Saturday, June 25, 2011

Making the Deal

When he entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, appealing to him and saying, ‘Lord, my servant is lying at home paralysed, in terrible distress.’ And he said to him, ‘I will come and cure him.’ The centurion answered, ‘Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; but only speak the word, and my servant will be healed. For I also am a man under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to one, “Go”, and he goes, and to another, “Come”, and he comes, and to my slave, “Do this”, and the slave does it.’ When Jesus heard him, he was amazed and said to those who followed him, ‘Truly I tell you, in no onein Israel have I found such faith. I tell you, many will come from east and west and will eat with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, while the heirs of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ And to the centurion Jesus said, ‘Go; let it be done for you according to your faith.’ And the servant was healed in that hour.Matthew 8:5-13

There were a couple of stories that captured my attention on yesterday's Morning Edition. The first story was Andrea Seabrook's review of Rep. Eric Cantor's pull out from the Congressional Budget Negotiations conversations. Seabrook suggests that Cantor was unwilling to discuss tax increases or eliminations of corporate tax breaks. You can listen to the story here:
Jena McGregor points out the problem with Rep. Cantor's unwillingness to negotiate. She writes: "Here’s the way a stalemate in negotiations usually comes about. One side gives up a little in exchange for something they want. The other side gives up a little in order to get something that matters to them."

Conversely, there was another StoryCorps article about John Bryne. John shares his story of his coming out as a gay man to his High School English class. He "just wanted to be himself." He finally summoned up enough courage to reveal his sexual orientation to his students who in turn embraced him for who he was. They selected him to be their graduation speaker. It's notable to observe how John was willing to set aside his authority as a teacher in order to become a more authentic person to his students and himself. He gained a great deal in the process. You can listen to John's story here:

It's certainly more difficult in some ways to resolve a multi-trillion dollar budget than it is for a high school teacher to disclose his sexual orientation to a class of predominantly liberal high school students. However, Jesus' encounter with the Roman Centurion is informative in terms of understanding both of these "current events." It is also enlightening in terms of identifying how we might best negotiate difficult debates and life experiences in terms of letting go of power and ideology even as we receive healing and become closer to God and the people around us. The Centurion possesses all sorts of secular power. He is almost assuredly a pagan or polytheist rather than a God-fearing Jew. His relationship with his servant might even be somewhat "suspect." (that fact is not quite as evident in this Matthean version - see Luke 7: 1-10). Nonetheless, he sets aside his pride and power in order to obtain what he wants. He's willing to recognize a peasant rabbi and healer who he believes can help him obtain his objective, the well-being of his servant.

Jesus, from his ethical and theological perspectives, tends to the needs of someone who is an agent of oppression and death, not someone from within his own social and religious contexts. He does so because he recognizes that person's worth and want. Both of them give up something in order to gain something. Jesus and the Centurion each set aside their cultural, economic, political, hierarchical, social locations in order to benefit one another.

Is it too much to ask of our politicians and civic leaders to compromise for the benefit of the people, not just the corporations they serve? Does the centurion's actions guide any or all of us who on how we should approach Jesus Christ when we seek his comfort or healing? How might God respond when we chose faith over pride?

I think that political and economic differences should not be stumbling blocks for our moral behavior as people and as a nation. Perhaps the ideological divides between us are in fact too vast. Surprisingly, that wasn't the case between a Roman soldier who recognized his place in the life when he humbled himself before the Son of God.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Summer Solstice

Jesus said, 'As you go, proclaim the good news, "The kingdom of heaven has come near." Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. You received without payment; give without payment. Take no gold, or silver, or copper in your belts, no bag for your journey, or two tunics, or sandals, or a staff; for labourers deserve their food. Whatever town or village you enter, find out who in it is worthy, and stay there until you leave. As you enter the house, greet it. If the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it; but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you. Matthew 10:7-13

I got my solstice walk in this morning, a little bit after sunrise. It was beautiful. I contemplated the aforementioned text from Matthew as I thought about where I am "at" on this longest day of the year.

I thought to myself how often I carry my "baggage" around with me. How do my past experiences enable or prevent me from extending Christ's peace to other people? What setbacks and/or moments of God's Grace have shaped me to become the person and priest that God is calling me to be and/or cause latent anxieties to emerge separating me from God's love and the presence of the people I encounter?

It's difficult to leave both worldly wealth and spiritual weight behind on a spiritual pilgrimage. Yet, that seems to be the path that Jesus taught his disciples to follow. He also told them not to starve or to throw the pearls of their discipleship to pigs. (Matthew 7:6). Life presents an inordinate amount of opportunities to extend one's "peace" to people who are yearning to learn more about God as well as experience the Risen Christ who is the source of all Christian healing and mercy.

The last few days for me have been a time of embracing the peace of others who are extending Christ's love toward me. They are thanking me for my ministries, honoring me for my efforts at St. George's. This is a time of striving to say good bye in healthy and holy ways even as they and I earnestly pray for Christ to reveal what will unfold for me this summer. The waiting and wondering is both exciting and worrisome.

I know that I shouldn't worry about my life. (Matthew 6:25) I do nonetheless. It's like participating in a series of good romantic dates. A person (me) becomes hopeful about where my relationship with God and God's people is headed and then ... I begin to fear that my peace, my gifts, my aspirations will be undesirable. My lack of faith sets in rather than understanding that Christ, through the Holy Spirit's guidance is leading me along the next portion of my pilgrimage with Jesus.

Today's conversation w/ Jesus and The Word suggests to me that I should take confidence in the hope that I am striving to extend God's peace (εἰρήνη: tranquility, harmony) to others as God is leading me to do. It's enough for today, the longest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere, for me - and perhaps for you - to pray, ponder, and believe that God is indeed continuing to work out God's plan of salvation for my (your) life as well as for others I (you) encounter under the summer sun or some where else along the road. Blessings Along The Way,

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Trinity Sunday

I’d like to break down this whole 400 years of Christian Trinitarianism theology into more accessible terms. How is God? Where and When can we actually experience and live into the truth of the Holy Trinity’s presence? What is the Essence of God?
First - God is Creative – God’s Being is dynamically unfolding in the universe as well as our lives. The Creator God is a Divinity that is beyond our understanding even while very much located within our own nature – God is the Divine Spark who, from a theological perspective has been present since the beginning, even before the beginning of time. and yet – God is as close as the very next breath that you do not command on your own.
The most profound act of our God’s creativity in human history
was to incarnate and become one of us as Jesus of Nazareth and Jesus the Christ. God’s desire to be in relationship with us is so divinely devotional that God entered into this world to live and die as one of us. The almighty manifested this Divine affection through acts of compassion, justice, and sacrifice.

The Son of God chose human death and suffering as a means to redeem humanity from evil and death. Christ’s Baptism, communion, and Easter Victory over sin and death are the grace-filled means that God willingly expresses in order to connect with us.

The World urges us to look out for #1; to avoid confronting the realities of impoverished people.
Christ's resurrection reconciles us to God and to one another. Our secular lives provoke us to protect what is ours – to use violence when necessary to get our way. Christ’s death on the Cross and appearance to Mary Magdalene and the disciples on Easter teaches us that sacrificial love and Grace are how we will bring God's Reign and Peace into our world.>

Moreover, God is Relational, not oppressive. Jesus teaches us the truth of being truly Christian by teaching us the Good Samaritan, acting like the Woman who found the Lost Pearl, and understanding the profoundly inclusive nature of the Grand Banquet.

Lastly God is Spiritual – That principle sounds silly but some Christians believe that the Church is a social service agency or a ritualistic means for gathering with people who think, act, and believe like we do. Our Triune God beckons us to prayer. The Spirit’s Wind and Voice move over and around us to call us into deeper understanding of God, Ourselves, Our World and all of those needs.

A Christian cannot deeply discern the mystery of the Holy Trinity unless she or he is willing to intentionally live a life of Prayer. The Trinity’s Hospitality is understood not only through tithing but also through the gifts of the Spirit – Teaching, listening to God, preaching, singing, Painting, Laughing – all of the emotive and expressive aspects of who we are – at their best are the Spirit’s means of saying to us – God is Creative, God is Relational, and God is Yearning to abide with you so that you will become better at abiding with God and One another.

If little or any of this is incomprehensible – remember this. God is Love and Love is a Relationship. God creates because the endless joy and peace and shared life at the heart of God knows no other way to live. Jesus invites us into that relationship. Jesus is the one at the center of the Triune relationship who is at one with God and makes it possible for us to be one with them. This God who desires our relationship is constantly on a Holy and Spiritual pilgrimage to find companions to assist in perfecting the ongoing creation of the world. This Spirit, as she did at Pentecost is brooding over people as a mother hen broods over her chickens – God's Holy Sirit is fiery and yet she speaks softly to each and every one of us in particularly meaningful ways. Care to join the conversation at God's communion table>?

Blessings Along The Way

Monday, June 13, 2011

Pentecostal Promise

So when they had come together, they asked him, 'Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?' He replied, 'It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. (Acts of The Apostles 1: 6-8)

I inherently read texts like biblical passages that I desire to hold fast to my heart while subconsciously setting aside contrary or conflicting "truths." Today, I desire assurance that "All Things Work Together for Good for those who love God, who are called according to God's purpose." (Romans 8:28) I want to set aside any doubt that I may experience even as I observe matters occur that are and are not within my "control." I wonder if my personal experience isn't quite like the disciples experience here in the first chapter of Acts. Jesus informs them that they will receive power from God's Spirit even as he commands them to be his apostles. They went back to their room, prayed earnestly, and awaited the Holy Spirit's arrival. They didn't have precise clues about how and when God was going to act or when they would receive the assurance and evangelical tools that they needed. They waited, they prayed, and they hoped.

There's so much for me to learn there. Perhaps there is a Pentecostal promotion for you too.

The Holy Spirit came and descended upon them. God's pneuma came and filled the house that they were in. They didn't get a divine memo ahead of time. They didn't get ahead of themselves either. They patiently and prayerfully hoped that Jesus the Christ wouldn't let them down.He didn't.

The folks at (with thanks to the attentive people at St. James - Cincinnati who posted it on their Facebook page) have made the cool video that's located at the top of the page how we should be receiving the Spirit this Pentecost Season. We need to be thinking outside of the box. We need to be offering The Holy Spirit's "breath-giving" gifts whether we are consciously waiting for the Spirit's presence or acting upon the principle that the Spirit has already descended upon us.


We need to get out of our own self-doubts and trust that God is imagining great things through Jesus Christ's Gospel. Christ is being activated through Christ's body (us) to spiritually and prophetically claim that Christ's love and justice is present in our churches and neighborhood.

Blessings Along The Way,

Monday, June 6, 2011

Missionary Witnesses

Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, and he said to them, ‘Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. (Luke 24: 45-58)

This "tweener" week from Ascension Day to Pentecost is a celebration of missionaries for Episcopalians. Holy Women, Holy Men invites us to celebrate the lives of Boniface today, Ini Kopuria tomorrow, Roland Allen on Wednesday, Columba - Thursday, Ephrem the Syrian this coming Friday, and Barnabas on Saturday.

Each one of their lives witnesses to their desire to know Jesus the Christ's spirit of wisdom. Their hearts were enlightened with the Holy Spirit's hope as they undertook their Christian callings.Their works, miracles, and sacrifices revealed the riches of God's glorious inheritance as well as the immeasurable nature of the Creator's great power for believers who are working out the Holy Trinity's redemptive and reconciling power. (Ephesians 1:16-19)

I am pondering what their lives mean for me as I daily discern how God is calling me to be better preacher and proclaimer of Jesus the Christ's gospel. Most of this week's Holy Men departed from their communities of origin and traveled to other locations to offer Christ's compassionate grace to strangers and seekers alike. They abandoned wealth and political power in most cases. They used their talents to translate and preach biblical texts. They transformed the lives of the people around them, not through intellectual prowess alone, but by building caring companionships over extended periods of time. How might I understand their talents more deeply and devotedly through Christ's Grace and presence?

I'm not sure but I'm glad for each of their examples and writings. Today I will have coffee with someone's whose spouse recently died. I will counsel a young person who needs comfort. I'll draft the parish's weekly newsletter. At some point, I'll do laundry. What missional words and works might you offer? Each one of these and thousands of other similar moments provide opportunities for Grace in between the Feast Days for me and you to be missionaries. God used the saints' experiences, their failures, their victories, their prayers for the raising up of the Church and as a benchmark for all of us to continue to seek repentance and proclaim forgiveness to people in our surrounding towns as well as to faraway lands.

Blessings Along The Way,