The Rector's Blog
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August 4, 2016, 12:53 PM

Love your enemies


“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have?”

Matthew 5:43-46a

How easy do we find that to do, in actual practice?  With the amazing amount of political vitriol flying around and the concerns so many have about the quality or values of this or that candidate for this or that office…how do we keep our heads and remember that, however much we distrust or fear “the other” candidate, they are still beloved of God, and we are still challenged to honor them as such? 

Not only does Jesus encourage this in this passage in Matthew, but in our own baptismal vows – vows that we renew at least annually at Easter and sometimes more frequently – we pledge to “respect the dignity of every human being.  All while simultaneously making a commit-ment to “persevere in resisting evil, and, whenever [we] fall into sin, repent and return to the Lord” and to “strive for justice and peace among all people,” and to “Seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving [our] neighbor as [ourselves.]” (BCP 3-4-305.)

I don’t mind admitting I find this difficult. I do mind admitting the corollary that it can actually be rather fun to pile on someone I don’t like, particularly when I am with people I do (and who happen to agree with me). 

I also do not forget that as the Rector, I have a responsibility to be dispassionate and fair to all.  

This remains a work in progress, I am afraid.

What I would recommend is to make a commitment to pray every day be-tween now November 8, for our nation.

The following prayers may be found in the BCP:

   Lord God Almighty, you have made all the peoples of the earth for your glory, to serve you in freedom and in peace: Give to the people of our country a zeal for justice and the strength of forbearance, that we may use our liberty in accordance with your gracious will; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen

(BCP 258)

   Almighty God, to whom we must account for all our powers and privileges: Guide the people of the United States in the election of officials and representatives; that, by faithful administration and wise laws, the rights of all may be protected and our nation be enabled to fulfill your purposes; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

(BCP 822)

Will you, with me, make a commitment to pray these prayers each day?

God hears when the people cry out.

(Ps. 34:6)

God hears when the earth cries out.

 (Genesis 4:10)




July 22, 2016, 11:05 AM

“May grace and peace be yours in abundance in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord”


“May grace and peace be yours in abundance in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord”

2 Peter 1:2

Now we are in the midst of political conventions – one has wrapped up this week (which is why this week’s Epistle is late – I wanted to hear what Mr Trump had to say), and one will be held next week.  It seems to me an appropriate time to recall some basics of our faith and the good news of the Gospel, as we consider how to exercise our franchise. 

So in honor of conventions, I’d like to bring out some of the things the Apostle Paul and other writers had to say about the attributes of those who believe that Jesus Christ has died for our sins and desires for us to live abundantly in the kingdom of God.

We find Paul’s list of the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:1-5.

[T]he fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

As to love, we find his description in
1 Corinthians 13:4-8.

Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end.

Righteousness, joy, and peace are brought out in Romans 14:17.

For the kingdom of God is not food and drink but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.

For kindness and generosity: see Colossians 3:12.

As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.

Goodness, righteousness, and truth are extolled in Ephesians 5:9.

for the fruit of the light is found in all that is good and right and true.

And hope, which does not disappoint, is summed up in Romans 5:1-5.

[S]ince we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.

And in 2 Peter 1:5-6, we are told what we must do:

[Y]ou must make every effort to support your faith with goodness, and goodness with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with endurance, and endurance with godliness, and godliness with mutual affection, and mutual affection with love

I don’t know if any of this makes the choices we face easier, but now at least we have some standards!




July 7, 2016, 3:41 PM

“I told him not to reach for it!”


On a video that was posted on social media yesterday, this is what a police officer, who had just shot the driver of a car who had just told him that he had a gun in the car, and a license, and he was going to get his wallet out to show the officer.  The officer seems to have thought he was going for the gun, not the license.  As you probably know, or could guess, the officer is white and the driver was black (he died with his girlfriend and daughter there in the car with him).

Social media erupted (the girlfriend posted a video of post-shooting events on Facebook) and demonstrators showed up at the governor’s house.  I watched the video, and the primary emotion I heard in the officer’s voice was fear.  Things had obviously gotten out of hand, and he had no real idea what to do about any of it.

I think we let fear dictate far too much of our decisions, our policies, and our responses to events.

Fear eliminates thought, destroys judgment, and leaves us at the mercy of our most visceral reactions.  Fear takes away time - time for second chances, consideration, and respect for others.

Yet what was the first thing the angels said when they spoke to men in the Old Testament, and to Mary?

“Fear not!”

God does not want us to be afraid.  Allow me to repeat: God does not want us to be afraid.

Why might that be?

Is it so we can live in comfort, secure from threats?  I don’t think so.  Threats certainly abound, seemingly without limit.  And even with our best efforts, we cannot wall ourselves off from threats.

But in any effort to avoid all threats, we run the risk of cutting ourselves off from one another, from those in need, and those who live in fear.

A lot of minorities in this country live in fear.  Some fear arrest for having no documentation that they are here legally.  Others fear arrest because too many people much like themselves have died in police custody or been sent to prison.  Others fear harassment and bullying and condemnation because their sexuality is not of the right kind.

So the question is, do our fears make us act in ways that causes fear in others?

I wonder … what can we do?

If I have any advice, it would be:

DO NOT BE AFRAID.  Have courage; God is here, within us, within those we fear, and within those who fear us. 

There is no fear God cannot vanquish.




June 23, 2016, 8:23 AM

Do Justice, Love Mercy, Walk Humbly



We are surrounded by answers.  It can be hard to tell, though, whether they are good answers, bad answers, or God’s answers.  This is particularly true if we don’t necessarily know what questions to ask.  Does it ever seem to you that we sometimes seek questions to the answers we already have? 

Which of course, reminds me of our all-too-human tendency to find the right answers in Scripture that support the ones we already have decided.

We like to think we understand how the world works, how society works – or doesn’t – and why people do the things they shouldn't and don’t do the things they should.  (Did you see what I did there?  If not, check out Romans 7:15, 19.)

This tendency possesses the news media – why did Omar Muteen shoot up a gay nightclub a week and a half ago?  Ideas abound, but evidence for any of them is slim.  Likely, it was a combination of factors that led him down the road of death and destruction.  Lots of people have answers, but how do we know if they are right?

The question now is, what do we do about it?  Again, we see lots of answers – more guns, or less guns, more background checks, or more warrantless searches or more understanding or more education or more of this or more of that.  It’s frustratingly difficult to find solutions to what is essentially chaos. 

But I can tell you what it looks like when things are right, and it looks like St. Paul’s list of the fruits of the spirit: “…the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faith, humility, self-control.”  [Gal. 5:22-23]

When darkness descends, only light can end it.  When hatred descends, only love can stop it.  When fear descends, only hope can withstand it. 

Pray for peace, pray for understanding, pray for justice, and then, beloved, act in peace, seek understanding, and strive for justice.

 

(Art (c) 2016, Shannon Dattilo.  Used by permission.)




June 9, 2016, 12:00 AM

Praying the Psalms


I don’t know how much time you have spent with the Psalms – they are an amazing collection of prayers and songs expressing the full range of human emotions, from soaring joy to abject misery. Fears of abandonment by God, appeals for justice, and 
deep repentance – all can be found in the psalms. Anytime we have a concern, we can find its reflection there. 

One of my favorite verses comes from Psalm 118: “I shall not die, but live, and declare the works of the Lord.”  I “adopted” this verse some years ago, to get me through hard times.

Another strong verse is 61:4: “I will dwell in your house forever; I will take refuge under the cover of your wings.”

In fact, I frequently recommend to those who seek counsel, that they spend time in the Psalms, and find a verse, or phrase, or prayer, that speaks to them in their current situation, and to write it down and carry the text with them as they go through their day. 

In addition to being prayers and songs, some of the psalms even talk about Israel’s history and provide imagery about creation not included in the Book of Genesis.  One example is found in Psalm 104:27: “and there is that Leviathan, which you made for the sport of it.”

In fact Psalm 104 offers several ideas that either expand on or even contradict the creation stories in Genesis 1 and 2.  We can look at vs 22: “The lions roar after their prey and seek their food from God.”  Yet in Genesis, we read: “God said, ‘See, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for food. And to every beast of the earth, and to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps upon the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” (Gen 1:29-30).

Someone has suggested that whereas Genesis describes the “how” of creation, Psalm 104 describes the “why.”  The cedars of Lebanon are for the birds to make nests (vss 17-19), the moon marks the seasons (vs 20); darkness makes night (vs 21); and day time is for human labor (vs 24). 

Spend a little time with this Psalm and you will find that everything in creation has a divine purpose – and knowing this, we should perhaps ask ourselves, do we respect the divine purposes of everything around us? 

What might we do to heighten our appreciation for the regard in which God holds creation?


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