Monthly Archives: August 2016

A Thursday Reflection 8.25.16

As the last bit of my “summer” (i.e., relaxed and not intended for any course or program) reading, I am rereading sections of a liturgical text that I first read decades ago.  The author had a humorous but truthful point: nothing is so solid and “unchangeable” as the way we worship, and that as far back as the 4th century, it was discovered that the only way to introduce “change” into liturgy without having full blown warfare (whether in a parish among parishioners or in the Church universal among Bishops) is to “add” new things on to what is already there.  Eventually the “new” becomes, in the mindset of that community, what we’ve always done.

As much as we pay lip service to the contrary, it has been my experience that humans abhor change.  We know what works, why mess with it. (“If it aint broke…etc.”).  And, of course, there is a level of comfort when we do things in familiar ways.

While this is almost a “sin” for any parish to consider, I believe that parishes need to be open to hear different voices, try different ways of doing things, be open to different ideas, different music at liturgy, different ways to preach and teach, create different emphases, be willing to make mistakes – all without the sacred mantra “but we’ve never done it that way.”

The more I experience how our secular culture is becoming more adamant that it wants nothing to do with us, then I believe that how we live, and teach, and raise our children, and worship is going to change – if we are going to in fact reach others and bring them into the joy that Christ alone gives.  I’m watching this happen on our Diocesan level.  It will also begin to happen to us on a local level.  We will find ourselves making changes, and the gospel will be communicated in a different way to different folks.  Our community will probably change in its makeup.  And through it all, God will be praised.

A Thursday Reflection 8.18.16

I often find myself telling others to listen with an open heart and be prepared for the unexpected if you really want to hear what the Lord may be saying to you.  And now I find myself, through this weekly reflection, by sometimes observing a once lost rejected quirky dog, by praying real hard both before and after every Confirmation Class with our parish teens over these years once again finding how I am taught in spite of self.

I have a very strict standard for preaching.  I judge myself far more harshly than any of you could.  Last Saturday evening’s sermon during the liturgy at St. Paul’s was so poor (in my  opinion) that I did a total do-over early Sunday morning.  And then after trying to open God’s word in that sermon, found myself doubly frustrated.  Nothing worked this past weekend!  Whatever I tried to understand and convey just didn’t happen.

Or did it???  Between Saturday evening and Sunday morning, five different people came to speak with me quietly and privately to thank me for such a “meaningful” or “thought provoking” sermon.  What I considered rubbish, others believed spoke to them in important ways.   So for once, I won’t argue.  I just sit in stunned amazement.

Now this is not about me (to quote the seldom remembered Ross Perot).  This is about how God speaks to us in ways we don’t anticipate or expect.  Clearly God spoke to others through my, in my opinion, very inadequate reflection last weekend.  But God also spoke to me and made it clear that His Word can be communicated in spite of the flawed messenger.  One has to take one’s mission and calling seriously, but not take oneself so seriously.  Sometimes God speaks to us in our failures, in the things we don’t achieve, the recognition we don’t obtain, the jobs we don’t find, the relationship we didn’t have a chance with.   God speaks to us as individuals and to us as a community of faith – and probably in ways we least expect.  Time to be more open to that voice.

A Thursday Reflection 8.11.16

Abby, our dog, has been at it again: stimulating theological reflection so that a “dog” experience raises a “God” question!

We seem to have a family of bunnies who invade our yard at each dusk and dawn, and Abby seems to be their friend.  She watches them, crawls up close to them, and wags her tail.  She never barks or threatens them.  It is sheer cuteness.   Abby also loves children.  She apparently sees them as “human puppies” and she is ever so gentle with and protective of them.

However, last week I observed her in a real “disconnect” moment.  The summer camp kids were led to the church office on a day Abby was in the office with me.  She knows the kids by sight, and yell and smell, of course, but this time, as the kids walked thru the halls, Abby sat down with what I swear to you was a confused look on her face.  The kids were all made up to look like bunnies (with floppy ears, make-up whiskers, etc.).  She knew they weren’t bunnies but they kind of looked like them – and in the end, she wasn’t sure what they really were!

And then I had the “lightbulb moment.”  I wonder if this is how God sees us when we profess to be one thing but live in a way that is totally other.  We may call ourselves Christians but hardly ever worship, never open our hearts (or wallets) to those in need, feel at ease telling a racist or sexist joke because, well, everyone does it, feel quite comfortable with repeating gossip without discerning the truth of what we say much less that it may not be our business even if the account were true  –  and on and on.

How are we seen by the One we call our Lord and Savior when the words of our mouths, the desires of our hearts, the actions of our bodies are in total disconnect from the definitions of our  faith profession?   Children appearing to be something other than what they are is a wonderful “pretend” game.  Christians living as something other than what they ought to be is hardly a game and is neither wonderful nor cute.    I have a plaque in my office that reads:  “I wonder if we ever give God a headache?”   Well, if not a headache, are there moments of sadness for God watching us living in such a disconnected fashion?

A Thursday Reflection 8.4.16

A young adult parishioner and I had an intense back-and-forth discussion last week touching on matters of faith.  I was challenged in terms of what I believe and why – especially in light of how messed up this world is getting!  Where is God in this darkness?   It was the kind of deep conversation that I remember having with an “old” priest when I was in my 20’s.

This coming Sunday (and for a few weeks after), the 2nd reading will be taken from the so-called Letter to the Hebrews.  This is not “bible study” but a personal reflection.  However, just know that Chapter 11 of this “letter” forces the reader (the original listeners and us as well) to deal with what it means “to believe.”

You will hear: “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”  Over the next weeks and in almost poetic language, we’ll be given example after example of a person confronting all the reasons for doubt and hopelessness, and yet he or she will defy the odds and make that “leap” into God’s certainty which transcends our own.

This “summer of our discontent” with its murders and tensions, racial, religious  and ethnic atrocities, political hate speech, lies and “spin,” obfuscations, misinformation, partial truths, political tricks, and unfinished promises are all reasons for doubt and loss of hope.  There may be many, like myself, who fear that we are re-living all the unlearned lessons of the 1930’s.  (And boy did that ultimately work out great for the membership of planet earth, eh?)

But through it all, I hear the language of poetry and prayer:  “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for.”  Lord, I do believe.  Let me know that even in the darkness of doubt, you will be our light and will light our path, if we believe.  And if we, as one small local community, can believe and act as though we truly do, then we will make a difference!