The Rector's Blog
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June 26, 2015, 12:00 AM

The Supreme Court rules...


And suddenly, marriage equality is the law of the land – everywhere in the United States, in every state or territory, in every county, in every city and town, it is now the law that two adults who love one another can take a vow and change from being solo to being a new thing, a married couple.  Any secular, governmental, civil rules or practices affecting life insurance, parentage, health directives, wills, mortgages … will all have to honor those vows.  That is true fact.

But it is also true that churches and clergy will not be required to perform weddings if they choose not to.  That’s always been the case, even in states where marriage equality is already the law, or has been the law for a long time.

So the first thing I will say as your rector is: I will.  I do choose to do this, and our Bishop is supportive as well, as is our Vestry.

I say this because I have taken a vow to respect the dignity of every human being.  If you’re an Episcopalian, you have, too: at your or someone else’s baptism, or when renewing those baptismal vows at Easter or Pentecost or on All Saints Sunday.  And if marriage equality is about nothing else, it is certainly about human dignity.

I thought long and hard about all the questions and issues that might arise – what the Church will do in General Convention, what the Bible says or does not say – and I may say more about those things (I would surely do so in the context of the class on Theology of Marriage, so go ahead and sign up for that!) – but in the end, I find that our Baptismal Vows are as good a description of what it means to love God and love neighbor as any I have seen. 

We vow:

  • To continue in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in the prayers;
  • To presevere in resisting evil, and, whenever we fall into sin, to repent and return to the Lord;
  • To proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ;
  • To seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving our neighbor as ourselves; and
  • To strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being.

God’s infinite blessings be with you always.

Evelyn+




June 18, 2015, 12:42 PM

Killed in Church


Our hearts and prayers go out this morning to and for the members and friends of Emanuel AME Church in Charleston SC, after a white assailant entered the church Wednesday evening during services and shot and killed nine worshipers (one person died in the hospital; eight died at the time of the shooting itself), including pastor and state senator Rev. Clementa Pinckney.

God of light and life and truth, be with all those affected by this vicious and hateful act. Receive into the arms of your mercy its victims. Comfort and succor those who mourn. Strengthen and guide those who seek justice. Shed your healing grace on the city of Charleston and especially the people of Emmanuel AME. Bring this nation to the table of reconciliation for the evils of racism and bigotry. Do not turn your back, O Lord, do not leave us alone in this time of struggle and pain. In the name of the One who gave his life for all, through the power of the One who gives us hope, and by the mercy and grace of the One who holds us in love despite all we do or fail to do, we pray. Amen.




June 18, 2015, 12:08 PM

Business as Usual?


Routine

I very much enjoyed my time in class over the last two weeks – I am sure I learned something…

But, alas, that old constant, routine, is doing its best to make sure I don’t reflect and remember and renew based on what I learned. 

Routines are great things when you have a limited amount of time and need to use it efficiently.  They are also a good way to strengthen our spiritual muscles.  Establishing a place and time for regular prayer, silence, meditation, Scripture, or other practices helps us actually engage in them. 

But routines also can blind us to the changes we might be called to make in our lives.  If we have a “settled routine,” we are less likely to respond to new needs or new ideas.  This is the undeniable power behind the famous phrase, “We’ve never done that before!”

We also tend to complain about routines that we don’t control: such as having to attend a staff meeting at 8:00 a.m. on a Monday each week.

Like most things, routines have their good points and their bad points.

If we stick with “business as usual” in the church, the church will fade away into obscurity and never be missed…unless “business as usual” is anything but what that phrase usually implies.

Business as usual is not solving racial tensions in America.  Business as usual is not solving homelessness or drug addiction or poor education or poverty.   But if we change to a new routine, one that takes notice of the things that work and the things that don’t and adjusts accordingly, then we stand a chance of making things better. 

The first unusual thing to make routine is listening to those whose lives are different from our own.  We can only do that if we walk out our door and meet others where they are, in their usual places, and spend time listening, really listening to their stories, their hopes and dreams, their fears and aspirations.

We need not feel threatened by any change, because we know that we – and those we meet – are loved by God, loved more than we can ever ask or imagine, loved with the power of stars, with the depth of black holes, with the strength of mustard seeds, and with the wholeness of God’s very being.

 




June 4, 2015, 11:38 AM

Reading the Bible the OLD Way


How did early Christians Read the Bible?

I’m so glad you asked!  They read it very differently from the ways we do now, and I am sure that doesn’t really surprise you, when you stop to consider it. 

Nowadays, we have the “advantage” of the “historical critical” method for examining Scripture, which helps us fill out the context as to when something might have been written, by whom, to whom, and why. 

Archeological finds continue to provide new bits of text to place next to the received versions, and the texts we do have are often updated with earlier manuscripts.  The historical critical method and new discoveries of ancient texts, for example, tell us that the Gospel of Mark originally probably ended at the tomb, with the women too frightened to follow the instructions to “go and tell the disciples to meet Jesus in Galilee.”

But of course, the ancients did not have the benefit of the historical critical method.

Their Scriptures consisted of the Jewish texts: the Pentateuch (the Law of Moses; the first five books), the annals of the kings, the prophets, and the psalms, and of course, the New Testament gospels and letters.  They mined these writings for far more than the obvious, surface meaning; that would have been very superficial.

In fact, they did not value these books so much because of the stories they contained, which they considered just a basic garment, but for the things one could do with these stories.  Hence, we see advice from the 4th century Egyptian monk Evagrius to turn to Psalm such-and-so if you are angry at someone, or to this-or-that passage from Isaiah if you are downcast, and so on.

The Scriptures were a tool, a technology, to guide one through the vicissitudes of life.  You could put yourself in the midst of the story of the Israelites in Egypt when you were seeking a way out of difficulties or temptations, for example.

The Scriptures were used to remind the early Christians of the saving grace of God, and as a means of ensuring that people would have the means to live out their lives in the presence of God every day.  The faith was a 24/7 proposition, a full expression of what it means to be human.  To do any less was to be lost.

 




May 21, 2015, 5:13 PM

Is it the Holy Spirit?


COME HOLY SPIRIT!

OK, the question of the day is this:  How do we know it’s the Holy Spirit?
In 1st John, we skipped a paragraph in our Sunday readings where John said, “By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God.”

If you’ve heard my sermons (or read them online) or been part of the Bible Study over the last few weeks, you know that John has a particular problem:  some of the members of the community of which he is a part have left, because they don’t accept that Jesus came “in the flesh,” that is, they thought that he wasn’t really a human being like us, but more an appearance or a “seeming.”

John believed most strongly that unless Jesus was human, unless Jesus really suffered as we do, unless Jesus actually and really died, the whole incarnation project was a fraud, and we are not saved.

For John, the crucial test for the spirit, as for believers, was their answer to the question, “Who was Jesus?” 

But John lived in a time when spirits were a dime a dozen, as it were.  Jesus cast out evil spirits, Paul wrote about the Spirit of Christ entering our bodies, Jesus breathed the Holy Spirit into the disciples in John’s Gospel, and in the Book of Acts, the Holy Spirit filled the disciples with the ability to speak in many languages, which certainly must have aided the evangelism effort of the time.

But in our time?  It’s hard to discern spirits, because we lean on psychology instead. 

So, perhaps our question should be: how do we know if we are getting faith right?

Perhaps for us, it is easier to focus on what else Jesus was besides human and divine, to focus on how this particular unique individual, who was both God and human, lived his life, and to ask ourselves if we do the same.

This particular Jesus, whom we meet in the Gospels, whom Paul met on the road to Damascus, who washed the disciples feet, who corrected the Pharisees and gave his life in an ultimate act of service to humanity…this man reveals God.

How might we do that?


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