Grace Notes

VOLUME 3, NUMBER 23, APRIL 29, 2012

Being Formed by a Different Story—A Different Song
In the world around us, Easter is over. We're moving on to things like Mothers' Day and Memorial Day and something called in stores Dads and Grads. But the Christian year is not the secular year. We're still in Easter for a few weeks yet, and those holidays I mentioned above have nothing to do with the Church calendar—and, in fact, can tend to obscure the celebrations related to the Resurrection of Christ and the Sundays that follow.

Maybe we all know this. But why does it matter? Is it a just a curiosity? Is it just vestigial remnants of the Church of an earlier time? And while we're at it, what about the rest of the traditional Christian practices and disciplines, like reading and studying Holy Scripture, fasting, daily morning and evening prayer, and the celebration of the sacraments, especially Holy Baptism and Holy Eucharist? Why do these matter? Doesn't the Christian faith consist in learning what Jesus taught and/or believing in him so we'll go to heaven and not hell?

We are being told stories all of the time. Stories told through movies and television shows and news outlets and advertisements. Stories that tell us things like:

  • Only the strong survive and get ahead.
  • The aggressive get what they want.
  • You need to buy this item in order to be happy.
  • You need to look a certain way and behave a certain way if you want to be loved.
  • If you work hard enough, you'll succeed.
  • The market, if left alone, will provide the greatest wealth for the greatest number of people.
  • Peace comes only through the threat of superior fire power.

We are bombarded from every direction by these stories and many, many others all of the time. But Christians live under a different story—a story that is mostly contrary to the stories of the world.

Christians live in a story that goes something like this: God is one, but three. Community/communion/love is who God is. And out of God's gratuitous, overflowing love, God wants to share himself, his community/communion/love with something outside of God's self. God creates something other than God and then opens up even his own divine communal life of love to his Creation—making human beings the intermediaries—the priests—in the Temple of the earth, which is a garden giving up every kind of good fruit.

But human beings, wanting to be independent (that is, not dependent—knowing in themselves, not in God, good and evil), cut themselves off from communion with God. And the world becomes a disaster area filled with murder and war and abuse and exploitation and oppression and injustice. The beautiful, interdependent world of God's Creation is disrupted and all of Creation itself rebels—as Genesis 3 says, something as beautiful as childbirth is made painful and the earth itself no longer yields its fruit to humanity without toil and without picking through thorns and thistles, and the power of death will claim us all.

But the loving God who is himself community/communion/love can't bear to leave his Creation, especially humanity, in this sorry state, so he begins a long range plan to reclaim us. He calls a people to himself to make holy and to be a sign to the world of what life in God's Creation is supposed to be like and from this people God himself is born in the flesh on earth.

We reject him again, as we did at the beginning, in the garden, killing God-made-flesh. But God doesn't leave it there. God defeats death and human sin by his power and his love and restores the communion lost so long ago. Death and sin, which are separation from God and each other, are conquered, and God reconciles his beloved Creation to himself, bringing it back into communion with his own divine life.

This story couldn't be more different from the world's stories in which the powers of the world don't care about us except to use us and abuse us and we're all, in the final analysis, on our own. This song couldn't be more different from the world's song.

Our calendar, our patterns and rhythms of worship and our devotion and disciplines are the Church's way of entering into and living in this alternative story—of learning to sing this alternative song. It's our way of remembering who we are—a people called out of the other peoples of the world and their stories. A people called for community/communion/love.

Easter continues. Alleluia! Christ is risen!

-- Father Rhodes

YUMMY OFFER... We have a new neighbor on Westwood Avenue called Twist. Twist serves frozen yogurt and boasts the biggest toppings bar. Brandon, Neil and Charles, the proprietors, in thanksgiving for their new home, are honored to offer Smoothies for $2.00 (regularly $3.99) to churchgoers on Sunday from 11am-4pm. The smoothies are "made with delicious non fat yogurt and are available in 10 fresh flavors including strawberry, mango, cookies n cream etc." All we have to do is mention to the cashier that we are there from the church.

HELP FIGHT HOMELESSNESS IN BERGEN COUNTY... Please join and/or support Team Grace Westwood on Sunday afternoon, April 29, as we participate in Bike Bergen. Last year, 15 of us walked three miles, or biked 15 or 25 miles, raising over $3000 which was split between Family Promise of Bergen County and Christ Church CDC. See Larry Sunden if you'd like to participate.

COMMUNITY HOSPICE... The Community Hospice of Bergen County will have their official "Ribbon Cutting" on Tuesday, May 1 at 6:30 PM at their offices located at 105 Fairview Avenue, Westwood. All are welcome! There will be music and refreshments.

NEW PARISH DIRECTORIES... An updated Parish Directory is available in the narthex. Please help yourself!

FOOD FOR FRIENDS, AN EASTER THOUGHT... Easter is the greatest feast of the Christian year and Christians feast in more than one sense. The Easter season lasts for 50 days, and surely during this time we can reach out to include needy persons in our celebration, especially by donating to the Food for Friends food barrel on Sundays through Pentecost, May 27 this year. The Food Pantry wish list asks specifically for tuna, cereal, peanut butter, rice, coffee, and pasta. Alternatively checks may be drawn in favor of St. Paul's CDC and marked Food Pantry. Send checks directly to St. Paul's at 451 Van Houten Street, Paterson, NJ 07501.

CASINO NIGHT AT CONGREGATION B'NAI ISRAEL... Our sister synagogue is holding a Casino night on Saturday, May 12, from 8pm to Midnight. Admission is $45/person in advance and $50/person at the door. This gets you $500 in play money to be used in casino style games with the chance to win raffle prizes and refreshments and noshes. The event is open to those who are 21 and older. For more information, please contact Susan Casper at

Ministers of the Assembly

April 29May 6
MP Officiant and LEM (8 am)Charles KeilAndy Smethurst
Lay EucharisticLarry ToppinTheresa Peter
Ministers (10 am)Jim FreemanJim Davidson
LectorCookie SmethurstChris Scott
Intercessor (Prayers)Theresa PeterAki Okunlola
Chief ServerDebbie GellerDebbi Geller
AcolytesJustin HirstiusEmily Thomas
Leslie BisdaleWarren Hirstius
ThuriferKate LandiEvans Roache
UshersBen MartinJim Cloke
Liza MartinJanet Delaney
CountersJim MillerCookie Smethurst
Kate RandallAki Okunlola
Altar GuildTheresa PeterLeslie Bisdale
Jil BucceroniDaisy Toppin
Coffee HourPat LandiDaisy Toppin
Kate LandiTheresa Okunlola