Monthly Archives: December 2018

Thursday Reflection 12.20.18

Thursday Reflection
“What is God Calling Me to Do”
December 22, 2018
         So there are the still very dark mornings that Abby and I go for her walks. When we hit the ground running neither the sun (nor God, I have been told) has yet risen!
We have these wonderful theological conversations and/or arguments day after day. This morning she complained (again) that your typical Christmas Crèche does not show a border collie present somewhere between Mary and the shepherds – perhaps – when obviously there had to have been one there. Who else was going to organize these stupid humans who create a housing shortage due to tax registration demands?
Abby asked me why we seem to love to sing Silent Night when our lives are so full of noise most of the time. We don’t act as though we mean it. And what’s with the candles in churches during the hymn? Better your LIFE is a light to shine in the darkness than some church candles that flicker for three minutes or so and make everyone “feel good”. Feeling good about oneself isn’t going to bring about either justice or peace.  Living and proclaiming the Good News of Jesus will!
Abby loves Christmas – not because of holiday festivities. In fact that’s the part she grumbles about as her priest parents are usually doing extra parish work in the weeks preceding that take time away from her. But she told me that observing us all trying to be a bit kinder, trying to reach out to those who have so much less than we, and trying to find a quiet space for God so that “thy kingdom come; thy will be done on earth as in heaven” aren’t just words on our church wall but a battle cry for those who believe to make this dark world a place where, finally, “the lion and lamb shall lie down together” and “the light will shine in the darkness.”
So into the early morning darkness the two of us walk: myself and a border collie whose thoughts and questions can force me to see the world, not as it is but as God wants it to be. She should know: one of her ancestors was present when the call to bring peace on earth was given. I told her I’m hoping and I’m listening and I will try harder. And I know I have been graced and loved; forgiven and redeemed. She smiled (she really does, you know), and just wished me a Merry Christmas!
Fr. Joe

Thursday Reflection 12.13.18

Thursday Reflections
What is God Calling Me To Do
December 13, 2018
What are the events, experiences, gifts-you-receive, services-you-do-for others that bring you joy this time of the year? I know so many of us are running amuck trying to balance family and work, children and spouse, shopping and prioritizing, travel and home, community and (perhaps) church. So many folks longing to be happy and to “feel” all that peace and joy we are supposed to feel at this time of the year. Heck, we might even tolerate the nasty unusual cold that has hit our region prematurely. It feels better (so I am told) at Christmastime! (yeah .. right!)
           But as I have written in years past, I also know that this time of the year brings, to some, not all, a mixed emotional bag full of memories – terrible image – and not all of them so good. Clergy know of this season as a time of telephone calls and walk-in unexpected appointments of those who continue to struggle with life’s unfairness and pains. There are those feel no joy do feel angrier because they can’t find whatever it is they think they need to give them that peace.
           One of the few blessings of growing older is to live through such times and to learn that in spite of certain undeniable truths (such as: life is unfair; your friends will never always support you; death always takes away those we love much too soon; family is loveable but at times infuriating – and a plethora of other annoying facts), I have come to learn that joy comes in simpler ways. And I have to stop running, and take that moment to experience them and not just rush to where I think my schedule next demands I must be.
           So I found great joy in the voices of all those carolers singing up a storm last Saturday Evening at the Christmas Carol Sing-A-Long. Perhaps for some, this might be their only experience of Church. I hope not – they know not what they are missing. But if it is, then they were touched at least for a moment. A parishioner shares a good moment in what I know to be a struggling relationship at home – and for a few moments I feel the joy and hope within that person that is not always there – again, for good reasons!  No matter what time of morning, afternoon, evening or night when I come schlepping back to clergy residence, I am greeted by the world’s most opinionated control freak puppy with sniffing snout and wagging tail and a wondrous “I am so happy to see you; you are my joy and life; I love you always; now don’t I deserve a treat?” welcome.
           I find joy when someone, anyone, remarks that a religious message at this time of the year, not necessarily from me but from any religious leader to whom they have listen of whose text they read, has made a difference for them and made them think. I am filled with joy when people find Christ in Christmas and know that this truth will set them free.
           You can’t make everyone happy. You will not always be happy. But there will be moments when God’s hand can slow you down and touch your soul. I hope you’ll stop and experience those moments.
Fr. Joe

Thursday Reflection 12.6.18

Thursday Reflections
What is God Calling Me To Do
December 6, 2018
           Today is the day on the Christian calendar (East and West) that marks the memory of one Nicholas, Bishop of Myra who was tortured and murdered for his faith and his leadership role in the local Christian community during the time of the persecutions instigated by Roman Emperor Diocletian (maybe 342 A.D. – ish?)
            A man renown for a holy life and courage, if you same his name in Latin (a language he NEVER would have spoken as an Eastern Bishop, you would call Holy Nicholas: “Sanctas Nicholas.” And if you say his name fast enough for centuries, and cut the name up a bit, you get: “Santa Claus!”   If you dress him up in the red robes of a western European Bishop (robes he NEVER would have worn as an Eastern Rite Bishop), you get the red robed Santa. Amazing what lives on after our time – how we are remembered.
           This man’s life is shrouded in mystery. All we know with certitude is how he died as a leader and loving pastor of his people. But we know enough of legend. He is considered the patronal saint of sailors – for reasons I know not. He is also considered the patronal saint and protector of children. He was known to oppose those powerful ones who would have forced girls from among the poor into prostitution in order to support their impoverished families. He saved children. He made powerful enemies. He was a man of God who took being a Christian seriously. He was known to give away church resources to assist the poor. And now you can connect the dots and see how our cultural icon reflects the only vaguely remembered generosity of a hero from a long lost era in a land so far away.
           Being a disciple and a member of the Jesus movement is serious work. And costs us love. It may cost us life. But it is so rewarding. So we might now visualize or remember Nicholas as he was. But we can imitate him to a point and strive to be more generous, loving courageous and mindful of those who do not have as much as we.  That’s why this is such a special time of the year. Remember “Sanctas Nicholas.” Be like “St. Nick.”  Let generosity fill your heart and spill into your actions!
Fr. Joe