from Pastor's desk -
a Weekly Message

August 7, 2020


Dear Friends,
I’m so excited for Sunday—perhaps no other Gospel reading has felt so right for the times.
This Sunday we get the story of Jesus walking on the water, and Peter walking out of the boat to meet him. Like many of the Gospel stories, it’s short, compact. You can make a kids' book out of it or you can see it in your mind as movie scene—I like to imagine Peter getting smashed by a wave. It’s very dramatic. It was a dark and stormy night, and so forth.
But I’ve been struck by the fear in the story, the fear of the disciples in a circumstance beyond their control. The storm rages, tossing their boat around like a toy. In the distance they see a figure, walking on water. It can’t be human, it must be a ghost. And then—it is the Lord! And he gives them strength, saying, “Take heart; it is I; do not be afraid.” But even with those words, they’re still afraid, although perhaps their fear may be turning to thrill. To the women who discover the empty tomb, he says the same thing: "do not be afraid". Jesus himself may have been afraid: he just spent all night on the mountain, alone, mourning the death of John the Baptist and praying to his Father. For grief or fear or weariness, we’re not told. But when he comes down, he has a singular message: do not doubt, but believe.
Scripture says that faith is the assurance of things hoped for; the conviction of things not seen. Faith is the belief of things we know are real, but elides us. Faith is vision, revelation.
We feel like we’re caught in a maelstrom now. There is fear at the reopening of schools; warranted fear. There is fear about the election, as the Postal Service is breaking already, and mail-in voting will increase. There’s fear that New York, which has battled so hard to get where we are, will not be able to remain, but will continually fight back infections planted by travelers.
But faith can overcome fear. We can hope for containment and control, and we know that with methodical planning, adhering to guidelines, and working together we can overcome this crisis. We see it in countries around the world. Faith leads us, and helps us know that the work that seems daunting is possible. Faith tells us a better future awaits us, and shows us how to get there. In his faith and in his fear, Peter cries out to Jesus: “Lord, save me!” And Jesus reaches out his hand to Peter and says, “Why did you doubt?”
Doubt is here, but faith can hurdle us over. The virus has not stopped the Word. Nothing will stop the Word, nothing can. Nothing can crush faith, even our own doubt. Because those who cry out in doubt feel the hand of the savior, pulling them up to stand with him.
OSA is working on a plan for resuming in-person worship. The plan will include blending everyone who prefers to remain at home and the limited number of people who come into the building into one Zoom worship; the congregation in the building will see the congregation outside the building, and the congregation outside the building will be able to sing and play and contribute. But more than that, when we control and corral the virus, we will meet again to sing, to hug, to shout, to cry.
Pastor John



July 24, 2020

Dear Friends,


Last night we had Holy Communion at OSA.  Lucy helped me set up, and somehow we managed not to spill or break anything. We meet in our garden, spaced six feet, without singing. The cars roar by; the grass marches into the mulch in its yearly bid to take over the garden. People walk by and look at us with very mild curiosity. You can see a lot stranger things than a man with a funny scarf outside in New York City.


Last night it rained, so we moved inside, still spaced far apart. There were three of us; the service lasted fifteen minutes. Lucy and I cleaned up and went upstairs. That was it.


It was a very brief window of time. In fact, there was probably more hand sanitizer used than time. But it was also a flash of God’s presence—a wink, maybe or seeing God at work in the kitchen as you walk by.


The key word in the Gospel text this week is ‘joy’: Jesus tells a proverb of a man plowing a field and discovers a treasure in it, and with great joy, sells everything he has and buys the field with the treasure. The kingdom of God is a hidden treasure, but its discovery is joy.


We have given up so much in such a short period of time. We want normalcy and we crave a better normalcy than what we had before. But the wink of God is also a reminder there is something even more than we can imagine: the joy of living in God’s kingdom.


We need more joy in these times. The joy of God comes from doing God’s work: prayer, service, love. There’s always time for this—just as there is always time for the flash of God in communion, the glimpse of the body and blood of the Lord who loves us eternally. Thus there is always time for joy.


See you soon, on Zoom or off,


Pastor John



June 26, 2020


Dear Friends,
Here’s some good news: we will begin outdoor in-person communion services next week. They will be 10 person outdoor communion services Thursday night at 7 pm and Sunday morning at 8:30 a.m.
I’m really excited about this. But I have to say, worship will not immediately snap back to what we were doing in March. Rather we are taking a very slow and cautious approach.
It’s important to recognize that we are not out of the Covid woods by any stretch. More than 20 New Yorkers a day are dying from the this virus: hundreds are hospitalized every day. We learn more and more about this virus every day, how to better treat it, how to manage it. But it can have devastating long-term effects not only on the elderly, but also young, healthy people. We will be taking strict precautions to reduce the risk of contracting the virus as much as possible during worship, but we cannot reduce that risk to zero.
I care very much about you: I have had this virus, and so have some of you. I know firsthand how this virus lingers and lingers, how it changes you. I, and the church council and our Worship, Arts, and Music Committee, all want to make sure that you will be protected as much as possible, and we prefer to err on the side of caution. In person worship is not a zero-risk activity, no matter how many precautions we put in place. But we do feel that it the current situation allows us to proceed. 
I also care very much that the Sacrament of Our Lord’s Body and Blood be offered to you. It has pained me to be without it, and I know it has pained many of you. We need this meal for our faith and for our connection to one another. It is the Word we trust made flesh for our touch, a body for our bodies, food and drink in the desert. 
So here is the plan for worship, following state, denominational, and CDC  guidelines:
-Each service will allow 10 people on a first-come, first-served basis. Reserve your spot by e-mailing Pastor John on Tuesday. 
-A self-assessment will be emailed out for you to judge your risk. If you feel like you present too much risk, stay home.
-If you feel sick—at all—STAY HOME. 
-We will ask people to sign in. If someone does get sick, we will be able to notify you so you self-quarantine.
-Every attendee must wear a mask and observe physical distancing (families can sit together, of course).
-There will be no singing, initially: the services will be said quietly to reduce aerosol spray.
-The elements of Communion will be gluten free wafers and individual cups of wine.
-The elements will be covered until the Great Thanksgiving, at which time they will be uncovered while Pastor continues the Eucharistic prayer from a distance.
-Each person will receive a wafer without hands touching and wine from a pouring chalice
-The services will last no longer than 40 minutes: Pastor John will prepare a homily for the Thursday services, and use the Sunday texts for the Sunday services.
-If it rains, the services will be held in the sanctuary, observing physical distancing measures. 
-Communion services will be Zoomed
-You will be asked to wipe down surfaces after church is over.
It’s important to remember that while surface transmission can occur, COVID is transmitted mostly by exchanging aerosols inside. Having communion outside will reduce but not eliminate the risk of transmission.
I know that some of you may think we are being overcautious. After all, the state is allowing 25% capacity of religious institutions. But deep breathing and raised voices indoors are Covid’s favorite form of transmission. I think a little more prudence is in order, as we wait to see how this first wave subsides.
Still, I’m looking forward to worshiping in person again, for as long as we can do it. There will likely be a second wave in the fall, and we will adjust to that, too. But until then, whether we are apart or close, the Spirit binds us and God holds us in the palm of his hand.


June 19, 2020

Dear Friends,
Today is Juneteenth, a day you have celebrated all your life, or maybe you're learning about for the first time. It marks a day when promise of the Emancipation Proclamation finally reached the people of Texas, and the last slaves in the United States were finally free. For a place that calls itself the land of the free, it deserves to be a national holiday and a commemoration, and I hope it becomes one. I hope we can remember that struggle for emancipation, for freedom, for equality and equity, for the recognition of fundamental human dignity, may be an eternal struggle, but one that is always worth the sacrifice. 

For the past few years, I have been treating these emails as ways to lead to Sunday. Sometimes it feels untied to our time, but the road to Sunday this week leads us straight in to the issues of our time. On Wednesday we observed the Commemoration of the Emanuel Nine, the nine martyrs in a South Carolina church shot and killed by a young man trying to set off a race war. Today is Juneteenth; Sunday brings us the invitation of Jesus to take up our crosses and follow him. It's an invitation to a particular way of life exemplified by those martyrs and remembered in this prayer, developed by our national church:

God, our truth, through the ages you have spoken through prophets. Stir up in your church a passion for your word revealed in Jesus, that following the witness of the Emanuel Nine, your church studies the scriptures, shows hospitality, prays without ceasing, and embodies prophetic justice in community. Embolden church leaders and all the baptized to remember the lives of the Nine, repent of racism and white supremacy, and renew our commitment to your word revealed most fully in Jesus, our way, truth, and life.

Discipleship means studying scripture, showing hospitality, prayer, and letting the Word of God direct our bodies in our city. It is a way of repentance, rejection of sin, and the struggle to recognize the dignity, intrinsic worth, and beauty of all God has made. This is hard to do when you've drunk the potion of white supremacy from birth. But we have an antidote to that poison in baptism, which puts sin to death and gives life to whatever sin has killed.

At our baptisms we are asked to renounce sin, death, and the devil, and all that would draw us from God. And we also confess our faith through our creed, which tells tells us of God, beyond both beginning and end, yet fully present in power in every cell of creation, revealed in a human being named Jesus, and uniting all people in a holy communion. 

My grandfather once told me that faith is not a way of believing, but a way of living. We live as people of joy, walking that stony road, singing in the struggle, because the victory is God's.
Pastor John

Wednesdays & Sundays 8:45 - 9:00 PM:  Compline - Night Prayer

Wed, June 10, 17, 24 
Sun., June 14, 21, 28 

Compline, also known as Complin, Night Prayer, or the Prayers at the End of the Day, is the final church service of the day in the Christian tradition of canonical hours.  OSA will be offering this brief contemplative service (15 minutes) every Wednesday and Sunday. Click here to join via ZOOM.


April 30, 2020

Dear Friends,


This week, the lectionary gives us one of Luke's great descriptions of the church, from the Second Chapter of Acts: "Awe came upon everyone, because many wonders and signs were being done by the apostles. All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need."

Imagine the risk this takes. I remember going to Costco some weeks before the coronavirus lockdown came, thinking, "I better stock up for a couple of weeks." I was either too early or too thrifty: all the extra goods I bought seemed to run out just when it would have been more convenient to have them. But the apostles and the believers were their own Costco. They sold their possessions and shared, according to the needs of believers. I've never felt brave enough to see myself in that story. I'm too tightfisted, perhaps too faithless for such communal life. 

I like my library. I like the possessions I've labored to acquire. Perhaps best of all I like the illusion that I deserve my stuff and my stuff will always be with me to comfort me. I like to think that I'll always be able to afford things, and that things will get me through.

That's not what we hear in our texts. We are not as secure as we think. But we are also not as insecure as we think, which is what leads us to faithless tightfistedness.

Jesus says he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. "When the shepherd has brought out all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice." This Sunday is Good Shepherd Sunday, when we hear that we are sheep, and Jesus leads us with his voice.

Signs and wonders--the sharing of what we have. I have seen how so many of us are trying, in whatever way we can, to share with others, to give what we can. We are all in this together--I truly believe that, because we can only overcome this together. And overcome we will.

Pastor John

Tanya's Meditation Video

Tanya keeps the video meditations coming-this one features some reflection on Ta-Nehisi Coates's great book, Between the World and Me. Click here for the video. 

Faith Companions

We are blessed with so many resources at OSA. A couple members who have some mental health expertise have volunteered to be what I'm calling "Faith Companions", or listeners for you. This isn't therapy--that would be inappropriate. But, it is a way to find someone to pray with, or who can simply hear you. This is part of what we call "mutual conversation and consolation". Email me if you want to learn more, or want to connect with one of these volunteers.



April 15, 2020

Dear Friends:

We closed our church on March 13th. Schools closed March 16th. We've been in "pause", as the governor calls it, for almost a month. A draft CDC plan for reopening the country came out last night, and it seems to indicate that places like New York will not reopen before June.

Much of this depends on how we're able to get things under control now and developing rapid and reliable testing. New York has really ramped up its testing capacity, but needs even more.

I'm not going to lie. I read about this last night, and when I woke up this morning, I felt helpless and tired. We know social distancing is working to slow the spread. We know that we can open slowly if things are done properly. We want to get back to work, to get back to the way things were. We want normal.

We just went through Easter, the celebration of the resurrection. For Christians, this means the resurrection is our normal. The world is not our normal: the goodness of God is our normal. And I mean that in two ways. First, our faith helps us to live as if the resurrection was a real and certain promise that changes our lives. Second, that we being to live according to a new norm, the norm that God's love triumphs over death.

Therefore, we cannot go back to normal. We must go forward to normal.

Coronavirus has laid bare fault lines in our society. The line between those who can work from home, and those who can't. That horrible color line between communities of color most affected by the onslaught of this virus and the communities of privilege that have lower death rates. The line between political ideology and good government. 

A resurrection people will look at those lines and say, "These lines can't be normal. Not when Jesus has crossed the line between life and death. Not when we know we will, too."

I love our 7:00 p.m. ritual of cheering the front line workers. We cheer doctors, nurses, aides, grocery store workers, delivery people. Our girls stand in the window and make lots of noise. 

Now it's time for us to make noise to our elected officials, too, so that we can move forward to normal. We need telling them we can't go back to the old way. We need to tell them if this has done nothing else, it has revealed to us the necessity of good health care, good government, good public health, and a clean environment. Tell them we need testing and lots of it.

So I urge you: clap for the front line workers, and call your elected officials tonight. Tell them we need a wage supplement program as many European countries, including Great Britain, have instituted. Tell them we need health care for everyone. Tell them we need to stop fossil fuels. And when you tell them, tell them you know we can do this because we are a resurrection people, who know that with God, nothing is impossible. 

Pastor John


April 2, 2020

Dear Family of God:

The daffodils are blooming in the garden, and a bunch of other flowers whose names I don't know. The trees bud and bloom, the sun seems to grow stronger and brighter. Palms arrived in a box, ready to be prepared for a parade. All signs point to the Holy Week and Easter that we love and know. But Holy Week will come without the washing of feet, the adoration of the cross, the great vigil, the trumpets and pancake potluck of Easter morning. Instead, it will be another Zoom worship, another YouTube video, another day at home.

Nevertheless, this week is holy. It would be holy if it were not a special liturgical week, because "this is the day the Lord hath made; let us rejoice and be glad in it." This day, this week, are the Lord's--they are holy because God has caused the Earth to turn again, the sun to send out its rays, and sent us the Holy Spirit to comfort and strengthen us for this days. So, confident that God is with us, we can commend to God our minds, our bodies, and all that is ours, and be open to the ways that God wants to use us. 

We are going to celebrate Holy Week, beginning with Palm Sunday this Sunday. We will do another Zoom service--but we will also have our Parade of Palms. If you click here and here, you will find some downloadable templates for coloring palms. You can also trace your palm on a piece of paper and cut it out, if you wish, or really make any kind of palm you'd like. We will wave these palms and march around our living rooms--you can also wave them out your window and shout, "Hosanna in the highest!" 

On Maundy Thursday, I'll offer a meditation on Holy Communion that I'll share over YouTube and on our website. On Good Friday, we have a live Zoom broadcast at 7:30 p.m. We will do an Easter vigil of scriptural meditation and music, and a live Easter morning broadcast.  Soon I hope to do live daily prayer--watch for details on this next week.

In the meantime, you can follow video reflections on my YouTube channel here by various pastors and OSA members. And don't forget to get ready for Palm Sunday--we will be marching all over this neighborhood. It is a day the Lord will make: let us rejoice, and be glad in it.

Pastor John


March 27, 2020

Dear friends,

Lockdown continues, and with it, all our efforts to connect and support one another. I hope that by now, every church member has received a call from me or someone on our council for a check in. Please, if you ever need to talk, don't hesitate to call me. We have people ready to offer assistance with food and other items, so if you are quarantined and need help, let us know.

I'm also working on doing a daily video devotion on YouTube. More details to come--I'm enlisting members of OSA and some friends of mine to make reflections on hymns, Scripture, poems, and anything else that comes to mind to sustain us as time goes on. This should be up and rolling next week.

This social distancing is very hard. It's hard emotionally for everyone--we all feel anxiety, grief, stress, depression, uncertainty, and fear. It's hard work while supervising kids doing their schoolwork. It's hard to stay inside as the weather changes to spring. And perhaps most importantly, it's also very hard for many people financially--how to pay the bills when you can't work? 

No one knows how long this will last. I have seen epidemiologists counsel a two-month "pause," followed by slow expansion of movement. They believe this will keep the rate of infection manageable. If we do things carefully, we can find a semblance of normalcy in a few months. If we do things wisely, perhaps we can even improve our public health practices to make our lives better and safer. 

All this depends on us: first, by our commitment to one another by distancing; second, by our ability to hold our elected leaders accountable. For now, OSA will continue to follow the guidelines of the state. I encourage everyone else to do the same.

I am in recovery from my bout with Covid-19. Today, I graduate from quarantine to lockdown. I hope that I'm through my illness, and I hope I don't get it again! 

Today, this verse from the First Letter of John comes to mind: "Beloved, since God loves us so much, we also ought to love one another." Love casts out fear. It is a balm for grief and a path through depression. Don't forget that God loves you; don't forget to love one another.


Pastor John


March 20, 2020

Dear Family of God:

Everything has changed. Our lives have completely turned upside down. It’s too quiet in our neighborhood, too calm. But that is also good: perhaps we are beginning to mobilize and overcome this virus. 

I’d like to take a minute to pass along two important updates.

First, as of Sunday evening, March 22nd, all New Yorkers must stay at home except for exercise, groceries, and medical needs. Please familiarize yourself with the order. It definitely means there will be no church on the 22nd! We will try to stay abreast with all developments as they come. Remember, we’re all in this together. We will get through it together, and we will rebuild together. We can do this—together. In the meantime, it’s encouraging to hear the governor say that New York is now testing more people per capita than South Korea and China. Finding the virus and quarantining it is the key to overcoming it: and New York is finally doing that.

Second, OSA has taken steps to clean all public spaces according to CDC guidelines. Our custodial staff, Christopher and Lidia, deserve our thanks and gratitude for their very quick response. They used CDC approved materials in accordance to CDC guidelines. You can rest assured that common areas in the church are clean and ready for use, once the order is lifted.

The exception to this rule is the kitchen, which is being used by a guest whom we have been hosting in our hospitality suite for about a month and a half, since before the breakout occurred. The kitchen, however, will be cleaned every morning and evening according to CDC guidelines.

I have been staying home, as has my family. We have kept our distance from almost everybody. It’s a hard thing to do. We long to see others, but know it is safest for everyone to avoid one another. My chief symptom now is fatigue, which seems to come in cycles. According to the trajectory of the disease, I’m right in the middle of the hard part. I hope this is as bad as it gets for me—but please keep me in prayer. And not only me, but also my magnificent wife, who has been handling the bulk of the childcare and cooking. And please pray for all families who now have a positive case in their homes.


Clare and I also appreciate all the offers of help and food we have received. It’s been overwhelming and we feel so blessed and thankful. You are an amazing community—thank you.

It would be sad if we were the only ones who benefited this way. Please, if you need help, send Jane or me a note. We will safeguard your anonymity. If you’d like to offer help, send us a note. We will organize help as needed. 

OSA’s Executive Committee will meet over Zoom soon to discuss next steps. Right now we all need to hunker down and be patient with one another. Look for another interactive bulletin and taped sermon on Sunday. I have a couple other things up my sleeve that I’m looking forward to doing once I feel better.

Finally, some words to help us from St. Paul:
 Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor. Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers.

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are. Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, "Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord." No, "if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads." Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

We will overcome this evil by doing good. So please pray, especially for our government and those who protect us, and every single health care worker everywhere. If you are a nurse, doctor, aide, or any other kind of health care worker, God bless you and protect you, strengthen you, and defend you. Thank you for protecting us.

Pastor John


February 26, 2020

Dear Friends,
Join us tonight for Ash Wednesday services at 7:30 p.m. After all, who else is going to tell you that you are going to die? It’s a truth we don’t want to hear. It’s hard to face, so we usually face away from it. But every now then the reality comes to us: this, all this beauty, all this wonder, will someday continue without us. Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.
It can be hard to hear, especially if you’ve just lost someone you love. It can be hard to say goodbye to someone and then, coming to church, hearing that you will have to say goodbye yourself. But it can also be a comfort to hear the truth. We are not gods. We are not angels. We are dust, human dust, and to dust we shall return.
But we hear another truth, another promise. It is God’s promise to us, that the dust God has breathed into life will be turned to new life. Jesus, having died, will never die again. So we join him in death, as he joined us in death, so that we may also join him in life, as he has risen from the dead. There is a love that undergirds all this beauty and wonder that passes on without us, and that love calls us, even from beyond the grave.
Hear it tonight, for the first time or the last, or any time between.

 Pastor John


January 10, 2020

Dear Friends,


This Sunday marks one of the oldest feasts in the church calendar, the Baptism of Our Lord, which means, “Whoa! Jesus got baptized!” I remember when I first had to preach on this text—I was so confused. I know why I had to get baptized—why did Jesus, sinless and Son of God, have to get baptized?


Over time, I’ve found some answers to that question. Some seem satisfying at first and then less satisfying over time. But this year, I keep thinking of how the early church in places like Syria and Egypt that combined the celebration of Jesus’ birth and baptism into one great celebration on the 6th of January. I keep thinking about how I was taught, initially, to think about baptism—the binding of a person to God, making a person part of God’s family, the drowning of sin and death—and what seems to be going on in these old accounts—the revelation of God becoming human, the mark of the salvation of the cosmos, the casting down of idols, enlightenment. In other words, I was taught to think of baptism as God’s work on me, but now I’m beginning to think of baptism as that and more, God’s work on me as God works on everything, just as Jesus is my Savior and the Savior of the cosmos.


Or, as an old Christian letter put it: “This is he who was from the beginning, who appeared as if new, and was found old, and yet is ever born afresh in the hearts of the saints. This is he who, being from everlasting, is today called the Son; through whom the Church is enriched and grace, widely spread, increases in the saints, furnishing understanding, revealing mysteries, announcing times, rejoicing over the faithful, giving to those that seek…”


There’s more to our faith than just me and my relationship to God. In fact, something interesting happens once I let go of my grip on myself. I discover myself more as I see how God works everywhere, with everyone.


The Epiphany, the bright light of understanding, was sometimes the called the Theophany, the sight of God. If we want to see God, we must see the world as God does first— and that requires a lifting of a veil, new heart, new eyes—baptism. With a baptism, Jesus’ ministry begins, and so does ours. With baptism, Jesus is revealed as God’s child: and with baptism, so are we.


This is a great feast, and so come, for God invites you out into the adventure that awaits. My own confusion persists, but it is way more interesting than it was before.


Pastor John




December 19, 2019

Dear Friends,


If you’ve come to church with us, you may have noticed a few things: our building doesn’t look like a normal church building, we’re a quirky bunch of people, and you never know what kind of art you’re going to see on the walls. Anything can happen here, and often does, because God is on the move among us. But one thing’s for sure:  if you come to OSA you will have noticed that we have lots of kids and wonderful music.


This Sunday we will feature both those things. In the morning, our kids will offer the Christmas Pageant during Sunday worship, and at 4:30 in the afternoon, our Choir will present a Festival of Lessons and Carols. It’s going to be a spectacular day at OSA—please come for all the fun. There will snacks after church and a reception after the festival, so be sure to bring both food and an appetite to share. The Choir will be featuring Vivaldi’s Gloria, the handbells will ring, and we have instrumentalists ranging from the dulcimer to the double bass.


This is the season in which our striving to connect with God changes from dissonance to harmony. I hope you can be part of it with us.


Pastor John




December 13, 2019

Dear Friends,


If you’ve come to church with us, you may have noticed a few things: our building doesn’t look like a normal church building, we’re a quirky bunch of people, and you never know what kind of art you’re going to see on the walls. Anything can happen here, and often does, because God is on the move among us. But one thing’s for sure:  if you come to OSA you will have noticed that we have lots of kids and wonderful music.


This Sunday we will feature both those things. In the morning, our kids will offer the Christmas Pageant during Sunday worship, and at 4:30 in the afternoon, our Choir will present a Festival of Lessons and Carols. It’s going to be a spectacular day at OSA—please come for all the fun. There will be snacks after church and a reception after the festival, so be sure to bring both food and an appetite to share. The Choir will be featuring Vivaldi’s Gloria, the handbells will ring, and we have instrumentalists ranging from the dulcimer to the double bass.


This is the season in which our striving to connect with God changes from dissonance to harmony. I hope you can be part of it with us.


Pastor John



December 5, 2019

Dear Friends,
I forgot to ask for your donations on Giving Tuesday. Well, I didn’t so much as forget as decide not to ask. Every time I think of Giving Tuesday, I think of a Black Friday scrum some years ago at what I believe was a Walmart. The doors opened, the crowd surged, and people died, trampled over by other people.  So we have, in one week, Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and Giving Tuesday. The pause at Thanksgiving is a beautiful—feeling, that lull in activity, seeing the empty streets, the shuttered shops. Something, however briefly, matters more than commerce. But then the malls open, the traffic resumes. Then I catch myself Sunday night scrolling through the deals on my computer, beginning with things I need and ending with justifying my bank account to the things I want. Sometimes they are things I never knew I wanted until see them, in all their digital glory, in the beautiful glow of my computer screen.
I have thought of Giving Tuesday as an indulgence, a place you put your money to gain a reprieve of conscience. In my mind it looks like this: For 36 hours, you have enjoyed an orgy of spending: now please pay something to the National Resources Defense Council to mitigate whatever object lust you may have stoked. Perhaps it will allay some of the environmental damage done to make and ship the things you ordered, and rekindle a bit of reflection on the real meaning of life.
In that sense, I really can’t stand Giving Tuesday. It is an offense to the sensibility we try to develop as Christians, in which we encounter the complete self-giving of God at the Eucharistic table and in the effluence of Creation. It smacks of an attempt to buy virtue without changing character. It seems like a way charities, churches, and non-profits try to act like market actors when they are—or should be—alternatives to the ideology and practices of markets.
And yet. I need a pair of waterproof boots for hiking and getting around the city in rain and snow. Good ones don’t come cheap, but they are cheaper on Cybersale week at REI and Backcountry. Most of the outdoor equipment sellers include a button on their checkout page that asks for small donation to an environmental organization. You feel good because you’re getting something; it’s the holidays. Give a little.
I also read a story by a man who grew up poor. His family waited all year for Black Friday, because if they needed a fridge or a sofa, they couldn’t just go out and buy one. They had to save up and bide their time for the best price. Black Friday was important for his family. If they could save, and if they could get to the store, they could afford what they needed. And so he said, “Don’t be too hard on Black Friday doorbusters.” But yet isn’t that the point, too—why do the poor starve to bust the doors while the rich consume whenever they please?
Christians are supposed to give not just on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, but all the time. We are supposed to give because whatever we have does not truly belong to us: we are dust, the things are dust, and both we and the things we own will go down again into the dust. Whatever we have, we have received from the open hand of God. And so we, having received grace upon grace from God’s open hand, steward what God has given with our own hands, open and stretched out to anyone in need. We call this stewardship, and we are to see ourselves as stewards of the possessions of God. Giving builds our faith—giving helps us trust God, and is part of our formation into godliness.
It sounds nice. Sometimes it’s hard to remember when you are face to face with your wishlist on Amazon, or studying up on the New York Times best books of the year list. Or deleting email after email with great deals.
So we come to Advent, when we pray for the inbreaking of the kingdom of God in all our darkness. The lull of Thanksgiving, the freedom of not shopping, the delight of family, but most of all waiting for the presence of Christ, who fills all our needs, satisfies all our wants, and straightens all our warped desires.
Pastor John


November 21, 2019


Dear Friends,
Thank you for coming to our Boiler Benefit—and for supporting our fundraising efforts to replace our boiler. For two and a half hours last Saturday night, our church was the coolest place in our neighborhood. Yes, there were keystone cops and 1920s characters, beautiful decorations, great food, plenty of wassail and cheer, and a sweet speakeasy. But it was the coolest place in our neighborhood because of all of you, who came together to support OSA and its work for the neighborhood, to celebrate our congregation and its ministry of welcome and hospitality to all. It’s fun to celebrate, and it’s especially fun to celebrate with your friends. And because of all of you, our event grossed $10,480! Now, we are working on tracking down one or two receipts, so the net will be less, but that’s a huge boost for us. So thank you so much—none of this could happen without all of you.
We remember another kind of celebration this Sunday—a celebration of passage. Luke tells us that after Jesus was crucified, he was lifted up before the crowd, who mocked him and encouraged him to save himself. Also they placed him between two criminals, on one his left, and one on his right. One of them mocked Jesus and laughed at him, again saying, “Save yourself and us!” It was quite a party, complete with sour wine. But the other criminal says, “…we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong. Jesus, remember me, when you come into your kingdom.” It was a simple prayer, but made in faith. He saw, on the cross, the man who really could save him. The man who undergoing the same pain, the man also under the penalty of death, that was the man the criminal asked for help. He could have pleaded with the soldiers, who had weapons and authority because of them. He could have appealed to the crowd, who may have rioted on his behalf. But he didn’t. At this party, he pled with the object of scorn and derision and he put his faith in his promise: “Today you will be with me in paradise.”
That party has not ended, and we, like the criminal place our faith in our crucified compatriot. We see ourselves in him. Our suffering, we see in him. Our estrangement, we see in him. But still, we see in him our hope, hope that God reigns over death, as well as life, and that nothing, nothing at all, can separate us from the love of God in that man, Christ Jesus. So we gather on Sundays to celebrate his presence among us and his promise to be with us in the feast of the eucharist. As Rowan Williams said, “We do not eucharistically remember a distant meal in Jerusalem, nor even a distant death: we are made ‘present to ourselves’ as people compilicit in the betrayal and death of Jesus yet still called and accepted, still companions of Christ in the strict sense—those who break bread with Him.” So come break bread with Jesus on Sunday.
Pastor John