July 26, 2018
At present I’m reading an historical account regarding the “true story” behind the miracle at Dunkirk. From what I can glean from the texts and orders quoted, the memories recorded, and the diaries reopened, it seems that what I was taught in history class wasn’t even close to the truth about the debacle that marked one of the opening events of WWII. There are no possible or logical reasons to explain how the British (and other Allied) forces were rescued off the French beaches from utter annihilation by the unstoppable Nazi divisions. There were acts of sheer courage, incredible stupidity, dumb luck, careful planning, weather interference, grace under fire and human hubris all rolled into one lost battle that saved hundreds of thousands of lives – in spite of being soundly beaten at that moment.
So when I look at the condition of the Jesus Movement today – in our secular and hostile USA “culture,” when I see churches closing, or in financial peril, or with inner circles of “entitled” still clinging to the illusion of power in too many parish communities; when one witnesses inter- and intra-communal antagonism, lukewarm (at best) commitment on the part of a growing numbers of “members” who seem to want (when it is convenient for them) some kind of warm fuzzy religious feeling but without commitment, one could throw up one’s hands and simply ask the last person to turn off the lights when they lock down the building. It seems that what happens in “life” can happen at church: “acts of sheer courage, incredible stupidity, dumb luck, careful planning, weather interference, grace under fire and human hubris!”
Or we can remember that with God, all things are possible! Whenever I see nothing but darkness, I believe that there is a dawn just beyond my field of vision. I am convinced that the Lord never stops calling ordinary disciples who can make such a difference in other believers’ lives. Like yesteryear’s war heroes who were simply ordinary folks who stepped up when needed. So I uphold our Episcopal Church and believe this “bridge church” can and will touch lives and raise minds and hearts to God. I also believe that the Lord will continue to call “ordinary believers” to step up and provide the leadership and the “grace under fire” that the Christian movement needs today. After all, we have seen the impossible happen. Who am I to declare that a religion-less culture is our inevitable destiny?
July 19, 2018
There is one lie (among many) that our culture perpetuates, and we parents and grandparents, as much as we love our offspring, do them no service by perpetuating the illusion.
Have any of you heard that foolish comment that we show our children love by telling them that they are so special and that there is “nothing” they cannot accomplish if they really want to have or do something! The facts of biology, talent, having financial resources and all the other unfair aspects of “life” shows such a cultural dictum to be utterly absurd. I think about the five high school freshman (teenagers all: 4 girls and 1 boy) with whom I spent so many months preparing them for Confirmation. As much as I pastorally love and care for them, I can guarantee you that not one of them, no matter how much they try, or wish, or would demand will ever develop into a 6’10” NBA power forward! Not going to happen. There are limits to what we can accomplish. Sorry!
This is a cancerous notion that infects our culture. It’s called “entitlement.” I want something, therefore I should have it. I am entitled to it. And while those who live by this notion are annoying and arrogant at worst (and just plain foolish at best), the saddest thing is that this belief is a betrayal of what we’re called to be as disciples of Jesus. We’re to love one another as much as the Lord Jesus loves us. That sometimes means facing hard truths about our own physical, emotional financial, psychological limitations and the effects those limitations might have on our family life. I cannot have it all. I cannot do it all. I need to face the truth about this, and live within the limits of gifts and abilities that our gracious God has given me. Use those gifts and abilities, work to expand them if possible, never be satisfied with mediocrity, but also learn what my boundaries will ultimately be, be at peace with them, and be the best I can be.
In baseball, a young pitcher is taught to “stay within yourself” – to know what you can and cannot do. I just wonder if middle class suburban “culture” has become so filled with “entitlement” that we have lost our way and we just cannot or will not live within our limitations. God loves without limit. God alone acts without being subject to limitations. We humans can’t do either of those things.
We keep going back to the Genesis story of the primordial couple who are told: eat this fruit. You’ll be just like God. After all, you’re entitled. And how’s that been working out for us?
Church Tavern Challenge
St. John’s Parish is proud to announce the first annual Church Tavern Challenge 5K/10K Run/Walk presented by Domino Sugar. The Challenge replaces the seven-year Labor Day tradition of the Church Tavern Biathlon (which included a bike race component) with run/walk-only races, featuring distances to appeal to everyone from the serious runner to families who just want a fun day together. The day will also offer a 1K race for kids. The traditional tankards will be awarded for first and second-place finishers, with other prizes for the top finishers in each age group.
In addition to celebrating Labor Day and encouraging fitness in our community, the event raises money to help with the outstanding work of the Community Center of Northern Westchester and the continued work of the parish.
Beginning at 9:30 am on Monday, September 3, the races will wind through the hills and country lanes of South Salem, New York, starting and finishing at St. John’s Church on Spring Street. The competitions will be followed by a chance to cool down and relax with delicious barbecue, musical entertainment and fun games for the kids.
Event chairperson Matt Shue describes the Challenge as “a perfect set of races, where you can be as competitive or as laid-back as you wish. The point is to get out in the fresh air, have a great time and contribute to a good cause.”
Registration for the 2018 Church Tavern Challenge is now open on the running website.
Click Here to Register
Cost is $25 per runner or walker, and $10 per child (12 and under) for the 1K run.
Further details on the race course will be announced shortly.
July 12, 2018
JoAnne had a disturbing experience walking Abby last week. They had been in Katonah walking about and doing whatever Border Collies and their adopting moms do on a “girls day out” when, as JoAnne relates, they came to a particular street and Abby just froze. She became fear filled. She whimpered. She refused to walk down that street – no way no how! She dug her paws in, engaged her brakes, lay down in defiance, and did whatever other doggie type cliché you wish to conjure up. Fear had her paralyzed. And what was most confusing was that there were no overt signs of any trouble ahead. There were no aggressive dogs (or persons) lurking in the shadows (because last week’s blistering noonday sun had eliminated them all). There was no rational “reason” to explain her behavior, but freeze up – she did! And it took all sorts of cajoling, bribes, and pleading to cross the road and move beyond that street in order to return to the car. I’m not asking you for solutions to Abby’s issue. Maybe she has a memory from her puppy wandering days down south that this street brought to mind. Maybe, she was just tired and played JoAnne for sympathy. We’ll never know.
But this experience can be a metaphor for parish life, small Episcopal Church 2018. We, like too many other small parishes in our small Communion of less than 2 million members nationwide, are approaching unknown avenues, having to make decisions, planning for an uncertain future and looking out on unfamiliar paths, and there is the temptation to just freeze. It’s always easier to claim that the past was “Utopia”, and it is better to return to what “was” than to face the uncertain “now” (or future). Some parish communities get trapped in an ideological quicksand of inaction because folks claim that they want to change or grow, but they want things to stay the same as when they were perfect (or at least “better than this”) in the past.
The questions we, as a small parish, must be asking ourselves are just what is it Christ wants us to be and where does Christ wish us to go? In the end, it’s not about institutions, or buildings, or “things”. It is about discipleship. It is about love being manifested. It is about not being afraid to do whatever we discern God is calling us to do. Dogs (usually) are motivated by food or play. Christians must pray, and struggle, and discern and then must act in love. Only then can we avoid being frozen in fear.
July 5, 2018
Today is not only the day after Independence Day, but it is the day that the Episcopal Church will begin its 79th General Convention –the highest legislative and moral authority of this Church. This body meets every three years. Every Bishop (hundreds active and retired) is expected to attend. 4 clergy plus 4 lay representatives from each and every diocese of our church will be present – totaling ALMOST 1000 PEOPLE when one includes alternates, youth, vendors, guests and speakers. (By contrast, both Houses of the United States Congress do not total 600 people)!
There will be hot button issues (as usual). Issues of sexuality and same sex marriage rites never go away. There is a mandate to come up with a process for possible revision of the Book of Common Prayer (currently in use since 1979), and our Hymnal (1982), and there are calls for reform but also to “leave it alone.” Other liturgical books, are in need of refinement, of examination, of possible reform – always to engender debate. There is a budget to be examined and passed. And then, how do we as a Church face the issues of racism, institutional violence and also what appears more and more a secular culture that has paid lip service to gender equality but really raised (well, actually lowered) the level abuse of women to practically an art form of “normality” in some professions! There is the thorny issue that the single most important and responsible non-bishop of our church, the President of the House of Deputies, has never been a salaried person. The demands of the office have grown over the centuries. The traveling demands in and out of NYC alone are enormous. To this date, one cannot have a full time paying “job” or a “life” while serving as President of H.D. Therefore it is forever been a person who either is retired, or crassly put, so wealthy that he or she can afford to do this job without pay. Many believe this must change. Most bishops oppose this being a salaried position and have voted down this request each and every convention it has been raised.
I am hoping that among the hundreds of proposed resolutions (most of which may not even see the light of day), among all the political and moral posturing regarding the reform of “Title IV” canons (the disciplinary procedure for clergy who have done wrong), I am hoping that instead of ecclesiastical chest bumping” over the success of our Presiding Bishop’s preaching at the last royal wedding, those who deem themselves (and whom we commission as) our leaders will in the informal gatherings, at the dinners, in walking to and fro, at times of prayer (informal and liturgical) will start to do some really serious soul searching and brain storming regarding who we are as a church and where is God calling us to be. I spoke in this past Sunday’s sermon that what the scriptures seem to make (uncomfortably) clear is that Christ never promised to accept us as we are! In fact, he seldom does that with those whom He calls. Christ always calls us to be better than we think we are capable of being. He calls us to higher and deeper and better. And I, who entered this Episcopal Church by choice so many years ago, am praying that we, as a Church, listen to what our God is calling us to do – of who and what we are meant to be in Christ Jesus. It just seems that the “Kingdom of God” that Jesus preached and calls us to be and to serve is so far away. There is so much work, in Christ’s name and empowered by His Holy Spirit, that we need to be doing.