Monthly Archives: August 2017

A Thursday Reflection 8.31.17

Yes,       “what the world needs now, is love sweet love,” but let me also add that we all need to learn to see and understand what lies before us, and to discern what is important and what is not.  I open myself to accusations of being “snarky,” but I sincerely believe that one of the pitfalls of our culture is the assumption that if I perceive something to be important, it must be!  If you do not see it as important, then YOU have a problem and you are being mean!
Learning to discern the chaff from the wheat is a sign of maturity.  A few examples:  Early morning walk with Abby (after a heavy rain the night before) revealed the most beautifully intricate spider web spun between two posts.  A lovely sight, yes?  Maybe not so much when one looks at the entire structure and sees one truly large (power forward .. Alien III .. capable of eating Cleveland in one large gulp) spider waiting to attack the next visitor.   Or this:  my brother and sister-in-law recently (3 weeks ago) moved from Rockport, Texas (you know, the ground zero landing site for Hurricane Harvey).  But they were involved in some annoying exchange  with the person who had already just purchased their home since she had “discovered” that certain tiles in one of the bathrooms were not all in a straight line and so wanted some rebate!  And as of this writing, that house itself might now be located somewhere in the Gulf of Mexico!
The point to all this is simply to remind myself, and any reader, of our need to (a) look at the entire picture before making judgments and (b) discern what is truly important from what may in effect be trivial and non-essential.  Just because something is important “to me” at this moment does not guarantee that it is in fact important and worth our emotional energy while truly important issues remain unattended.  Parishes can fall into such traps.  So can entire Churches.  Do we as a community bear witness to Jesus or should we be large and popular?  The more I read the scriptures, the more I believe we are going to have to make that choice!
If there is one virtue for which we Christians ought to pray, let me propose that it be “discernment.”  Lord show me the entire picture with its implications before I make any decision.  Lord, let me appreciate whether this issue is truly important or merely a passing annoyance.  The world surely needs “love,” but I believe we may need discernment even more.

A Thursday Reflection 8.24.17

I really think this woman hit a “home run” with her theologically splendid  and faith filled reflection. – Fr. Joe

Keeping Score

By Deborah Boston

                              “But many that are first will be last, and the last, first”.

My daughter starts second grade in a few weeks, and I have many hopes for her — creative writing, long division, chapter books, and new best friends. My own shining memory from second grade is winning “Around the World,” a competitive flash card game of math, in which I challenged every member of my class, individually, to addition and subtraction facts. It felt pretty amazing to win. I was unquestionably the best: I was in first place! Can you tell I have a hard time with today’s gospel? In the kingdom of God, math facts don’t matter. First place matters even less.

The real advice I can give my daughter this fall is not to worry about keeping score. Her worth comes from God’s love, not from her own striving. Does God love me because I can recite math facts? No. He loves me in spite of my desire to keep score. The gospel lesson reminds me that the priorities of this fallen world are at odds with the priorities of God. Give up all your possessions, all your idols, even your first-place medals, and follow him.

Mark 10:17-31

As he was setting out on a journey, a man ran up and knelt before him, and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 18Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. 19You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; You shall not defraud; Honor your father and mother.’” 20He said to him, “Teacher, I have kept all these since my youth.” 21Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said, “You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” 22When he heard this, he was shocked and went away grieving, for he had many possessions.

23Then Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” 24And the disciples were perplexed at these words. But Jesus said to them again, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! 25It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” 26They were greatly astounded and said to one another, “Then who can be saved?” 27Jesus looked at them and said, “For mortals it is impossible, but not for God; for God all things are possible.”

28Peter began to say to him, “Look, we have left everything and followed you.” 29Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields, for my sake and for the sake of the good news, 30who will not receive a hundredfold now in this age—houses, brothers and sisters, mothers and children, and fields with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life. 31But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first.”

A Thursday Reflection 8.17.17

Although I publicly claim not to be bothered by “regrets” since such is a waste of emotional energy, in my more reflective (and perhaps sadder) moments, I can’t help but both feel them within myself and notice them in others.  I’m not talking about the “what-ifs” that most of us of a certain age now experience: what if I had answered the call to study law instead of theology or taken my dad’s advice and majored in chemistry which had been the love of my academic life in high school?  Those are merely whimsical questions.

I wonder if we as a nation will ever even begin to regret the sins of slavery, racism and discrimination and their myriad offspring of hate-filled behaviors that truly infest us as a people – nationally and locally!  I wonder if the world now regrets never having settled the issues on the Korean peninsula 60 years ago.  I wonder if the world will someday truly regret having developed the technology for weapons of mass destruction. (I have always been struck by the response of the great Albert Einstein who, when asked if World War III will be fought with atomic weapons, stated that he did not know, but if it was, then he was absolutely certain that World War IV would be fought with sticks and rocks.)

Will we all regret that the modern world has allowed religious or political fanaticism to flourish or to have allowed our lifestyle choices to place the poor of this world in more environmental jeopardy than is ethically justifiable?

Maybe I have used the wrong term.  It is not “regret” that I am examining.  Maybe the word should be “repent!”    Maybe “the evil that enslaves us, the evil we have done and the evil done on our behalf” (to quote from Enriching Our Worship’s version of the Confession of Sin) need be on our plate all the time so that as we do repent of the wrongs we perform or allow, we return to our loving Father who offers us life in abundance.  Modernity is so “enlightened” that it has no place for Christ.  To have no place for Christ is to have no need of forgiveness – and to use a rather snarky but poignant quote:  “so how’s that workin’ for you?”

We have no time because we are so busy – and even if we’re not so crude as to say it, we act as though we believe it.  Will we or our children regret our choices and attitudes unless we do repent and seek to bring “the peace of Christ that passeth all understanding” back to our world?  I pray we still have time to do so.

 

A Thursday Reflection 8.10.17

This coming Sunday, the Gospel text that will be read in most Episcopal, Protestant, and Roman Catholic parishes happens to be one of my favorite “memories of Jesus” in all of the New Testament.   Take one tired carpenter/preacher who leaves his core group so that he might spend a little time in prayer.  Add the desire to go about their normal business without using a skill they should have had (get into a boat and head out when a storm is coming!), followed by what surely was a miscast scene from The X-Files where Jesus is walking through the storm toward them – on water, and then finally mix in the semi-delusional bombast of one Galilean fisherman named Peter who conjures up his “proof” for what he may be witnessing.  (“Lord, if it really is you, tell me to come out of the boat and walk to you!”)   If I want “proof” of what I am seeing, this is not exactly an invitation to inspire confidence.
Dismissed during the Enlightenment as utter fantasy, and relegated to a Christian theological re-reading of the psalms by certain contemporary schools of scriptural thought, it seems to this simple and ordinary parish priest that we miss the point by overthinking.  Look at what is going on!   Here I will speak for myself.  If any of this might apply to you, so be it.  If not, your life has been smoother than mine, and God be praised for that.
You’re out on your own and the context is a storm.  This is so often how life is experienced.  You might have all the skills and “knowledge,” but guess what: Life Happens!  And life can be so utterly unfair.
The unpredictability and unfairness of life can rip out your pulsing heart. An 11 year old girl goes out to play, and she is murdered.  A talented young prospective athlete blows out his arm, and his zillion dollar contract and hoped-for life style evaporates in an instant.  My company downsizes, and in spite of my years of work, I lose my job.  People mishear what you say and misinterpret what you mean either because of their own agenda or perhaps foolishness, and you are demeaned.   In spite of your best efforts at a project, you simply aren’t good enough.
Life brings its storms.  Some results are truly tragic!  Others pass for tragedy only in the minds of the usually privileged.  No matter!  The feelings of loss, helplessness and loneliness can burn “a hole in your soul” (using a phrase a friend of mine is wont to use).  But the point is that we are NEVER alone.  We might not be able to see clearly.  We may wallow in self-pity.  We may have legitimate reasons to feel such pity.  But we are never alone.  There is one who is always with us.  He isn’t going to call you out of the boat.  (That’s been tried, and the human didn’t do so well, did he?)  But there is “one like us on all things but sin” who always journeys with us, who upholds us, and never abandons us.   And as long as I know that I am never abandoned, then the storm will never ultimately destroy me.

A Thursday Reflection 8.3.17

Most of you know that my being a New York Mets’ fan has conditioned me to deal with loss and disappointment on a regular basis.  The other day, I witnessed at home what it must be like to have a sense of entitlement and expectation to win all the time, and then to have that taken away.  Wasting time on a hot summer Sunday early evening, we were watching one of those goofy dog competitions.  Getting to the agility event, I know that this is one Border Collies always win. They actually have an unfair advantage in the way their hips are created.  It’s as if they have a “slinky for a spine” – to use the phrase of a long ago commercial.

Long story short, the Border Collie did not win.  It lost to some “rat dog” whose handler “may” have cheated with an early release – who cares!  But the angst from the couch next to me over the unexpected loss.  (NO, it wasn’t Abby whining!)  Is this what it is like to feel “entitled?”

We no longer live in a world that “entitles” Church or Christians to anything.  A long time ago in what seems like a galaxy far away, the trappings of church determined the work week calendar, when stores could open, how time itself was delineated, how much deference clergy received, and the vocabulary of holidays.

We now live in a world where church attendance is no longer a matter of social status: you come to worship because you believe.  And there may be more status in rejecting the trappings of any organized religion – especially the various traditions of Christianity.   Sunday worship has even been described to me as a “bother” or an “inconvenience.”

This may shock you, but as one who questions the very purpose of entitlements, I see this as perhaps the Lord waking us up.  If we are to be disciples of Jesus and walk his path, enlightened by His Spirit, then perhaps we must do so without social support or even social courtesy.   Maybe we’ve been chosen to be the generation who must really LISTEN to what our God is calling us to be.  Living off the status or accomplishments of prior generations is no longer an option and in effect, we are “entitled” to nothing – not even parochial survival.  All we know is that we have been redeemed through no act of our own.  We are totally loved by Our Father – not because we are entitled to that love, but because of God’s gracious mercy.  All that I have and am is pure gift!  And that puts having any sense of “entitlement” outside of my definition of being a Christian.