Monthly Archives: November 2017

A Thursday Reflection 11.30.17

I have to tell you that I was slightly taken back by the response I got to a posting over a week ago when I reflected on the meaning of the upcoming liturgical season of Advent.  Unlike a different era, we’re not asked to “repent” during this season prior to Christmas as though this were a mini-Lent.  But we are asked, as Christians, to do something that, in our time, might be far more difficult: “…to wait in HOPE for the coming of our savior Jesus Christ.”
Hope is surely a difficult mindset to have or a virtue to live out in an era where anger, hate, intolerance, abuse, and indifference to the voiceless are considered “normal.”  Oh we have our selective outrages.  It’s taken decades for women’s voices to be heard on matters of sexual misconduct, and yet I can’t help wondering if eventually such outrages will just be accepted as part of being a “grown up” in the modern world.  We accept violence, don’t we?  Whether it’s a black church in Charleston or a mosque in Cairo, a concert in Vegas or riding your bike in Manhattan – there is no place immune from the impact of human sinfulness and darkness.  That’s just what we are and what we do, isn’t it?
At this time of the liturgical year, the sacred texts of our Christian tradition challenge us to live in the face of such darkness as lights in that darkness.  Advent reminds us that there is no issue, no force, no philosophy, no attitude, no theological speculation that cannot be critically examined, challenged or eventually healed by the all-powerful love and mercy of our God.  I live in hope because in my heart I know that our God is greater than all the darkness that humankind can muster.   I live in hope because the one whose name means “God saves” has been born for us, and because of His light, we are enlightened and empowered to enlighten others.  When I am at my moodiest and most given to despair for us as a species, I live in hope.  I “hope” you are able to do so as well. – Fr. Joe

A Thursday Reflection 11.23.17

A General Thanksgiving from the Book of Common Prayer

Accept, O Lord, our thanks and praise for all that you have
done for us. We thank you for the splendor of the whole
creation, for the beauty of this world, for the wonder of life,
and for the mystery of love.

We thank you for the blessing of family and friends, and for
the loving care which surrounds us on every side.

We thank you for setting us at tasks which demand our best
efforts, and for leading us to accomplishments which satisfy
and delight us.

We thank you also for those disappointments and failures
that lead us to acknowledge our dependence on you alone.

Above all, we thank you for your Son Jesus Christ; for the
truth of his Word and the example of his life; for his steadfast
obedience, by which he overcame temptation; for his dying,
through which he overcame death; and for his rising to life
again, in which we are raised to the life of your kingdom.

Grant us the gift of your Spirit, that we may know him and
make him known; and through him, at all times and in all
places, may give thanks to you in all things. Amen.

Happy Thanksgiving!!!!!!!

A Thursday Reflection 11.16.17

So what has happened to HOPE?  In my world as a preacher/teacher, the preparation and study that forms the basis for preaching during the Advent and Christmas seasons has long begun.  It’s curious that so much of what I read wants us to jump (almost artificially) into the “JOY of the ‘holiday’ season” (which for too many has very little to do with the birth of Jesus and the celebration of the Incarnation) but seems to overlook the four weeks that liturgically precede the Christmas celebrations.
“Hope” is the forgotten virtue.  Hope is supposed to mark the weeks anticipating Christmas.  But hope is so difficult to consider.  With our political divides usually deteriorating into hostility and outright enmity, with so many victims of senseless violence that only highlights the evil contained (as the poets would say) in the human heart, with the growing realization that too many younger women and teens have had to tolerate the misconduct of older sexual predators for far too long, and even with our world itself seemingly unleashing catastrophic fury on a humanity that has played (false) god with its environment, there seems to be little to be hopeful about.
And yet, believers in Jesus are called to “live in hope.”  Hope is not merely a faith in God.  Hope is the staunch trust that God is truly present among us in spite of our capacity for harming ourselves and others.  Hope reminds us that all time is in our God’s hands (to use the biblical phrase).  To live into HOPE means that while I may not see the entire picture or the end result, I am committed to and convinced that ultimately God will make all things right.  I don’t KNOW how this will happen, and I may not live to see this happen.  But I know it will.  I trust our God who loved humanity (with all its flaws).  The feast of the Nativity brings “Joy to the World” but the weeks beforehand – the time of Advent – brings Hope that this joy is not an illusion.  Hope is our conviction that anticipates the Lord’s final victory over the powers of darkness.  So when it is most dark for you, don’t be afraid to hope!

– Fr. Joe

A Thursday Reflection 11.9.17

On Sunday past, reflecting on the notion of being stewards of our lives, I commented (and you all know this in your hearts) that none of us knows how much time we’ve been given to do the work that God has given us to do.  I told you a Campo family story – the death of my dad in such a sudden and instantaneous fashion.  “You know not the day nor the hour” Jesus warned.
And later that afternoon, we were all glued to whatever electronic media that was available as we, yet again, saw the aftermath of violence in our country.  A man walks into a church with a gun!  This is NOT the beginning of a joke.  It is becoming more and more a regular part of our culture and our nation’s story.
With sadness, I am just going to repeat myself.  I won’t be drawn into the debate about whether this a mental health issue or a gun lobby issue.  No one wants to listen to anyone who believes it is a “both / and” and not an “either / or” issue.  The evidence in front of me seems to indicate that all we’ll end up doing is wringing our hands and arguing our points and nothing will change and nothing will get done… again!
So the preacher in me shares a message for you.  I’m not sure when or even if those with the power to confront this issue will ever do so.  All I can do is let the tragedy speak to me, and hopefully to you.  You really do not know how much time you have to do the work you’ve been given to do.  You’ve been given talents and gifts to build up Christ’s body, the Church, as well as bring the love of God into whatever small corner of the world you inhabit.  You’re called to be a spouse, a lover, a friend, a parent, a child, a worker, a student.  We’re all to be an example to others and a friend for others. We’re all called to be there for each other and build up one another.  We’re called to be a voice that speaks when words are needed and an ear to listen when someone else needs to unburden his/her soul.
God alone knows how much time we have to do the work we’ve been given to do.  How are you using that time?

A Thursday Reflection 11.2.17

Can you believe that it is already November?  The year of 2017 is in its twilight!  We’ve experienced a year of political as well as meteorological turbulence.   We can now just about presume that anything a person has ever said or done in their past will assuredly have offended someone at some time, and yet even in such a climate, you still have folks who continue to speak and/or act in ways intended to demean or abuse others  – and then, of course, utter the required “mea culpa’s” that no one believes anyway!  Our culture is fractured.  The place of humans at the top of the food chain may well be in jeopardy if those who have the power to unleash nuclear war actually decide to do so.  Nature’s fury has been experienced this year in ways that should humble human arrogance, and there are still those (the poorest of the poor) who continue to suffer the aftermaths of storm upon storm.

However, Christians are empowered to be people of HOPE.  The end of this month brings not merely the termination of the liturgical cycle, but the beginnings of the New Year.  Advent points beyond itself and reminds us that humankind’s Savior, whose words and grace are so desperately needed to be felt again, has already come.  Our lives do not have to reflect the deep darkness of November mornings or the daytime gray of its skies.  We are the fools (for Christ’s sake) who believe that the light of God’s goodness is greater than all the forces of evil or nature that fight against it.

In the show The Student Prince, there is that melody that begins:  “I’ll walk with God, from this day on…”  As I write this on a stormy Sunday (eerily five years to the day after another storm battered us), just let me remind each of you that no matter the issues, the darkness, the challenges, the political stupidity, the evil or sin that we humans (or nature itself) might create, as challenging as 2017 has been for so many of us, we do not walk alone if we walk by faith!