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    { We're Glad You've Visited }

    We welcome you and invite you to enter into a deeper exploration of a community that shares the love of Jesus Christ with each other, our city, and the world. It takes more than a few words to describe a parish, but there are two things we can tell you right away: we are committed to Jesus Christ and from that commitment flows our care for one another and our ministries. In every ministry and program, we at St. James' Church on Madison Avenue at 71st Street invite you to enter more deeply into the life we share in Christ. We hope you will join us.

    The Rev. Brenda G. Husson, Rector

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    { Sundays }

    8:00 a.m.  |  Holy Eucharist (Chapel)

    9:10 a.m.  |  Holy Eucharist (Church)

    11:15 a.m.  |  Choral Eucharist (Church)

    6:00 p.m.  |  Candlelight Communion

    WEEKDAY WORSHIP
    Mon. - Fri., 8:00 a.m.  |  Morning Worship

  • { Getting Here }

    LOCATION: Madison Ave. between 71st and 72nd Streets

    GET DIRECTIONS: Click here to get directions via Google Maps

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    OFFICE PHONE: (212) 774-4200

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    { First Time Families }

    We've found that St. James' mix of rich Anglican tradition and innovative, fun family worship and programming is just the right recipe for helping kids know God's love.

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    When you come to church at St. James', you can expect to find...

    SPACE TO PRAY. Our services include hymns, prayers, and time for silence, as well as Communion and sermons that connect our Scriptures to our lives.

    SPACE TO BE YOURSELF. Worshipers at St. James' come from many different places, backgrounds, and perspectives.

    SPACE TO MAKE CONNECTIONS. Whether it's your first time or your thousandth, there's always an opportunity to get better connected with God and one another. Join us at coffee hour or stop by the Welcome station on your way out. We look forward to meeting you.

Ascension Day

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The following sermon was preached at the Festal Eucharist for Ascension Day 2018 by the Rev. Christine Lee, Vicar of All Angels' Church on the Upper West Side on Manhattan.

 

In my Korean immigrant church growing up, we focused almost solely on Christ crucified and risen, and we never talked about Christ ascended. Until I became Episcopalian, I didn’t even know the Feast of the Ascension was a thing! In American Christianity, Easter is the big day. Even people who never go to church will at least come to church on Easter. It’s a big deal. And yet, it is only the halfway point in the saving work of God. It’s like those infomercials where they offer you all of this fabulous stuff and then they say, “But wait! There’s more!”

A few of us were praying in the sanctuary at All Angels’ last night and we were praying for tonight. And Jacque Filbey, who I’m excited for you to hear from later, started praying about the ascension. And she said, “I think of Palm Sunday, Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, crowds shouting Hosanna! Yet how much more glorious his triumphant return to heaven must have been as he ascended into heaven still bearing the wounds on his hands and feet and side, welcomed home by his Father, throngs of angels welcoming the returning King, carrying the children on his train, as it says in Hebrews, “Here am I and the children you have given me. He is not ashamed to call us brothers and sisters.”

Christ’s ascension gives the cross and resurrection its meaning. The theologian Gordon Smith goes so far as to say that, “What defines the Christian life is our participation in the life of the ascended Christ.” Luke ends his gospel with the ascension and begins the book of Acts with the ascension. The transition that happens in Luke-Acts from the Spirit-filled ministry of Jesus to the Spirit-filled ministry of the disciples pivots on the ascension.

I want to highlight a few things about the ascension tonight and they all happen to start with the letter S. (I swear didn’t do that intentionally!) The first S is the word SEATED. Paul writes in Ephesians 1, “I pray that you may know what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power. God put this power to work in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places.”

That image of Jesus seated at the right hand of throne of God is the visual culmination of the words he spoke from the cross, “It is finished.” You don’t sit down until your work is done. It is finished. Everything that Moses and the Law and the Prophets pointed to, those never-ending sacrifices for sin was finished in his work of salvation, his mighty deeds on our behalf in his death and resurrection. Jesus sitting represents the triumph of God over sin and death. Paul takes it even further in Ephesians 2 by saying “God made us alive together with Christ and raised us up and seated us with him in the heavenly places.” How amazing is that? Our great high priest, who passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, tore the veil of the temple in two and made a way for us to be seated there with him, given full access as children of God.

But I have to admit, it’s hard to sit. Even though because of the finished work of Christ, I am sealed by the Holy Spirit in baptism and marked as Christ’s own forever, still I run on this hamster wheel of anxiety, trying to work for my salvation, striving to prove myself worthy. What would it be like to have that perspective of heaven as we live our lives in the world from where we are seated with Christ? Where instead of striving and anxiety, we have confidence, gratitude and peace. I love the ascension collect, “Grant, we pray, Almighty God, that as we believe your only-begotten Son our Lord Jesus Christ to have ascended into heaven, so we may also in heart and mind there ascend; and with him continually dwell.” Essentially it’s saying the same thing as Paul’s prayer, “And I pray that the eyes of your heart will be enlightened, that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of the glorious inheritance of the saints and the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe.” We operate in a scarcity mentality. Not enough time, not enough money, not enough energy, not enough space, not enough. Yet from that place seated with Christ, there is the hope, the glorious inheritance, the immeasurable greatness of his power. It’s not disconnecting from the real world, but living in the world more fully, freely and courageously because we know we are seated there with him in the abundance of the Godhead.

Paul goes on to say in vs. 20, “And God seated him in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but in the age to come. And he has put all things under his feet and has made him head over all things for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all. “

Do you know what all things means? It means “all things.” It doesn’t mean “all things, except Donald Trump.” All things, except North Korea. All things, except this situation that’s keeping me up at night. Abraham Kuyper, the Dutch theologian said, “There is not a single square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry Mine!” This is not the selfish cry of a toddler saying Mine! This is not about colonialism and triumphalism that bastardizes the gospel for selfish gain. This is the cry of the SOVEREIGN Lord, the second S, who created, redeemed and is restoring the world he loves, reconciling all things to himself by his death, resurrection and ascension.

Smith writes, “Everything, literally everything, pivots upon and is drawn up into the wonder of a living, ascended Christ.” This means that there is no sphere of life that is not under his Lordship. Yes, that means your workplace, your family, your love life, Wall Street, the mean streets, New York City, Syria. Even Donald Trump and Kim Jong-Eun. It means there is no heart that is so hardened or corrupt or hopeless or self-absorbed that it is beyond the powerful and loving reach of the Sovereign Lord who is over ALL. And that includes our own hearts. Which leads me to the final S. The saving work of God in Christ is not complete without the ascension. But wait, there’s more!

There is the SPIRIT. Today we begin Thy Kingdom Come, 10 days of prayer culminating in Pentecost where we join with Christians around the world in praying Thy Kingdom Come and Come Holy Spirit. Jesus said to his disciples, “It is better for you if I go away.” How can that be? “Because if I don’t go away, the Advocate cannot come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.” The same Spirit that filled and empowered Jesus in his ministry would now fill and empower his disciples. “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” It is the Spirit that helps us live in dynamic union with the ascended Christ and be the church in the world, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.

The question I have for you tonight is, are you sure you want that? Do you really want the Kingdom? Do you really want the Spirit? Let’s not be so sure! As the disciples were soon to find out, when you pray those dangerous prayers, God will answer them because they are in alignment with his will. Their lives and the whole Mediterranean world was turned upside down and the world has never been the same since. God is doing a new thing in New York City. God is doing a new thing in the church, in our diocese. That’s why I’m here tonight. I barely ever talked to these guys, your clergy, and now they’re my new BFFs. God is knitting our hearts together, expanding our missional imaginations for what is possible with God. God wants to bring renewal through his church. As a church, as St. James, as All Angels’, we cannot pray those prayers without, at a certain point, having to step out in faith, and having to let go of some of what’s beloved and familiar to us, and take risks, and do things we never thought were possible for the sake of the gospel.

Yesterday I saw a map of our diocese, over 200 parishes, and 55 of them can’t afford a half-time priest or less. They’re struggling, some on the verge of closing. At one point, these places were vibrant gospel witnesses. Some church sent people to start that church. All Angels’ was one of those churches. Like so many parishes, in the 1970s and early 80s, they were down to just a small group of people and had to sell off 3 of their 4 buildings. They moved into the parish house, dispirited. And then you know what happened? A young, newly ordained priest named Carol Anderson came to All Angels’. She was supposed to give All Angels’ a dignified death.

But you know Carol. Instead, she preached the gospel. We still have some parishioners from that time who say that Carol would preach the same sermon every single week. It was the gospel. And they said to her, “Carol, can you please preach about something else?” And she said, “Until you get this, I’m preaching this sermon!” Now they would say that at that time, they were church attenders, cultural Christians. But God used Carol and the whole congregation was converted. Their hearts were transformed.  The church was renewed. And now we are 350+ strong. We wouldn’t be here unless Carol had stepped out in faith. It was costly for her. But she was like a seed that fell to the ground and died and bore much fruit. And now at All Angels’, we’re asking this question, should we send out a group of people to plant a church or help renew one of these struggling churches? What if God is calling us to do what God did through Carol?

We don’t need to be afraid. We are seated with Christ in the heavenly places, he is Sovereign over all things, he has given us his Spirit to fill us so we can do the work has given us to do. Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done in New York City, at St. James, at All Angels’, in our lives as it is in heaven. Amen. 

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