The Rector's Blog
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September 15, 2016, 10:00 AM

Building Community with Justice and Peace

O God, you have bound us together in a common life. Help us, in the midst of our struggles for justice and truth, to confront one another without hatred or bitterness, and to work together with mutual forbearance and respect; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

BCP 824

As you know by now, the KKK is planning a recruiting rally here in Madison on September 24, during Chautauqua weekend. Their event will be held at Fireman’s Park at the foot of Jefferson Street.  The Greater Madison Ministerial Association, of which Christ Church is a member, is planning a prayer vigil that day, at Noon at the Broadway Fountain.  We wish to celebrate the good things about our community and its dedication to inclusivity, justice, peace, and love, and thank all who work for these goals. 

Are there problems here? You know there are. The GMMA hopes that in offering this occasion, residents may be encouraged to come together in a concerted and intentional effort to build on our common strengths, share our stories in respect, and address our problems together.

There will be other responses to the Klan presence; chief among them a counter-demonstration across near the Klan rally, which is designed to be a peaceful event – again, one of celebration that stresses the good things about Jefferson County.  The group sponsoring this event, Jefferson County United, will be receiving training on non-violence and peacekeeping from civil rights activists in Louisville.

The group provides this statement of purpose:  “We commit ourselves to peacefully, productively, and visibly support and uphold the human dignity of all members of our community, and we commit to challenge our community to acknowledge its growing edges and work honestly toward reconciliation. We also commit to challenging ourselves as individuals, recognizing that each of us has our own embedded prejudices and worldviews that inhibit progress toward becoming the Beloved Community of Dr. King’s dream.”

Whether you choose to participate in either event, or none, we ask your prayers.  Neither group wants to engage the Klan directly; but rejects any message of hate, shame, or blame - vocal, written, or demonstrative - that the Klan is so well known for.  May the Light of God fill their hearts with love for all and the desire for repentance and peace.  Amen.

August 18, 2016, 12:38 PM

"I will never let you go."

Hear my voice, O God, when I complain;
    protect my life from fear of the

Psalm 64:1

A thought crossed my mind as I pondered this psalm:  Is it that the psalmist is afraid of the enemy – or that the enemy is afraid of the psalmist?  And if it is the enemy’s fear that threatens the psalmist, what might be the danger posed to the enemy by a faithful believer in God?

We can start by asking what sorts of things we ourselves fear.  I am not afraid of spiders or snakes, but I refuse to go on a roller coaster.  I am afraid I will be thrown out of the car from a great height and fall to great injury or death.  So I fear pain and death.  I also fear having no control in a dangerous situation.

I would probably be afraid if someone held me up at gunpoint.  Again, death or injury and the lack of control are the threats I perceive.

Sometimes I am afraid of change – primarily change over which I have little or no control, and which could cause me to lose position, reputation, influence, power, or cause death or injury.

Do you see a pattern here? 

In most of these scenarios, there is a common thread – and it’s not the death/injury paradigm – it’s the issue of control.  We are taught from our youth to think we have the ability to control what happens to us.  Maybe we ascribe to the power of positive thinking or the magic of prayer.

Or we’ve learned we actually do have a lot of agency in our own lives: we choose what jobs to seek or accept; we choose whether or whom we want to marry; we choose what kind of house to live in or what kind of car to drive, and so on.

But when it comes to injury or death issues, we don’t always have a choice.  We might get cancer or fall down stairs or develop heart disease – and it could be because we chose to smoke or not watch where we were going, or it could be just because.  Sometimes stuff just happens.

Maybe the tax policies of the federal government have encouraged our employer to close a plant here and open one overseas.  Maybe the demand for coal drops through the floor and there are no retraining programs available.  Maybe we see others “making it” and ourselves “losing it.”

Fear is the whisper that we can’t fix everything, and sometimes that we can’t seem to fix anything at all.  We have no power, no influence, no impact and all around us is ruin.

Maybe this is where the faithful believer has an edge – s/he has absorbed the angelic message, the Gospel: “Fear not, for I am with you always.  I hold you in the palm of my hand.  Let nothing dismay you, nothing affright you, I will never let you go.”

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.

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