Monthly Archives: January 2017

A Thursday Reflection 1.26.17

It seems that just about this time each year, as we approach our Annual Meeting, I try to come up with some idea about why we need to use the time we’re given to do the work God has put us here to do.  Annual Meetings are like that for me.  I look back on the previous year.  What did we accomplish?  What did we try and actually succeed at?  What did we at least try but fail to achieve?  Where are we now?  Are we in a better place than a year ago?  And on and on.  But the underlying question for me still remains: how did I use my time and what did I let pass me by?

And then I got a phone call Tuesday evening.  A person called the church office looking for “the parish priest,” so he ended up calling my cell.  It seems he had an unusual request.  He was trying to track down an older priest whom he wasn’t sure if I ever heard of, but this priest had once been very kind to him and helped him out. (He kept it vague and I didn’t press.  I’m sure there is a story here but it’s not for me to know!)   The caller “wasn’t in a good place back then” so many decades ago, but now life had changed and he wanted to make things right.  He “needed” to find him and thank him. He wondered if there was some kind of Diocesan book or directory he could use to track the priest down.

Funny, (or not), as it turned out, I knew that priest.  But I had to inform the caller that he had passed away a long time ago.  He wasn’t going to have that chance to say “thanks” or whatever else he may have needed to say.  I thought I heard him get a bit weepy, and I told him to remember and pray for that priest.

All of this brings me back to Annual Meetings and reflecting on how we used our time last year, and what we did and did not do.  We always foolishly assume we’ll have time to do whatever it is we wish.  And yet, that telephone call was just another reminder that our time passes so quickly and if we put off the good we ought to do, we may never get the chance to do it.  This applies to people.  This applies to parishes.  I wish we would learn this!

A Thursday Reflection 1.19.17

More than a few of you have asked me when I will next feature Abby (our border collie) in this series.  Abby usually determines this by what she may have taught me in a given week.  Well, she has been at it again, so here goes.

One of the themes you are going to hear at our annual meeting (at least in my address to the parish) is our need (not just St. John’s but Christians in general) to follow through on our commitments with desire and passion.   I’ve read too many articles from “experts” who observe (and yeah, maybe even judge – oooh -) that it has become culturally acceptable to make a promise to do or not do something but later to change one’s mind any time after because one’s mood or interest has now changed.

And this brings me to this little creature that God has put into JoAnne’s and my life.  One thing about a Border collie: she is tenacious!  If she needs to “patrol” or “sniff” an area in the yard that her outdoor friends (bunnies or deer, among others) have wandered through during the night, she may tear off my arm but she will go to that area to make sure they are OK.  If she hears a sound that is out of place, she must investigate to protect her flock. (I hate being a sheep!)    When it is a certain time in the afternoon, she knows that her daddy/mommy needs to cook supper, and she will push you (physically if necessary) and talk at you until you move.  When the time gets closer for her own meal, she will stare you down as if her little eyes had the voltage of Darth Vader’s Death Star’s power beam!  Nothing deters her.  If you’re not part of the solution, she will move you out of the way!

This is what I have learned from her.  More than observing merely animal “instinct,” I truly believe I am watching a creature of God who discovers (or intuits) what needs to be done, and then will always follow through and accomplish the task whether convenient or not.  From years of pastoral experience, I know that in small parish communities, like our own, sometimes it is easier to just let someone else do the work or to not follow through with an idea.  One gets tired, and yes, it is really hard work being an active member of a small church.

When I am really dragging and just not wanting to write that next report (diocesan, parochial or for the Seminary), improve a probably acceptable but really not good enough sermon, come up with one more new idea at yet another meeting, or deal politely with one parishioner who secretly desires to complain about another (or me), I am reminded of a little dog who pursues everything she does with passion and commitment.  Yes, she is forgiving and loving (far more than some Christians, myself included have been – and so remarkable for this once-abused animal), but I am in awe of her never-say-die pursuit of any goal.  She does not know how to quit or “mail it in” (to use a sports image).  In being this way, she teaches me how to pursue my own ministry as a believer in Jesus and as a pastor of his people with passion, excitement and the desire to follow up any task or idea given to me.  So, are there any of you who want to rent out a dog who is more than willing to teach you so much????

A Thursday Reflection 1.12.17

This Sunday (January 15) marks what would have been the 88th birthday of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  I am hoping that our youth have learned more about this man than merely the fact we get a day off from school or work and that the NBA usually has a number of afternoon games to capture that market.

In our parish, many of you have heard recordings of a few of his sermons (and we’re going to do this again in February – on a non-holiday weekend when fewer folks might be traveling).  Some of you have read his writings.  Many of you know how brilliant he was: possessing a doctorate in Systematic Theology from Boston University.

He was a pastor, first and foremost – a preacher who was the son and grandson of preachers.  By choice and by act of Divine Providence, he was “catapulted into national prominence” as a leader and activist.  I will not catalogue his life experiences as this is something you can certainly (and should) read up on your own.  You know for what he stood and for what he died.

I just hope that this Sunday will be more than just the mid-point of a holiday weekend.  Not to put down anyone’s profession, but I hope holiday sales events at local car dealerships do not become the identifying marker of an extraordinary life and martyr.  God gave him a dream and I pray that one day we might truly live into that dream.  If we have learned anything from the past few years, sadly, we have such a long trek ahead of us.

A Thursday Reflection 1.5.17

2016 is gone forever.  I for one am quite glad.  Still I have no idea what 2017 will bring.

I don’t know if the political chasm that tears away at any hope for unity in this nation can be healed.  I cannot tell you that the perpetrators of evil and death in some perverted notion of doing the will of God will be stopped or their hearts softened with truth in love.  What will be the future of our small Episcopal Church in New York – burdened by the structures and procedures of another era?  Will we reverse the downward trend of shrinking numbers and growing debt?  Hey!  Will I ever make a New Year’s resolution that I am able to keep?

I do know that I begin this year able to see with a clarity that I had lost over the years, and I am so grateful for the skills of surgeons and the procedures that restore sight.  I can sympathize more with those who deal with physical pain on a regular basis as (including my own brother and his reconstructed hips, knees etc.) now that I have learned that all the “hype” about Shingles being off-the-charts painful is no hype.  I know that my mom is no longer trapped in a failing body and a mind that was dying as she now resides with our loving Father in Heaven and has returned to the One who created, redeemed and sustains us.

What I know is that no matter what we expect or predict for the year that approaches, our eyes are shut to the truth of what will or must occur.  We can only trust – putting ourselves in God’s hands and truly believing that what lies ahead is what we have been sent here to do.  My path for this year, no matter where it may lead, as long as I keep faith, is where God is leading.   And this gives me reason to hope.