Monthly Archives: July 2016

A Thursday Reflection 7.28.16

I subscribe to a journal that offers an e-version spiritual reflection each morning at 6 a.m.  Last Saturday, I read the homily below written by The Rev. Emily Hylden.   She is reflecting on a rather severe passage from the Old Testament – something from which we clergy usually shy away.  But her thoughts are piercing and provoke my own meditation, prayer and seeking of truth.  So I share her reflection with you.

 

Repent, for Peace
Daily Devotional • July 23
By the Rev. Emily R. Hylden

All week we have been traveling through Joshua and Romans, encountering challenging words of truth; today is no different. Jumping to the end of Joshua, as the leader gives his last charge to the people of Israel, he doesn’t mince words — if the people of God obey the Lord their God, they will be blessed; if they wander astray, they will be cursed. Passages like this are common throughout the Old Testament, and like sections from earlier this week, the finality of this pronouncement make us uncomfortable with its lack of conditions or contingencies.

If we’re to take this narration of the world seriously, not dismissing it out of hand as the biased and rudimentary musings of a frightfully un-nuanced and uneducated people, we must confront the difficult truth of trial and curse visited upon our own lives. Sometimes this is applied as a belief in faith healing — if only one believes enough and prays hard enough, then the restoration of health is sure to occur (except that sometimes it doesn’t turn out that way). Another alternative is to understand these pronouncements as a society-wide prophecy, with focus not as much on our personal piety but on our corporate attitudes and acts.

Those of us who live in cities that have not yet been the scene of recent violence and those of us whose skin color allows us to forget about race whenever we care to can pretend that we are not affected or complicit, but the truth is that we are all part of the global community suffering violence. We can choose either to stand by and watch the world continue devolving into violence over race, religion, and political affiliation or we can choose to lay down our hardness of heart and our disobedience, seeking instead God’s forgiveness and redemption, begging God to usher in his peace.

A Thursday Reflection 7.21.16

When I took on this reflection ministry, I had (foolishly) believed that I could create / compose four or five themes at a clip and have such reflections written weeks (even months) ahead of time!  The murderous events of the past weeks have proven how foolish such an assumption was.  God changes our agendas, and God is in charge, not me!

We’ve been called as a parish to witness to the persons, presence and power of God in a world that is more and more soaked in blood, sinking into narcissism, and preaching alienation and division.  All the world is “us vs. them” (just pick and choose your category du jour regarding who “them” is)!  The Triune God calls the communities of Jesus (which we call “churches”) to witness and in day to day life as followers of “the Way” (as we Christians were initially called).  Our parish has a purpose only if it stands against the priorities of what has become a “culture of death” and stands for the Way of Christ.

Budgets, committees, task forces, programs, schedules and classes are all important.  We need them to do our work which is Christ’s work.  We need to follow through on our commitments.  But most of all, we who have been redeemed by the death and resurrection of Jesus have to think, breathe, eat, spend, teach, nurture, believe and love according to HIS WAY – or we aren’t being what a disciple should be and do.  Every morning, when I witness yet another atrocity via news media and see how the Evil One stokes (or inculcates) the power of fear and violence, I must firmly commit myself, as a member of this local church, to live differently and allow Christ’s reconciling love to create in me a sign of His salvation.  We all must do so.  The world needs to see us do so.  Our nation needs to see us do so.  The Father, Son and Holy Spirit have called and empowered us to do so.   That is our purpose.  Lewisboro needs to hear our voices.  That’s why God has put us here.

A Thursday Reflection 7.14.16

I’ve been functioning in two different worlds these past days: the incredible anger, sadness and subsequent chaos that the senseless killing of two men of color and five police officers has initiated as well as the living out of the final chapters of my mom’s life – her postlude as it were.  And there is a connection.

By accident of timing, family gathered again at my Aunt’s 80th birthday, and I listened to many (until now, unknown to me) stories about my mom and what seems to have been a tempestuous and volatile relationship with her own parents.  There are periods of her life that no one can account for, and the point I am making is that, suddenly, for all my education and knowledge and alleged powers of observation, I find that I really did not know her.  We think we understand others.  We assume that we know what another experiences.  I presume that I understand what you have lived through and what the words that define your life’s journey mean to you as well as to another.  What hubris!

If there is anything we should be learning about the continued legacy of the sins of our forbearers in their legitimizing the abomination of slavery and its continued effects throughout generations, it is that no one should presume to know exactly what another has experienced or felt.  I know this nation of ours has desperately needed serious conversations (and actions) to undo the stains of racism.  We need to understand each other’s experiences with regard to law enforcement not to be told “you are right” but rather we are at the time when we must make what is broken right!  We need to face the complexities about gun violence in this country because I still weep for the little ones murdered in the Sandy Hook Elementary School but my eyes also fill with tears of sadness and rage at the murders of little children of our inner cities who are victims of gang violence or simply sitting (or sleeping) in the wrong place at the wrong time on the receiving end of the wrong bullet.

I write this reflection not as a person with any political agenda but as a priest.  I want to storm heaven with prayer for us as a nation – divided and seemingly not wanting to listen to the Lord (or each other).    I pray the Lord allows us to learn to truly listen to each other.  If we listen, and learn from one another, and pray with and for each other, reconciliation is a possibility.

Ironic isn’t it! What a thriving parish always needs: the ability to pray together and to learn from each other is exactly what our nation needs.  Because we really do not know as much about each other as we think we do!

A Thursday Reflection 7.7.16

I think you will agree that the last two weeks’ reflections have been rather intense.  So let’s lighten the mood a bit while still reflecting on matters of importance.

The July 4th evening was LOUD with private fireworks in the neighborhood going until well past darkness.  Having a small dog terrified of thunder and fireworks which, I suspect, she hears as gunshots (memories of her roaming the streets in S. Carolina when she was deemed a thrown away piece of garbage), she barks, growls, whines and shakes in fear.  Lessons to be learned:  Possession of stuff for fun is not a bad thing of itself.  (Are fireworks still illegal in New York?  Used to be, but I am uncertain!)   Still, just because one can do something doesn’t mean one should.  Having power without taking into consideration other members of a community is not a sign of strength but of unchecked narcissism.

Compassion comes in many forms: Last night I observed my beautiful JoAnne just lying on the bed and virtually shielding Abby from the noises with her body as she covered, petted, and whispered to her in the hopes of calming her “puppy’s” poor frightened soul.  Lesson learned: Compassion is often best given to those who cannot offer it back or those who may be helpless.  You might want to pre-read this coming Sunday’s Gospel, euphemistically called “The Parable of the Good Samaritan.”

This morning, of course, life returned to “normal.”  Abby is about running and playing and eating (and being sneaky about it) and bringing joy to self and others.  Lesson learned:  In the end, remaining a victim of other’s actions always gives them the victory.  Where one can let go of the hurt and live in the moment, life becomes joy filled again.

Humanity put Jesus on the cross and took his life.  But the Father would not allow the Son to remain a victim of other’s injustice and cruelty.  Jesus lets go of death itself, and we are offered redemption in and through His resurrection.  Lesson learned:  Well – I hope you get the point.   The good that is done for others will always return to you.  Be a blessing for others.