Monthly Archives: March 2017

A Thursday Reflection 3.30.17

The end of March brings so many memories from my high school years.  Days of warmth are (in theory) right around the corner.  For many of us, the end of last class now meant a race to the locker room, change into sweats or various loose/smelly attire, race up 86th Street though the entrance into Central Park, and find various baseball diamonds where either practices or scrimmages or games were held that day.  Baseball was ON.  The “time” had come and that Rites of Spring had begun.
Now the older “me,” looking at life “from both sides now…” thank you Judy Collins,  sees this time as one for serious reflection, joy filled anticipation and prayerful contemplation.  My head concentrates on the most important liturgies of the Christian Year as they now approach.
Holy Week and the lead-in to Easter is now close on the horizon.  I not only have to “know” those liturgies to be a leader of prayer and worship for those who intend to keep these as “HOLY” days, but I have to know them so well that I am not thinking of the “structure” or “mechanics” of what is going on.  I have to have them in my soul’s muscle memory so I can appreciate what we’re doing and praying about without being bogged down in notes and papers.  (Kind of like being so familiar with the process of throwing a runner out at second base without having to think: “what do I do next.”)
The point is that the coming weeks bring a scriptural message which is so important.  It should make us all pause and think about what it is we are celebrating:  about what has been done for us (“on our behalf and for our salvation”) that has made us right with God.  To take the Paschal Mystery seriously as a Christian should mean setting time aside for worship, or prayer, for thinking about what matters most in the important scheme of life.
And after the Feast of the Lord’s Resurrection has come, I will then surely sit back, close my eyes, and wonder if on some baseball diamond in Central Park, there is some sophomore wearing a dirty uniform with a #40 on his/her back, putting on a catcher’s mask and living in the joy of that moment.  It’s not the same as joyfully experiencing what is truly important, but it’s not a bad anticipation.

A Thursday Reflection 3.23.17

The Lenten Bible Study is taking us through the “Passion Narrative” (the account of the arrest, trial(s), crucifixion and death of Jesus) which we hear on both Palm Sunday and Good Friday.  We’re looking at the similarities and differences in the four Gospel accounts.

I had forgotten (from study decades ago) that while we normally speak of the place where Jesus went to pray after his last meal as the “Garden of Gethsemane” – in fact, Matthew and Mark never refer to the place as a “garden” and simply call it “Gethsemane.”  Luke doesn’t mention it at all but simply refers to the “Mount of Olives.”  John makes the reference to a garden but doesn’t give it any name.

The patron saint of this parish, John, is the master of using symbols to make a point.  John’s gospel alone refers to this place as a “garden,” and much later refers to the place where Jesus will be buried as fresh new cut cave tomb (given by a disciple) that was located “in a garden.”

John wants us to know that, as he views salvation history, the story of humankind’s relationship with God began in a “garden” (called Eden), and will lead to its redemption coming out of another garden.  In one garden, humans made choices that led to death.  From another garden will come One who gave himself up to death “for us” so that we might share in His eternal life.

Got me to thinking on a cold snow covered “technically Spring” day that “garden” is not a bad image for what we should be: the soil that brings out / forth / up into existence that life that God planted within us from the day we were baptized.  There are a zillion different sermon notes I could share or points I might make, but for now, think of yourself as the “place” where the Lord of Life has planted His life.  What “life” do you bring to the world?

A Thursday Reflection 3.16.17

I knew a boy who grew up in my neighborhood a few years younger than me.  Talk about talent.  He had a rocket launcher for an arm, a fastball that was un-seeable so forget about being merely un-hittable and just about every high school girl had a crush (or more) on him.   I remember hearing that he got a full scholarship for playing baseball at a powerhouse university out west.   He never made it to the “big leagues.”  In fact he never made it out of his 20’s.
I remember being saddened when learning of his passing: homeless, on drugs, unloved and virtually unrecognizable – a sad legacy of the 60’s underculture of sex, drugs and rock-n-roll.    I can’t ever say we were “friends.”  We only associated with each other rather than “knowing one another.”  We competed with and against each other.  We sometimes (not often) shared stories.  We complained about country and family and where the world was going.  We chose different paths.
I sometimes sit and wonder at why life takes us in the directions that it does.  Why was I blessed never to suffer from the diseased “isms” of alcoholism or drug addiction?  Why have I known forgiveness for my weaknesses, inadequacies and sins where some far more talented and worthy than I may have been crushed by them?
This is not about the unfairness of life.  Life is unfair – deal with it!  But on the morning of rushing about preparing for a blizzard, I can still sit here with incredible gratitude for blessings received, friendships that remain, and the love of a life’s partner that nourishes me even though she is unwell.  To walk the path that keeps us in a right relationship with God often means being humble enough to know that it is never about only my talent or only my abilities.  As St. Paul wrote and as Augustine and Luther knew so well: it is always about divine grace.  What has been done for us by our God!  And Lent for me is always the reminder that God has done so much for me.  Do you accept that love?  Do you accept God’s call to be in a right relationship?   That to me is what Lent is really about: letting God steer us back on track.

A Thursday Reflection 3.9.17

For this week’s reflection, I am passing on a brief spiritual reflection that I read last week as the season of Lent began.  I do not know the author except to note that he is an Episcopal priest serving somewhere in the USA.  Let me know what you think.

Fr Joe

Being Spiritual Is Not Enough

  Daily Devotional • February 28   By the Rev. David Baumann

Often today one can find people who talk about being “spiritual but not religious.” What “being spiritual” means is hard to define, mostly because it can mean so many different things, and there are no specifics — which also means that there is nothing personal, intimate, or engaging. What most people probably mean is that they have a sense of an unseen reality behind what is material. They are definitely right, but without specifics it is unclear just what that means or what they want to do about it. A Satan worshiper can be “spiritual.” Those to whom today’s lesson was first addressed apparently were impressed with angels, but the writer urges them to remember that angels are merely “messengers.”

“Being spiritual” can be a very basic beginning to the Christian life, but it is no more than a first step that can also lead to many other spiritualities, some of which can be deceptive and dangerous. “Not being religious” usually means not having any commitment to any particular religion. And this means having only a vague sense of moral obligations, if any, and rarely any kind of other costly commitment such as in time, relationships, or money.

Christianity offers, promises, provides, and requires much more than that! So as our lesson for today says, “We must pay greater attention to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away from it.” As we begin Lent tomorrow, let us be sure that “we do see Jesus … now crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.” As the writer of the epistle says elsewhere, “Let us keep our eyes fixed on Jesus.”

A Thursday Reflection 3.2.17

This coming Sunday, the various churches which use the Common Lectionary will read St. Matthew’s version of the story of Jesus being tempted by the Evil One in the wilderness.  Let me tell you something about “temptation!”    It is real and seductive and powerful and every creature under heaven must deal with it.

Think of our sweet, loveable, adorable “innocent” border collie who, last Sunday, while watching me set up for a coffee break with JoAnne, silently, stealthily, and with the speed and precision of Syndergard fastball, plucked a biscotti right off the table (because I didn’t put it far enough away from her vision) and devoured it – all in about .0007 of a second!   (“Bad Dog!!”)  Temptation was just too much, and left to her own devices, when it comes to food, the score will always be Abby 1 – Daddy 0.

The insidious thing about “temptation” is that I am always tempted to what I perceive as desirable.  Be honest: when were you last tempted to break your diet by eating too much liver and cauliflower with stale bread!  Usually temptation falls into this scenario: I desire something good or at least neutral in itself, but it may be bad for me.   I may want something in itself good, but in the process I should strive for something better.  What I want NOW may be something that I either should not do or have NOW.

The season of Holy Lent is really a time to take stock of the “stuff” in our lives that we do or have that we make into priorities in the place of God.  How often we may do the right thing but for the wrong reason.   How often we simply expect/demand that God accept me as I am instead of responding to God’s calling us to something greater or better.

Jesus faced seductive callings away from being “beloved Son” that He was sent to be.  We all face such enticements drawing us away from what the Lord is calling us to be.  And that is why we need this Season.  And that is why I hope you will take this holy season seriously.