Do we want a gracious God?
In tomorrow's Gospel reading, we continue from last week when we read of Jesus going to the synagogue in Nazareth. Jesus tells those gathered for worshop that day,
Truly I tell you, no prophet is accepted in the prophet's hometown. But the truth is, there were many widows in Israel in the time of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, and there was a severe famine over all the land; yet Elijah was sent to none of them except to a widow at Zarephath in Sidon. There were also many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian.This mention of what God did and did not do during the time of Elijah and Elisha gets folks angry. Luke's Gospel tells us,
When they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled with rage. They got up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they might hurl him off the cliff. But he passed through the midst of them and went on his way.Brian P. Stoffregen offers the following reflection on the text:
Jesus says the wrong things for this crowd. He recalls a story from Elijah's time. God miraculously provided food for a poor, pagan widow. There were many poor, starving widows in Israel during the famine who didn't receive any miraculous food. The crowd in the synagogue starts mumbling to each other: "Is he saying that God likes Gentiles better than Jews? Jesus' had better watch what he says."The full text of his reflection on the readings for tomorrow is found here: CrossMarks Christian Resources.
Jesus recalls a story from the time of Elisha. God miraculously cured Naaman, a pagan leper. There were many sick lepers in Israel during that time who received no miraculous cure. The crowd's whispers are getting louder. "Is he saying that God prefers the pagans" That's not what we came to hear? We want to hear some harsh words of judgment. We want Jesus to urge the Jews onto living and acting right. We want him to drive out the Gentiles. Why did he use those examples? Why did he talk about God helping pagan Gentiles? He should be warning us to stay away from those Gentiles. If God likes the Gentiles so much, what's the use in being a Jew, keeping all those commandments? He's going to destroy what little faith there is left in Nazareth."
In essence, the people declared Jesus a false prophet. He was blaspheming the faithful, pious Jew. He was praising the sinful, pagan Gentiles. The punishment for false prophecy is death. They try to destroy Jesus. He just wasn't what they expected. He didn't do the miracles they expected. He didn't say the words that they expected. He had to be a false prophet, because he didn't act like they wanted him to act.
Isn't this story similar to the parables in Luke 15: the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost son? In each case, others are invited to rejoice over the lost being found. We don't know the response of the neighbors in the first two parables, but we know that the older brother in the third one can't rejoice with his father and participate in the extravagant feast.
The people in Nazareth recognize and marvel at Jesus' "gracious words" (v. 22); but when illustrations of God's grace to outsiders are given; their feelings turn to rage. They are also hearing that God does not act the way they want God to act. Do we really want a gracious God? Certainly we do -- for ourselves; but can we have a gracious God if we don't believe that the same grace is given to those sinners outside our church doors, outside our faith, outside our boundaries of acceptability?
The Very Rev. Robert Wright, a fellow Fighting Friars football team member with me in seminary, also offers a nice reflection on our epistle reading for Day One: Love Is For Grownups
Labels: Gospel reading
Where Is God in the Haitian Earthquake? (Revisited)
Two weeks ago, I was frustrated by hearing good Christians talk about the earthquake in Haiti in ways that seemed to blame the Haitians for the disaster. Now I will concede as readily as anyone that part of the tragedy of the January 12 earthquake was caused by human choices. Choices like living on a known fault line in substandard housing. While individuals in Haiti may have had little choice in that, there has been a history of human choices that have led to Haiti being the most impoverished nation in the western hemisphere. And this history of abuse and neglect did make the results of the quake all the more devastating.
But what I heard was different. I heard it being taught that the earthquake in Haiti was the direct result of sin on the part of Haitians. And as this directly countered Jesus’ clear teaching and added unnecessary insult to unspeakable injury, I didn’t want to leave my congregation thinking this response was biblical.
What I did was to create a short video, which I posted at our church’s YouTube Channel at www.youtube.com/user/kingofpeacekingsland
I sent a link to our church’s email list and posted a link at my Facebook page. Since then, the video has been viewed more than 13,000 times on YouTube. In addition, I have sent out copies of the file so that it could be used in churches as far afield as Connecticut and Arizona. And perhaps most importantly, the video has been posted and reposted by Haitian immigrants to the U.S. on their Facebook pages.
I promise you that the video is not that good. My words fail to fully convey all I wish I could in the midst of this tragedy. And I think that a video to my congregation was seen 1,300 times more often than I expected is because the Holy Spirit used it to get the healing words out that were needed.
The heart of the message is that Jesus spoke plainly in the 13th chapter of Luke’s Gospel about this exact issue. Jesus was preaching repentance, telling the crowds that they needed to turn back from evil and turn toward God. He was warning them to interpret the present times rightly. And then some asked him about a terrible tragedy. The Roman Governor, Pontius Pilate, killed some Galileans, mixing their blood with the sacrifices they had to offer to God in the Temple in Jerusalem.
Jesus asked the crowd if they thought that these Galileans were the worst sinners in Galilee? Then he added another tragedy. Jesus asked the crowd if they thought the 18 killed when the Tower of Siloam fell on them were the worst sinners in Jerusalem. Then he answered, “I tell you, no!” Jesus then would not be diverted from his teaching on repentance. For while Pilate’s actions and the tower falling were not God’s punishment, those who died were then liable to God’s judgment that comes for all when we die. Jesus warned the crowds to repent.
This teaching of Jesus fits so directly with the earthquake in Haiti. Do you think that those killed in the earthquake were the worst sinners in the western hemisphere? Jesus would say “no.”
So then if God did not cause this tragedy, where was God when the earthquake happened? Anyone who keeps up with the news from Jesus’ day and before until the newspaper you hold in your hand has ready proof that God does not act to undo all human tragedies. Yes, God can and does enter into human history. Miracles can and do occur. But these do not happen at every turn, undoing all the harm done by nature and humans. Jesus also addressed this directly in the 4th chapter of Luke’s Gospel when he said, “There were many in Israel with leprosy in the time of Elisha the Prophet, yet not one of them was cleansed, only Naaman the Syrian.”
Don’t hear me wrongly as speaking against the power of prayer and how God can and will heal. I am not limiting what God can do. I am just acknowledging that Jesus demonstrated that not all are healed and not all tragedies are averted. But this is not to say that God is conveniently busy elsewhere when people suffer.
We know that God was present by the power of the Holy Spirit to all Haitians as the earth quaked. Those who have been rescued from the rubble after an impossible number of days have routinely reported being strengthened by their faith in God. They endured days with no food or water, knowing that God would rescue them. And how did God rescue them? Through their fellow Haitians and the many foreign rescue workers who descended on the ruined buildings to pick their way through the wreckage to those still alive.
Many times, the way God enters in to human tragedy is through the Body of Christ. That spark of the image of God within us is what has caused an outpouring of love and concern to the Haitian people. So while God was present to the people there directly in the same way that God is present to you as you read this column, God also used many human hands to accomplish a divine purpose. God has been present to our brothers and sisters in Haiti through that divine impulse that has been working through regular folk to redeem this tragedy.
I think the reason why my recent message traveled as far as New Zealand and to lots of points in between is because deep within, Christians already understood that there had to be something wrong with blaming Haitians for the earthquake. We should no more do that than we should label those who died in flooding in Atlanta earlier this winter as the worst sinners in our state.
No, God did not shake the ground under Haiti. But neither did God prevent those natural processes for taking place. As Jesus taught the crowds who gathered around him, disasters, both natural and manmade should show us how our mortal life is fleeting. This is the time for getting connected to God. And it is also the time for those of us who have that relationship with God to live into our love of God by loving our neighbors as ourselves. And now and for years to come, our neighbors in Haiti are going to need our loving support rather than condemnation.
The above is my religion column for today's Tribune & Georgian.
Having Your Cake and NOT Eating It Too
There's an interesting blog post at BeliefNet, Reason, Religion and Moral Behavior where writer Rod Dreher concludes:
Religion that engages the emotions, and trains them to react in particular ways, will be more likely to get better behavior out of its adherents than a religion lightly held, and that makes fewer demands on those who profess it. It's an obvious point, I suppose, but there appears to be scientific data showing that people whose religious faith trains their emotions to respond and conform to a particular behavioral code will be more successful at convincing people to live out its moral teachings than a religion that remains mostly analytical/cerebral, or that doesn't bury itself deeply in the "heart" (= a metaphor for the emotional part of the brain).He makes a case for why traditions that include some training in denial (more the Orthodox emphasis on fasting, than our keeping of Lent) can benefit your brain. You can read the full text of his post here: Reason, Religion and Moral Behavior.
Given that we live in a world in which the conscious brain is overwhelmed by information and stimuli as like never before, forming the emotional brain to give the morally correct response to problems presented it is perhaps more important than ever for parents and religious educators. This information also suggests strongly that reason, while important to moral behavior, is not nearly as important as emotional instinct.
Equally important is to read the article that started his own thinking. It's the National Public Radio story Willpower and the Slacker Brain which reveals the neurological reasons why you have trouble making some choices. For example, they show why having to hold a longer phone number in memory can make you more likely to choose chocolate cake over fruit. There's also the link to the dizzying array of Crayola choices that lead to Crayola's law, which is that their number of color options doubles every 28 years...and this is not a good thing.
I found the BeliefNet blog post and the two attached NPR articles to be thought-provoking reads. Enjoy!
Crayola options from 1903 to 2010.
And if you still remain unconvinced that we live with too many choices, take a look at this video clip from Borat in an American grocery store. It gives you brain freeze to think of the choices we face. I think I'll go have chocolate cake.
Labels: news item
To the End
God...brought light out of darkness, not out of a lesser light. He can bring thy summer out of winter, though thou have no spring. Though...thou have been benighted till now, swintered and frozen...now God comes to thee, not as in the dawning of the day, not as in the bud of the spring, but as the sun at noon, to banish all shadows; as the sheaves in harvest, to fill all penuries. All occasions invite His mercies, and all times are His seasons....Whom God loves He loves to the end; and not only to their own end, to their death, but to his end; and His end is, that He might love them still.The end or purpose of God is that he might love us, in life and beyond life into the life eternal. God's end is love and love does not die.
An Update from Haiti with Prayers
The Episcopal Diocese of Haiti is caring for 23,000 earthquake survivors in 21 camps. The full update on that work is available here in: an Episcopal News Service article. The update says in part,
"Please tell our partners, the people of the Episcopal Church, the people of the United States and indeed the people of the world that we in Haiti are immensely grateful for their prayers, their support and their generosity," [Bishop Jean Zaché] Duracin wrote. "This is a desperate time in Haiti; we have lost so much. But we still have the most important asset, the people of God, and we are working continuously to take care of them."There is also an ENS article: In Haiti's 'new era' Episcopalians around the world offer help.
The Haitian diocese suffered greatly with the quake. A number of the diocese's 254 schools, ranging from preschools to a university and a seminary, were destroyed or heavily damaged, including the Holy Trinity complex of primary, music and trade schools adjacent to the demolished diocesan Cathédrale Sainte Trinité (Holy Trinity Cathedral) in Port-au-Prince.
We at King of Peace have sent $700 to further the work of Episcopal Relief and Development in responding to the immediate needs of Haiti. In addition, the Rev. Frank and Victoria Logue are planning to go on a fact-finding advanced trip to the Dominican Republi February 22-27, to see how those of us in the Diocese of Georgia can help out companion diocese build its capacity to meet the growing need caused by the tragedy on the opposite side of their island. More information on that trip will follow. For now, let us remain in prayers for our brothers and sisters in Haiti.
The following is a Litany by Wendy Tobias, Carol Wade and Alexandra Zepeda, from Strength Through Unity: A Service of Prayer for Haiti on Jan. 17 at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C.:
God of infinite mercy, who calls forth order out of chaos, peace out of turmoil, calm out of fear, we come before you aching and tender, crying out for Haiti and her people, saying, We lift our prayers to you, O God: You are the hope of all Creation.
We pray for Haiti, land of mountains and sea, where the very earth has shifted. May her tremors cease. May her tumult end. We pray for her people, shattered yet courageous, frightened yet bold, destitute and longing for relief. May their voice be heard. May their need be met. We lift our prayers to you, O God.
You are the hope of all Creation.
We pray for the injured, broken and lost: thirsting for clean water, hungry for food, stripped of shelter, desperate for medical care; they look to the world for hope. May their dry mouths find drink, their empty bellies find food, their families find cover, and their bodies find health. We lift our prayers to you, O God.
You are the hope of all Creation.
We pray for rescuers, those who do the work of recovery, laboring in the midst of agony; for healers, doctors, nurses, and all who tend those wounded in body, mind, or spirit. May their hands be steady. may their resolve be sure. May their work be filled with grace. We lift our prayers to you, O God.
You are the hope of all Creation.
We pray for the dying and those who have died, whose frail bodies now line the city streets. May mercy be abundant. May death have dignity. May they never be forgotten. We lift our prayers to you, O God.
You are the hope of all Creation.
We pray for the global community, grieving and responding in love. May our action be swift. May our purpose be certain. May our devotion endure. We lift our prayers to you, O God.
You are the hope of all Creation.
We pray for the days to come, the future, and the promise of what lies ahead. May new roads be paved; new industry be born; new fortunes rise; and new friendships sustained. We lift our prayers to you, O God.
You are the hope of all Creation.
- - - - -
God of compassion, now let us answer your call and respond to our sister Haiti through steadfast commitment, diligence in prayer, charity in action, and constancy in hope. Her needs are deep and ours is a land of plenty. With open hand and open heart may our prayers be known in the eager generosity of our giving. In your holy name we pray. Amen.
Abiding God, your light is ever present with us, piercing through the darkness of tragedy. We give you thanks for the bright beacon of hope found when your people join together for the welfare of all. And now, when all seems dark, illuminate for the world your vision of hope, dignity, and life abundant set forth for Haiti from the beginning of creation. In your light all shall be revealed and all shall be made whole. Amen.
Pope Blesses Blogging
Pope Benedict XVI has issued a message The Priest and Pastoral Ministry in a Digital World in which he encourages the use of new media to spread the timeless message of the love of God. He writes in part,
The development of the new technologies and the larger digital world represents a great resource for humanity as a whole and for every individual, and it can act as a stimulus to encounter and dialogue. But this development likewise represents a great opportunity for believers. No door can or should be closed to those who, in the name of the risen Christ, are committed to drawing near to others. To priests in particular the new media offer ever new and far-reaching pastoral possibilities, encouraging them to embody the universality of the Church’s mission, to build a vast and real fellowship, and to testify in today’s world to the new life which comes from hearing the Gospel of Jesus, the eternal Son who came among us for our salvation. At the same time, priests must always bear in mind that the ultimate fruitfulness of their ministry comes from Christ himself, encountered and listened to in prayer; proclaimed in preaching and lived witness; and known, loved and celebrated in the sacraments, especially the Holy Eucharist and Reconciliation.Pope Benedict strikes that balance I find important that both acknowledges the gifts of what he calls the new "agora," referring to the places of open assembly in ancient Greece, and states clearly that humans must still interact in person.
Obviously, I find it worth continuing my daily blog posts, which for a year or so now autoload to my Facebook page as notes as well as appearing at Irenic Thoughts. And as you are reading this, you must find value as well. But what is the downside of eMinistry? What do hear from those who shun the digital agora? What problems do you see?
The Rev. Frank Logue, Pastor
We must work passionately and indefatigably to bridge the gulf between our scientific progress and our moral progress. One of the great problems of mankind is that we suffer from a poverty of the spirit which stands in glaring contrast to our scientific and technological abundance. The richer we have become materially, the poorer we have become morally and spiritually.~The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968)
Every man lives in two realms, the internal and the external. The internal is that realm of spiritual ends expressed in art, literature, morals, and religion. The external is that complex of devices, techniques, mechanisms and instrumentalities by means of which we live. Our problem today is that we have allowed the internal to become lost in the external.
Our New Bishop to Be Consecrated Today
The Rev. Scott A. Benhase in a photo from the Albany
night of the "walkabout." Photo courtesy Julius Arial.
The Diocese of Georgia family is gathering in Savannah as the Rev. Scott Anson Benhase is consecrated as our tenth bishop. The follow is part of the service for today, beginning with a prayer our Presiding Bishop will pray:
God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Father of mercies and God of all comfort, dwelling on high but having regard for the lowly, knowing all things before they come to pass: We give you thanks that from the beginning you have gathered and prepared a people to be heirs of the covenant of Abraham, and have raised up prophets, kings, and priests, never leaving your temple untended. We praise you also that from the creation you have graciously accepted the ministry of those whom you have chosen.Pray today for our new Bishop as he takes up this mantel of leadership.
The Presiding Bishop and other Bishops now lay their hands upon the
head of the bishop-elect, and say together
Therefore, Father, make Scott a bishop in your Church. Pour out upon him the power of your princely Spirit, whom you bestowed upon your beloved Son Jesus Christ, with whom he endowed the apostles, and by whom your Church is built up in every place, to the glory and unceasing praise of your Name.
The Presiding Bishop continues
To you, O Father, all hearts are open; fill, we pray, the heart of this your servant whom you have chosen to be a bishop in your Church, with such love of you and of all the people, that he may feed and tend the flock of Christ, and exercise without reproach the high priesthood to which you have called him, serving before you day and night in the ministry of reconciliation, declaring pardon in your Name, offering the holy gifts, and wisely overseeing the life and work of the Church. In all things may he present before you the acceptable offering of a pure, and gentle, and holy life; through Jesus Christ your Son, to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit, be honor and power and glory in the Church, now and for ever.
The People in a loud voice respond Amen.
Labels: Bishop search
Near Death Experiences
Last year I was speaking at a mission conference comprised mainly of white suburbanite participants. I was listening to the speaker before me, when he dropped this little gem: 'It's not about a handout, but a hand up.' Actually, it's not about either. A handout means you think you're better than me and you're handing me something (something I probably don't deserve). A hand up means you think you're better than me and you're trying to lift me up from a bad place to your wonderful place.If we treat others as equals, then we can learn more of God through the relationship, rather than falling into the unchecked assumption that we are bringing Christ to someone to whom he is not already present.
Actually, if it's a choice between the two, I'd rather have the handout. If you're going to be condescening, I might as well get a direct benefit out of it instead of being told that I need to become like you.
Forget the hand out or the hand up. Just reach a hand across. Let's be equals and partners. I don't need you to rescue me, just like you don't think you need rescuing by me. My rescuer is a Jewish carpenter. I want to be a co-laborer in Christ with you, not your reclamation project.
Faithfulness Rather Than Success
We are a pilgrim people, a people who have decided never to arrive, a people who live by hope, energized not by what we already possess, but by that which is promised: "Behold, I create a new heaven and a new earth."—William Sloane Coffin (1924-2006)
Sure, it's tiring and it's tough. Imagination comes harder than memory, and faithfulness is more demanding than success. But so what if we fail? Remember, we are not required to finish the task — any more than we are allowed to put it aside.
Don't only give your care
Let there be kindness in your face,~Mother Theresa of Calcutta (1910-1997)
in your eyes, in your smile,
in the warmth of your greeting...
Don't only give your care,
but give your heart as well.
Grace Has Been Sufficient
Soar back through all your own experiences. Think of how the Lord has led you in the wilderness and has fed and clothed you every day. How God has borne with your ill manners, and put up with all your murmurings and all your longings after the 'sensual pleasures of Egypt!' Think of how the Lord's grace has been sufficient for you in all your troubles.~Charles Spurgeon (1834-1892)
Go in Peace to Where?
Brandon made this video with Craig a while back, but it was only on Facebook, and not available via YouTube. Now it has been recut into a 9:59 minute version so that it can be offered via YouTube.
I would rather feel compassion~Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274)
than know the meaning of it.
The ordinary but deep joy of living
While I grew up hearing about the miracle of Cana only in the context of "the institution of the sacrament of marriage," most scholars focus on the "sign" (that's what John calls miracles; think of them as signs pointing to something else, beyond themselves) of God's reign breaking through, and marriage itself is not of central importance for the larger meaning of the text. However, Renita Weems provides a lovely reflection that compares the spiritual journey to marriage: "It hits highs and lows, goes through seasons of ecstasy and ennui, and you find yourself wondering whether it's possible to regain the passion, the conviction, the spiritual momentum you once enjoyed. The message of this second Sunday after the Epiphany is yes. Take those empty stone jars, fill them to the brim with the water of hope, prayer, and persistence, and draw from them." We encounter Christ, she writes, not only in mountain-top experiences, for "he has been known to show up in miraculous ways on more than one occasion in the simple day-to-day activities of drawing water from wells, preparing food, tending sheep, and trying to figure out what to do when the wine runs out at a wedding celebration" (New Proclamation 2000).
Indeed, several commentators on this story about a celebration turn our attention to the ordinary but deep joy of living, and our habit of letting it slip by: "Sometimes, the church has forgotten that our Lord once attended a wedding feast and said yes to gladness and joy," Robert Brearley writes. "God does not want our religion to be too holy to be happy in" (Feasting on the Word). "Too holy to be happy in": there's a sermon in there! It seems that we in the church need to examine our role in suppressing the joy of a life lived in and by grace, a life lived fully, abundantly, vibrantly. "When John's Gospel speaks of salvation as life, the meaning is not mere life, but life in its maximal sense: life invigorated and intensified," Richard Bauckham writes; "Jesus gives life by connecting people with the divine springs of life from which the vitality of life is constantly sustained and replenished" (The Lectionary Commentary).
Labels: Gospel reading
Pajama Day at The Preschool
Today is Pajama Day at King of Peace Episcopal Day School with students and teachers alike looking rather comfy and casual.
The kids are posing with me and we are trying to act like the Thomas the Tank Engine Transformer on my shirt. The pancakes and sausage lunch rounded off the morning.
The Rev. Frank Logue, Pajama-Clad President
King of Peace Episcopal Day School
How to Judge a Human
It made no sense at all, but there they were—with their large white wings resting against their backs as they drifted over the earth ensconced on the anvil-like top of a monstrously tall thunderhead. Tom could see them clearly, but a veil remained between the angelic beings and Tom. He heard them speaking with one another:
Angel 1, “I’ve spent an eternity in heaven, sheltered from the humans. After seeing them yesterday, I’m not sure how to know which are the ones on our side and who are the ones siding with the Rebellion? How can you judge a human?”
Angel 2, “Ours is not to judge.”
Angel 1, “Yes, I know. But how can we appraise them? How do we know them? God looks on the content of the heart, but we can’t do that. How do we tell the believers from the rest of them?”
Angel 2, “Pay no attention to their beliefs.”
Angel 1, “Pay no attention to belief. I thought it was beliefs that matter. Don’t humans just need to believe in Jesus and put their trust in him? I thought this was the essence of how humans reestablish their relationship with God. Isn’t this a matter of belief?”
Angel 2, “Of course, faith is everything. But how could you possibly know what a human believes? Think it through for yourself.”
Angel 1, “Beliefs are thoughts. Right? If you think something, you believe it.”
Angel 2, “Ponder that for just a moment. Could everything you think, be a belief in the way you mean it when you talk about a human having faith in Jesus? Isn’t there a difference between the man who says ‘I believe I will pick up some steaks for supper’ and what happens when someone comes to say ‘I believe Jesus is God in the flesh.’”
Angel 1, “I guess so. That makes sense. The one who comes to know Jesus as God made man should be changed by that belief. But what is the difference? Is it the type of thought? A thought about what someone wants to eat seems different than say their thoughts of love.”
Angel 2, “Yes. You are the right path. But what is that difference between one type of thought and the other?”
Angel 1, “It’s a matter of intensity. Some thoughts are merely thoughts, but some times humans are so passionate about things. It’s why I mentioned love. But after what I saw yesterday, I think college football might be a better example of passion.”
Angel 2, “What is the difference if you apply it to belief?”
Angel 1, “Belief in the way I mean it with faith is more than a mere thought. The intensity is different. So belief in the way you mean it in believing in Jesus is more deeply felt…more than something one simply agrees is true, right?”
Angel 2, “Right. Belief is something around which you pattern your life.”
Angel 1, “Like believing it will rain, so you take an umbrella with you?”
Angel 2, “More intense, remember. Consider the football game. What did the passion about football reveal to you about humans?”
Angel 1, “They can put their very being into someone or something beyond themselves. They didn’t just want their team to win. They needed their team to win. Those whose teams won were elated. The ones whose teams lost were so dejected, even angry. Intense is the only word for what I saw.”
Angel 2, “You couldn’t read their thoughts. How did you know which team they wanted to win?”
Angel 1, “I could have been deaf and still known the orange team won and the fans of the team in red helmets were sad. The fans had taken so much time to be there and spent so much money for the game; I knew that this must be important for them. Their actions were speaking so loudly, I didn’t need to understand their words or read their minds.”
There is a pause, and Tom sees a change of expression on the first angel’s face as the dawn of recognition comes.
Angel 2, “Yes?”
Angel 1, “We weren’t talking about football were we?”
Angel 2, “We were talking about how we can know who holds passionate beliefs and who doesn’t.”
Angel 1, “Indeed. So you don’t have to worry about what humans say they believe, you watch their actions. You observe what they do. Is that it?”
Angel 2, “That has served me well for centuries.”
Angel 1, “Why not concern ourselves with their words? Wouldn’t someone’s words reveal what they believe?”
Angel 2, “Sometimes humans lie to each other and even to themselves. They say things they wished were true or think others want to hear.”
Angel 1, “So I turn down the volume a bit on what they say and notice what they do. That worked at the football game. I could tell their beliefs about the football game by watching their actions. I imagine I could tell their beliefs about God the same way.”
Angel 2, “Well, what might you look for if you were watching a human? How could you decide for yourself if he or she is a believer in Jesus?”
Angel 1, “There are many ways now that I see the trick. I could see how they spend their time. I could watch their wallets to see how they use their money. I could watch what they do when they think no one sees.”
Angel 2, “Much is discovered in that alone.”
Angel 1, “I would see through their actions whether there is any passion behind their words about God. You can’t just say you love God with all your heart, mind and soul. To do that would change your actions. It would transform your life. Soon you would be loving your neighbor as yourself. The one always follows the other. I could watch for how they treat others, and the time and money they devote to God. Then I would know what the humans really believe.”
Angel 2, “Michael was right. You are a quick study.”
The scene before him softened and Tom began to drift downward. Then Tom was startled as he felt an elbow jabbing sharply into his side. His wife said, “Stand up.” Tom realized the preacher was finished. He jolted awake. As he stood, Tom was not quite free from the pull of his dream. He wondered, “What is it that I believe? Really believe?” He wondered how the angels would view his actions? Tom wasn’t so sure he wanted to know. But he was positive that he had some things about his life that were going to need to change.
The story above is my religion column for today's issue of the Tribune & Georgian.
Labels: religion column
Where is God in the Haitian Earthquake?
In Haiti There Is Anguish
In Haiti, There is Anguish
ST. CHRISTOPHER 18.104.22.168.22.214.171.124 (“Beneath the Cross of Jesus”)
In Haiti, there is anguish that seems too much to bear;
A land so used to sorrow now knows even more despair.
From city streets, the cries of grief rise up to hills above;
In all the sorrow, pain and death, where are you, God of love?
A woman sifts through rubble, a man has lost his home,
A hungry, orphaned toddler sobs, for she is now alone.
Where are you, Lord, when thousands die—the rich, the poorest poor?
Were you the very first to cry for all that is no more?
O God, you love your children; you hear each lifted prayer!
May all who suffer in that land know you are present there.
In moments of compassion shown, in simple acts of grace,
May those in pain find healing balm, and know your love’s embrace.
Where are you in the anguish? Lord, may we hear anew
That anywhere your world cries out, you’re there– and suffering, too.
And may we see, in others’ pain, the cross we’re called to bear;
Send out your church in Jesus’ name to pray, to serve, to share.
Tune: Frederick Charles Maker, 1881
Text: Copyright © 2010 by Carolyn Winfrey Gillette. All rights reserved.
Permission is given for use by those who support Church World Service
Responding to Haiti's Crisis
As you pray for Haiti, know that it is the largest diocese in The Episcopal Church. Haiti is one of the mission areas outside the US that remains part of our largely US denomination. From the Diocese of Haiti, the Rev. Kesner Ajax writes:
- There is no Cathedral. The entire Holy Trinity complex is gone.
- The convent for the Sisters of St. Margaret is gone.
- The Bishop's house is gone.
- College St. Pierre is gone.
- The apartment for College St. Pierre is still standing.
- Bishop no longer has a house in which to live.
- In Trouin, four people were killed during a service.
- In Grand Colline, the church is gone.
- In St. Etienne, the church is gone.
- In Les Cayes, BTI is OK, but some people were injured trying to get out of the buildings during the quake.
- The rectory in Les Cayes is in very bad condition.
Labels: Episcopal Relief and Development
Out of Sheer Love
God does not have to come and tell me what I must do for Him, He brings me into a relationship with Himself where I hear His call and understand what He wants me to do, and I do it out of sheer love to Him... When people say they have had a call to foreign service, or to any particular sphere of work, they mean that their relationship to God has enabled them to realize what they can do for God.~Oswald Chamber (1874-1917)
Christians flock to worship amid attacks
The Rev. Hermen Shastri, the general secretary of the Council of Churches of Malaysia, said "People's faith is greater than what's happening around [them] so they continue to go to church and pray for themselves as well as for the nation."
The article goes on to say that,
About 60 percent of Malaysia's 26 million-population is Muslim. The rest are Buddhists (19 percent), Christians (nine percent), Hindus (six percent), Sikhs and other faiths.Pray for Christians in Malaysia.
Adherents of minority religions have expressed concern in recent years that the country is becoming "Islamized" following a series of court decisions and government laws that minority groups have said impede on their freedom to worship.
The Malaysian government has appealed against a court decision to allow non-Muslims to use the word "Allah" for God after a judge earlier this month cleared the way for a Catholic newspaper to use the word in its Malay-language edition and determined that the word "Allah" was not exclusive to Muslims.
The court decision was criticized by Muslim groups, who have expressed concern that allowing the word "Allah" to be used by other religious groups would encourage proselytizing of Muslims to convert them to Christianity and other faiths.
Labels: news item
All things counter, original, spare, strange
Glory be to God for dappled things —
for skies of couple-color as a brinded cow;
for rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
fresh firecoal chestnut falls; finches' wings;
landscapes plotted and pierced —
fold, fallow, and plough;
and all trades, their gear and tackle and trim.
All things counter, original, spare, strange;
whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
with swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
he fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
~Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-1889)
at the 10 a.m.
The 2,000th Irenic Thought
for up to now we have made little or no progress.”
~Francis of Assisi
This is the 2,000th post placed at this blog since it opened on March 10, 2005. I'm not sure how many people have stopped in during that time. The counter which reads 297,167 visits started over a year later and doesn't include the folks who now read these posts over on Facebook. I hope the content has been helpful enough to justify this minor corner of my ministry. I am also thankful in an angry blogosphere that I not only named the blog "Irenic" meaning "peaceful," but that the content and comments have remained just that.
I do want to burst one bubble though. I hear from people who imagine me up each morning sitting with a cup of coffee and thinking of what to share. The truth is that I sit down once every couple of weeks to spend an hour stacking up blogs for a couple of weeks. I set them to autoload with Blogger. They are set to launch at 5 a.m., but sometimes post later. Then they autoload into Facebook using an RSS feed feature. This is sometimes early and sometimes late, but happens automatically, whether I am starring off thoughtfully into space with my coffee, sleeping late, or already on the run.
The thought for the day is Francis of Assisi's story of true joy:
What true joy is: A messenger comes and says…that my brothers have gone to all the unbelievers and converted all of them to the faith; again, that I have so much grace from God that I heal the sick and perform many miracles: I tell you that joy does not consist in any of these things.Would that our joy could not be dampened by unfair treatment of others! That's the Irenic Thought for today. Drop by tomorrow for another.
What then is true joy? I return to Perugia and arrive there in the dead of night; and it is winter time, muddy and so cold that icicles have formed on the edges of my habit and keep striking my legs, and blood flows from such wounds. And all covered with mud and cold, I come to the gate and after I have knocked and called for some time, a brother comes and asks, ‘Who are you?’ I answer, ‘Brother Francis.’
’And he says go away; this is not the proper hour for going about; you may not come in.’ And when I insist, he answers, ‘Go away, you are a simple and stupid person; we are so many and we have no need of you. You are certainly not coming to us at this hour!’ And I stand again at the door and say: ‘For the love of God, take me in tonight.’
And he answers, ‘I will not. Go to the Crossiers’ place and ask there.’ I tell you this: If I had the patience and did not become upset, there would be true joy in this and true virtue and the salvation of the soul.’
The Rev. Frank Logue, Blogger
Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, "You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.The Rev. Dr. Joanna Adams, pastor of Morningside Presbyterian Church in Atlanta reflected on this passage for the radion program Day 1. She said in part,
An ancient Christian catechism describes baptism as a "visible sign of invisible grace." By the grace of God, we are surrounded and upheld every day. The great Protestant Martin Luther was plagued at times by a sense of unworthiness and despair. To drive back those demons, he kept an inscription over his desk that read, "Remember, you have been baptized." Often, he would touch his forehead and remind himself, "Martin, you have been baptized."
Before I prepared this message for you, I had told Luther's story any number of times, but I had never touched my own forehead. I had never reminded myself in a physical way that I too have been baptized—cleansed and forgiven, claimed and sanctified, sealed by God's own Spirit and given my new, everlasting identity in Christ. I recommend that you take a moment, touch your own forehead, and remind yourself that you are a child of God. Baptized or not yet baptized, you are a beloved child of God.
At present, I am a busily engaged pastor, but I am also only days away from being launched into that unknown sea called retirement. I do not know where the tides will take me, but I am sure that whatever the next chapter holds, I will sail with the winds of the Holy Spirit in my sails and with the guiding hand of God holding fast to the rudder of my future. I will be exactly the same person who at the age of six months was buried into the death of Christ and raised up into new life through him. In every season of life—in life and in death—we belong to God.
Let's go for a moment to the banks of the River Jordan where Jesus is being baptized. Here he makes his first public appearance on the stage of human history. John the Baptist, repentance-preaching, fire-breathing John, had prepared the people for a Messiah who would baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire. And here he is, Jesus, going under the water and coming up out of the water. While he prays his own post-baptism prayer, suddenly heaven itself opens, the Holy Spirit descends like a dove, a voice comes from heaven speaking to Jesus, but in a way that all who are gathered can hear: "You are my Son, the Beloved, with you I am well-pleased."
I remember a theater production in Atlanta of Clarence Jordan's Cotton Patch Gospel. In this production the excellent actor Tom Key played God. Not a bad role if you can get it. Tom stood on a ladder on the stage. The actor playing the recently immersed Jesus stood below him looking up with hope and perhaps a little bit of anxiety in his eyes. But he needn't have worried. God speaks in a voice loud enough to be heard all the way down Peachtree Street: "You are my boy, Jesus. I am so proud of you!"
I could feel in the marrow of my bones the exuberant love and approval in the actor's voice, and I believe that something similar happens between God and us in our own baptisms: "This one is mine!" the Lord exclaims. "I see my image in her! Don't you see my image in him? And here comes my Spirit, my Spirit to sustain and guide as you go about doing what I put you on earth to do."
At King of Peace Tomorrow
At our 10 a.m. worship service, Nolan Davenport will be the 98th person baptized at King of Peace. Following the worship, we will hold our annual meeting. Then at 2 p.m., we will hold a Memorial Service for Angela Gartner.
Labels: Gospel reading
VIA stands for "Values in Action." The group's work was put together by 55 social scientists. Featured in a recent PBS special This Emotional Life, the group offers two quizzes to discover you top character traits. I took the test a couple of years ago, and just took it once again. The same traits came out as the top two for me: 1) Spirituality, sense of purpose, and faith, 2) Humor and playfulness. But this time 3) Love of learning was a change from the previous of "Zest, enthusiasm, and energy" which was the previous third trait. The fourth remains "Creativity, ingenuity, and originality." I think the change came from spending the past year teaching college one night a week.
You can take the 240-question test for free at www.viasurvey.org. While they offer additional information for a fee, I opted for the free summary. They also have a special youth survey for those 10-17 years of age.
The larger question is whether they are right about cultivating character. I will side with Aristotle and Aquinas on this and say that virtues can and should be cultivated. The best way to be trustworthy is to value honesty and in decision making do what a trustworthy person would do.
Take the survey and share your top traits. Please.
The Rev. Frank Logue, Pastor
Picturing the Christ
Many Native Americans have been converted to Christianity, but in doing so some find it difficult to retain their indigenous culture. My intent is to celebrate reconciliation between the Native Americans and those who brought the mystery of Christ here.While Navajo, I have the icon as a reminder of the significant impact spending time with Christians on the Seminole reservations in Florida had on my own spiritual journey when I was a college freshman. The other images of Jesus are also significant to me, such as the Christ of the Desert icon pictured here. It is a Syrian depiction of Jesus written by Br. Robert Lentz, OFM. Syrian rockets shot from Lebanon flew over our heads in Northern Israel in 2000 to land in nearby Kyriat Shimona. The icon shows Christ as Syrian, fitting as there was long a Christian presence in that country, which preserved many great early writings of the church in Syriac. To me it represents love of enemy. I know that was not likely in the artist's mind when writing the icon, but the association with the bombs falling on Israel makes that connection for me, as I can recall the air raid sirens and the quite literal rocks red glare lighting up the night.
If I were to paint Jesus, I would want him to look pausibly like a Palestinian Jew of the first century. But when I think of painting the Christ, the risen Jesus present to all now through the power of the Holy Spirit, I find various cultural representations to be appropriate and helpful. For while Jesus was alive for his earthly ministry, if he was in Capernaum, he could not also be in Jerusalem. But now he can be and is present in all those places and cultures, speaking to and through the various cultures in which people come to know Him.
I am sometimes asked where one acquires such pictures. Three sources are: Trinity Stores, Bridge Building Images, and Jesus Mafa.
Victoria, Griffin and my Mom in my office. Pictures of Jesus are visible at center.
There is a law in Ireland, which too effect with this new year that makes blasphemy illegal, with a punishment up to $35,000. Specifically the statute names as violating the law anyone who "publishes or utters matter that is grossly abusive or insulting in relation to matters held sacred by any religion, thereby causing outrage among a substantial number of the adherents of that religion."
To flaunt the law, a website called Atheist Ireland has published 25 Blasphemous Quotes. Bishop N.T. Wright of Durham, England has written in response:
My view has been, and remains, that though a case can be made for offending public scruples -- on all sorts of issues, not only 'religious' ones, and especially when the 'public' concerned are a minority — there is something deeply self-contradictory about defending the God revealed in Jesus Christ in this way. Jesus, after all, refused to defend himself, spoke severely to his closest aide when the latter tried to defend him with force, and then allowed himself to be publicly humiliated, beaten up, tortured, mocked and crucified. Who are WE then to defend HIM?I have written of blasphemy previous here: Breaking our false images to discover God. What do you think of blasphemy laws?
Of course there should be standards in public life but as I say they apply much more widely. The 'blasphemy' charge -- which interestingly was what the Chief Priests accused Jesus himself of! -- is inappropriate precisely because of the nature of who Christians believe God actually is. This, ironically, might be a point at which Christians reveal that the God they worship and the incarnate Lord they profess to follow are radically different from some other gods. As the First World War poet Edward Shillito put it:The other gods were strong; but thou wast weak;Beware of defending Jesus, lest you make him an idol in the image of your own dreams of power and control.
They rode, but thou didst stumble, to a throne;
But to our wounds, only God's wounds can speak,
And not a god has wounds, but thou alone.
(You might like to know that I argued this case in a speech in the House of Lords a year or two ago, to the amazement and anguish of some of my right-wing friends who assumed that I, being known as a 'conservative' theologically, would have stood up for the blasphemy laws, especially granted that it's the atheists who are opposing them. I pointed out that it is precisely because of my 'conservative' theology — taking the Bible seriously, taking the incarnation and cross seriously — that I made this point.)
The Rev. Frank Logue, Pastor
Labels: news item
The only thing it cannot be
Tell God All
Tell God all that is in your heart, as one unloads one's heart, its pleasures and its pains, to a dear friend. Tell God your troubles, that God may comfort you; tell God your joys, that God may sober them; tell God your longings, that God may purify them; tell God your dislikes, that God may help you conquer them; talk to God of your temptations, that God may shield you from them: show God the wounds of your heart, that God may heal them. If you thus pour out all your weaknesses, needs, troubles, there will be no lack of what to say. Talk out of the abundance of the heart, without consideration say just what you think. Blessed are they who attain to such familiar, unreserved intercourse with God.—François Fenelon (1651-1715)
Burning of the Greens
The Burning of the Greens was a roaring (fire) of a success and we enjoyed low country boil, oysters, a big bonfire and prayers of thanks for the recovery Joe Schwaller has made from a spinal injury the day after last year's event.
D-Ray adds a tree at left, while Lauren moves her chair at right.
Joe Schwaller, at left, early in the evening
Evan Wills with his Indiana Jones birthday cake.
The Only Things We Can Offer
There is a sense in which by faith we too may present our gifts of gold, incense, and myrrh.—James Montgomery Boice (1938-2000)
Begin with your myrrh. Myrrh is not only a symbol of Christ's death but also of the spiritual death that should come to you for your sin. Lay it at Christ's feet, saying, "Lord Jesus Christ, I know that I am less perfect than you are and am a sinner. I know that I should receive the consequence of my sin, which is to be barred from your presence forever. But you took my sin, dying in my place. I believe that. Now I ask you to accept me as your child forever."
After you have done that, come with your incense, acknowledging that your life is as impure as the life of the Lord Jesus Christ is sinless. The Bible teaches that there is no good in man that is not mixed with evil. But it also teaches that Christ comes to live in the believer so that the good deeds produced in his or her life may become in their turn "a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God."
Finally, come with your gold. Gold symbolizes royalty. So when you come with your gold you acknowledge the right of Christ to rule your life. You say, "I am your servant; you are my Master. Direct my life and lead me in it so that I might grow up spiritually to honor and to serve you accordingly."
If you have come believing in all that the myrrh, incense, and gold signify, you have embarked on a path of great spiritual joy and blessing. For those are the gifts of faith. They are the only things we can offer to the one who by grace has given all things to us.
Burning of the Greens
Our annual Burning of the Greens is tonight. We'll start the low country boil at 5 p.m. The party begins in earnest at 6 p.m. Bring ingredients for low country boil or a covered dish and something to drink. See y'all there!