Author Archives: sjadmin

A Thursday Reflection 4.19.18

For my non-theological (not canon law) “enjoyment” reading, I’ve started a book entitled The Great Fire. It explores a time, place and incidents in history of which I am shamefully and abysmally ignorant.   The book itself is a recreation from official documentation, reasoned speculation as well as excerpts from personal diaries about an American attempt to rescue folks from one of humanity’s first well planned and executed attempts at genocide: the atrocities against Armenian and Greek Christians who were caught up in the onslaught of Turkish nationalism during and at the end of World War I.
In one sense it is better explaining to me how none of the issues of hate that were at the cause of “the war to end all wars” were ever dealt with. So we ended up with a World War II. What a surprise!
It reminded me how perceived wrongs and injuries in the name of “religion” can metastasize into unending revenge – decades or even centuries later – as much of this story seems to me at least to be some kind of payback for religious wars that had occurred long beyond the memory of (but never with the hope of forgiveness from) any of the participants.
Of course, only “important” people leave their mark in history – right? I’ve read about one Greek national living near Smyrna – a teenage boy who will by sheer luck survive this massacre. His name was Aristotle Onassis, and years later he would become a wealthy man who married the widow Jaqueline Kennedy.   I am reading about the exploits of journalists who saw a humanitarian slaughter unfold, but who could say or do little to help – including a very young “cub reporter” just beginning his writing career named Ernest Hemingway. But what of the “unimportant” millions who leave no mark? They just endure. Who speaks for them? Who cares about them?
This book is hardly “fun reading.” It is about pain and death and cowardice and religious hatred. And it is all true. Not a novel! Not the makings of a Tom Cruise Mission Impossible film. It is just another true story of how it is so easy to hold on to the pain: those injuries and hurts that others cause. We always remember them. The good that people may do for us is so easily forgotten. Too easily forgotten.
Taking this down to the micro level: why not spend this day remembering the “good” that someone may have done to or for you. Thank her or him (again, if you already did so – or for the first time, if you ignored their kindness). Appreciate the good of others.   And if you can take any lesson from history, learn to let go of the hate filled memories. They always destroy! Even if you never act on them, they will destroy you – from within.
So if I am learning one thing (beyond this terrible story itself), it is how easy it is to forget the kindnesses, and how easy it is to recall the pains that people in our lives cause. And it is so not worth it to hold on to that pain!
                                                                                                            Fr. Joe

A Thursday Reflection 4.12.18

Last week our border collie endured a major oral surgery as the result of having shattered a back tooth chewing on … no one is sure what, and she’s not “fessing up!” So in the span of less than one year, two priests and a dog have undergone major medical procedures. (I alone was not put under general anesthesia – I got to watch them fix the access to my heart in “real time.”)
The past year has been a reminder that all our assumptions about being “healthy” are so foolish. The older we get, the longer the time on life’s path, the more chance (or inevitability) that we break down. So the eyes don’t focus as they did, and the hearing can be (selectively?) spotty. The back plays games and the legs can no longer speed us through the city blocks (or country miles) we used to run.   Even now, as Abby fights off the effects of the pain killing medication intended to help her feel better, she tries so hard to do things with that machine of a body that Borders possess, but simply cannot – at least for the time being. And what is done efficiently, by the dog or her doggie “mommy” or “daddy,” is slower and still Advil driven.
“When I wore a younger man’s clothes…” (to quote the great Billy Joel), the feast of the Lord’s Resurrection was a matter of faith, but it never carried any personal message. We believe, as Christians, that Christ has overcome death. Such is Easter. All well and good. But what about me?
Now each Easter’s liturgy brings more than a reminder to acknowledge the most important tenet of the Nicene Creed. It reminds me that as I (and all those who journey through life with me: those I love and those I serve, and even she who races on all fours and would spend the day rounding up sheep) move closer to the end of allotted time here, there is that promise for those of us who keep faith that there is “more” and there is “wonderful” beyond the termination of bodily health and life. There truly is existence beyond existence. “I believe in the resurrection and the life of the world to come.” My faith affirms this. My breaking body waits in hope!   Such is truly part of the beauty of this feast!
– Fr. Joe

A Thursday Reflection 4.5.18

The spiritual journey can be so difficult. I so wish that the upbeat feelings that stem from beautiful Holy Week liturgies and the warm communal spirit they create in us were easy to maintain. But like anything else, Christian life is not lived within the confines of a church building listening to the sounds of wonderful music, taking in the scent of incense and candles or even attending to the proclamations of Good News from young voices.
Why was it so easy to behold the unappreciated gift of snow on the day after Easter and then to allow my language to deteriorate into a string of blasphemies as if this could prevent an iota of a flake from falling? Why did I allow satanically inspired thoughts of revenge fill me on Tuesday when, seeking to find a parking spot reasonably close to the center where I endure “physical therapy,” I happened upon a bright gleaming silver Mercedes (w/ beautiful black interior) angle parked to take out not one or two but three parking places. Why was I so immediately tempted to angle park myself behind the car to block that car for the next 1 ½ hours… or perhaps leave the driver a consoling note thanking him/her for this thoughtless act and perhaps making a reference analogously to that body part that is necessary for a bowel movement!
My point is simple: joy, warmth, and all the fuzzy good “feelings” that most associate with a life well lived – being a Christian – while among the fruits of the Holy Spirit, are not enough. One can slip into anger, annoyance, crankiness, cynicism or despair quite easily. It is not the initial moment of grace but the sustained effort and openness to receive that grace which is the hallmark to life in the spirit. It is a wonder to have that experience of love. It is far more difficult and yet more wondrous to live into a vocation to love.
The risen Christ calls us to love one another as much as he loved us! His was a love that took him to death, and then through death to life. I am whining about lack of parking and inclement weather.   The spiritual journey can be so difficult – but worth it!

A Thursday Reflection 3.29.18

When a person is studying the history of Christian liturgy, you spend some time on the texts of what is called the “Gothic Missal.”     FYI: The Gothic Missal is the only surviving source of many rites and commemorations that characterize the specific liturgical tradition of late antique and early medieval (Merovingian) Gaul” – taken from www.brepolis.net.  In simple English, what we’re reading are the texts of services and specific prayers going back to the Church community in what would someday become France.

As Anglicans, we “pray what we believe.”  So as an uplifting Easter message, allow me to share with you the prayer of that ancient community so many, many centuries ago, as they gathered in vigil in the darkness before each Easter morning in anticipation and celebration of Jesus’ Resurrection.  Why is this feast of such importance?  What do we articulate in prayer?  Read on:

O Almighty God

Hear your people

who are this day met to glorify

the Resurrection of your Son Our Lord;

And guide them from this festival to eternal gladness from the exulting joys of this solemnity to the joys that have no end.

For this is the day of man’s Resurrection,

the birthday of eternal life;

in which we have been satisfied with your mercy in the morning

in which the Blessed One who comes in the name of the Lord and who is our God,

has shone upon us.   AMEN

 

A blessed Easter to Each of You!!!!

A Thursday Reflection 3.22.18

Rumor has it that “Spring” has arrived.  At least from the cosmic and meteorological relationship of our “island earth” and its angle to the sun, it is now spring.    And yet I see snow, and feel the cold.  Even Abby, the most snow enthusiastic speed demon, sort of mumbles under her breath as she chugs over hard old snow that isn’t fun to race through anymore.

We’re all tired of the winter.  It cannot die soon enough.  We need to feel the warmth (and not just the pale chilled brightness of a “winter sun”).  We need to be able to don light jackets, walk in the park, on the tracks, in the woods or on town sidewalks.  We need to throw a baseball, catch a Frisbee, ride a bike, or play fetch with our family canine companions.  I want to trade in jeans and six layers of sweatshirts for a tee shirt, shorts and sneakers!  I would love to feel young again – one more time!

The feelings that Spring raises up in me each year are “sacramental” – by which I mean that those rites and events are “outward signs of an invisible spiritual reality” – for those of you who remember the catechism’s definition.  And I am not merely speaking of trying to feel better about myself as if I could relive my adolescent years.  I would NEVER want to relive those years.  (I suspect most of us, if we’re truthful, would admit to that.)

This is more than about physiology or psychology.  It is about “life in the spirit.”  It is about, as the Greek Orthodox say: “being divinized.”  For believers, the events we will celebrate in our HOLY week bring to mind that in Christ, life (true life, life eternal) is ever given to us – ever young for us.  We arrive at Easter reminded that the feast is not about sunshine and warmth and flowers and color and the “stuff” of the season’s change.  Easter is about even more than the resurrection of the Incarnate One who “lived and died for us and our salvation.”  It is a reminder that in Him, we all rise to new life.  We are, in him, ever young – ever entering into the springtime of a spiritual forever.  And the cold pale death of spiritual winter will ultimately have no hold over us.

A Thursday Reflection 3.15.18

It’s the “Ides of March” (and not a good day to be a Roman politician with autocratic aspirations), but I’m going to think back only a week or so rather than 2000 + years.  What lessons did I learn or questions do I now ask in light of the meteorological events of March 2018?
You certainly learn something about friendship and neighborliness when it comes to needing to use the shower of another or that they will share a hot cup of coffee or tea with you in close quarters when you haven’t bathed in days!
I know that we were all “mildly” inconvenienced by the loss of power for those days – and have nothing to complain about if we compare ourselves with people in the Caribbean who are still without power or homes months and months after the hurricane.
I also know that this year marks 70 years since this country pulled off the great rescue of  millions in a city in winter peril (the city of our “enemy” – cf. the Berlin Airlift), yet we still seem impotent to care for our own citizens who have suffered from last summer’s storms aftermath!  Why?   And systemic poverty in this land?  Why?
I learned that greater is not always better than fewer:  e.g., two Nor’easters are not better than one.  Also, I struggle with the math in this question:  Why is it that two good legs walking vivacious, snow-loving dog are of less value than one good leg + one herniated disc + one cane + one back brace?  Isn’t “4” always better than “2”?
For that matter, why is the proportion of joy of a dog loving a raging snowstorm always in direct reverse proportion to her “daddy’s” desire to go out and walk her in it?
Curious how the tenor of news never seemed to change: power came back on and we find out that we’re still shooting, hurting, abusing one another, and that peace which the Lord promised (“…which passeth all understanding…”) seems so, so far away in this time of social and political agitation.  Jesus warned that “the poor you will always have with you…,” but it seems that in spite of our collective and communal wealth, those suffering from poverty increase.
A last reminder and question: When will we learn to not put all our faith in our technology?  Nature scoffs at our hubris.  Try to contact anyone when the power is gone, you or they don’t have access to a cell phone (or remember the number), and the roads are blocked with downed trees.  One learns how small we really are – and how much we all need each other.
John Donne:  “No man is an Island.”  (16th Century)
Hillary Clinton:  “It takes a Village”   (20th Century)

Me:      So when will we finally get it??    (yesterday)

– Fr. Joe

A Thursday Reflection 3.1.18

You would think that it would be easy to create a weekly reflection during the season of Lent. After all, why not condemn this sin or that sinner (and the media gives us so many from which to choose) and point out the flaws in those all around us?

Ever sit in a room at night typing, as I am doing right now? An interesting thing occurs. You sit in the light and stare out a window into the darkness (you know: where all those sinful persons, places or things live) and yet the strongest image you will encounter is your own reflection!

It is an understatement to point out how pathetic this world of ours has become and how steeped it is in self-righteous hypocrisy from those all too ready to judge and condemn others with whom they disagree. If Lent has become an opportunity to practice the Christian disciplines of prayer, fasting and giving to charity, and so many refuse to do so or feel they are above such quaint customs, well, I can look for those types of hard-hearted individuals and expose them. Could I not? And yet, when trying to see beyond my window this evening, all I can see is my own reflection.

As I look to expose the weaknesses in my sisters and brothers, why is it I can’t see beyond the one staring back at me?

– Fr. Joe

A Thursday Reflection 2.22.18

I had a meeting with Bishop Sauls last week – preparing the Easter Service w/ Confirmations. So I schlepped down to the Cathedral to meet him – on the day after the most recent mass murders of our children. To say I had little if any enthusiasm for the trip or the planning session is a gross understatement. But then in those darkest moments, grace intervenes!
Now I have been taking the subways by myself since before I was a teenager, but in all those decades, this is only the second time I have witnessed this miracle.
On our #1 downtown Broadway local car, there was this young girl – a street kid – a teen whom Dickens might have described as a waif. She had that “far away stare” of someone who has seen (or done) too much for her years. She had eyes of ice blue and wore handed-on clothes. She kept her distance and yet invited conversation. She admitted she is hungry, needed money or food. She knows about homeless shelters and that’s why she avoids them! She would sing one song for everyone, and if you could help her, please do. Then she also said that she was singing not only for the kids who died in Florida yesterday but for all the ones “who avoided the bullets this time but are gonna die the next time.”
If I say her voice was powerful but angelic, you will dismiss this account as fiction. But it was.   She sang: “God bless the child” better than I have ever heard! She ripped a hole through my soul.
I wear a clerical collar – and people on subways watch what clergy do: and usually they shake their heads and scoff at us for being fools. I gave her the sandwich I had bought for myself for later.   Others stepped up and gave her either money or food (mostly fruit or granola bars). She was gracious and grateful. One stop later the doors opened and she disappeared.
I have seen folks take a moment to be gracious and helpful. I have seen an instant where the color of skin, the difference of gender, the isolation of age or the insistence of political rightness of my view counted for nothing. There was a need and people responded. There was a voice and folks were mesmerized.     Why does it take a tragedy for the barriers to come down for even an instant? Was she the lost soul among us – or are we the lost around her?
– Fr. Joe

A Thursday Reflection 2.15.18

I picked up on this scripture reflection last week – but what a wonderful way to initiate the spiritual growth and reflection that the season of Lent should bring us.  So – everyone,  here are some powerful thoughts for a Holy Lent.  Fr. Joe

 

Love Them
By the Rev. Ben Hankinson

The life of Christ stands in stark contrast to the rest of the world, or at least it should. That is not to say that it stands apart in the sense of being disconnected or disinterested. Rather, just as Jesus and Paul are deeply invested in lives transformed by the good news of God’s love, so too should the church be invested in the transformative work of the Gospel in the local community of family, friends, strangers, and even adversaries.

One known for such love, overcoming adversity and hardship in various shapes and sizes, is Mother Teresa of Calcutta. She challenged herself and those under her leadership to embrace the radical life of Christ in their missions around the world, taking hold of Paul’s admonition to the Romans.

That charge is well summarized in these words found in Mother Teresa’s home:

People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centered. Forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives. Be kind anyway.
If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies. Succeed anyway.
If you are honest and sincere, people may deceive you. Be honest and sincere anyway.
What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight. Create anyway.
If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous. Be happy anyway.
The good you do today will often be forgotten. Do good anyway.
Give the best you have, and it will never be enough. Give your best anyway.
In the final analysis, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.

Whatever our relationship with others, may we heed the call of Christ and love them in such a way that the love of God is made manifest in and through us.

 

Romans 12:9-21

Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; 10love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor.11Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. 12Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. 13Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers. 14Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. 15Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 16Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are. 17Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. 18If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 19Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” 20No, “if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.” 21Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

A Thursday Reflection 2.8.18

Has anyone ever taken a hard look at the “facts,” legends or traditions we seem to put our faith in?  Question the usefulness of such a “fact,” and one might be branded either heretic or “you’re no fun at all.”

A week ago, sophisticated and educated humans descended upon innocent life forms such as gophers, groundhogs, etc., focused intense camera lighting upon them, picked them up without their permission, thank you very much, and infallibly declared that the predetermined outcome (seeing the creature’s shadow) will have meteorological consequences for determining the onset of Spring!   Although I have not seen this other “scientific” experiment recently, there is allegedly a captive octopus or squid at some university that has a higher percentage of picking both Super Bowl and Presidential Election winners than the gambling elite of Las Vegas who do so for a living!  And do you believe in the chicken who allegedly can tap out the tune of our national anthem on a keyboard – (the Opening ritual of Puppy Bowl XIV)?

I’ve been told that people need something “to believe in” – even when logic dictates that the event or “truth” never happened or at times is downright silly.  And I get that.  Our lives are becoming so frenzied and hectic that we’d like to have some stable element that anchors us.

And why not?  We can all use a silly tradition or three to put, if not our “faith,” then at least our feelings in!  What I find so curious is that for a culture that has so many questionable things to believe in (UFO’s have landed and their inhabitants now own stock in New Mexico; reality TV is actually real; only my political party tells the truth; our best days are behind us – whatever myth you firmly hold), we deem ourselves either too busy, involved, educated or exhausted to believe in the one Being – who is life … who is BEING and who desperately wants to have a place in our lives.   Take God out of our lives, and humans will replace God with other idols in which to put their faith.  Kind of goes back to a question I’ve posed before:  In whom do you trust?  Whom do you serve?  Who do you believe loves you?  What do you believe in and if not Our Lord, then how is that working for you?

Fr. Joe