What is inside of our hearts? Ash Wednesday 2021
The gospel chosen for Ash Wednesday ends with these profound words: “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
This exhortation of Jesus invites us to this question: Where is our heart? Or said in another way: What is inside our heart?
Briana my 12-year-old daughter, drew a heart map not too long ago. Inside that heart, she drew eight smaller hearts. Each map contained words of cherished treasures inside of them. One contained the words “family and friends;” another “Japan,” (she dreams of going to Japan one day); another with the word “candy,” (something that is not good for her teeth). Another said, “my phone;” another “baking;” yet another “drawing and painting.” The hearts continued to reveal her favorite things and hobbies. One gave tribute to her beloved cat and the last one was “roller skating.”
The map intrigued me, so I was quick to chat with her about its contents. Briana is a smart, kind, loving, focused, young lady. She loves her family, comes to church with us, and prays with us every night. So, I was somewhat surprised that the word “God” was not there. I asked her why and she didn’t know what to say.
Friends, where is our heart? And what do we have inside of it? We usually find in our hearts God and people. So, God, family, church, friends; God and people, relationships are in our hearts; not things but God and people.
We are encouraged to love God and people only and to only like things. But our culture has twisted the desires of our hearts. We find ourselves today liking, disliking, and even hating people; while we love things and ignore God. Many of us do not have God in our hearts.
If we allow our love of things to replace God and people, how does this impact our lives? Will this way of living bring us peace, joy, and hope?
In my house I don’t have an attic, but I do have some room under the stairs to store things. It is a dark and an uncomfortable place where we store our suitcases that we have not used in the last two years, toys that my daughters are not using anymore. I don’t even remember what else is in that place, but I know that there is a lot of dust. We never clean it, so it is a very dusty place.
If we go back to what Jesus says to us in this gospel, we know we don’t want to clutter our hearts with things. We don’t want to store them in a dark and dusty place. Jesus invites us to take our hearts away from those dark and dusty places, because He doesn’t want us to have a dusty heart. He wants us to have a clean, fresh, healthy, young, holy… as the psalm says, “a pure heart.” (Psalm 51)
The heart of a Christian, the heart of a follower of Jesus needs to be a pure heart. A pure heart is a heart that knows and chooses what is right and truthful. It dwells where there is mercy and compassion.
The season of Lent comes to us every year. It gives us forty days and forty nights to work in our hearts and minds and wills to help us to see what is within our hearts and to take out what is causing us pain, suffering and death.
Jesus went into the wilderness, a desert to look at his heart and He decided to keep his heart pure and clean until the end of his life. Also, he decided to spend his life, his entire life, helping us work on our hearts and souls so we can be clean and acceptable to God.
Let’s do this job this Lent again. We need to look at what our hearts love and want. Fasting, praying and almsgiving enable us to see clearly what the inclinations of our hearts are, and to lift them up to God, to our families, our church members, neighbors and others who are open to accept our love, so we can live in a world of peace, love and hope.
So, what is in our hearts? Let us find out. Amen.
Address of Fr. Fabio Sotelo, priest-in-charge, January 24, 2021
Saint Edward’s Episcopal Church, Lawrenceville, Georgia
Good Morning dear friends of our parish community of Saint Edwards. It is an honor to deliver this address to you as your priest-in-charge in this year 2021 of the Lord Jesus Christ. Thank you God for giving me the grace to lead this church; thank you parishioners for your prayers and support for me, my wife and my girls so I have the wisdom and heart to lead this community of faith.
Looking back at the year 2020, I believe you agree with me that last year was not an easy year; rather, it was a very difficult one. I don’t want to go through a year like this again in my life; I don’t know how we made it, and how we did it, the only thing is that I don’t want to go through a year like that again. We don’t have the energy to do this again and we are tired, so dear God, listen to our prayers, and “make haste to help us.” We are exhausted; this pandemic is so hard for all of us, illness and death are everywhere, and our way to recovery is still far away; dear God, we go to you, please “make speed to save us.”
At the beginning of the year 2020 everything was looking great and promising. After our annual meeting last year, the vestry had the retreat, we set our goals and started doing our holy work with a fresh air and committed spirit.
I do remember talking to Bernadette Matthews about how proud we were for having reached our goal of raising $1000 to contribute to the Hunger Walk, and my plan to bring a priest to cover for me so I could join the youth group to participate in this important event. Then, from nowhere all started getting gray, cloudy, and messy. COVID-19 traveled fast from China to Washington State, to Georgia… all over… in matter or days… hours, rushing us to close buildings and sheltering us in our own homes full fear and uncertainty.
Our church, our services, what was going to happen to them? It seemed that COVID-19 was striking the very heart and soul of our church: which is community, where we break bread together, drink wine from the same cup, sing joyful songs, give big hugs when we are happy and when we cry.
Then the question, how to do church in another way?
At the beginning we thought it was going to be two to three weeks … then three months, then to the summer, then to the fall, and here we are… it has been a very long and a difficult journey. We always worried when somebody gets the virus, every day we are concerned who is going to be next.
I must say, for the grace of God, the church continues to be open and to do ministry because of you. I thank the vestry, our staff, the Music ministry, the choir, the communications ministry, the worship committee and the Pastoral ministry. All of these ministries have been present, putting together their faith, imagination, love and commitment to offer to our parishioners our online services and caring for those who are at home isolated, sick and lonely.
You, all of you, thank you for providing resources so we have the means to do ministry. Thank you for your commitment and fidelity to your parish. Thank you for making sure that our church continues doing well and serving all.
The year 2020 has been a great year to learn new things and to discover the meaning of our faith, the importance of our community and the talents that God has given to us to do ministry in hard times. This year has helped me to see more clearly the deep love you have for the Saint Edwards community.
As we are looking forward to this new year 2021, I hear the call of Jesus that was read in the gospel today. “Follow me… I will make you fishers of men,” which means two things for me: One, that if we follow Jesus, we won’t get lost, because Jesus is ahead of us, he knows the way, and there is no place where we will go that Jesus has not already been there; Jesus knows the ways very well, remember, he is ahead of us. I know that sometimes we feel lost and uncertain about where to go next, but following the way of Jesus is our way, and perhaps the only way. Two, if we follow Jesus, we are safe, because his ways are true, and they lead us to life. So, my invitation to you this morning, at the beginning of this year is very simple and clear: let us follow Jesus the Lord, and we will be fine.
I am so grateful for Jesus’ invitation, this means that he still trusts us, and he trusts us because he loves us, and knows that we will catch many fish for his nets. He trusts that we will do the things that need to be done, and we will do them well.
Our buildings continue partially closed, but our church is open and very active, because church is you and me, baptized people who said, what Peter said: “to whom shall we go… only you Lord have the words of eternal life…” and then, “we will follow you, wherever you go.”
For now, we will continue doing ministry from home waiting for the day, I hope soon, when we can come back together to do what we know to do: worship God in spirit and in truth and serve God’s people with love and care.
Until that is possible, I invite you to wear your mask, keep your social distance, go out only to do essential things, get your vaccine as soon as it becomes available, and care for yourself. We don’t want to lose anyone. Because all, all of you, all adults, all children, and youth, all, are important to God, to me and to Saint Edwards.
Blessings, health, and peace for all of you in this new year of the Lord 2021.
Buenos días queridos amigos de nuestra comunidad parroquial de San Eduardo. Es un honor el dirigirme hoy a ustedes como su sacerdote, en este año 2021 del Señor Jesucristo. Doy gracias a Dios por la gracia que me da de dirigir a esta iglesia; y doy gracias a ustedes por sus oraciones y apoyo que me dan a mi, a mi esposa y a mis niñas para tener la sabiduría y el corazón para dirigir a esta comunidad de fe.
Mirando hacia el ano 2020, creo que ustedes están de acuerdo conmigo para afirmar que el año pasado no fue un año fácil para nadie; por el contrario, este año fue muy difícil para todos. Yo no quiero vivir otro año como ese en mi vida; no se cómo ni de qué manera lo hicimos, pero lo único que se es que no quiero vivir otra vez un año como ese; todos nos sentimos cansados y no tenemos la energía de hacerlo otra vez. Por eso le pido a nuestro amado Dios que nos escuche y que “se de prisa en socorrernos.” Estamos cansados; esta pandemia ha sido muy dura para todos: enfermedades y muerte por todos lados, y nuestro camino de recuperación aun lejos; querido Dios, acudimos a ti, por favor, “date prisa y socórrenos.”
Al comienzo del año 2020 todo parecía bien y prometedor. Después de la reunión anual del año pasado, el vestry tuvo su retiro, trazamos unas metas y comenzamos a hacer nuestro santo trabajo con un aire fresco y un comprometido espíritu.
Me acuerdo de una conversación que tuve con Bernadette Mathews sobre lo felices que estábamos que habíamos logrado llegar a nuestra meta de $1000 para ofrecerlos a Hunger walk, y de mi plan de buscar a un sacerdote que me cubriera mientras yo iba con los jóvenes a participar de este evento tan importante. Luego, no se de dónde todo comenzó a ponerse gris, nubado y desordenado. Covid 19 viajó muy rápido desde China al Estado de Washington, a Georgia… a todo lado… en cuestión de días, horas… urgiéndonos llenos de miedo e incertidumbre a cerrar nuestros edificios para refugiarnos en nuestras propias casas.
Nuestra iglesia, nuestros servicios, que iba a pasar con ellos? Pareciere como si el Covid-19 estuviese golpeando el corazón y el alma de nuestra iglesia, lo cual es comunidad, donde partimos pan juntos y tomamos de la misma copa de salvación, cantamos con gozo y nos damos abrazos cuando estamos felices y cuando lloramos.
¿Y luego la pregunta, cómo hacer iglesia de una manera diferente?
Al comienzo pensamos que iba a ser solo dos o tres semanas… luego tres meses, luego hasta el Verano o el otoño… y aquí estamos… Qué largo y difícil camino. Siempre pensando quién tiene el virus, quién se va a enfermar y si se van a recuperar.
Tengo que decir que, por la gracia de Dios, la iglesia continua abierta y haciendo su misión y esto es gracias a Dios y gracias a ti. Yo agradezco al vestry, al equipo de trabajo de la iglesia, al ministerio de música, al coro, al ministerio de Comunicaciones, al comité de liturgia y al ministerio pastoral. Todos estos ministerios han estado presentes, pusieron juntas su fe, su imaginación, su amor y su compromiso para ofrecer a nuestros feligreses servicios a través del internet y para llegar a todos aquellos que están en sus casas enfermos, aislados y deprimidos.
Tu, todos ustedes, gracias por proveer los recursos para tener los medios suficientes para hacer nuestra obra. Gracias por tu compromiso y fidelidad a tu parroquia. Gracias por asegurarte que tu iglesia continua adelante sirviendo a todos.
El año 2020 ha sido un año para aprender cosas nuevas y para descubrir más profundamente el significado de la fe y la importancia de nuestra comunidad, y los talentos que Dios nos da para hacer nuestro ministerio en tiempos difíciles. Este año me ha ayudado a mi a ver con mayor claridad el profundo amor que tu tienes por tu iglesia de San Eduardo.
Al mirar al año 2021, yo escucho la llamada de Jesús que acabamos de leer en el evangelio de hoy. “Sígueme… yo te hare pescador de hombres…” lo cual significa dos cosas para mi: Primero, que si nosotros seguimos a Jesús no nos perderemos, porque Jesús va adelante de nosotros, el conoce el camino, y no hay ningún lugar a donde tengamos que ir que Jesús ya no haya estado ahí; Jesús conoce el camino muy bien; y recuerda, El va adelante de nosotros. Se que muchas veces nosotros nos sentimos perdidos y sumidos en la incertidumbre sobre a dónde ir, pero siguiendo el camino de Jesús vamos bien, ese es nuestro camino, y tal vez nuestro único camino. Segundo, si seguimos a Jesús, nosotros estamos seguros, porque su camino es verdad, y lleva a la vida. Entonces mi invitación para ti esta mañana, al comienzo de este nuevo año es muy simple y clara: Sigamos a Jesús el Señor, y nos ira bien.
Me siento muy agradecido por la invitación de Jesús, esto significa que Jesús aun confía en nosotros; El confía porque nos ama, y sabe que nosotros pescaremos muchos peces para sus redes. El confía que nosotros haremos las cosas que El nos pide hacer y que las haremos bien.
Nuestros edificios continúan parcialmente cerrados, pero nuestra iglesia esta abierta y activa, porque la iglesia eres tú y yo, gente bautizada que dice, como lo dijo Pedro: “A quién iremos… solo tú Señor tienes las palabras de vida eterna…” y luego: “Te seguiremos a donde quiera que vayas.”
Por ahora continuaremos ejerciendo nuestros ministerios desde nuestros hogares esperado el día, el cual espero que venga pronto, cuando podamos volver a hacer en nuestra iglesia lo que sabemos hacer bien: adorar al Señor en espíritu y verdad y servir a su pueblo con amor y cuidado.
Hasta que esto sea posible, te invito a seguir usando tu tapabocas, a guarda tu distanciamiento social, ve afuera solo para lo esencial, ponte la vacuna tan pronto esté disponible y cuídate mucho. Nosotros no queremos perder a nadie, porque todos, todos ustedes, adultos, ancianos, niños y jóvenes, todos, son importantes para Dios, para mi y para San Eduardo.
Bendiciones, salud y paz para todos ustedes en este nuevo año del Señor 2021.
January 01, 2021. This morning as I woke up, I asked myself what gift I can offer to all of you, who are part of this great parish community of Saint Edwards. Then, God said to me: “Pray for them, this is your first and most important duty.” So, I did. I got up and offered my morning prayer for all of you. Prayer is a vital impulse of the spirit; prayer is a channel of God’s power and grace; through prayer God shares his Spirit and everlasting glory. Let us pray to God adoring Him in Spirit and Truth.
May God bless you every day of this new year. May God keep you from all evil, and open for you the doors to live in hope, faith and love. Please know that I have not only prayed for you today, but that I will pray for you every day of this new year. I know that you are also praying with and for me and helping our community in this mission of “support, restore and strengthen” our parish.
I love you all in the love of Jesus. Fr. Fabio S.+
Enero 01, 2021. Al despertar hoy me pregunte qué regalo de nuevo año podría dar a cada uno de ustedes, los que forman parte de esta bonita comunidad de San Eduardo. Entonces Dios me dijo: “Ora por ellos.
Este es tu deber mas importante que tienes para ellos.” Y así lo hice. Me levante y ofrecí para ustedes la oración de la mañana al comenzar el nuevo ano 2021. Ore por cada uno de ustedes, sus familias e historias. La oración es un impulso vital del espíritu; es un canal del Poder y la Gracia de Dios; a través de la oración Dios comparte su Espíritu y su gloria eterna. Oremos a Dios y adorémoslo en Espíritu y en Verdad.
Que Dios los bendiga cada uno de los días de este ano. Que Dios los bendiga en cada paso que den, los guarde de todo mal y les abra puertas de éxito y esperanza. Y sepan que no solo ore hoy por ustedes, sino que lo hare cada día del año, como su sacerdote que soy. Espero que ustedes oren por mi también, y se unan conmigo en esta misión de “apoyar, restaurar y fortalecer” a nuestra iglesia.
Los quiero en el amor de Cristo. P. Fabio Sotelo+
Address to the Parish community
Annual Meeting – Saint Edward, January 2026, 2020
The Rev. Fabio Sotelo, Interim Priest
Dear Vestry members and officers, Dear staff, Dear parishioners,
Brothers and sisters in Christ
It is with great joy that I am delivering this message as the Interim Priest of this Parish Community of Saint Edwards. It is hard to believe that when I was asked by the bishop Wright to come to Saint Edwards five years ago, 2014, to start a service in Spanish, it was going to take me to be the priest for the whole community, very hard to believe.
I still do not understand all what it means to be the interim priest, but what I know is that it is a great honor and it carries out a profound responsibility. Honor, because I love and respect each and all of you. Responsibility, because I know that God is entrusting to me the care of your spiritual lives.
Can I do this work? I can do it because I am not alone. I am not going to do this alone. I saw the Bishop at the ATL revival last Wednesday, and I said to him “What have you done to me, Bishop?” He smiled, gave me big hug and said, ‘take your time, take your time, and do not worry, you are not alone, you have my full support.” So, I have his support. But not only that, of the vestry’s, and parishioners. And above all, I have God’s support, who guides me and gives me the strength.
You already know me, which in a way, makes this transition easier. I have my own way of doing things: It is to empower you, the laity to do the work God is asking you to do, which is to work for God’s kingdom.
From the moment I knew I was going to be your priest, I have been praying, thinking and dreaming what can we accomplish together in this parish during my leadership here? It is not clear to me, yet. But what I know is that it has to be something big; it has to be something holy; it has to be something remarkable; something that includes:
- Be a strong multicultural and bilingual parish in this diocese… One parish, speaking more than one language; so, please, no more “Mision latinX;” but one parish, two languages, many people. Anglo, Caribbean, African, Asian, Latino. All followers of Jesus, parishioners of the beloved Episcopal Church of Saint Edwards, loving each other in the love of Christ; supporting one another and being truly witnesses of our faith.
- Be strong in evangelism, no more waiting for people to come, but we need to go out and offer Jesus to the people who are waiting for someone to invite them to do something special with their lives, and that is to follow Jesus in the Episcopal traditions.
- Be strong in children and youth programs; we need to continue working with our youth and children. There is a lot of work to do in this area, without them, there is no future.
- Be a Church that is Prophetic in our words and actions; a church that is not afraid to tell the truth. Be a parish that is not quiet before the injustices and abuses that are happening everywhere and that are stepping on our dignity.
In order to do my work well, dear friends, I need you:
- So please believe in God; but also believe in yourselves. You can do it; we can do it.
- Pray for your parish and for me always.
- Be member, become active. Get involved if you are not already. This parish has very talented people, please get involved in our ministries.
- Come to church as often as you can. Weekly is what we are called to do.
- Financial support. Pledge sacrificially. We need to strengthen your common house, your church, your house of prayer. I know that financially we can do better than what we are doing right now.
I will meet soon with the vestry to set some goals for this year, and we will let you know what these goals are.
Jesus, in the gospel of Matthew that we read Sunday morning, when he heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew to Galilee, to begin his public ministry; it is marking a new beginning in his life. I also hope that today it is a new begining in our parish and spirituality to join Jesus proclaiming with words and actions that the Kingdom of God has come near… that is, it is about time to proclaim that Jesus is present in our lives, it is time to heal, to empower, to make disciples in the name of God who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.