Monthly Archives: September 2017

A Thursday Reflection 9.28.17

If there has been one thing that God keeps trying to instruct me (and there are more likely many more than one!), I am now slowly learning to modify expectations and never presume that my plans will (or even should) work out.   Trust others to follow through on a project, and you will eventually be disappointed.  Expect your family or friends to recognize what you do for them and see how that works out for you!  Passionate and honest sports fans have an ironic advantage:  they know that as they watch their team’s hope-filled season disintegrate due to injuries or unfulfilled potential, they will soon drift through the pain-filled weeks/months praying to be put out of their misery.  On a far more important level, over my years, I have officiated at (or attended) the funeral liturgies of too many children whose lives were cut short due to illness or bad choices – expectations to be unfulfilled and dreams that end in death.

It seems to me that we humans display both our foolishness and arrogance whenever we claim to “know” what lies ahead and to base our expectations (and presumptive happiness) upon such knowledge.  Didn’t we just watch forecasters truly struggle with tracking the path of Hurricane Irma, and even the model from merely 24 hours out proved to be wrong.  We are not infallible.  We’re not prescient. Not one of us can see beyond that horizon that would allow us to “see” tomorrow.

Faith, not in our abilities or lack thereof, not in other people and their strength of will, but in our gracious God and father, is to be the hallmark of Christian life.  I cannot and will not put my faith in political philosophies or ecclesiastical systems.  Let me keep my assumptions, presumptions and expectations in check because I can never know all that tomorrow will bring.  But I do know that God in Christ’s death and resurrection has forgiven me.  Whatever else lies ahead, while I may have hope, I ought to have few expectations.

A Thursday Reflection 9.21.17

I received notification a week ago that the next edition of the hard copy of our Diocesan Newspaper,  Episcopal New Yorker, is going to be dedicated to “SIN.”    (Yes, I could have phrased that better, but I wanted to get your attention!)  So this is going to be a theological edition, and editors sent specific “guidelines” (a/k/a – unbending rules) to which any article will be subject.  Among the most vehement was: “No article will be published which, in our judgment, points the finger at identifiable individuals or groups.”
Now, clearly, in the mind of the paper’s hierarchy is the fear of various defamation lawsuits. (You think?)  Yet, I wonder if this in itself is not symptomatic of where we have arrived as a culture, a society or even a church.  Let me explain.
For better or worse, I’m not sure that, with a very few notable exceptions, 21st century American Christians would even agree on what is the meaning of “sin.”  Even less, would we agree on what thoughts, words, acts or attitudes constitute what should be labeled as “sinful?”  From where do you derive your truth?  Do you watch MSNBC or FOX News?  Do you seek out a liberal or conservative preacher?  Is believing in global warming OR not believing in global warming a sin?  Do you listen or even deign to listen to any view other than your own?  (From an unsettling experience of long ago, a parishioner once complained to me that a visiting priest (supply) had a bumper sticker on his car that supported a particular candidate and that she was “horrified and offended to the point of considering leaving the church because he had the nerve to park next to my car” – true story!   As Pilate asked Jesus, and Jesus never answered:  “Truth, what is that?”
Can you discern the difference between those ecclesiastical teachings coming from Jesus Himself that remain of perennial importance as opposed to items of indifference:  My ailing memory does not recall Jesus ever teaching that this or that type of music must be used in a church service, but I think I do recall Him being slightly emphatic about the mandate to forgive one another from our hearts!
It will be fascinating to read this upcoming edition of the Diocesan News when it is eventually printed.   What will we find there?  What is “sin” all about?  What can one say to the person who tells his pastor that if she doesn’t stop preaching about sin, “I will leave.” “I don’t believe in it or need to hear about it.”  (Again, true story.)
And from the perspective of your humble author (and I may try to write an article for the paper), which is the greater need, the greater good:  to know what “sin” is or to acknowledge our consistent human tendencies to choose other than God’s way for us – but to come to one’s senses and to repent in order to once again experience that love and forgiveness which is ours for the asking – if we are truly sorry?   So what do you believe?
– Fr. Joe

A Thursday Reflection 9.14.17

I found this reflection on-line.  What a powerful and necessary message for our time.    I would love to meet the author and shake her hand. – Fr. Joe

         Saying No for the Good of All
Daily Devotional •
By Eleri Kerian

Today’s reading from James is a strong rebuke and reminder that those of us who teach “will be judged with greater strictness.” James’ message is clear: guard your tongue and what you say ,for it will affect your whole person. James warns: “With it we bless the Lord and Father, and with it we curse those who are made in the likeness of God.” This is an important spiritual lesson for us all: to reign in what we say to and about others. Our holiness is at stake.

I would like to take his command one step further. I’m an extrovert. As an extrovert, I have this awful habit of feeling like “since nothing is happening, I must do something else.” This is sometimes to the detriment of my family life. While what I am often asked to do by others might be worthy in of itself, I have learned that “guarding my tongue” means to not say yes until I have carefully considered whether God wants this for me and my family.

I recently read an unattributed phrase: “Don’t promise when you’re happy and don’t reply when you’re angry.” This hit me to the core. I’m an energetic doer, mover, and maker. A lot of things that I am asked to do would be completed easily in a perfect world. But our world is not perfect, and nothing is ever as easy or simple as I think it will be when kids get sick, my husband works late, and my perfectly planned day does not allow for misadventures. Just as I had to train myself to not give in to speaking uncharitably about others, I have had to accept that sometimes the Lord wants me to bless him and my family by saying no instead of yes.

 

James 3:1-12

Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers and sisters, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. 2For all of us make many mistakes. Anyone who makes no mistakes in speaking is perfect, able to keep the whole body in check with a bridle. 3If we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we guide their whole bodies. 4Or look at ships: though they are so large that it takes strong winds to drive them, yet they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. 5So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great exploits. How great a forest is set ablaze by a small fire! 6And the tongue is a fire. The tongue is placed among our members as a world of iniquity; it stains the whole body, sets on fire the cycle of nature, and is itself set on fire by hell. 7For every species of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by the human species, 8but no one can tame the tongue—a restless evil, full of deadly poison. 9With it we bless the Lord and Father, and with it we curse those who are made in the likeness of God.10From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this ought not to be so. 11Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and brackish water? 12Can a fig tree, my brothers and sisters, yield olives, or a grapevine figs? No more can salt water yield fresh.

A Thursday Reflection 9.7.17

Like so many of you, I’ve been moved by news (and video) of the numerous acts of generosity and courage that have come out of Hurricane Harvey’s zone of destruction.  We’ve seen the rescues by truck, flatbed, boat, swan float, helicopter and more!  We’ve heard stories of football players raising millions of dollars, a little sweetheart who opened a lemonade stand for victim relief, and a real surge of generosity that has raised our spirits as well as finances for those who are truly suffering.  (Here I can once again commend Episcopal Relief and Development as an outstanding on-the-ground relief aid organization.) And, of course, there are also the stories of those who tried to charge $90 for a case of water to those who had nothing.

Sounds so trite but disasters do bring out both the best and the worst in humankind.  When encountering those in crisis or at least in a vulnerable position, do we respond with grace (and in fact respond to grace) to reach out with love and caring OR do we allow the misfortune of another to enhance our own fortune?    It’s always a matter of choice, isn’t it?   Am I open to that power which God gives to any and all who seek it in order to love my neighbor as much as I love myself?

Jesus put it rather clearly:  “Love one another as I have loved you.”   You perceive a person in need, then love that person and try to address that need.  You do what you can as best you can.  Human life has always been and will ever be marked by the impact of nature’s random cruelty.  (The old proverb, while annoying, remains true: “While God always forgives, nature never forgives!”)   We’re here for a purpose, and as long as we are here, I hope and pray we can respond to that divine impetus to love the other and be there for the other not because we want to be thanked or because we fear that if we don’t, bad things might happen to us, but simply because Jesus taught that if you want to be his follower, you have to love one another.  There is no other way!