The Rector's Blog
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March 31, 2016, 3:29 PM

Let it Flow!

  Since my fall back in January, my life has been disrupted. In the early days of my recuperation, I realized I was going to have to learn to walk all over again – and that meant I needed to keep my focus on one thing at a time.  Something that most of us picked up by the time we were two was no longer as easy as it used to seem!  Which muscles make the leg stand firm? Which muscles make the leg move forward or backward?  Which muscles move the leg up or down?  All these questions required thought and reflection, and, in the beginning, sheer will power to make the right muscle do the right thing.

  I also found myself tiring at alarming rates – a simple transfer from bed to wheelchair would have me puffing for air. Short ventures – ten feet or so – would make me light-headed.

  It all comes down to what I have taken to calling “flow.”  I have to get my “flow” back.  If I walk, I have to walk for a while to get settled in my pace, and comfortable in my moving. As I do my exercises, I need to make sure that my stance is stable.

  As it happens, the religious life, in fact, pretty much all of life, calls for the same kind of attention if we want to make any progress at all!

  I’m very prone to distractions. I might be working on something (such as writing this column), and a thought flits through my brain (I need to call so-and-so), and … I lose my flow. The problem seems to be finding those islands of time for focused attention when the world around me is spinning along outside of my control – and worse, the world inside me seems to do the same!

  I wish I had some good advice to offer on ways to create and maintain flow!  I could use it.  And I could share it with you, because I suspect that many of you are in a similar situation.  I don’t mean that you are learning to walk again, but that you may be pulled in some many different directions, you don’t even know you are walking at all.

  I can assure you, that way danger lies! Because something might trip you up that is totally unexpected. All I can counsel is that you work hard to pay attention to the thing in front of you, because it is worth your full mind. Let it flow!

December 17, 2015, 3:15 PM

Christmas Then, Christmas Now

This year, even though Christmas Eve is, strictly speaking, still Advent (every liturgical calendar will back me up on this), I do recognize your desire for Christmas to arrive even just a few hours earlier, so we will be singing Christmas Carols at the 5:00 service. 

Yet in my head is this image:
Back in the day (a day I begin to wonder if I even remember personally), church-goers would attend church on Christmas Day, between the stockings that were hung on the chimney with care, and Christmas dinner – after which, the presents would be opened. 

By that time, naturally, the kids were practically bouncing off the walls with impatience and excitement.  Die-hard Jesus fans would also come to a late-night vigil service, and sit through several Scripture readings that trace the providence of God throughout the ages, with everything perfectly timed so at the stroke of midnight, just as the transition from the Liturgy of the Word to the Liturgy of the Table took place, the lights would come up and everyone would break into a audacious rendition of Joy to the World

Of course, the hangings and vestments would magically turn from purple to white, and the brass would break forth with bright tones and descants and everybody would start smiling, and then sing Silent Night after communion, and go home wreathed in smiles for a late glass of punch or eggnog, and the children would fall asleep in the carriage on the way home…  Oh, and it would be snowing.

I mean, every movie ever made about Christmas used to have this scenario.

We’re a small church.  We don’t do that.  It’s taken me a while to accept it.

But one of the ‘things” about that Christmas imagery is that patience almost beyond human endurance was not only required, but expected.

I do remember being a child and having to wait, fit to burst, for Christmas morning to arrive before the stocking could be unpacked, and waiting for the cousins to arrive while the turkey cooked in the oven for hours, and pleading to open even just one of the presents under the tree before dinner.  If the weather permitted, we would go out for a walk after the meal, (because we ate far too much, and before desert – and finally, the presents, and after that, desert and the adults catching up on the latest family news and telling stories of years past.

These are good memories, and good dreams, but as we make new ones, let’s not forget the Christ child whose birth brings hope to the world, even to this one.

December 3, 2015, 12:49 PM

Walls and Mountains

I’ve been continuing to consider Jesus’ prediction that the walls of the Temple in Jerusalem would fall –“not one stone will be left upon another.”  It keeps cropping up, in one context or another, over and over again. 

Bp Cate is asking us to pray during Advent for Bethlehem, and this prayer rapidly goes much farther afield:

Almighty God, Creator of the wonderful complex diversity of humanity; you have fashioned us in your image and commanded us to love one another; reach down your divine hand so that the wall shall come down in Bethlehem, the birthplace of your Son, the Prince of Peace; and may the crumbling walls herald the fall of all barriers that divide us.  Bind us together so that love gives rise to an abundance of tenderness among all people; and may our hearts like Mary’s magnify the Lord, and may your love shower down throughout the world so all divisions are scattered and washed away.  We ask this all with the expectant hearts through Christ Jesus, our Lord. Amen.

Walls will come down.  This coming Sunday, the gospel tells of John the Baptist, who repeats Isaiah’s promise that the mountains will be brought low, the valleys raised up, and the rough places made plain.

One of my cousins is a conservative Republican, so you can imagine that our “conversations” on Facebook often seem to consist of both of us throwing spears at each other’s ideas, both of us blocking those spears with our shields, and no new ideas breaking through.  We both identify few points of agreement and we do struggle to maintain a relationship despite our differences.

There were many years when we did not communicate at all, so even though we disagree, I‘d still have to put this in the list of good things – at least the mountain and the valley are talking to each other.

So many times in our lives, we don’t do that.  We write someone or some group off, we close the door, we build the wall, and we stop listening.  We stop so hard that we lose sight of the humanness of the other, we lose sight of God’s image in the other – whether they are a cousin, or a Syrian refugee, or a politician or a bureaucrat, or a terrorist….

We can’t go on like this.

Our Gospel is one of reconciliation and forgiveness; our mission is to heal the world.  We cannot do this if we will not “strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human person.”
(BCP 305)

November 19, 2015, 2:48 PM

Fear or Faith?

Times are hard. 

But when are they ever not, for someone, somewhere, for this people or that nation?

Racial epithets are tossed around with abandon, but those insulted are told to not let it bother them?

Refugees flee mortal danger but we think they might harbor terrorists in their midst?

The homeless die in our streets, but we think it’s their fault they have no jobs and no homes?

I don’t know what to think, sometimes, but then I read the Bible and I am told: love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.

It’s hard to do that when we see the dead and the dying, from an airplane brought down by a bomb, from a shooter in a school, from suicide killers in a city market or from an over-zealous enforcement of the law.

Love your enemies.  Pray for those who persecute you.

Feed the hungry.  Defend the oppressed.  Free the captives.  Seek justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God.

Being Christians has often been easy; but not today.  Today, we are faced with the consequences of not just SIN, bur our own sins.  Our sins of omission have left us in a place of desolation, a place of horror and fear and anger.

We don’t want to love our enemies or pray for those who persecute us – we want to blow them into little bits!

How very human.  How very understandable.  How very popular.  How very normal.

How very ineffective.

If we are going to “win” against the “terrorists” then we are going to have to do more than send our young people into the wilderness with guns. 

Because every person we kill, diminishes us.

Because every person we kill creates another reason – however unreasonable – for those we fight against to fight harder themselves and to motivate others to fight us also.

Yet we can’t not do something, because that only seems to encourage the bad actors even more!

Whatever else we may do, we are still called to love our enemies.  Pray for those who persecute us.

We either believe in the power of prayer and of God or we don’t.

The early martyrs went to their deaths at the hands of their oppressors singing hymns and forgiving them (or so the stories tell us).

I don’t have the answer.  I have questions.  I have fear.  But I also have determination to not let my fear rule my heart or my actions.  I will strive to love my enemies and pray for those who persecute. 

Do they not need the love of God even more than I?  

November 5, 2015, 11:45 AM

"Unless the Lord builds the house..."

The Annual Fund Drive is officially under weigh.

(I used the nautical terminology of “under weigh,” rather than the more common landsmen’s term, “under way,” because the annual fund drive can feel like heavy seas, complete with tall waves of resistance and small hope of reaching safe harbor!)

But I don’t really think of the annual drive as rough seas here.  I know how much you love Christ Church and this community.  We have lots to be excited about, and lots yet to do!

Psalm 127 opens: “Unless the Lord builds the house, their labor is in vain who build it.”

We might read this verse as some kind of judgment against those who do not profess the faith, but one can read it instead as a sign of God’s mercy.  How so?

I think in many cases, I fear we in the U.S. tend to make judgments about the worth of a person based on the work that they do – and if they do not work, for whatever reason, we value them little.  Sometimes we can be swayed by a story of loss and pain, of disaster or injury or war wounds that make it nearly impossible for a person to work a “typical” job.

But in other cases, we simply may not respect the basic human dignity of the poor.  They should have studied harder in school; they should have looked for a better job, or they should have not given in to addictions or committed a crime.  We do not know their stories; yet we judge.

We have somehow twisted the “blessings and curses” language of the Bible (the righteous shall receive their reward; the disobedient shall be punished) and arrived at the conclusion that the ones who suffer are disobedient, and the ones who do not are righteous.

Maybe it’s more a matter of luck, and not a question of virtue.

This is where the first verse of Psalm 127 can be a message of hope and mercy: simply put, what the Lord builds has value.

And the Lord builds houses of all kinds: not just temples, churches, or homes, but descendants and legacies, communities and families.

God works through the unlikely and unprepared to do the incredible and unexpected. The alien foreigner Ruth becomes the great-grandmother of a king.  The stammering murderer Moses becomes the prophetic freedom fighter for a nation in despair.  The child of an unwed mother becomes the King of Heaven. 

“Unless the Lord builds the house…” - but the Lord is always building the house!

If we remain attentive to who is building the house, then we do not labor in vain!

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