feasts of Pentecost and Trinity Sunday, the Church enters “the Long Green Season” of Pentecost.  This is the longest season of the Church year and can last as long as 27 weeks when Easter is celebrated on its earliest date.
For many Christians, Pentecost is a time to ‘go our separate ways’ as we travel for reunions, vacations and entertainment.  In fact, many churches offer fewer services and close down their choir and other programs in recognition of the fact that so many members will be at least sporadically absent for the next several months.  With so much time away from our worship community, it can be easy to lose our tether to our spiritual ground.
As I write to you today, the Episcopal Church is celebrating the Feast of the First Book of Common Prayer in 1549.  We could say a lot about the impact of the BCP on the worship, theology and spirituality of Anglicanism, as it has become the centerpiece of everything that makes our communities.  There is one aspect, however, that makes the BCP incredibly useful to us here and now as the season of Pentecost begins: its mobility.
The BCP contains simple services, prayers and collects that pertain to every moment of our lives.  As we go about our varied business this summer, the BCP can provide comfort, guidance, and solace to us all in a way that connects us across geography.  In fact, there is a sense in which the reading or recitation of any portion of the BCP connects us all together with everyone who has read those prayers in any place at any time.  The BCP can be the place we reconnect with the Church, even when we are engaging with it by ourselves.
That said, if you don’t own a prayer book, I encourage you to take one from the church as you travel this summer.  That way, we can remain united even when we are separated and we can carry our worship into the world. Then in the fall, we can fully reunite ourselves and our prayers.  May the BCP be the ‘place’ we “gather together in his name” this Pentecost! 
~Rev. Canon Aaron Zook
Feast of the First Book of Common Prayer, 2017

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<![CDATA[The Faith of Blaise]]>Thu, 30 Nov 2017 19:39:34 GMThttp://christchurchchippewa.com/thoughts-from-canon-zook/the-faith-of-blaise“Idolatry is committed, not merely by setting up false gods, but also by setting up false devils; by making men afraid of war or alcohol, or economic law, when they should be afraid of spiritual corruption and cowardice.”
~ G. K. Chesterton
​The Blessing of the Throats is a liturgical Rite commemorating the Feast of St. Blaise of Sebaste, an Armenian physician and bishop who was known for his uncanny ability to heal both people and animals by use of Science, Medicine and Miracle.  As the legend states, his reputation led people, livestock and even feral animals to seek out his blessing.
One particular story tells of Blaise encountered a woman whose young son was choking on a fish bone.   He was being led to prison at the time and, when the woman fell at Blaise’s feet and her son was miraculously cured.  On the same journey, Blaise rescued an elderly woman’s pig from a wolf by means of prayer.  On his arrival at the prison, the old woman brought him two candles to dispel the dark and doom of his cell.  Shortly thereafter, Blaise was martyred for refusing to refute his faith.
These stories create the foundation for the service in which we use candles blessed at the Feast of the Presentation to bless throats and cast out sickness from anyone who comes for a blessing.  We would be remiss, however, if amidst the unique aspects of the liturgy we forget the foundation of Blaise’s story and, by extension, his example to all of us.  He was on his way to imprisonment and certain death.  He was losing his life for refusing to forsake the Gospel.  And yet, he never wavered from the Truths contained therein, most notably that all things under Heaven know that the only source for Health and Salvation in our Lord Jesus Christ.  May we follow in the footsteps of our exemplar Blaise and refuse to forsake our faith regardless of our station in life.  May we join with him in providing health and light to all who come to us for aid.  If we do, the world will see in us the Strong Tower of Christ for all who come to him.
~Rev. Canon Aaron Zook
Feast of the Presentation, 2017

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<![CDATA[Charity Knows No Schism]]>Thu, 30 Nov 2017 19:37:25 GMThttp://christchurchchippewa.com/thoughts-from-canon-zook/charity-knows-no-schismIf I say, "Surely the darkness will cover me, and the light
around me turn to night," darkness is not dark to thee, O Lord;
the night is as bright as the day; darkness and light to thee
are both alike.     

~Psalm 139:10,11
This world and the world to come are two enemies. We cannot therefore be friends to both; but we must decide which we will forsake and which we will enjoy.  Those are the words of Clement of Rome, the Fourth Bishop of Rome (the First being St. Peter.)  They seem to me to be extremely appropriate as we enter the Season of Advent.  This preparatory season can be very frustrating.  It is a season in which we are pulled in so many directions at once, in which we fill our days with shopping, decorating, traveling and coordinating schedules for an intensely busy Christmas Season, in which our Celebration of the Incarnation often takes a back seat to all of our Secular obligations.
I believe those words from St. Clement can be a grounding force during this time of year.  They can stand to remind us of the purpose for our celebrations, our gatherings, and our charity.  Indeed, that is where this season finds itself: our Charity.  St. Clement also once said: “Charity unites us to God... There is nothing mean in charity, nothing arrogant. Charity knows no schism, does not rebel, does all things in concord. In charity all the elect of God have been made perfect.  This is a beautiful sentiment, but it needn’t be a weak aphorism that makes us smile then recedes from our waking minds.  It can be the very foundation of our daily lives over the next 28 days. 
To that end, I challenge us all to engage with the living equivalent of an Advent Calendar.  Many of us have already accomplished some charitable acts this season, whether it be through giving money, gifts or clothing to those in need.  However, we can do more.  We have innumerable opportunities to be charitable: in department stores, on roadways, and toward each other.  Let us then, make a concerted effort to engage in that Charity, making sure to track and note our daily progress.  We needn’t rely on financial resources for these singular acts of Charity.  We can perform them through being kind, giving way to others and remaining cognizant that those we encounter in the world are ensconced in in the great frustrations of the season.  Let us, then, be charitable to them by easing their frustration.  If we do, perhaps we will give them the comfortable room they need to allow God into their lives.    
~Rev. Canon Aaron Zook
Feast of Clement of Rome, 2015​
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<![CDATA[Finding Holiness in Pentecost]]>Thu, 30 Nov 2017 19:35:27 GMThttp://christchurchchippewa.com/thoughts-from-canon-zook/finding-holiness-in-pentecost“Social responsibility becomes an aspect not of Christian mission only, but also of Christian conversion. It is impossible to be truly converted to God without being thereby converted to our neighbor.” 
~John R. W, Stott
​The season of Pentecost is one of the most difficult periods of the Church Calendar to keep truly Holy.  It is easy to remain spiritual during the exultant seasons of Christmas and Easter.  It is easy to focus on our formation during the penitent times of Advent and Lent.  It is easy to concentrate on our relationship with Christ during the season of Epiphany as we walk through the stories of his emerging Divine attributes.
Pentecost is different.  By virtue of our climate, Pentecost falls during the time of year that we all use for travelling and reunions.  Our children are home from school and we take the time to relax as a family and enjoy the beautiful weather.  Our schedules become incredibly full and our regular obligations must be regularly shifted to different times and different days.  It is very easy for our spiritual lives to take a “backseat” during Pentecost, often because our schedule prevents us from attending to our regular observances.
Despite the difficulties of keeping our spiritual growth “on the path” during this time, I want us all to be aware of the many opportunities we have to expand our worship and prayer lives during this busy season.  We make take on new styles of worship such as the daily office, or we may choose to devote a few minutes of each morning to meditative prayer.  We may even try something as simple and obvious as committing to reading a few verses of scripture each day.
I’m happy to help you find a style that helps keep you connected to the Church even when you can’t regularly attend.  Feel free to visit me during my office hours on Friday mornings, or send me an email asking for suggestions.  You can also always reach me via phone or text at (715) 864-1843.  (If I can’t answer right away, have faith and leave a message, I’ll reply as soon as I can.)
~Rev. Canon Aaron Zook
Feast of the Transfiguration, 2016
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<![CDATA[The Long Green Season]]>Thu, 30 Nov 2017 19:30:57 GMThttp://christchurchchippewa.com/thoughts-from-canon-zook/the-long-green-season“Those in whom the Spirit comes to live are God's new Temple. They are, individually and corporately, places where heaven and earth meet.” 
~N.T. Wright, Simply Christian: Why Christianity Makes Sense
​After the Feast of the Ascension, the Church Calendar pauses ever so briefly before the quick succession of the Feasts of Pentecost and Trinity Sunday.  From there, the Sundays after Pentecost roll out for several months until we are ready to once again enter the season of Advent and prepare to begin again our annual remembrance of Christ’s Incarnational ministry.
For ordained clergy, this long period of “Ordinary Time” between Pentecost and Advent is often referred to as “the Long Green Season” because of the unchanging vestments and liturgies of Sunday Services broken only occasionally by community events and parish picnics.  We become so accustomed to the revolving colors and patterns leading from December to May that when this season comes we are shocked by the monotony. 
What we fail to realize is the importance of this long season as it pertains to our lives as Christians, not only as the lectionary tells its story, continually orbiting Easter and Christmas, but also as it represents the majority of our spiritual lives.  It represents that long season of our story in which we have seen and heard the Good News of Christ and now must decide how to respond.
As in every year, this summer will bring with it numerous competing foci: events and periods that pull our attention into the things of the world.  It is up to us to continually pull ourselves back to this long spiritual season and the decisions of how we will write the 29th chapter of our own Book of Acts.  We have been given a great gift in the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, now we must find opportunities to carry it into the world as a banner of our hearts rather than the baggage of our past.
~Rev. Canon Aaron Zook
Feast of the Ascension, 2016

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<![CDATA[Excusing Excuses]]>Thu, 30 Nov 2017 19:24:04 GMThttp://christchurchchippewa.com/thoughts-from-canon-zook/excusing-excuses“. . . you must make every effort to kill every taste of resentment in your own heart—every wish to humiliate or hurt him or to pay him out. The difference between this situation and the one in such you are asking God’s forgiveness is this. In our own case we accept excuses too easily; in other people’s we do not accept them easily enough.”
~ C.S. Lewis – The Weight of Glory

In the season of Lent, many people deny themselves of bad habits, like smoking or drinking alcohol.  Though this is to be commended at any time of the year, it has become a mark of lent to give up those things as well as simpler habitual activity, like eating cupcakes or watching too much television.
The other side of that coin is to begin good habits, like exercise or eating better.  Some engage in these good habits in a more spiritual way by developing spiritual disciplines throughout the forty days of Lent with an eye toward grounding themselves during the season.
The simplest ‘spiritual habit’ to engage in over lent is the regular use of the Daily Office from the Book of Common Prayer.  Morning, Midday and Evening Prayer are short, modest services that, when done alone, usually take five to ten minutes.  The shortest and simplest office service is Compline.  It is entirely self-contained in the prayer book (even the scripture readings) and can be found several places online (I recommend www.universalis.com/compline.htm as a good internet source for the service, but searching “Compline” will produce numerous worthy choices.)
Though few of us have time to adjust other commitments enough to add public services to our schedules, the Daily Office can be read anywhere, at any time, and can begin a very enriching habit that carries well beyond these forty days 
I heartily recommend the practice both now and in the future as a way to begin a closer walk with our God.
~Rev. Canon Aaron Zook
Feast of the Presentation, 2016
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<![CDATA[Christ, Bless this House]]>Thu, 30 Nov 2017 19:20:52 GMThttp://christchurchchippewa.com/thoughts-from-canon-zook/christ-bless-this-house“The Christian is in a different position from other people who are trying to be good. They hope, by being good, to please God if there is one; or — if they think there is not — at least they hope to deserve approval from good men. But the Christian thinks any good he does comes from the Christ-life inside him. He does not think God will love us because we are good, but that God will make us good because He loves us; just as the roof of a greenhouse does not attract the sun because it is bright, but becomes bright because the sun shines on it.”~C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

          There are three main points in the Church Calendar that land within the Epiphany Season and they mark the foundation of the season: the through-line that marks this period of the year apart from the rest.  They are (1) the Feast of the Epiphany (January 6th,) (2)the Baptism of Jesus, and (3) the Wedding at Cana.
           These Feasts are meant to point to the Revelation of who Jesus is as (1) our Incarnate God (2) who stand as part of a Trinity in Unity yet (3) is immensely invested in the lives of human beings.  Historically, the issue has been that these feasts point to major events in the lives of many human beings: birth, baptism and marriage.  What then can we do to focus our celebrations in such a way that we are reminded of his presence and effect in our daily lives?
            The Church responded to this query with the tradition of the blessing of homes, in which the head or casing of a home is marked with chalk that has been blessed with the year (2016) and the initials of the Magi (B+C+M,) while the prayer Benedictum Christum Mansionem (Christ, Bless this House,) is recited.  The entire liturgy, which takes all of ten minutes is meant to remind us that every time someone crosses our threshold, we should meet them as we would meet Christ, whether they be a guest, the mailman, or a family member.
We would do well to be reminded of this service (which I openly extend to each of you, just check with me to find a good time,) and to remember that, just as in the rest of the year, it is through the major events of the season that Christ fills us up with God’s Grace, but it is through our daily lives that he expects us to mete that Grace to all of his children.
~Rev. Canon Aaron Zook
Feast of the Epiphany, 2016
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<![CDATA[The Stewardship of Advent]]>Fri, 04 Dec 2015 16:43:33 GMThttp://christchurchchippewa.com/thoughts-from-canon-zook/the-stewardship-of-adventIn Lent, we are asked to repent of our sins: to evaluate our lifestyles and to dismiss those things we do that are overindulgent, mean-spirited and fatalistic.  In Advent, we are called to repent in a different way: to reprioritize our lives and make them more “Christ-centered.”  In doing so, we find that we spend a great deal of time chasing happiness in money, possessions and status.  When we repent, we find ourselves seeking contentment in the great gifts we’ve already received: “our creation, preservation, and all the blessings of this life.”

               Regardless of our success in Advent, we are soon to be rewarded with the greatest gift we could never have deserved: the Incarnation of Our Savior!  With that gift, we receive countless others.  As St. Augustine said, “He who made all things is therefore himself made, that those who are lost may be found.  It is even as man is made to testify of himself in the Psalms: ‘Before I was humbled, I went wrong.’  Man sinned and became guilty.  God is born man, that the guilty may be delivered.  Man fell, but God descended.  Man fell miserably, God descended mercifully.  Man fell by pride, God descended with grace.”

               Christmas is a season of Joy not just for the Coming of our Lord in the flesh.  In Creation, God gave humanity stewardship over many things: fish, birds, livestock, seed-bearing plants and fruited trees.  Most importantly, however, he gave us dominion over our own lives.  Theologians call it “Free Will” and Philosophers call it “Conscience” or “Morality,” but in truth, it is simply stewardship over ourselves.  He gave us the power and strength to dictate our priorities, our desires and our actions.  How do you intend to use that power?  In Romans, Paul tells us “It is written: 'As surely as I live, says the Lord, every knee will bow before me; every tongue will confess to God.'  So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God.”  I urge you, in light of the gift of Christ’s Incarnation, to employ the gift of your stewardship over yourself to redirect your priorities toward living as a stronger, truer and simpler instrument of God’s Love for the world. 

~Rev. Canon Aaron Zook

25 Pentecost, 2015]]>