Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Choices . . . And Free Will

Grant to us, Lord, we pray, the spirit to think and do always those things that are right, that we, who cannot exist without you, may by you be enabled to live according to your will; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
                                                The Book of Common Prayer, p. 232.

Joseph's Coat                                  Konstantinos Fiavitsky  c. 1855

Choices. To do what is right. To be guided by the Spirit of God.  This is the opening prayer for next Sunday, after which we will hear the story of Joseph and his brothers, and how they despised him, and how they thought about killing him, but ultimately decided to sell him into slavery in Egypt instead.

We make choices every day. We may try hard to make right choices, choices that would glorify God and reflect our baptismal identities as followers of Jesus, but how often we fail. Joseph’s coat of many colors reminds us that we all have many colors – and as often as we chose God’s way, we can also choose the sinner’s way.  To forgive someone – or not. To reconcile with someone – or not. To love someone – or not.

God has given us this gift of free will, knowing full well that the choices we will make are ours. It is up to us to reflect upon those choices and to lay them out before God.

“Bless me Lord, for I have sinned.”   

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Being a Prophet is Hard

First of all you must understand this, that no prophecy of scripture is a matter of one's own interpretation, because no prophecy ever came by human will, but men and women moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.           2 Peter 1:20-21

The Scream     Edvard Munch  1893

  • Being a prophet is hard work.

    • Speaking truth to a world that often refuses to listen
    • Inviting strange looks, ridicule, and ostracization
    • Setting aside the dangers inherent with speaking truth to power.

    Peter understands the essential truth that scriptures are broken open for us because men and women have been (and are) vulnerable enough to risk their “normal” lives being upended. These folks are so deeply open to the Spirit of God moving within them that they MUST speak up and proclaim  God’s truths to the world.

  • How do we treat prophets? How do we claim our prophetic voices?

Wednesday, July 26, 2017


For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.  Romans 8: 38-39

Aesthetics of Crisis     by Blu

Paul’s conviction that nothing can separate us from the love of God is a lovely conviction. But is it true? What of us? As human beings, do we separate ourselves from those who disagree with us or look different from us?  Do we cut off those who are not up to our standards?

In God’s economy, we are all children of God, made in the image of God. Jesus did not say, “Come unto me some of you who are heavy laden.” Jesus did not shut out strangers or ignore the disabled, or treat women and children as the society did. God’s way is one of love, unity and tolerance. Segregation is a human construct with troubling outcomes.   
  • Building walls has been tried. (Think East Germany/West Germany.)
  • Segregating schools has been tried. (Think Birmingham.)
  • Concentration camps have been tried. (Think Auschwitz.)
  • Segregated water fountains and bathrooms. (Think American South.)
All human attempts at separation must be called into question. It is not God’s way; it is not Christ’s way. “There can be no Jew nor Greek, no slave nor free, no male nor female;  for we are all one.” Galatians 3:28)

From whom, and from what situations, do we segregate ourselves?

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

The God of Our Dreams

Then Jacob woke from his sleep and said, “Surely the LORD is in this place—and I did not know it!”   Genesis 28:16

                                                        "Sulam Yaakov"                                   Geula Twersky

While it is easy for us to imagine God being with us at all times, in Jacob’s day, the people believed God was far less accessible. God was in a pillar of fire, atop Mt. Sinai, or behind the richly decorated curtains in the Temple, in the place called the “holy of holies.”

Jacob, having stolen his older brother’s birthright and having tricked his father into giving him a blessing, was on the run. He ran away toward Haran, the city where Abraham’s ancestors had once settled. He was road weary, and fearful of his brother’s wrath, so he lay down for the night in the middle of the desert, and rested his head upon a rock.

In his dream, God came to him and Jacob received God’s assurance that God’s mercy, grace, and protection would surround him for the remainder of his life. The Covenant was intact. While Jacob was running away from God, afraid of punishment for the duplicity with which he had defrauded his father and his brother, God followed him and reassured him.

What about us? Certainly most of us have acted in ways that fall short of the glory of God.  Some of us may have felt such shame that we have run from God or ignored God while intentionally choosing the wrong path.  This story reminds us that no matter where we have gone, and how far we have traveled, the gates of heaven are always open to us. There is no place beyond the reach of God, and no hiding place so secure that God will not find us there. 

Thanks be to God. 

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Making Peace

Jesus said to the crowd, “To what will I compare this generation?  Matthew 11:16

                                        (Artist unknown.)

This 4th of July weekend 100 people were shot and 14 people died in the City of Chicago.    

Jesus asks, “To what shall I compare this generation?”  A generation who glories in snuffing out lives? Perhaps we have become a generation that does not think before it tweets, or shoots, or lies. Surely God weeps.  

The ministry of the Church is to follow Jesus Christ as we strive to respect the dignity of every human being, to shine a light on injustice, and to love one another. We are called to model this behavior, not only on Sundays, but everyday, in all sorts of situations.   

We, the church, can offer a peace-filled alternative to the hell that is breaking society apart by remembering the one who lives within us, and by being slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.   

We must resist the all too human urge to win, to make our point, and to glorify ourselves. Instead, we opt for the way of Jesus as we seek to make peace.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017


Jesus said, “Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me.    Matthew 10:40

            “Behind the Borders”                             Samia Smahi

Welcoming:  It is the thing Jesus begs us to do.

Is it enough to simply shake hands? Remember names? Or does it demand that we be more proactive in offering welcome?  It takes more effort to offer welcome to those who do not agree with us; perhaps more difficult to welcome those who do not share our faith or our ancestral origins.

And yet, “Whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me” is an appropriate mantra for today’s pluralistic and often divisive culture. It’s more than a smile or being nice. God calls us to remember that each person we encounter is a child of God; beloved of God.

How might we proactively offer real welcome to those who have come to dwell among us?

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Have No Fear

“So have no fear of them; for nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered, and nothing secret that will not become known. What I say to you in the dark, tell in the light; and what you hear whispered, proclaim from the housetops.  Matthew 10:  26-27

“So do not fear them.”

What a seemingly easy statement for Jesus to make to his disciples, but anyone who has ever tried to convince a 4 year old at bedtime that there are no monsters in the closet or under the bed, knows that overcoming fear is easier said than done. Fear is the single biggest obstacle to maturation of faith. Fear undermines what is true, what is right, and what is holy. Fear prevents the speaking of truth, even as our loved ones suffer. But the Lord promises another way. 

“Have no fear of them, for nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered.”

God already knows. God pleads with us to speak the truth in love. Pick off the scab that blocks you from truth and from healing. Proclaim the unsaid; speak your truth. Shine a light on injustice and coercion and manipulation. When we bring unspoken suffering to the light, no one will fall to the ground apart from God – even the persecutors.

Believe. Have no fear. Proclaim truth from the housetops.   

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

When Love is Impure

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.  
                                          1 Corinthians 13:4-8

What happens when love is used to manipulate, to bruise, to abuse? That kind of love is not agape love, not Godly love. That kind of love seeks power and control; it seeks victory. That kind of love blasphemes the Holy One who is the center of all.

This week, as you assess your relationships, do a version of the Ignatian Examen. Think about your interactions with others and especially about your relationships with those you love.  Did you offer love? Did you seek to be "right?" Did you ask how your loved one was feeling or did you seek, instead, how to make your feelings known? Did you listen? Or did you demand to be heard? 

Bring yourself into the presence of God. Re-read the quote from 1st Corinthians above.  Sit with it. This passage contains all things necessary to evaluate our relationships. Finally, give thanks to the Holy One who loves us perfectly and who is neither self-seeking nor easily angered.  

People may forget the things you did with them and the gifts you bought for them, but they will never forget how  you made them feel. 

Wednesday, June 7, 2017


This Sunday, the Church will observe Trinity Sunday.  Trinity Sunday always follows on the heels of the Feast of Pentecost – and every year, priests will jokingly say to one another, "I've got to find a deacon to preach ne this Sunday!"   Why is that? Why are priests so reluctant to preach on the doctrine of the Trinity? 

I believe that it's because the Trinity, as a concept, is impossible for most of us to get our heads around. One God in three persons? Huh? What does that mean?  Minds far greater than mine have tried to explain this mystery and failed miserably. Many have been accused of heresy. The Trinity seems simply inexplicable. 

The above quote from 2nd Corinthians gives us a formula to help us come to terms with this mystery. Grace and love and communion are all essential for the whole to be possible. Without grace, there can be no love. Without love, there can be no communion, Without communion there can be no grace. 

We are drawn into the power of God's grace, love, and compassion because its centrifugal force is irresistible. The centrifugal force that is God holds the world together: it holds the stars in the sky and the waters in their oceans, and our bones to our skin. We cannot parse it. We cannot explain it.

We must simply rest in the fact that it is -- and give thanks. 
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