Monthly Archives: February 2019

Thursday Reflection 2.28.19

Thursday Reflection
Thursday, February 28, 2019
“What is God Calling me to do?”
         Step back in time. It is March, and it is still cold. There is more than a bit of residue of snow in Central Park. Classes ended at 2:55 p.m., and so the 15 year old me has raced down from the 5th floor home room to the locker room in the basement, rushed to change into jeans and sweatshirt, grabbed my glove, catcher’s mask and whatever else Mr. (Coach) Byrnes commands that we lug over to the park, and so about 20 of us go racing across W. 87th street to the park entrance, find a diamond that is relatively useable, and thus begins first Spring baseball practice. The rites of Spring have begun! The “boys of summer” have arrived.
         Of course today the way older me sometimes watches Spring training games on TV. But more often, I just take in the hints that winter’s bitter winds and death like grip is lessoning. Days are getting longer. Even the TV personality shadow-deprived weather “rats” have given us hope for a quicker end to winter’s gloom. Springtime may still be on the horizon, but at least it is there. Spring for me meant discipline, hard work, but eventual fun.
         In the cycle of our liturgically corporate lives, the same message is about to be sent. Next week (finally) Ash Wednesday will arrive and in anticipation of Easter’s Message and Easter’s Joy, we are asked to become a part of the story of a church community that prepares itself with the disciplines of penance. It is the time for “spring training” for the soul, as it were.
         For more than a few centuries, these 40 days of LENT was a highly touted period for self-reflection, admission of our human fallibility and the need for reform and renewal, but also for preparing ourselves for the most significant feast of the Church year: Easter. “Spring Training” is a weak comparison to be sure. It is NOT about what WE DO to get into spiritual shape. It IS a time to participate with others in any spiritual discipline so that we open our hearts more to receive the glorious gift of salvation that HAS BEEN DONE FOR US in Christ.
         I hope you are all looking forward to this season as a preparation for Easter’s joy – “Christ has died. Christ is Risen. Christ will come again!” And because of what Christ has done for us, the days will become longer, the sun will be warmer, and the athletic “rites of Spring” will merely be a symbolic anticipation of all the wonders that our loving God has prepared for us.
Fr. Joe

Thursday Reflection 2.21.19

Thursday Reflection
Thursday, February 21, 2019
“What is God Calling me to do?”
           Can we be grateful for the failures or other negative aspects in our life? Should we?  Each year, I do one of the Confirmation Classes on various types of prayer that we Christians pray. Inevitably we get to thanksgiving. This always leads me to ask the teens what are those types of things in our lives for which we should be thankful, and they respond with all the usual suspects (as adolescents are expected to do).
           I have a bit of fun whenever I explain that I am ever so grateful for one experience of bitter failure. My very first exam in high school (you may guess the subject – and NO it wasn’t “religion”) was one for which I did not prepare, couldn’t be bothered to study for, and took ever so lightly. My grade on that exam cannot be registered here because the number hasn’t been invented yet to define how poorly I did. I was labeled as having poor study habits, bad attitude, and inadequate ability to do even rudimentary high school work. (And then after that I had to listen to my parents!!!!)
           That experience impacted the 13 year old me. It taught me the need for preparation and in fact, led to a life of appreciating scholarship in several fields. Of course I never realized it at the time, but it was an experience for which I became most grateful (well..all but the “grounded for the next ten years” part).
I am thankful that I got a chance very early in life to learn that I had limitations. I’m grateful that the Lord showed me that there would be several disciplines at which I could excel, but there would be some that I would, at best, only plod through. And I had to know the difference. I am so glad that I was given the chance to appreciate how we all differ in terms of talents and gifts. To presume that we all can think speak, feel or do the same in life is absurd.
So in answer to the question posed to my younger charges, I ask YOU: for what failure or negative experience are you NOW grateful? Has there been any unfortunately / sad / horrible event that has happened to you which has shaped the person you have become, and have you been open to the God’s spirit to use that event as a means to positively mold your thinking or behavior?  God has this sense of humor: allowing us to fail then so that we might profit now (and forever. Amen). So shouldn’t we be thankful?
Fr. Joe

Thursday Reflection 2.14.19

Thursday Reflection
Thursday, February 14, 2019
“What is God Calling me to do?”
         I am going to be that “fool” rushing in “… where wise men (sic.) never go!” (and if you remember this song, then you were a teenager before I was).  I am going to push for “a little change” (gasp !!) – something Episcopalians are just not good at.
The year is already six weeks old, and I am feeling the desperate need to introduce a little change into my life. Let’s face it: that little rat in Punxsutawney, PA may be promising that we’re heading into Spring more rapidly this year, but the cold in my soul doesn’t feel Spring’s warmth anywhere nearby. Same old winter. And the Patriots won the Super Bowl again. Boring! Heck, as much as I love Abby, watching a border collie (again) smoke the competition (again) in the 2019 Master’s Agility Competition at Westminster is just same old, same old. (Spoiler alert: Borders have an unfair advantage in the way their hips are constructed AND they are so bloody smart and quick).
So starting the end of February the weekend liturgical services will be marked with a little “change” – just to keep us fresh and hopefully to feed us with fresh thoughts, meditations, and food for the spirit.
As we have done in years past, on February 23 – 24, the sermon will be a specially recorded sermon of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King (this year, I have chosen A Knock at Midnight which he preached in August of 1967 as a reflection on Luke 11:5-8)
Then the following six weekends (starting with the weekend BEFORE Lent begins on March 6), we’re going to have a special presentation in the place of a “sermon.”   I have purchased a program entitled: Entering the Passion of Jesus: A Beginner’s Guide to Holy Week by Dr. Amy Jill Levine. We’ll incorporate a video presentation within our services as each week as a brilliant but very down-to-earth scholar takes us through the various scripture remembrances of that final week of Jesus life: Entering Jerusalem, The Temple, the Teachings, the First Dinner, the Last Supper, and Gethsemane.  Her reflections are all about risk: risking reputation, righteous anger, challenge, rejection, the loss of friends and finally temptation.
          So the liturgy for those six weeks leading up to Palm Sunday will be “changed”. Hopefully they remain praise filled as well as thought provoking.
Anyway I am inviting you all to embrace “change” even if just for a few weeks. And if these small changes in public worship achieve their desired ends, perhaps there will be more and better changes for you and I in what matters most: our journey to life eternal!
Fr. Joe

Thursday Reflection 2.7.19

Thursday Reflection                                                                                                               

 February 7, 2019     

“What is God calling me to do?”

The Episcopal New Yorker (Official Diocesan newspaper) just sent out a notice that it is looking for authors to provide articles for its next edition exploring the theme of DEATH.   The categories are, for any clergy, the “usual suspects” (e.g., ministry to the dying; ministry to the family of those who are dying; preparing funeral rites; death of a child; death of a parent; dealing with long term illness; dealing with tragic unexpected death; and on and on).

What I continue to find so interesting as an observer (and participant) in the human condition as it is lived in this millennium is our deeply ingrained desire to avoid dealing with this topic at all..  Having an issue of a journal totally so dedicated reminds me of just how much we cringe from facing death as an inevitability..

The rubrics of our Book of Common Prayer remind me that at least once (if not more often) per year, my priesthood vows command that I remind people of their duty to put their affairs in order, to make sure that (as much as humanly possible) they will provide for the spouse or other family they leave behind, and also leave gifts to various charities and causes as a final demonstration of one’s commitment to Christ.  And I cannot tell you how often in my years as a parish priest, I will encounter some parishioner who will express her (or his) disapproval of  even raising this issue.  “No one who gets up early on a Sunday morning wants to hear that someday they’re going to die”- this I have been told a number of times.  News Flash:  Whether we say it or deny it – It’s the truth!

Even for those who profess their faith in life beyond life (“…I believe in the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come. Amen.”), there is our fear of the unknown.  There is the realization that as we get older, we have left not only a “carbon footprint” but a moral footprint as well.  There have been too many unkind things said or actions done that we have not yet fully regretted or perhaps even acknowledged.  There have been too many “I should have’s” in my life. And perhaps we wonder (to ourselves if not aloud) whether one can truly be forgiven for all the pain one has caused.  On the flip side, there is the anger at those who “sinned against us” and we wonder if there will be sufficient punishment for those who hurt me (or any other innocent soul).  Funny how we are very comfortable seeking divine justice on to OTHERS!

And there is that little matter of forgiving those who have injured us.  Just how will we be held to account should we leave this life’s journey with hatred for another still burning within?  Even if such animosity is deserved!  Do we demean ourselves by forgiving too often?  Do we become enablers to the abusers?  How does leaving an issue like this “in God’s hands” bring justice to those who have no one to care or speak for them?    So many unanswered questions!

Lent is still a month away (Easter VERY LATE this year).  The reminder in the Ash Wednesday liturgy that we are but “dust” is unsettling.         “All we are is dust in the wind…”     

So when was the last time you reflected on an event that is heading straight for you?   Ready or not: “Sister Death” (as Francis of Assisi referred to this reality) comes for us and will bring us home to a loving and forgiving God – but have we loved and have we forgiven?  Have sought to be loved and forgiven?  Are we ready for the journey?   Or is death a topic never to be addressed except at a funeral of someone else.  Just leave me alone and let’s not think about it.

So, anyone want to take up the offer and write for the paper?


Fr. Joe