a priest's musings on the journey

Saturday, March 31, 2007

Perspectives: DIY Microlending: An Innovative Way to accomplish the MDG's to End Poverty

Nicholas Kristof has posted a video report on the NY Times website of an innovative way for ordinary people to make a difference in the lives of the poor in the world by lending as little as $25 to poor entrepenuers thoroughout the world. You can go here to watch the news report. You may also go to kiva.org to find out ways to make a difference. If you'd rather just make a small gift, check out globalgiving.com

You can find a catologue there of different project themes (AIDS, Climate Change, Economic Development, Education, Human Rights, etc)throughout the world that need your financial aid. You can browse thr catalogue and decide which projects you would like to help.

Take a few minutes and check these sites out. Who doesn't have $25 they can lend a woman in the third world so she can escape the grips of poverty? If each of us do little things, we can eradicate poverty.
:: posted by Padre Rob+, 6:04 PM | link | 0 comments |

Monday, March 26, 2007

Sermonette: On the Annunciation

“Every believing soul conceives and gives birth to the Word of God. Christ, by means of our faith, is the fruit of us all, thus we are all mothers of Christ.” St Ambrose

I always look forward to the Feast of the Annunciation, not only because we get a reprieve in our Lenten fast, but because I really love Mary. I have such an ardent devotion to her because she is the Mother of God. But more than that, because of her strength, holiness, and character. The stories in the Gospels about her portray a determined, brave, and resolute woman. She is not afraid to push her Son to do the right thing, as she demonstrated at the Wedding in Cana when after hearing Jesus’ unwillingness to provide wine for the party, she instructed the servants to do whatever Jesus asked them to do. What confidence! She is not afraid to follow her Son in the Way of the Cross and to stand by him when almost everyone abandons Him. She is not afraid to say yes to God, even when God asks something of her that is absolutely impossible, like receiving the Word of God into her womb and birthing the Son of God into the world in flesh and blood.

She is a paragon of Christian discipleship; the model of what the faithful life of a Christian looks like. In today’s Feast, she models for us what it looks like to receive the Word of God into ourselves, where it can gestate and develop until it is time for us to be Christ-bearers in our world. The medieval idea was that the Word of God was received and conceived in Mary’s womb as she heard it.
One of my favorite images of the Annunciation is the depiction painted by Robert Campin on the Merode Altarpiece. It shows an embryonic Jesus descending from God, carrying a cross, ready to enter Mary’s ear with the proclamation by the angel that Mary would conceive a child. This metaphor illustrates an important part of Christian discipleship. It describes the exchange of giving and receiving the Word of God to which we all are called. The angel bore the Word of God to Mary as she heard the Word; she received it to bear that same Word to the world. We receive the Word of God in order to bear it to those in our world. It is not enough to receive it; it must be shared, or else it will be ineffective. Mary was not a passive instrument. The Word of God did not forcibly enter her. She had to willingly consent to receiving it and bearing it to the world. That consent is a paradigm for our own discipleship. We too are called to trust that the Word of God that we hear is meant to be given away so that it will effect change and yield new life.

The problem for us is that too many times we fail to hear the Word of God because we are not paying attention to all of the places where God is speaking it. As Mary discovered, the Word of God is not always heard through the words of Scripture. Sometimes it is spoken to us in surprising, even unexplainable ways. Sometimes the Word we hear is hard to receive, and even harder to give life to. Yet, God implants the divine Word into our hearts anyway, so that we, like Mary, can cooperate with God to birth impossible miracles into our world. It isn’t that God needs us to participate; but part of our being in community with God and sharing in the life of the Trinity, is participating in the actions of the divine compassion in the world. When we, like Mary, consent to participate with God, God takes what we have to offer and the Spirit broods over it to bear life. The traditional teaching of the Church believes that Mary received the Son of God in her womb by the Holy Spirit, but the Son of God received his humanity from Mary. God desires this kind of relationship with all of us. We give what we have to God; God uses it to speak the Word of God into the world.

This is not an easy participation, however. It is frightening and dangerous to be pregnant with the Word of God. The Blessed Virgin opened herself up to ridicule and shame. Her pregnancy as a single woman could have resulted in her death. Yet, she had the courage and trust to say Yes to God. She had the strength and courage to allow the Word of God to grow in her womb, accepting the pain, discomfort, and even any rejection that the pregnancy might bring her, until it was time to give birth to the Christ. We can expect a similar experience as we carry the developing Christ within us.

Part of the struggle that we are experiencing with our participation in the prophetic witness to God’s Word into our society is the discomfort of that Word gestating in the womb of the Church, as it matures, awaiting the day of being borne into a fullness of life. We see the embryonic Christ carrying the seeds of racial and gender justice, inclusion of gays, and the elimination of war and poverty; and, we want the births to happen now. And as we get closer and closer to birthing a just society, we groan with the pangs of labor. Yet, each contraction brings us closer to the birth.

For now, it is enough to say Yes to God, to open our hearts and receive the Word of God into our own lives. It is enough to be present to the Spirit, and open to the nurturing life of God which brrods over us calling forth life and light into our world. The birth will come; but for now, we wait.
:: posted by Padre Rob+, 2:53 PM | link | 1 comments |

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Perspectives: 12 of 12 March 2008

12 of 12 is a photo blog record of one's day. It is supposed to be 12 photos to depict one's life on the 12th day of every month. Ok, yes i know it's the 18th- I'm a little late- o, and I am not a photograppher, as you will see. But, I thought I'd give this a go for a few months. I am always surprised what I learn about myself from journaling. I am interested to see what discoveries I'll make about myself after a few months of photoblogging my day. If you have any insights, please share them (but be nice) :)

1. The end of NC 61, en route to St Thomas Church 7:55 am

2. The Nave before Mass: St Thomas 8:10 am

3. *Nutritious* Breakfast in between Masses 9:30 am

4. Drive by the Ostrich Farm with Zac 1:30 pm

5. Dairy Farm: Cows grazing 2:00 pm

6. Graveyard at Friedens Lutheran Church: Graves dating back to the Revolutionary War 2:30 pm

7. A screwy photo of Zac's hoverdisk in flight... but I kind of like it 3:30pm

8. Zac's hoverdisk caught in the trees 3:35 pm

9. My favorite spring blooms: Forsythia 4:15 pm

10. A walk by the Church of God: My grandfather was the pastor here until I was 8 years old: The house in the background is the parsonage. I spent most of my childhood in that house and in that church. 5:00 pm

11. A walk by the old well house in my childhood neighborhood 5:05 pm

12. The final photo.... just because I did not want to take any evening photos. ;)
:: posted by Padre Rob+, 4:37 PM | link | 3 comments |

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Sermonette: Laetare Sunday 18 March 2007

4 Lent 2007
St Thomas Parish, Reidsville. NC

Joshua 4:19 - 5:1219The people came up out of the Jordan on the tenth day of the first month, and they camped in Gilgal on the east border of Jericho.
20Those twelve stones, which they had taken out of the Jordan, Joshua set up in Gilgal, 21saying to the Israelites, “When your children ask their parents in time to come, ‘What do these stones mean?’ 22then you shall let your children know, ‘Israel crossed over the Jordan here on dry ground.’ 23For the Lord your God dried up the waters of the Jordan for you until you crossed over, as the Lord your God did to the Red Sea, which he dried up for us until we crossed over, 24so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the hand of the Lord is mighty, and so that you may fear the Lord your God forever.”
5When all the kings of the Amorites beyond the Jordan to the west, and all the kings of the Canaanites by the sea, heard that the Lord had dried up the waters of the Jordan for the Israelites until they had crossed over, their hearts melted, and there was no longer any spirit in them, because of the Israelites. 2At that time the Lord said to Joshua, “Make flint knives and circumcise the Israelites a second time.” 3So Joshua made flint knives, and circumcised the Israelites at Gibeath-haaraloth. 4This is the reason why Joshua circumcised them: all the males of the people who came out of Egypt, all the warriors, had died during the journey through the wilderness after they had come out of Egypt. 5Although all the people who came out had been circumcised, yet all the people born on the journey through the wilderness after they had come out of Egypt had not been circumcised. 6For the Israelites traveled forty years in the wilderness, until all the nation, the warriors who came out of Egypt, perished, not having listened to the voice of the Lord. To them the Lord swore that he would not let them see the land that he had sworn to their ancestors to give us, a land flowing with milk and honey. 7So it was their children, whom he raised up in their place, that Joshua circumcised; for they were uncircumcised, because they had not been circumcised on the way. 8When the circumcising of all the nation was done, they remained in their places in the camp until they were healed. 9The Lord said to Joshua, “Today I have rolled away from you the disgrace of Egypt.” And so that place is called Gilgal to this day.
10While the Israelites were camped in Gilgal they kept the passover in the evening on the fourteenth day of the month in the plains of Jericho. 11On the day after the passover, on that very day, they ate the produce of the land, unleavened cakes and parched grain. 12The manna ceased on the day they ate the produce of the land, and the Israelites no longer had manna; they ate the crops of the land of Canaan that year

2 Corinthians 5:16-21
16From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view, we know him no longer in that way. 17So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! 18All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; 19that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us. 20So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Luke 15:1-32
15Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to him. 2And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, “This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.” 3So he told them this parable: 4“Which one of you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one that is lost until he finds it? 5When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders and rejoices. 6And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ 7Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance. 8“Or what woman having ten silver coins, if she loses one of them, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it? 9When she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’ 10Just so, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
11Then Jesus said, “There was a man who had two sons. 12The younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of the property that will belong to me.’ So he divided his property between them. 13A few days later the younger son gathered all he had and traveled to a distant country, and there he squandered his property in dissolute living. 14When he had spent everything, a severe famine took place throughout that country, and he began to be in need. 15So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed the pigs. 16He would gladly have filled himself with the pods that the pigs were eating; and no one gave him anything. 17But when he came to himself he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired hands have bread enough and to spare, but here I am dying of hunger! 18I will get up and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; 19I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me like one of your hired hands.”’ 20So he set off and went to his father. But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him. 21Then the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ 22But the father said to his slaves, ‘Quickly, bring out a robe—the best one—and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23And get the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; 24for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!’ And they began to celebrate. 25“Now his elder son was in the field; and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. 26He called one of the slaves and asked what was going on. 27He replied, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fatted calf, because he has got him back safe and sound.’ 28Then he became angry and refused to go in. His father came out and began to plead with him. 29But he answered his father, ‘Listen! For all these years I have been working like a slave for you, and I have never disobeyed your command; yet you have never given me even a young goat so that I might celebrate with my friends. 30But when this son of yours came back, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fatted calf for him!’ 31Then the father said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. 32But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.’

Somewhere we got the idea that the Christian pilgrimage is an easy, clear-cut, direct path from point A to point B. If we can just follow the directions in the Bible, then we will safely and surely arrive at our home in God. I suppose our reliance on this metaphor explains why we are so tripped up when suffering and hardships cross our path. After all, if we’re following the roadmap found in the Bible, our journey should be relatively smooth and uneventful. But, our spiritual journey is not like that at all. It is filled with moments of decision when we aren’t at all sure which way we should go. Sure we have the Bible, the wisdom of the saints, and the Holy Spirit to guide us; but, ultimately we have to make our own decisions as we to try to look for the footsteps that Jesus has left for us to follow.

This mornings readings provide us with a different metaphor for what our spiritual journey looks like. They depict a pilgrimage that is filled with twists and turns, uncertainties, surprises, and unfolding adventure . They describe a journey that looks more like a nomadic wandering in the desert, or an explorer’s expedition, or the quest of a prodigal child to find his identity or to discover her life’s meaning. It is a journey that embraces the unknown, searches for wisdom and understanding in the unanswered questions, finds comfort in risks and the ever new and unfolding path that can only be seen with each next step , and is energized not only by the destination, but also by the journey itself. It is a way of life deeply rooted in trust, faith, and a living hope that God speaks and acts and leads through all of the experiences we encounter, through all of the choices we make, and through all the people that travel with us. It is a way of life that is not as concerned with making the right choice as it is with making the loving choice, because those who follow this path believe that God will get those who walk in love to their destination, and if they turn down the wrong road, God will show them the way back to the main road. It is a way of life that deeply believes in the redemption of all and the reconciliation of the all.

This way of perceiving the Christian pilgrimage to God was one that characterized the spirituality of the ancient Celtic Christians- who arguably were the trailblazers of the path we Anglicans now follow. The Celtic Christians had this wanderlust that drove them to literally live their lives in wandering pilgrimage. They desired a white martyrdom in which they would live lives of self-denial, sacrifice, and voluntary exile, wandering aimlessly from place to place, going wherever the Spirit would take them, and doing whatever work was needed to be done wherever they found themselves. They did this in imitation of Jesus, who was homeless and wandered throughout the towns and cities of Palestine teaching and healing all who would receive him. These peregrini, as they came to be called, who took on this way of life developed a sixth sense and an ability to discover and experience God in all that surrounded them; in the Biblical Story, in the memory of the saints and martyrs, most particularly in devotion to Mary, in art, poetry, and song, in nature, and in the relationships they formed with people whom they encountered. This sixth sense enabled them to live a life of radical hospitality that welcomed the stranger as Christ. Women were treated with equality, prisoners were treated with respect, children were valued and cared for, orphans and the poor were cared for and nurtured, because they saw a connection between physical and spiritual welfare. They understood that one could not be fed with the Bread of Heaven and denied the bread of life. Monks and preachers were so driven by this hospitality that they could not help but proclaim the good news of the Gospel they believed everywhere. St Colomba and others would play their harps and summon people to crossroads and bridges to hear them preach. Even the strict penitentials that were produced to proscribe penance for sins were created out of love and of concern for the social order and the individuals spiritual well being.

This sixth sense also enabled these wanderers to know God, and to experience Heaven in the world around them. They experienced these “small, thin, places” where heaven met earth, where time met eternity, where darkness met light, and good met evil. Listen to this prayer which describes the Celtic vision of God:

I am the wind that breathes upon the sea,
I am the wave on the ocean,
I am the murmur of leaves rustling,
I am the rays of the sun,
I am the beam of the moon and stars,
I am the power of trees growing'
I am the bud breaking into blossom,
I am the movement of salmon swimming,
I am the courage of the wild board fighting,
I am the speed of the stag running,
I am the strength of the ox pulling the plow,
I am the size of the mighty oak tree'
And I am the thoughts of all people
Who praise my beauty and grace.

It was these thin places and the ability to perceive God in all and through all that enabled them to hold opposing points of view in tension: they were able to see the creation as good even in the midst of a very hostile environment; they could see the Light of Christ even in the middle of the darkest night; they knew hope in the pit of suffering and oppression, they knew security in their destination in God even with the insecurities of an unknown path. The Celtic pilgrim accepted diversity and celebrated opposites because it was understood that both were needed if either were to exist: there could be no light without darkness, no gratitude without hardship, no Resurrection without the Crucifixion.

This perception of the Christian life acknowledges that all is interconnected: all of our life is interwoven with the lives of other humans, with the world around us, and with the life of God. So, we may have times of stubbornness when we wander around the desert as the Hebrews did, unable to get to the longed -for Promise Land because of our unwillingness to follow a more direct path that God has provided; but even in our wanderings God is present, and in the end we will arrive in Canaan. We have moments when we lose our senses and wander off alone to waste our inheritance and find some supposed joy in life. But even when we are rebellious, prodigal children, God is present, and active and eventually, God will bring us back to reality and we will find the road back to our Father’s house.

Both of the stories form this mornings readings focus on the unconditional love and unfathomable mercy of God. It is the divine love and mercy that accompanies us as our constant companion on our pilgrimage to God. It is the divine love and mercy that ultimately keeps us from losing our way, even when we make the wrong decision and take the wrong road. It is the divine love and mercy that keeps us rooted in the life of God and connected to the life of the Spirit in all of the chances and changes of our life. It is the divine love and mercy that feeds us manna when we wander in the desert and stands at the end of the road looking for us to return home when we runaway.

On this Laetare Sunday we rejoice, because our home is in God, and deep down, no matter how many times we turn away from God, we long to find our home and to return to God. No matter how often we rebel and try to live life our own way, at the end of the day when we’ve squandered our inheritance, we want to go back home, and we hope that we will be welcomed again. No matter how many times we try to be self-sufficient, we know that we really need God and one another, and, as St Augustine said, “we find no rest, until we find our rest in (God).”

On our Lenten journey we are halfway to Easter, and the good news that God speaks to us today is that nothing can keep us away from the life that he offers: not our stubborn rebellion, not our mistakes and wrong choices, not even a cross and death can separate us from the love of God and the wellsprings of mercy. For those who have been made a new creation in Christ have been bound to Christ and immersed through him into the very life of God. Nothing can separate us from that- that love will never let us go. So, we do not have to worry about the questions and doubts and uncertainties; we don’t have to be obsessed with making the right decisions and getting the answers right. If we live in love and desire to seek our home in God, we will find it; we will arrive at home, because in the end, God will see that we find our way home.
:: posted by Padre Rob+, 4:15 PM | link | 2 comments |

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Great Firewall of China | Test websites

Great Firewall of China | Test websites: " Test any website and see in real-time if it's censored in China.
Earlier test results for this website:Latest comments about this website:03.16.2007available

I was reading Jared's blog today over at Scribere Orare Est (link to the left)where he wrote about how his blog is possibly among the cites censored my the Chinese Government. So, I had to go the site to see whether or not my blog was censored, only to find to my surprise that it is NOT censored. Of course most of my links are disabled, but my blogs are all available to be read by any Chinese person who stumbles across them.

Wanna find out if your site is censored? Checkt he link above.
:: posted by Padre Rob+, 6:42 PM | link | 6 comments |

Perspectives: New Bill Introduced to Ban Corporal Punishment in NC Schools

Yesterday, a bill was introduced to the North Carolina General Assembly which hopes to ban corporal punishment in North Carolina Schools. The text of the bill may be found there.
North Carolina is one of 21 States which allows corporal punishment by permitting local school boards to decide whether or not a child may be disciplined by spanking. 59% of school boards in North Carolina permit teachers to paddle students with wooden paddles, according to the Center for Effective Discipline. Only 48 school boards have issued their own bans on spanking.
While it is egregious enough that the State allows children to be treated more inhumanely than felons by allowing them to be hit to begin with, the reality is that in most cases it is more than a strike on the buttocks. In many instances the child is violently abused, leaving whelps and bruises on the child. Some parents have pressed charges and filed civil suits against teachers who have injured their children; however, in many cases the teachers are not disciplined. In 2005 a 12 year old boy was paddled so severely by his teacher that his mother had to take him to the ER for treatment. The police took photos and are investigating (still); but, the teacher continues to teach in the school.
Many parents, teachers, and administrators support the new bill and are calling on the General Assembly to make it law. An online petition has been published to gather more support and to give a larger voice to those advocating the end of violence towards our children. More details about the practice of corporal punishment and links to photos of children who have been abused by their teachers may also been found there.
These photos are used with the permission of the parents. However, be warned, these photos are graphic and disturbing.
If you are in NC, please consider signing the petition and writing your representatives to ask them to pass this law. You may find contact information for your Representative here.
:: posted by Padre Rob+, 9:53 AM | link | 0 comments |

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Perspectives: Are orthodox gay Christians welcome anywhere?

Luiz and I were talking last night about our frustration over how the controversy in the Anglican Communion is being handled. (You know, that conflict in which one side views gays as an abomination and the other views gays as an issue or political pawns). As we talked we shared our disappointments about the exclusive injustice of the extreme right, and the impatient self-centeredness of the extreme left. Neither side really cares about even trying to hear the pain in the other; neither side seems to acknowledge the other as a fellow member in the Body of Christ. The right refuses to share the Eucharistic feast with the left, and the left responds with a prideful arrogance that exults in the absence of the right. Neither are behaving too faithfully, and both, in the end, alienate and oppress gay Christians.

Ok, to be fair there are some gay Christians represented in both camps. On the one hand, there are gays in the right who have chosen celibacy or reparative therapy. There are gays in the left who have embraced the welcome and the progressive openness to a diversity of beliefs. Then there are is a third group of gay Christians, which is in my experience a quite large one. These are gay Christians who share many of the theological convictions of the right and center on issues concerning God, Jesus, and Christian morality. Yet, they have come to terms with their sexual orientation, or are in the process of coming to terms, and are looking for a faith community that shares their theological reference and welcomes then as full members of the community. The problem is, if this controversy continues the course it is taking, this third group of gay Christians might still be wandering in the wilderness looking for a home.

I have been in conversation with some of these orthodox thinking gay Christians who have been reading blogs and sermons addressing the controversy in the Anglican Communion and feel lost. One group rejects them; the other accepts them, but their voice and behavior is not a Christianity that they recognize; it's not a Christianity with which they want to identify. These gay Christians are faced with a dilemma. Either they sacrifice their integrity and sexuality by living in the closet in a church that shares their theological identity, or else they abandon or compromise their beliefs in order to be in a church that accepts them. However, neither can be a place where they can truly belong and be affirmed in who they really are.

The entire situation and choice is unjust and oppressive. Why must their even be a choice? Why can't there be inclusivity AND orthodoxy? Why can't one believe that Jesus is God, that Jesus was resurrected in the flesh, and Jesus will come again in glory AND believe that in Christ there is no male or female, Jew or Greek, slave or free, gay or straight? Well, obviously there are many who are gay and orthodox; but, where do they belong? Where is their place? Where is their voice?
:: posted by Padre Rob+, 12:50 PM | link | 6 comments |

Perspectives: Happy Π day!

Shamelessly stolen from Fr Scott

In the category of esoteric and extremely-geeky holidays, today is Π (Pi) day. Today's date is 3.14, the first three digits of this significant mathematical figure (if you multiply a circle's diameter by Pi you get the circumference, woo hoo! We should have a moment of silence at 1:59:26, the next five digits. Gee, this could get fun!
While some people will get together to recite as many digits as they can, I, personally, advocate eating a lovely piece of pie -- the kind and flavor is up to you. If you are strictly observing Lent with no sweets, have some Quiche! Or, just think of the pie you'll have on Easter morning! :)
Here's my vote... : P

:: posted by Padre Rob+, 9:18 AM | link | 2 comments |

Friday, March 09, 2007

Sermonette: 3 Lent C The God Who Will Be There

Erin (not her real name) had asked to meet with me first thing Monday morning, and so I had made an appointment to talk with her right after Morning Prayer. She came to the church for the service and we chatted pleasantly on the way to my office. When we got to my office she continued to chat nervously; she was uneasy, tense, nervous. Then, when she had mustered up the courage, she told me she had left her husband. He had been abusive and finally a friend persuaded her to just go… and she did. But she was afraid. She was uncertain of what would happen next. She had recently lost her job, and one reason she had stayed with her husband was for the security that marriage offered. Now, she did not know what to do. She had moved in with her mother, and that was a solution for now. The stress, though, was getting to her, and she was feeling weak and vulnerable; she was a recovering addict, she had been addicted to prescription drugs- and she was being tempted in every moment to use again. Finally and tearfully she asked, “what did I do to deserve this? Why is God punishing me?”

This question is fairly universal; this thought of attributing the bad things that happen to us to some divine retribution or punishment for our sins is an ancient idea. I have to admit that even with all of my theological training, that question has passed my mind a few times in my life. This is in fact the same question that Jesus was asked in the beginning of today’s gospel reading. A group of Galileans had been murdered by Pilate, and the common consensus of the day taught that their murders had been the result of their sins. It was their “just desserts”- as the old prayer book put it. Jesus was quick to reply that this tragedy, and the recent tragedy in Jerusalem that had killed 18 people when the Tower of Siloam fell, was not a result of the victims’ sinfulness. They were just ordinary people; no better nor worse than anyone else. Furthermore, these horrible events were not God’s actions. They were the consequences of human evil, in the case of those murdered or the nature of accidents, and traumas that just happen- part of the universe’s groaning for redemption, perhaps. But Jesus adds these sobering words: “but unless you repent, you will all perish just as they did.”

Jesus words are harsh and - to blatantly understate it, make us feel uncomfortable. And yet, they reiterate what he has previously said. The bad consequences of our life are not a result of a retributive, angry God- Judge who is punishing us. Even the death that Jesus warns about is not a result of a punishing God; rather, it is a result and a consequence of our own choices and actions. A failure or refusal to repent and turn back to God leads to death, because we can not sustain our own life when we have cut ourselves off from the Source of Life.

Jesus then tells a Parable, the Parable of the fruitless Fig Tree, in which he explains God’s relationship to human beings who are either fruitless and barren as a result of their unrepentance , or who are unable to yield fruit because their ability to be life-giving is being disrupted and hindered by other forces. The parable tells of a man’s desire to cut down a fig tree that has not produced any fruit in three years. The gardener, however, asks the man to be patient, and to allow him to fertilize and care for this tree for one more year- if it produces figs- it will have been worth the wait and the extra work. If it doesn’t, then it must be barren and can be cut down.

Of course Jesus is not really talking about a vineyard. The fig tree is us. How many times do we insist on our own selfish desires? How many times do we refuse to surrender to God? How many times do we sin in thought, word and deed, by things done and left undone? How many times do we fail to be honest with ourselves enough to amend our lives and intentionally make more Christ-like choices? Because of our sin and our inability or refusal to love God and our neighbor as we are called to do, we lose our ability to be life-giving; we become fruitless. When God sees us in our stubborn, prideful, self-centered fruitlessness, God could easily cut us down, discard us, and allow us to reap the consequences of our choices without any intervention. But, God does not act in this way. Because God is love, God’s nature prevents Him from abandoning us. Instead, God is a patient nurturer; God does not punish us, leave us, or even allow us to die in our sins without reaching out to attempt to rescue us. God can not just let us walk away; it’s true that God can not force us to love Him; but He can not stop loving us; and like a desperate Lover, he chases after us, calling after us to come back to Him.

Our story from the Old Testament tells of one of those times when God ran after us in order to rescue us and to demonstrate His eternal love. You probably remember the story from Sunday School. Moses, who had fled Egypt after he had killed an Egyptian whom he witnessed beating a Hebrew slave. Is in exile in the desert. Moses had married Zipporah and was living as a shepherd. One day as he was tending his flock, he saw a bush on fire.
At first he probably did not give it a second thought. But as time passed, he noticed that this blazing bush had been on fire for a while, and yet it was not being consumed by the fire. Moses had to go investigate. Who wouldn’t? As he approached the burning bush, God called out to him, and told him to remove his sandals because he was standing on holy ground. Afraid, and again who wouldn’t be, Moses hid his face. God continued by telling Moses that He was the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob- the God of the forbears of the Hebrew people. God declared that He had witnessed the suffering and oppression of His people, and had heard their cries for deliverance. Their cries had moved God to action- because God is always on the side of the oppressed. So God had decided to enter human history and act to liberate the Hebrews and to lead them out of the land of slavery into the land of freedom. Then God told Moses that He had chosen him to be the conduit through which God would lead His people to salvation.

Moses could not imagine that God would chose him of all people for this task. “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” Moses asked. And here Moses, the fruitless fig tree, is faced with the archetypical biblical dilemma. Will he trust God and obediently attempt to do an impossible task because God had asked him to do it? Or, will he refuse to obey God because there is no assurance that he will be successful? Moses decided he needed some assurance from God. So, he asked God for a sign. God replies,

I will be with you and this will be the sign for you that it is
I who sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt,
you shall worship God on this mountain.

I think Moses was hoping for a sign before he agreed to confront Pharaoh- and I can imagine God laughing at Moses for having even asked for a sign; wasn’t the burning bush sign enough? But God does not mock Moses nor does God get frustrated with Moses. Like the gardener in Jesus’ parable, God is patient with Moses. God takes the time to talk to Moses and to nurture him. God is willing to wait on Moses to be converted to the willingness to accept the call God had given him. God is willing to wait on Moses and to gently encourage him to do the right thing.

Moses finally realized he was not going to get any more signs, so he changed his strategy and offered God another excuse. Moses claimed that he could not liberate the Hebrew people because he did not know the name of the God of the Hebrew ancestors who was calling him. They would never believe his story if he could not tell them God’s name. Given what the ancients believed about the power of names, Moses’ excuse was a valid one. The ancients believed that the name of a person and especially a deity, disclosed some characteristic attribute of that person or deity. In the case of a deity, the invocation of a divine name would give that person access to the deity’s power and authority. God answered by revealing the Name of God that came to be so sacred that no Hebrew would speak it… the Tetragrammaton written in Hebrew as yodh heh vav heh… transliterated into English as Yahweh. In this story it is often translated “I am who I am” or “ I will be who I will be.” The Sacred Name revealed to Moses communicates a God who is ever present, a God of enduring love who is always engaged in the affairs of His people. Martin Buber, the Jewish existentialist, translates this Sacred Name in a way that clearly articulates this attribute of God: He translates the Sacred Name of God “ I will be there as the One who will be there.” The Rev King Oehmig of Sewanee says of Buber's phrase:

This is what Moses needs to hear. Not just that God is, but that God exists with him in the form of a promise. God is not simply "Being itself." God is Being with a purpose - being present, being effective, leading the way, liberating. God will be there. God will be with them in unfailing, steadfast love.

As we continue our Lenten journey and continue to hear the call to turn back to God in repentance, these are the words that we need to hear. God sees our barreness; God sees how hard it is for us to be fully converted; God sees our struggles, he hears our cries for help. God is as concerned with those of us who are oppressed by our own sins and bad choices as He is with those oppressed by poverty, dictators and social inequality. God has heard our cries of despair; God has heard our longing to be free from ourselves and from our self-centeredness that drives us to make the wrong choices. God continues to reveal to us that He is the God who will be there for us. He is the God who will walk beside us and show us the road to freedom; He is the God who will be there when we are about to drown in our own sin, and He will reach out His hand to rescue us if we will only take his hand.

We can believe God’s promise because God has proven His trustworthiness to us. There have been other burning bushes in our history in which God was revealed to humanity. One of those bushes was set ablaze at the Annunciation, when the Ever Blessed Virgin Mary consented to receive God into her womb. With Blessed Mary’s yes, she reversed the decision of Adam and Eve to say No to God- and her Yes allowed the uncontainable God to be contained in her womb.

St Gregory, the fourth century Bishop of Nyssa, was the first to see in the Virgin Mary the same thing that Moses saw in the burning bush. Gregory wrote in his On the Birth of Christ that as the bush was in flames, but not consumed, so Mary had God present inside her and was not consumed. Mary was herself like the burning bush. God was fully present, as the God who will be there, and yet she was unharmed. Once again God had entered human history in His fullness, this time to be born as one of us, to be there with us, to show us that He was true to His word, to remind us that we can rely on his promise to be present and to lead us to liberating life. God appeared as faithfully as he had to Moses, but this time, in order to assure us that God’s promise would be fulfilled, God Himself acted as the one who would liberate us. It is God Himself that we see revealed again on the hard wood of the Cross, as it is set ablaze by the love of God- a love that God wants to burn within us; a fire of love that enlightens our hearts, warms our spirits, and illuminates the path to life. A love that once and for all reveals to us that God is the God will be there as the One who will be there!

This Lenten journey will be a difficult one. We all have dark places within our hearts that we would rather hide from and ignore. We all have secret lusts and passions which compete with the love of God for our attention. The good news is that God understands;
God is patient, loving, and merciful. God allows us the time we need to grow into the people who reflect His image in the world in a faithful way. God is willing to nurture us and tend to us until we bear an abundant harvest. And we need not think we have to “fix our brokenness” during these forty days: NO, this is the work of a lifetime; and, our patient God can wait a lifetime, and will be there throughout our lifetime, ever burning in the flames of love that draw us to turn aside and commune with God, where God can be revealed to us again.
:: posted by Padre Rob+, 9:31 PM | link | 4 comments |

Perspectives: Center for Human Rights Brazil: Fight against worker-slavery

So, remind me again? Why do the Anglican Primates' think that the greatest evil in the world is monogamoulsy coupled homosexuals? So much wasted energy, time, and reosurces that could be used to guarantee the most basic human rights of those in poverty throughout the world. This video is just one example of the dire conditions in which many in the world are hopelessly trapped.
:: posted by Padre Rob+, 6:00 AM | link | 0 comments |

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Perspectives: Today is International Women's Day

Today is International Women's Day. The day is aimed at raising awareness to the acts of violence against women and girls throughout the world that go unnoticed and unpunished. These acts of violence range from the infanticide of girls in communities where only boys are valued, to systematic rape that is used as a weapon of terror. This day is also a time for women to claim the equal civil rights that they deserve as human beings and to reflect upon the progress that is being made.

Click on the banner to go to the UN site to learn more

Ending Impunity for Violence against Women and Girls
or visit International Women's Day for more information.
:: posted by Padre Rob+, 5:56 AM | link | 0 comments |

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Perspectives: The Loss of the Virtue of Honesty

Honesty is the first chapter of the book of wisdom.
Thomas Jefferson

This could all be a fantasy for me, but I have this idea that once upon time there existed this strong ethic of integrity and truth telling in this country. I guess this idea was imparted to me from my grandfather, who taught me that a person was only as good as his/her name and his/her word. He didn't need a signed contract and a notary public; unless you had lost his trust, he took you at your word. I suppose it is because of him that I highly value honesty. In fact, I might even over-value it. It is one of those foundational core values that define who I am and how I relate, or fall out of relationship, with others.

I am basically a patient, easy-going, forebearing person. I can take a lot of crap from people without getting my feathers ruffled too much (ok forgive the mixed metaphors). But, I can not deal very well with liars. I can forgive, but once someone has lied to me, I always wonder whether or not they are telling me the truth from that moment on. Of course trust can be rebuilt, but it takes time for me.

This entire blog, in fact, is my way of working through the disappointment of catching someone in a lie. Not just a lie; the first lie, to my knowledge, that this person has ever told me. I am disappointed, hurt, and even a bit betrayed. Now I wonder if this person has ever lied to me before? has anything that I have been told *really* been the truth. Of course it was not a major lie; in fact this person probably did not think twice about saying it. Lying has become a socially acceptable practice.

Imagine my frustration; I am a part of a culture (and even a church) that has lost the virtue of honesty. Sure, most people in my life are not likely to blatantly lie to me or anyone else. But, it seems all too easy, even for people who claim to follow the teacher who taught that "the truth shall set you free," to tell "a little white lie." It happens to me all of the time. You ask someone to help you with some task, and instead of saying "No, I don't want to," they make up some bogus excuse. Or you are stood up for a lunch date, and your friend creates some little half truth to cover up their embarrassment for forgetting.

I know some people will think I am just being overly sensitive, but the little white lies and half truths infuriate me more than bald-faced lies, especially when I know the truth already. If I can not trust someone to be honest with me about little, insignificant things, how will I be able to trust them with larger, more complicated issues? I don't know that I would be able to trust them when there is a serious crisis of trust. Those little white lies and half-truths would linger in my mind, haunting me and telling me not to believe the words of this person who has lied to me before.

I think a lot of people tell these little lies because: 1) they do not want to hurt the other person's feelings, 2)they do not want to accept responsibility for their mis-actions, 3) they think no one will ever get hurt from their little lie, because no will ever know the full truth. The problem is, the truth always has a way of revealing itself, and in the end, even the little lies are hurtful. Worse than that, the more one tells even the smallest untruth, the easier it becomes to tell bigger untruths, and finally, one loses the ability to tell the truth at all.

Philosopher Sissela Bok makes this point in her book Lying:

"The failure to look at an entire practice rather than at their own isolated case often blinds liars to cumulative harm and expanding deceptive activities. Those who begin with white lies can come to resort to more frequent and more serious ones....The aggregate harm from a large number of marginally harmful instances may, therefore, be highly undesirable in the end- for liars, those deceived, and honesty and trust more generally."

Don't get me wrong, honesty must be accompanied by grace, mercy and charity. It's just as infuriating to me for people to use the virtue of honesty as a weapon with which to abuse, embarass, and shame others. Of course there are always words- truths- that we are afraid to speak because they come from and lead to painful places. But, lying or uttering a half-truth can never be the solution to such a dilemma. The solution comes in speaking the truth in love; love which respects the dignity and integrity of others enough to entrust them with the truth.

Richard Solomon writes, "The honest man is not so much one who refrains from lying, much less one who resists the temptation to lie because he or she knows that it is wrong to lie; he or she just...does not lie."
:: posted by Padre Rob+, 5:45 PM | link | 4 comments |

Perspectives: An Excellent new blog: Acts of Hope

This is an awesome new blog, just created on Ash Wednesday. Check it out

Acts of Hope
:: posted by Padre Rob+, 4:22 PM | link | 1 comments |

Litanies: Christ the Healer

Christ the Healer

Lord Jesus Christ, who endured
the violence of mocking and verbal abuse,
Heal and comfort children the world over,
whose lives are warped by words
which scar their minds;
Heal and comfort children, women, and men
who are the victims of racial abuse;
Heal and comfort all those
whose homosexuality is the butt of humor,
the target of abuse,
the object of legislation,
so that they cannot be free to be
the selves that God created them to be.

Lord Jesus Christ, who endured
the violence of the scourge,
Heal and comfort children, women, and men
who are beaten,
physically abused
by the violence of others.

Lord Jesus Christ, who endured
the violence of the rejection of friends,
Heal and comfort children, women, and men
whose lives are misshapen by
broken trust;
Heal and support those who are imprisoned,
and so feel the loneliness of separation from those they love.

Lord Jesus Christ, who endured
the violence of the cross,
Heal and comfort all who die
on the cross of hunger,
and poverty,
so that others may live in health
and plenty;
Heal and comfort all who die
on the cross of injustice,
false witness,
and intolerance.

Lord Jesus Christ, who endured
the cross,
despising the shame
and have now taken your seat beside God,
Heal and comfort us in our own need,
our loved ones in their need,
and all for whom we are asked to pray today.

--Hugh Cross, 1989

reposted from http://pcusaboy.livejournal.com/
:: posted by Padre Rob+, 4:12 PM | link | 1 comments |

Perspectives: Religious Leaders Rally for Marriage Equality in NC

Advocates push for same-sex marriage in North Carolina

By: Brett Tackett & Web Staff
More than 50 people gathered in front of the Legislative Office Building in Raleigh on Wednesday demanding same-sex marriages be recognized in North Carolina.

Lyle Turner and his partner were married in Fayetteville a year ago; despite the fact North Carolina does not recognize it.

"I'd always wanted growing up to be married," Turner said. "As everyone usually does when they get married they have a ceremony."

Standing shoulder to shoulder with Turner is Jack McKinney, a Baptist minister.

"As religious leaders we want to stand up with them and to be along them as they seek that right that everyone has,” said McKinney.

He and other religious leaders call themselves the North Carolina Religious Coalition for Marriage Equality. They say they support same-sex marriage because God loves everyone.

"In every religious tradition there is a great diversity of Biblical interpretation. What people don't have the right to do is to interpret the Bible and insist their interpretation become law in a way that discriminates against certain citizens,” said McKinney.

Other religious leaders strongly disagree and say the Bible is very specific about homosexuality.

"And one would have to really reinterpret the Bible in a way that it has never been interpreted in 2000 years of Christian teaching,” said Father Jay James of St. Timothy Episcopal Church. "When men and women come together in Christian marriage they come together for mutual joy and that love brings them together for procreation of children.”

Same-sex marriage supporters say this is an issue of civil rights. Father James disagrees.

"For Christians, it's a moral question,” said James.

A number of State Senators are working for a constitutional amendment. If passed, it would solidify the ban of same-sex marriages. But Turner says they plan to fight until they win.

For the constitutional ban to pass it would have to get through the House and Senate. Then Tar Heel voters would have the final say.

Copyright © 2007 TWEAN d.b.a. News 14 Carolina


Ok, let me get this straight. The Baptists are supporting gay marriage and the Episcopalians are opposing it? I guess this Episcopal Priest needs to go stand with the Baptists in Raleigh and make some noise.
:: posted by Padre Rob+, 6:02 AM | link | 0 comments |

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Moratorium on Executions in NC

No doctors can monitor N.C.'s executions, so they stop

Associated Press February 27, 2007


No doctors can monitor N.C.'s executions, so they stop

A legal and ethical bind has brought executions to a halt in North Carolina: A federal judge ruled that a doctor must monitor the condemned for signs of pain. But the state's medical board has threatened to punish any doctor who takes part in an execution.

The result: Gov. Mike Easley says no more executions until the state can "untangle this Gordian knot."

Challenges to lethal injection - namely, whether it violates the Constitution's ban on cruel and unusual punishment - have effectively placed executions on hold in 11 states. The question of doctor participation has figured in some of those disputes.

"It's an inherent flaw of lethal injection that, in order to be reliably humane, it requires the participation of a group of people who are under ethical constraints and considerations," said Mark Heath, an anesthesiologist at Columbia University Medical Center who has studied lethal-injection cases across the nation.

Death-penalty foes and others worry that, if the three-drug combination is administered improperly, the condemned could suffer excruciating pain while immobilized and unable to cry out. Some suspect that is what happened during a botched execution in Florida in December.

Doctors or other medical specialists play some role in a majority of the 38 states with a death penalty, according to Deborah Denno, a Fordham University law professor. But the procedures in many states are vague or even secret, and Denno said she was not aware of any state where a doctor actually administers lethal injections.

Instead, physicians are generally on hand to observe the execution and, in some cases, ensure the injections are administered properly, and pronounce the inmate dead.

In North Carolina, state law requires only that a doctor be present, and that rule has apparently been observed over the years. But last April, a federal judge went further, and said executions could proceed only if a doctor monitored the inmate to prevent pain.

The American Medical Association has said for more than 20 years that physicians who take part in executions violate medical ethics, but the organization has no power to punish. That job falls to the state medical boards that license doctors.

In January - in light of the apparent conflict between the judge's ruling and the Hippocratic oath to "first, do no harm" - the North Carolina Medical Board declared that doctors who do anything "that facilitates the execution" can face disciplinary action.

That dispute, in part, led a state judge to put 3 executions on hold.

"They seem to have drawn a line in the sand that other medical boards have not done at this point," said Jonathan Groner, an associate professor of surgery at Ohio State University who opposes the death penalty. "I think a lot of us have tried to say, 'Hey, medical boards, you need to do something about this,' but the boards are doctors who have a hard time punishing fellow doctors."

Drew Carlson, a spokesman for the national Federation of State Medical Boards, said the organization was not aware of a medical board reprimanding a doctor for involvement in an execution.

But that possibility was enough to help halt executions in North Carolina, a state where death-penalty opponents have tried for years to persuade lawmakers to suspend capital punishment.

"I wish we had gone to them years earlier," said Stephen Dear of People of Faith Against the Death Penalty, in Carrboro. "We should have."

Elsewhere around the country, a federal judge in Missouri last year ordered reforms to the state's lethal-injection procedures, including the use of a doctor specializing in anesthesia. The state has appealed, arguing that it would not be able to find anyone willing to take part.

In California, a federal judge ordered that anesthesiologists or other licensed medical professionals certify that a condemned inmate was unconscious. No medical professional was willing to participate.

In Florida late last year, Jeb Bush, governor at the time, suspended executions after executioners apparently inserted the needles clear through the veins and into the flesh of convicted killer Angel Nieves Diaz. He required a second dose of lethal chemicals. Some witnesses said he appeared to be in pain. An autopsy found chemical burns on his arms.

A medical professional monitored the Diaz execution, but his name and qualifications have not been disclosed because state law protects his anonymity.

In some states, including Arkansas, the medical board specifically allows medical personnel to take part in executions. In others, including Texas - which leads the country with nearly 400 executions since capital punishment was reinstated in 1976 - the board has no policy. In Texas, a doctor arrives after the lethal drugs are administered, and pronounces the inmate dead.
:: posted by Padre Rob+, 3:41 PM | link | 1 comments |

Friday, March 02, 2007

Sermonette: Lent 3 C 04 March, 2007

Luke 13:31-35

31At that very hour some Pharisees came and said to him, “Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you.” 32He said to them, “Go and tell that fox for me, ‘Listen, I am casting out demons and performing cures today and tomorrow, and on the third day I finish my work. 33Yet today, tomorrow, and the next day I must be on my way, because it is impossible for a prophet to be killed outside of Jerusalem.’ 34Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! 35See, your house is left to you. And I tell you, you will not see me until the time comes when you say, ‘Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.’”

Last week we see Jesus fasting and praying, struggling to come to terms with his identity and his mission. In the midst of that struggle he faced doubts and temptations to accept an easier mission and to compromise his mission in the world. He was able to overcome those temptations, and to embrace God’s vision for him to reconcile the universe to God. Imagine how empowered Jesus must have felt after his time in the desert. He had come face to face with Satan, and had overcome. He had been given three opportunities to turn aside and take an easier path, and each time he affirmed his choice to follow the path God desired. He left the desert on a spiritual high, ready to conquer the world.

Luke continues the story by telling us that Jesus went back to his hometown, Nazareth. You may remember a few weeks ago when the lectionary told this story: Jesus visits his hometown synagogue and is given the scroll from Isaiah. He open the scroll and reads these words:

The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to release the oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor

Once again Jesus was faced with the heart of his mission: to liberate the oppressed, to bind the brokenhearted, to heal the sick, to the deliver the enslaved, to give relief to the poor. Once again, Jesus accepted and affirmed God’s call for him. But, this was a mission that ultimately, his own people could not accept for him. Faced with rejection, and narrowly escaping a lynching, Jesus left Nazareth and went on to minister in another place.

Jesus continued to be faced with rejection. O sure, there were the crowds who followed him to see what miracle he would perform for them next. Occasionally, someone would have a moment of Epiphany and recognize Jesus as the Christ or understand the his true mission and seek to be a part of it. However, by and large, he was not accepted or understood, most especially by the religious leaders, who were convinced he was a heretic. In today’s Gospel reading, we see Jesus grieving, overcome with the pain of being rejected and excluded. In sorrow he cries out: “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!”

This cry of despair is brought on by the news, delivered by a group of Pharisees, that Herod is looking for Jesus in order to kill him. Jesus knows that the consequences of his mission- and the people’s inability to embrace it- will lead to his death. Time and time again he tried to communicate this to his disciples. He also knows that this must happen in Jerusalem, the city that rejects and kills the Prophets of God.

It seems that we as human beings have this predisposition to rejecting those who are different than us; we turn away from those who challenge us or make us feel uncomfortable, sometimes out of fear, sometimes because we do not want to be confronted with the indictments that their words and lifestyles makes on our unjust living. This is part of what the doctrine of original sin is trying to explain. We seem wired to be territorial, exclusive, independent- and yet, our faith Story claims that God created us to be in community, to be subservient and humble, to prefer others over ourselves, to love and to serve unconditionally. Our inability or unwillingness to live this way is what we have labeled as sin.

Sometimes we are the transgressors as we exclude and ignore those who are different than us in our own lives. Sometimes we are the ones sinned against, when we experience the pain of hatred and rejection. When we are the one who has sinned, it is clear that God calls us to repentance, to amendment of life- after all, that is part of what we are doing during these days of Lent: reflecting on our lives to see in which ways we are not loving God and others as we are called to and making changes in our lifestyles to better reflect the morality that to which God calls us. However, when we are the ones being excluded, rejected, hated, and oppressed, our response is not always as clear.

Jesus warned us that if we followed him we would face the same rejection and persecution that he did. He said that we would have to bear our own cross and follow him to Calvary. All of us have lived through those Good Friday moments: and sometimes the darkness and pain is so strong that we forget that there is a Easter Coming. So, how do we live in the face of rejection? How do we go on? How did Jesus live in the face of rejection?

Today’s story shows Jesus- a very human Jesus- frustrated at being shunned, turned away, and rejected. And worse it shows him dealing with the stress of having received a threat to be killed. He is exasperated, forlorned, sorrowful… he longs for the love that he offers to be accepted and returned. Like a protective, nurturing mother he wants to protect those who are in danger of reaping painful consequences in their lives for pushing love away. He wants to spare them the pain that he knows is coming to them; and even though he is the Son of God, there is nothing he can do to prevent them from making the choice that they want to make. He can not force them to embrace his love and to follow his example of selfless giving and unconditional acceptance of others. That did not, however, prevent Jesus from continuing to serve, to love, and to reach out to every human being, even those who were rejecting him: even those who wanted to kill him. Jesus grieves, and then he gets up and continues his mission. He continues to heal the sick, to liberate the oppressed and to proclaim the Good News to the poor. He continues to love the world that is opposing the Reign of God. He loves so intensely, that he stretches out his arms on the hard wood of the cross to embrace all of creation and to draw them into the life of God. He never stops loving, not even when we are killing him.

It is this example of selflessness and unconditional love to which we are called to follow. The essence of the Christian life is to love God and to love our neighbors. To walk humbly in mercy and grace, to serve others and their needs before our own needs and desires. In our Epistle reading, Paul calls us to imitate him as he shows us how to imitate Christ the Servant. Paul never had it easy. He was verbally abused, stoned, shipwrecked, arrested, imprisoned, and finally martyred. Yet, none of his perils and tribulations dissuaded him from loving and serving and joyfully suffering for the cause of Christ. That is the example he asks us to follow. That is the example that Christ left for us. That is the example of living that leads to life and true blessedness. To live any other way, as Paul writes, leads to shame and destruction. That’s not a popular message. It is not a message that we hear in a culture that preaches prosperity and self fulfillment. It is not a message that the world wants to hear because it challenges their values of domination, superiority, and isolation.

In Christ’s vision the strong are not called to overpower the weak. The weak are not called to disempower themselves in order to serve the strong. Instead, the strong are called to stand in solidarity with the weak. The strong are called to serve the powerless and the helpless. The strong are called to defend the weak and to stand against those who want to oppress them. When we live our lives in this way, we will inevitably face suffering and rejection from the world. But the heart of our mission calls us to persevere, to bless those who curse us, to love the unlovable, to reach out to the one who continues to turn away from us, to invite those to God’s Table of Grace who continue to refuse to sit there with us. No matter what happens, we do not walk away from those who are weak or from those who hurt us and reject us. We can not walk away because God never walks away from us. No matter what- God does not walk away from us. We can mess up, repeat the same mistakes over and over and over again, we can insist on our own ways and refuse to listen to God. We can selfishly ignore the needs of others and live lives centered around our own needs. But God will never walk away from us: He will always extend his arms of love towards us, longing to gather us under his wings like a mother hen gathers her chicks. He will always be there, calling us to live up to the potential that He has dreamed for us.

Luiz Coehlo- a blogger who writes from a progressive, Latin American- Anglican perspective, wrote in a recent blog posting on his blogsite, www.wanderingChristian.com about how we live out our baptismal mission by gathering together to worship this God who never walks away from us. He reflects on how contradictory it is for a follower of this trustworthy God to walk away from the community of God’s family and refuse to share in the Eucharistic feast with his/her brothers and sisters- no matter what the reason. He writes that when this choice is made, we are called to steadfastness. “We continue gathering around the Table, even if they don’t come. We … offer the peace, even if they refuse to receive it for us.“ No matter what, we are still called to be faithful to our baptismal covenants. We are called to see Christ and to serve Christ even in the faces of our enemies and those who wish to harm us and exclude us.

This past Wednesday our Presiding Bishop challenged us in her webcast from Trinity Wall Street to incorporate this very virtue into our lives. In the midst of the controversy in our church, she believes that God is giving us a gift; that gift is the ability to listen and understand the pain and sufferings of those who are different from us, and in that listening process, to learn to recognize the face of Jesus and the image of God in everyone. Imagine how transformed our church would be if we could see Jesus in the faces of those who most vehemently disagree with us. Imagine how quickly we could find resolutions to or conflicts if we truly loved and respected each other as if we were loving and serving Jesus. Imagine what we could accomplish if we refused to walk away from our brothers and sisters during disagreements, and if we continued to offer them the peace of Christ, continued to reach out to them with respect, and continued to value their dignity and worth as a child of God. I know some will be tempted to dismiss this as the nonsensical musings of some Pollyanna. But this is the way that God calls us to live. This is the path that gives life and nurtures the fruit of the Spirit. To dismiss this way and to take any other path will produce tension, grief, conflict and death.

During these days of Lent turn to God, and reach out with the Love of God to those who need it the most from us. They might not accept it; they may turn and walk away. Offer it anyway. One day, reconciliation will come.
:: posted by Padre Rob+, 11:46 PM | link | 0 comments |

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Perspectives: The Secretary General of the Anglican Church in Brazil reflects on the real problem in the Anglican Communion

The Secretary General of the Anglican Church in Brazil, The Rev. Canon Francisco de Assis Da Silva, has written an excellent and insightful blog on the real cause of the controversy in the Anglican Communion (and it aint gays... hint hint).

Go here

:: posted by Padre Rob+, 4:37 PM | link | 0 comments |