Monthly Archives: January 2011

A Thank You to All Saints

Dear All Saints Church Family,

Sunday night was a beautiful and exhilarating experience for me and my family. I was overwhelmed by the seriousness and responsibility of my calling and the vows that I spoke, but I was equally overwhelmed by the sense of God’s empowering presence in the midst of my response to God’s call. I was humbled by your love and support for me and my family as well. Thank you for participating in the service; for being friends; and for being brothers and sisters in Christ.

To preside at the table for the first time and offer the Eucharistic prayers was a highlight that I will not forget. Looking out at so many people whom and love and care so much for and asking the Lord to come and be present to us and offering him praise and thanksgiving on behalf of you was a joyful and sacred experience. Thank you for who you are to me and my family. I love All Saints Church and I have learned much from you about life, about who God is and how he works and about what true community looks like in Christ. I look forward to our relationships deepening and to faithfully and diligently serving you as a priest.

I pray that God will continued to be glorified and honored by our church and that Jesus would continue to be made known to our communities as a result of All Saints Church.

Yours in Christ,
Thomas Kortus

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The Priestly Ordination of Reverend Thomas Kortus


Thomas Kortus was ordained to the Priesthood by the Right Reverend Terrell Glenn on Sunday, January 16th at 7 pm at All Saints Church!

An excerpt from the ordination liturgy:

You have heard, throughout the Church’s discernment of your vocation, in the sermon just preached, and in the Holy Scriptures themselves, of the dignity and great importance of this Office to which you are called. Now again we exhort you, in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you remember how dignified and important is your calling: to be a messenger, watchman, and steward of the Lord; to teach and to warn, to feed and provide for the Lord’s family; and to seek for Christ’s lost sheep, his children in the midst of this fallen world, that they may be saved by him forever.

Always remember, therefore, how great a treasure is the congregation committed to your charge. They are the sheep of Christ, which he bought with his death, and for whom he shed his blood.  The Church and congregation you will serve is his bride, his body.  And if it should happen that the Church, or any member thereof, is hurt or hindered by your negligence, you know the significance of your fault, and the grievous judgment that will follow. For this reason never cease to labor, with care and diligence, until you have done all that you are able, according to the promises you make, to bring those committed to your charge into that unity in the faith and knowledge of God, and to maturity and fullness in Christ, that there might be no place left among you either for error in religion, or for persistently indulging the vices of life.

Be mindful, however, that you cannot do this on your own; for the will and the ability is given by God alone. Therefore you ought, and need, to pray earnestly for his Holy Spirit. And seeing that there are no other means to accomplish such an important work, as it pertains to the salvation of souls;   consider how studiously you ought to read and learn the Scriptures, and conduct yourself, your household, and all those committed to your care, according to its rule, to be a wholesome and godly example for your people to follow. For this reason, you ought to forsake and set aside all worldly cares and concerns as much as you are able.

Thomas pictured with his wife Amy, and children Evelyn (18 months), Hudson (7 yrs), and Audrey (5 yrs).

(L-R) Rev. Nick Jordan, newly priested Rev. Thomas Kortus, Rev. David Hyman

Rector Steve Breedlove w. Rev. Thomas Kortus

Collect for Ordination
Almighty God, giver of all good things, by your Holy Spirit you have appointed various Orders of Ministry in your Church; mercifully behold this your servant now called to the Office of Priesthood; and so fill him with your truth, and adorn him with holiness of life, that, both by word and good example, he may faithfully serve you in this Office, to the glory of your Name, and the edification of your Church; through the merits of Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the same Holy Spirit, world without end.  Amen.

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thank you notes

One of the beautiful things about working in ministry, I’m learning, is the frequency with which my work overlaps with what is really important in life.

It was the week before Christmas, and there was too much to do.  Too much work: preparing for Christmas Eve service, two Sundays’ worth of activity preparation for the kids, year-end budgeting, nursery clean up.  Too much preparation at home: hundreds of truffles to make, a monstrous scrapbook gift to finish, a day-long road trip to the frozen tundra looming two days before Christmas.  Too much planning: gifts to buy, laundry and packing to start (and finish!), stockings to stuff, family outings to organize.  And too much “regular” life with which to keep up: dinner to make, dishes to wash, pine needles to vacuum, family to care for, third trimester to endure.

And on Monday of this week of too much, I had ministry thank you notes to write.  Nearly forty children’s ministry volunteers to thank, each with an individual note.  It would take all morning.  But if the notes were to get in the mail, Monday had to be the day.  So I turned on some Christmas music, closed the door, and settled in to the task I envisioned to be slow and frustrating and not the best use of precious time in which I could do too much else.

And this is where my work in ministry reminded me of what my too-busy real life ought to be about.  Because as I wrote each volunteer’s name, as I thanked each person for what s/he has brought to the ministry for the past year, as I really considered the sacrifices each of these people makes to care for and teach and love on our church’s youngest members, I had time to stop and pray for each one.  I had time to lift up the burdens that I knew some were carrying, to give thanks for the joys some others were experiencing, to give thanks for the faithful service of each one.

On paper, all I accomplished that morning was to check off one item on my list: write thank you notes.  But in reality, in the quiet moments I spent realizing how grateful I was for each volunteer I checked off my list, I accomplished something much more important, something that is a perpetual struggle for me.  I was still and grateful.  I was in the presence of the Lord, alone in my quiet space, and I was reminded of his many gifts to me—that day, I was specifically reminded of the gifts of all the people that come alongside me in ministering to our church’s children.  And I had the time and space to thank him for that gift, on that day of all days when I had no time for stillness or quiet or gratitude.

My scrapbook didn’t get finished in time (and it’s still not finished).  My laundry didn’t get done.  My packing was disorganized and insufficient.  I didn’t get nearly enough sleep.  But my soul was rejoicing in God’s great gifts, and in a world of too-much-all-the-time, it is yet another good gift when my job reminds me to be still and revel in those gifts.  And what better way to prepare to celebrate the birth of Jesus—God’s very best gift—than to do just that?

-Daniele Jackson

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All Saints on Mission

Jesus_mission_sign

Steve preached a compelling message yesterday. We love and serve a generous and gracious God who has given everything that we might be rescued from sin and death and have true life in Christ. As children of God we are called to live and love in light of who our God is, generously reaching out in love to those in need around us.

One of my favorite prayers in the Book of Common Prayer is found in the Service of Morning Prayer on page 101:

Lord Jesus Christ, you stretched out your arms of love on the hard wood of the cross, that everyone might come within the reach of your saving embrace.  So clothe us in your Spirit that we, reaching forth our hands in love, may bring those who do not know you to the knowledge and love of you; for the honor of your name. Amen.

So now what? How can you and your family or friends actually reach out and love and serve those in need? What are some next steps?

I have the privilege of serving on the Local Missions Team at All Saints Church and I would love to give you a run-down of what we are doing and how you and your friends or family could get involved in local mission.

All Saints has three levels of involvement in local mission: Partners, Projects, and Programs.

Local Mission Partners are people and organizations that we believe in –  folks doing gospel-centered outreach in our community that we partner with financially and relationally. These are not random people and organizations; we have deep connections with these organizations, and in many cases the people we partner with are essential members of our church body.

Local mission projects and programs arise as needs are made known to our church and we feel called by the Spirit to move into the need. Projects are events that happen once a year, while Programs are ongoing. Programs take the most time and energy, but they are highly relational and bring the richest rewards. Here is a list of our local mission partners, programs, and projects, and ways for you to get involved:

Local Mission Partners:

  • World Relief – Consider volunteering as a resettlement partner. There are thirty refugee families living in Oak Creek Village from all over the world who are fleeing persecution in their home countries and starting over here in the US. You could adopt a couple, individual, or family  for 3-6 months and help them in this time of transition. Contact Tim McGee for more information. To learn more about World Relief visit their website: www.worldrelief.org.
  • Samaritan Health Clinic – SHC is a free medical clinic for homeless adults and children  as well as World Relief refugees which operates in downtown Durham. To learn more, visit the SHC website  (www.samaritanhealthcenter.org/SHC/). Contact Karyn Stitzenberg to find out how to volunteer.
  • Young Life – Pray for Rob Crocker (the new area director), local young life leaders, and students. Contact Rob about ways to get involved.
  • Ralph EnnisThe Navigators – Pray for Ralph as he writes for and trains Navigator staff around the country. Pray for Ralph and contact him for ways to support him and get involved in his ministry.
  • Hank Tarlton – InterVarsity Christian Fellowship Graduate Student and Faculty Ministries at UNC – Pray for Hank and contact him for ways to support him and get involved in his ministry.
  • Charlie Densmore – Campus Crusade for Christ – Duke University Undergraduate Ministries. Pray for Charlie and contact him for ways to support him and get involved in his ministry.
  • John and Julie Farmer – InterVarsity Christian Fellowship – UNC Undergraduate Ministries – Pray for John and Julie and contact them for ways to support them and get involved in their ministry ( jfarm07@gmail.com // juliemarie.farmer@gmail.com )
  • Urban Hope – A ministry of the Navigators serving Walltown in Downtown Durham.  Visit their website ( www.urbanhope.us ) or email Bahari Harris to learn more about Urban Hope and to get involved.
  • Kairos Prison Ministry – Kairos meets the spiritual needs of incarcerated men, women, and children; their families; and those who work in the prison environment. Learn more by visiting their website www.kairosprisonministry.org.  Email or talk to Greg or Carol Ohmstede about their involvement (gohmstede@nc.rr.com // cohmstede@nc.rr.com )

Local Mission Programs

  • Eagles NestAn after-school tutoring program which meets at All Saints on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 3:45-6 pm. No Spanish is needed to tutor. Contact me (Thomas Kortus) for more information.
  • ESL Classes – Classes meet on Saturday mornings at Church of the Good Shepherd. Contact me for more information.

Local Mission Projects

  • Summer Kids Club – Youth and Adults plan and organize a summer kids camp for Oak Creek Kids that includes games, crafts, music, Bible stories, snacks and culminates in a community celebration for the kids and their families. When? TBD soon!)
  • Back-to-School Backpack Project – All Saints opens its doors to Oak Creek residents to come and receive backpacks, school supplies, and access to Durham Public School administrators and staff to ask questions.  The date for next school year’s event: Sunday, August 14, 2011
Our love of God is directly connected to our love of neighbor. 1 John 3 has always compelled me concerning this reality:
For this is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another….By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in DEED and in TRUTH.

It is clear that our love of God must produce concrete and tangible love for our neighbor in need. This is very clear in Jesus’ own teaching found in Matthew 25 in the parable of the sheep and the goats. In a mysterious and real way, how we respond to the needs of people has concrete spiritual implications. It matters.

 

Who are those in need in our community? In your life? Who is it that we are passing by daily? How should we respond? Is it complicated? Yes, but that does not mean we should not engage our neighbors in need. How is the Spirit leading you to respond to this call?

Consider getting involved with one of ASC’s local mission programs, projects or partners. Consider joining the Local Mission Team. Please contact me if you have any questions about how you can use your gifts, talents and time to love and serve our community.

-rev. thomas kortus

919-619-5007
thomas@allsaints-chd.org

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First Sunday After the Epiphany

Collect for the Day
Father in heaven, who at the baptism of Jesus in the River Jordan proclaimed him your beloved Son and anointed him with the Holy Spirit: Grant that all who are baptized into his Name may keep the covenant they made, and boldly confess him as Lord and Savior; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, in glory everlasting.  Amen.

Isaiah 42:1-9
Acts 10:34-43
Matthew 3:13-17

Sermon: “The Relentless Goal of God” by Rev. Steve Breedlove (click here for sermon audio)

Book Recommendation (referenced by Steve during the sermon):

Click the book to check current prices at various booksellers

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Epiphany

File:Magi (1).jpg

Throughout the history of Christianity, Epiphany has been about many things and it has been about one thing.

About many things…
In the East, there has long been a connection between Epiphany and the Baptism of Jesus, when the Spirit descended in the form of a dove.  In the West, we tend to focus instead on the coming of the Magi, who followed a newly appeared star and brought gifts to Jesus.  In fact, in Spain and much of Spanish-speaking Central and South America, today is known as El Día de los Reyes (The Day of the Kings).

Building on the story of the Wise Men, Epiphany is also worth celebrating because those non-Jewish gift-givers represent all of us Gentiles whom God came to save in Jesus.  And one final meaning: a connection has often made between Epiphany and the Wedding Feast of Cana, where Jesus began his public ministry by performing his first miracle–turning water into wine.

About one thing…
However Christians have remembered Epiphany throughout history, we have always remembered and celebrated together the revealing of God in Jesus, who is very God and very Man, the Light of the World.  As Isaiah first put it and then Matthew repeated…

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shined.

A Prayer for Epiphany
(An Eastern Orthodox Post-Communion Prayer for Christmas Day)

Thy Nativity, O Christ our God,
Has shown to the world the light of wisdom.
For by it those who worshipped the stars,
Were taught by a star to adore Thee,
The Sun of Righteousness.
And to know Thee the Orient from on high,
O Lord, Glory to Thee!

(by Rev. Nick Jordan)

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Jesus Preaching Jesus

Day #3 in the current Battle Against the (Christmas) Bulge, and the best thing about it has been the opportunity to catch up on some reading while trying to outrun the elliptical machine.  Yesterday I read an intriguing article in the December issue of Christianity Today, “Jesus vs Paul” by Scot McKnight.

The contrast between the main theme of Jesus’ preaching, the Kingdom of God, and the main theme of Paul’s preaching, justification by faith, has long demarcated Christian camps.  Mainline denominations, theological liberals and social justice proponents have claimed Jesus and the Gospel of the kingdom as the main message.  Evangelicals and theological conservatives have focused almost exclusively on Pauline theology.

As a theological conservative I resist any idea that Jesus’ and Paul’s teaching are opposed, but I understand the tension.  As a preacher, it has been a practical challenge: when we transitioned into the Anglican world, I noticed that Anglican preachers usually preach out of the Gospels and rarely comment on the epistles – a noticeable shift from the non-denominational world.  For 30 years, I had lived, breathed and preached Paul, but Anglicans were different.  The lectionary assumes that the Gospel lesson will normally be the text of the sermon.

McKnight does an excellent job of addressing the perceived opposition of Jesus and Paul and giving a true via media (middle way).  Both Jesus and Paul preach the Gospel, and the Good News encapsulates both kingdom and justification.  But the heart of the Gospel “operates on a foundation deeper than either” that causes the “supposed disjunction between Jesus and Paul” to disappear.  What is this deeper foundation of the Gospel?

Using 1 Corinthians 15:1-8 as a base for his argument, McKnight demonstrates that Paul’s Gospel is first and foremost about Jesus.  “I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins . . . that he was buried . . . that he was raised,” and so on.  According to Paul, the Gospel is “the saving story of Jesus that completes Israel’s story.  ‘To gospel’ is to tell a story about Jesus as the Messiah, as the Lord, as the Son of God, as the Savior.”  According to Paul, we proclaim the heart of the Gospel when we proclaim Jesus – who he is and what he came to do.

With that thought in mind, today’s Gospel reading in the Daily Office proved rich.  In John 15, Jesus says, “I am the true vine and my Father is the vinedresser.”   Considering the fact that one of the most frequent metaphors for Israel in the Old Testament is “the vine”, this is compelling.  The nation that was called to be the avenue of blessing for the world had miserably failed.  The vine that was meant to provide food for the world . . . didn’t.  It is a bitter lesson, but we have to hear it: no human being, no matter how blessed and favored, is adequate to save another.  Israel’s sad history proves a powerful lesson every person in the world needs to learn: we cannot save ourselves, much less one another.

But here is a Man who claims, “I am that true vine.”  Further, he says that, “Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”  These are bold claims.  We cannot mistake them: Jesus is proclaiming himself as the only source of life, and he is calling us into a life of actively depending on and relating to him.  Jesus is preaching Jesus.

Today, I am very thankful to be living out my life in a tradition that features the Gospels front-forward as crucial for our spiritual life and understanding.  The reality of Jesus’ incarnation, death, burial and resurrection is the substance of the Gospel.  It is the message upon which every other message that is truly Good News is built.  And what a great day today is, the Eve of Epiphany!  We stand on the cusp of the season when “the lights come on about Jesus.”  I’d like for “Jesus to preach Jesus” every day of this Epiphany.  I like Good News.

-Rev. Steve Breedlove

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Second Sunday After Christmas Day

Collect for the Day
O God, who wonderfully created, and yet more wonderfully restored, the dignity of human nature: Grant that we may share the divine life of him who humbled himself to share our humanity, your Son Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Jeremiah 31:7-14
Ephesians 1:3-14
John 1:10-18

“The Joy and Tragedy of the Incarnation” by Rev. Thomas Kortus (sermon audio here)
God has eternally joined himself to creation in the person of Jesus. Jesus is present, working and intimately involved in the world by his Spirit and this is the joy of the incarnation. The tragedy is that many do not recognize Jesus’ presence in the world or have rejected him. This tragedy is not limited to those outside the church. This sermon explores ways we fail to see where Jesus is and what he is doing and describes what it looks like to cultivate a life of awareness and participation in what Jesus is doing in us and in the world.

Bonus material (referenced by Thomas in his sermon):

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The Holy Name of Our Lord Jesus Christ

Eternal Father, you gave to your incarnate son the holy name of Jesus to be the sign of our salvation: Plant in every heart, we pray, the love of him who is the Savior of the world, our Lord Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.

(more info on this day is available from For All the Saints and more commentary from The Taser’s Edge)

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