Sunday, September 29, 2013

“If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.”

Today's Gospel reading from Luke 16:19-31 stands on its own and probably does not need additional commentary, and this seemed to be apparent to most folks in today's congregation who had only a few questions for our rector who, rather than give a sermon, accepted questions from the crowd on the readings or the liturgy.

She did accept one off topic question which asked, "Why can't we just cut all the ugly stuff out of the Old Testament readings?"


I will let Jesus answer that one with the words immediately preceding today's reading from Luke,
"The law and the prophets were in effect until John came; since then the good news of the kingdom of God is proclaimed, and everyone tries to enter it by force. But it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away, than for one stroke of a letter in the law to be dropped." (Luke 16-17)
As if to emphasize the point, Jesus then pulls out a few letters of the Old Testament law that are not to be dropped,
"Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery, and whoever marries a woman divorced from her husband commits adultery." (Luke 16:18)

We probably should have heard those verses before we heard Luke 16:19-31 so that we could see the context in which Jesus was speaking, and why all that Old Testament "stuff" like Abraham, Moses, and the prophets were featured in the story of the rich man and poor Lazarus.

‘There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who longed to satisfy his hunger with what fell from the rich man’s table; even the dogs would come and lick his sores. The poor man died and was carried away by the angels to be with Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried. In Hades, where he was being tormented, he looked up and saw Abraham far away with Lazarus by his side. He called out, “Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am in agony in these flames.” But Abraham said, “Child, remember that during your lifetime you received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner evil things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in agony. Besides all this, between you and us a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who might want to pass from here to you cannot do so, and no one can cross from there to us.” He said, “Then, father, I beg you to send him to my father’s house— for I have five brothers—that he may warn them, so that they will not also come into this place of torment.” Abraham replied, “They have Moses and the prophets; they should listen to them.” He said, “No, father Abraham; but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.” He said to him, “If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.”  (Luke 16:19-31)

I believe the answer to the question as to why we musn't try to silence the O.T. prophets and their sometimes "ugly stuff" (like that divorce and adultery business) is contained in Luke 16, and particularly in that last sentence,

“If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.”

I am reminded of the young seeker who said that he knew the Gospel stories, but what he really needed in order to believe was a direct communication from God. My answer to him was the old story about the man stuck on the roof as flood waters swirled around his house. Various rescuers came by, but the man refused help saying that God would save him. After he drowned, he went to God with a complaint as to why God did not save him. God answered that he sent a boat, a helicopter, etc. I asked my young seeker, "God sent his son to us. He died for us. He has given us the Gospel. What more do you want God to do in order to convince you, die for you again?"

Another thing people are not convinced about is the reality of Hell as described so vividly by our Lord in the story of the rich man and Lazarus which could have inspired a sermon about "Hell fire and damnation." Go back and read Luke 16 again. Shouldn't we stop and listen when the person doing the talking is the one who rose from the dead?

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

The P.B. Misses Again: A Sermon About Possession, or Is She Talking About Possessions, and Who is She to Talk?


No! Not that type of possession, but parts of the diagram are appropriate for our discussion today.

Actually, all of us are probably doomed to fail if we dare to lecture others about possessiveness, but there are some who do not appear to possess the gift of seeing in themselves the very thing they lecture against.

Case in point: The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, Presiding Bishop and Primate The Episcopal church who preached recently at St. Andrew’s, State College, PA, and who I swore to never write about again following her worst sermon ever. I waited for someone else to blog about the irony contained in this her latest attempt to gain claim exclusive possession of the coveted brown ribbon bad sermon award, but alas, the task was assigned to me. Time for a fisk,
"Are you possessed? Possession isn’t just something that happened to a few sorry souls in Jesus’ day. That’s really what’s going on in alcoholism or other addictions. People are driven by the need to get something and maintain a supply of it, and sometimes they’re willing to do almost anything to satisfy that need. That’s being possessed by something less than God."
Think, "Church properties"...
"Our relationship to food in this country often looks like possession, and a good bit of it seems to be fueled by prepared and packaged foods with increasing amounts of sugars and fats. They quite literally build an addictive response in our bodies – perhaps by design."
Think, "Am I addicted to the sweetness of the activist menu du jour?"
Many people with cats say their cats own them. Dogs seem to exhibit the opposite behavior, happy to be possessed by people who will feed, walk, and play with them regularly.
Why can't those dissenting Episcopalians be more like dogs?
"What possesses you? Preoccupation is a hint of it – letting something take center stage and much of our attention. When I think about moving, I realize that I am possessed by a whole lot of books – and I remember how freeing it was to give away lots of stuff when I moved to Nevada!"
Hold that thought! Ever wonder how freeing it would be to give up the lawsuits?
"We can be possessed by things that don’t seem terribly destructive – like the kind of collecting that begins to take over one’s life, until it becomes hoarding. I know a man whose money, boredom, and lack of healthy human relationships lead him to buy expensive cars – way more than he needs or can use. Most of us have some urges like that, encouraged by advertising and a culture focused on consumption."
Is she talking about Jay Leno's car collection? Is she possibly suggesting that culture might lead us astray? Isn't her Church following urges encouraged by a culture focused on hedonism?
"We all know about family relationships that exhibit various degrees of possession or possessiveness, though we usually call it codependence, control, jealousy, or abuse."
That sounds like an excellent description of our Episcopal leadership.
"There’s a new movement to deal with another kind of possession. 'Digital detox' is something like summer camp for adults, designed to disconnect you from your electronics so you can focus on your interior life."
That sounds like an idea for a workshop at the next General Convention: Episcopal detox.
"It reminds me of the old story about a competition between Jesus and the devil. They were assigned a major computing problem with a short deadline, and each started typing away until a great thunderstorm erupted. Boom! Crash! Who won the competition? … Jesus saves. [the devil doesn’t]"
Huh? That "old story" seems to have been forced into her narrative. Maybe she should try to work in a real Jesus story next time.
"All relationships – with drugs, food, human beings, stuff, and particular activities – have the capacity to be warped in unhealthy directions, down paths that don’t lead to more abundant life but ultimately only to diminishment and death."
Correct, but her idea of abundant life may not be your idea of abundant life, and that should be okay in Episcopal church circles... Shouldn't it?
"That’s what Moses is talking about – ‘choose life, pay attention to the holy and life-giving ways that God has given and taught you, and you will know what it is to live in peace.’ This isn’t a prosperity gospel that says you’ll get rich if you do or believe certain things. This is about abundant life – full measure, pressed down, and overflowing. When Moses tells his people that they’ll live in the land God has promised, it’s not so much about specific acreage as the kind of nation that God intends, where all people live abundantly because nobody is hoarding, or afraid, or going to war, or abusing neighbors and kin. The promised land is that ancient vision of a society of peace with justice – shalom, a beloved community, the Reign of God. That older term, kingdom of God, might work better, because it implies both a physical territory and an ethic of governance. Choose life, and live in a community that knows all its members are God’s beloved. Choose life, and know whose you are. Knowing yourself as God’s treasured possession makes being owned by someone or something else far less attractive. And God’s role in our lives is not domineering – we are free to respond or not to this wondrous love that is beyond our imagining. We are invited to choose that relationship – we are not coerced."
Psst... I am not trying to coerce you, but it is not about church buildings, or specific acreage, or rival Anglican provinces, or going to court.
"That’s what Jesus is talking about when he says hate your family and count the cost or don’t bother following me. Being his disciples means not fooling ourselves about what is most important. We can’t ignore the need to dispossess ourselves of everything that has slid and slithered onto the center stage of our concern."
Disposess... hold that thought too.
"Maybe this seems like an odd theme for this time of year – more suited to Lenten fasting, perhaps. Yet it is the central theme of Christian living – love God with all you are and have, and love your neighbor as yourself. That’s what the world is wrestling with when it comes to Syria – how do we best love our neighbors across the seas? Is it by doing what we can to ensure abundant life for all the people of that land? Will a violent intervention help to end the raging violence there or will it unleash even more? We see only in a very dim mirror – just as much today as in Paul’s day. Jesus’ reminder that kings and generals have to count the cost before they go to war seems eerily apropos. What is the best way to sue for peace? And what is possessing each of us as we struggle to find a loving and reasoned response to that tragedy?"
What is the best way to sue for peace in the Church? By going to court I guess.
"When Jesus says you have to hate your family in order to follow him, he means we can’t put their opinions or demands of us above God. That kind of pressure doesn’t just come from blood relatives – plenty of others would like to own us, starting with our peers. Think of the destruction that comes from bullying among teenagers."
What about bullying among bishops and the threat of Title IV charges against those who stand up to the bully? 
"Consider the desire of corporations to possess our business, or direct our consumption."
Isn't TEc a corporation?
"What about the political machinery that seeks to influence voting?"
Yeah, how about those e-mails from 815's political action wing that I keep getting.
"Much of the communication that comes our way is ultimately about ownership and possession by the less than godly – and much of it is grounded in fear: fear of being devalued as a person, or being excluded, fear of losing something. The ground of our faith insists that in the presence of godly love, fear evaporates."
I am thinking of communications from a certain demonic list/serve.
"When we’re afraid, we can respond in a variety of ways, if we’re awake enough to notice the fear. That may be why Jesus uses such challenging language – hate your mother, hate your brother, give up all your possessions. It is a way of prodding us to notice that sometimes our fear of what Mom or Dad (or somebody else) will think keeps us from doing the most life-giving thing, from loving with abandon, from loving more fully and perfectly."
Give up those possessions Kate!
"There are immediate examples all around us. In addition to the challenges of the Middle East, this nation is consumed with fear about immigration, about health care, and about economic issues. Fear is driving the public rhetoric about those who live here already, as though recognizing God’s children in our midst is going to deprive some who’ve been here longer. What is that fear that owns so many of us? Fear that descendants of European immigrants are no longer going to be the majority? Is it a deeper fear or shame about those who’ve been here longer than Europeans? Even beginning to name the fears can bring us closer to a more rational discussion and loving discernment."
Give up the faux social justice please!

"What about health care? The fundamental meaning of salvation is healing and wholeness. Think about salve, a balm, like the balm of Gilead – that’s another vision of the healing kingdom of God. Yet initiatives to provide healing for more of this country’s people continue to generate enormous amounts of fear. What in that conversation owns us strongly enough to hook into the rhetoric of fear? What are we really afraid of losing? If I already have some access to healthcare, will any expansion of the healing pie mean I lose? God’s economy doesn’t work that way. It keeps expanding when the gifts of creation are well-used. All can live in abundance when no one is hoarding."
Those who oppose Obamacare are fearful hoarders? Give up the name calling Kate!
"That economic question about hoarding and greed is another big public conversation. The disparity between rich and poor continues to grow wider in this nation. Poverty rates are growing, especially among children. In spite of what it says on our nation’s money, we do not trust in God. Too often we let ourselves be owned by the fear of scarcity, rather than by the God of abundance."
Could there be any relationship between childhood poverty and the Church's failure to support traditional marriage, or is she afraid to bring up the negative contribution of her church's recent teachings on the subject?
"At the beginning of another school year, maybe the students of Jesus might look to give up some possessions – particularly the willingness to be owned by fear. There is good news in knowing that it’s easier to do in community, with the support of brothers and sisters in Christ." 

Just don't give up any of those possessions to those brothers and sisters in Christ.

"A breath prayer can help. As you breathe in, draw in the awareness that you are God’s beloved, treasured possession. Breathe out, and let go of what possesses you. Help us remember your loving presence, as close and constant and life-giving as our breath."
"Breathe in – love. Breathe out – let go. Love and let go. Keep breathing."
What a way to end a sermon.

She who has engaged in a multimillion dollar campaign to take the properties of those who dissent from the revisionist path that she and her followers are possessed by should listen to her own advice and GIVE IT UP.

Don't hold your breath waiting for that to happen. Keep breathing.

The last time she preached about possession was during what is considered by some to be the worst sermon ever. That time, +Schori chastised St. Paul for casting out a demon. In essence the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal church claimed that what Paul saw as demonic possession was in fact a spiritual gift.

Trying to assimilate the P.B.'s teachings into one cohesive thought from these two examples is confusing at best, and any such efforts are likely to lead to that dreaded degenerative disease we call Episcobrain. When I tried, I was be forced to conclude that some possessions are spiritual gifts and some are not. If Episcopalians look to their spiritual leaders for help in distinguishing the two, then the message they will hear is that hoarding of buildings and properties, the pursuit of litigation, the pursuit of one particular version of social justice through legislation, and the pursuit of happiness through your personal choice of means of sexual expression are spiritual gifts, whereas anyone who is opposed to these things must have a problem with possession, possessions, or possessiveness.

In the long run, what the P.B. means is that you need to give up your possessions to 815. If you don't, then you'd better hold onto your belts because you will get the pants sued off of you by someone who truly, and deeply, understands the problem of possession and who knows best how to handle your possessions for you.

Somebody call in the exorcist!   

Sunday, September 22, 2013

The Paradox of the Unjust Manager

The Gospel selection for today (Luke 16:1-13) and the parable of the unjust but shrewd manager is well known as a challenging one. Despite what I heard this morning, I am not convinced that this parable is about good stewardship and giving money to the church. It is too paradoxical to suggest that this parable was meant to make people feel more generous since the shrewd manager in the text was generous, but he was so with someone else's money. Perhaps to a social Democrat that might make sense, but it didn't fly on my minority side of the pew.

I have taken the radical view that this parable is all about advising the shrewd preacher to undo any harm he has done to his congregation by earlier sermons. ;-)

The following commentary on Luke 16:1-13 by Dave Mathewson from 1995 when he was pastor of Cardwell Community Church in Cardwell, MT might be useful as a resource for those needing a defense against the many modern interpretations that tend to show up in sermons these days.
"Recent alternatives to the traditional interpretation of the parable of the unjust steward are not compelling enough to overturn the traditional view.
Jesus has utilized a parable that portrays a steward cheating his master in order to secure his future but uses it to teach a positive, even if shocking, lesson on the prudent use of wealth. Christian disciples should display just as much prudence in their use of possessions, especially in view of the more important crisis that faces them—namely, the coming eschatological kingdom. Such prudence is an effective test of their ability to handle true, heavenly riches. It is also an effective test of their allegiance to God. Christians in this century, perhaps more than any other, need to hear this message anew."
Dave Mathewson obviously hadn't heard my interpretation.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Bishop's Task Force Poised to Spread the "Gas of Peace"

In the 1936 film "Things to Come" based on H.G. Wells' 1933 book "The Shape of Things to Come," decades of warfare create a post apocalyptic world which, by the 1970's, is technologically backwards and ruled by small time warlords who are still intent on killing each other. Humanity is saved by a group of airmen who call themselves "Wings Over the World" whose advanced technology allows them to fly over the devastated world and drop bombs containing a  non-lethal gas, the "Gas of Peace". The poor primitive warlords are defenseless against such an attack and can't even find a functioning gas mask with which to protect themselves.

Problem solved.

Or so we are led to believe as images of a futuristic utopian world led by men of science and reason flash before our eyes, and we jump forward to the year 2036 where the Airmen's conquest of the physical world through technology is nearly complete.

But all is not right with this world because the heart and passion of man has not been conquered. This failure is shown by scenes of a huge mob rising in opposition to the ruling technocrats' attempt to launch men to the moon.

I guess another dose of the gas of peace should have been unleashed, but the movie ends as the moon shot fires and the first explorers of space speed away from the chaos on Earth.

This movie came to mind during the recent visit to our parish by a member of the Bishop's Task Force on Unity (see previous post) who was here to explain their progress towards maintaining unity in the church as the Episcopal rite of same sex blessings is introduced. As I listened, I thought about the methods our Episcopal church leaders use to try to quiet warring factions (if there are any left following decades of struggle over Biblical revisionism, human sexuality, and political activism). I wondered how many of our Episcopalians breathed deeply this latest dose of the gas of peace.

"Listening processes," "Appreciative Inquiry," "Indabas," "Theological Councils," "Moderated round table discussions," and now "Curricula from the Task Force on Unity" have all been dropped on us by the ruling clergicrats (sorry for the neologism) and their deputies who have become as haughty as the Airmen in H.G. Wells' classic story. The unity they seek is a utopian dream for them but a future nightmare for those of us on the ground. Our rulers honestly believe that they know what is best for us, but they ignore the consequences of substituting a new gospel for the old.

Theirs is a vision of peace created, dominated, and controlled by their superior worldview.

Gaseous emissions coming from revisionist bishops and their task forces will ultimately fail as will all such attempts at unity imposed by man upon his fellow man unless the folks in the pews have forgotten how to defend themselves or have been lulled to sleep by years of listening, and moderated indaba-doos in which case the gas of peace will seem to work for a time.

The armour of light was our defense before this war began. We just need to wake up and remember where we left it.
"And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light. Let us walk honestly, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying." Romans 13:11-13 Authorized (King James) Version 
And where will the final victory be found?
Thy victory is in the heart,
Thy kingdom is within;
When outward pride and pomp depart,
Thy glory doth begin.
Thine army, ever in the field,
Is led by love and light;
Thy followers fall but never yield,
Triumphant in the right.
O King most meek and wonderful,
Grant us among Thy host,
To follow Thee, to fight for Thee,
Knights of the Holy Ghost.
VICTORIA Henry Van Dyke (1852-1933)

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Dumb Sheep, Dumb Parishes, Dumber Shepherds

This Sunday we revisited the parables of the lost sheep and the lost coin (Luke 15:1-10). From our new rector, we heard that individual sheep get lost because they think they are strong enough to defend themselves and strong enough to go it alone, and that God the shepherd isn't averse to getting down and dirty to live with a bunch of smelly sheep. Somewhere lost in the translation was any mention of the joy in heaven with the repentance of a sinner, the transformative power of the Saviour, and the Sin that leads us sheep astray in the first place.

In the Christian Formation hour that preceded her sermon, we listened to a representative of the Bishop's Task Force on Unity (mis-advertised as the Task Force on Same Sex Blessings) speak and answer questions as to the progress of the Task Force. The picture painted by this single representative of this tiny group is that the Bishop of Upper South Carolina (Waldo) did not believe sufficient theological work had been done prior to the approval of these blessings, and he has asked this group to fill in the gaps in what was an admittedly poor theological statement entitled "I Will Bless You, and You Will Be a Blessing", and that despite the theological shortcomings, Bishop Waldo will permit parishes to use this "rite" after the parish has followed a "curriculum" and come to some sort of consensus.

A number of excellent questions were raised by the small crowd. While the Bishop's Task Force representative admitted that this "rite" does bless extramarital sex, this did not appear to concern her all that much other than to make her slightly perturbed that anyone should point that out. Not until it was raised by the audience that the Task Force on Unity itself was broken by the departure of one conservative priest was there any suggestion by the representative of a problem within the group. In fact the message that "All was well and will be well as long as we follow their curriculum" seemed to be the general theme of her presentation. In response to other questions, such as what will happen after 2015 when this rite is no longer "for trial use," we were assured not to worry that the rite might be forced upon any parish, and that our trustworthy bishop will be the final arbiter as to whether or not the rite will be used in any given parish.

So it seems that the bishop is about to hand off the real decision making process to the sheep, but in fact the decision has already been made.

The battle lines have already been drawn in the ranks of the clergy, and those strongly opposed will stay that way as will those strongly in favor. Over time, the battle lines can be re-drawn by the bishop as this diocese is seen as becoming increasingly liberal in the ranks of clergy and therefore attracts fewer and fewer conservative priests and parishioners.

Those familiar with the way things work in the Episcopal church should have figured out by now that "optional" is only a temporary way of being. Eventually one option becomes normative through the process of re-drawing the battle lines and by demonizing the opposition, and while not written into Church Canon, one option gets elevated to the position of golden calf (the other reading for today, Exodus 32:7-14), and heaven help anyone who dares call the golden calf a false idol.

Soon, some parishes in Upper South Carolina will think that they are strong enough to graze in the pastoral land of same sex blessings. Their priests may even lead them there. The shepherd's shepherd, or Bishop, will claim that it was they, not he who chose this path. He will pay them a visit from time to time, not with any intent to return them to the fold or to teach them the meaning of Sin and the importance of repentance, but to worship the false idol alongside them.

Dumb, dumb, and dumber...

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Not So "Good Housekeeping" or Un-Christian Faith Formation

It is not hard to find illustrations to demonstrate the cultural drift of society, A quick glance at the television or the magazine rack at the supermarket checkout line should suffice, and shouldn't be difficult to formulate a Christian response to each new example that comes up, but there comes a point at which your resolve is shaken, and you feel like giving up. This is one of those weeks where I find myself tiring of tilting at windmills.

The July 2013 issue of "Good Housekeeping" magazine contained an article entitled “Why It Feels so Good to Be Just a Little Bit Bad!” by Val Frankel  that contains some ideas that might discourage the most die hard religious cultural warrior. Pastor Mark Jeske pulled some choice quotes from the article as follows,

“You’re probably used to worrying about everyone else’s good time. But it’s OK to have your own fun—and not necessarily the decorous kind. Behaving badly, at least once in a while, can ease stress, put a smile on your face, and make your heart beat faster. . . . ‘If you constantly deny yourself pleasure, you’ll feel resentful, and that can increase your risk of getting sick,’ says Jane Greer, Ph.D., author of What About Me? . . . We’ve found ten guilt-free ways to misbehave that will leave you feeling as if you’ve gotten away with something. So go ahead. Be your bad self.”

#1 Gossip. “Next time an acquaintance does something selfish or even unethical, spill every gnarly detail.”

#2 Flirt with a man not your husband. “Flirting with others keeps you plugged into your sexual energy and self-confidence.”

#6 Don’t censor yourself. “Sometimes you just have to toss an f-bomb.”

#8 Be Gleefully Grabby. “A little bit of me-first-ism can make you giddy.”

#10 Get mad and stay mad. “If they stayed mad, spouses were more likely to correct their spouses’ bad behavior.”
(H/t Pastor Mark Jeske at Time of Grace)
Again, it shouldn't be too difficult to see the problems the Church might have with the new morality of Val Frankel, and there are perhaps two ways of responding to new gospels such as this. One way is to point out the error of these teachings when placed in contrast to traditional Christian teaching, and the other way is to pound the message of the Gospel of Jesus to those who might be tempted to read "Good Housekeeping" as a source of advice for living.

The question is this, who has the most influence in the hearts and minds of the average American? "Good Housekeeping" writers or the author of the Gospels?

The circulation of "Good Housekeeping" is estimated to be 4,630,397. This is far less than television's market, and less than the number of professed Christians in the U.S., but considering the size of our particular denomination, one might be inclined to guess that the cultural influence of Good Housekeeping is greater than that of the Episcopal church despite all the novel ideas the church promotes these days.

I suspect articles such as “Why It Feels so Good to Be Just a Little Bit Bad!” are both a reflection of cultural trends as well as being one of the ways that new norms are reinforced, legitimized, and propagated, which is not unlike what we find in much of the preaching and teaching heard from the Episcopal church.

For example, the following announcement came from our parish last week,
"Sunday, September 15 is Christian Formation Kickoff Sunday:  Godly Play, Journey to Adulthood, and Children's Church begin.  All classes will be held in the upstairs classrooms. Also, beginning on Sept. 15 is the Adult Christian Formation Fall Speaker Series at 9:30 a.m. in the Parish Hall. Our first guest speaker is Sally McKay who will be giving background information with an update on the Bishop’s Task Force on the Blessing of Same Sex Unions with a time for questions and answers."
Oh, the irony of an un-Christian message being passed off as Christian Formation. If reinforcement, legitimization, and propagation of behaviors that are contrary to the Gospel of Christ causes some to change "Good Housekeeping's" name to "Bad Housekeeping," just what does our bishop think people will be calling his church after they learn what his task force is trying to pass off?

(Links to the Task Force 10 to Gomorrah posts)

Perhaps some day both society and the Church will reverse the direction of their drift and return to their roots, but this week finds me feeling rather pessimistic.

Sunday, September 08, 2013

Decisions, Decisions

This Sunday's suggested lectionary reading for Episcopal churches presents the option of different O.T. and Psalm selections as illustrated below,

Jeremiah 18:1-11 & Psalm 139:1-5, 12-17 (Option 1) or
Deuteronomy 30:15-20 & Psalm 1 (Option 2); and
Philemon 1-21; Luke 14:25-33
This is nothing new, but I wonder how many churches chose Option 2 over Option 1?

The reason I say this is that Option 1's Psalm selection contains words that might go against the doctrine and discipline of the Episcopal church, and that might get your rector in trouble.

How could anything in Holy Scripture be contrary to Episcopal practice you ask?

Hear the offending verses from Psalm 139,

 13 For it was you who formed my inward parts;
   you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
   Wonderful are your works;
that I know very well.
15   My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
   intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes beheld my unformed substance.
In your book were written
   all the days that were formed for me,
   when none of them as yet existed.
17 How weighty to me are your thoughts, O God!
   How vast is the sum of them!
18 I try to count them—they are more than the sand;
   I come to the end (or I awake)—I am still with you.
I hope and pray that those liberal congregations that are in solidarity with the Episcopal church's support for abortion were allowed to hear and inwardly digest those words today. 

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Love is in the Air in Ceuta

From the Washington Examiner came this,
A Muslim cleric in Ceuta (Spain’s autonomous city in North Africa) preached a two-hour sermon in which he explained the submissive role a woman should play in society, saying “she cannot wear perfume because if she uses it she becomes a fornicator.”
Now that wasn't all he said, and something he said landed it him in court. His words were considered to be “advocating gender violence” which I guess is against the law in Ceuta. Maybe it was because he said,
“A woman cannot show her face or bare hands, she cannot wear high heeled shoes, she cannot wear blue jeans, she must wear a scarf to cover her chest, she cannot pluck her eyebrows and she cannot wear perfume because if she uses it she becomes a fornicator,” Benaisa said during his sermon. “A woman must keep her head down because a jealous husband can cause problems with other men. A woman should be in total submission to her husband. She has an obligation to wear the veil.”
I would think a little perfume might be a good idea for some residents of North Africa. I wonder how he feels about the use of deodorant?

Or bathing?

Can I interest anyone in a pair of nose plugs? 

Sunday, September 01, 2013

I Have a Nightmare: Who Else Would Have Been Among the Uninvited?

The news that,
"Sen. Tim Scott, R.-S.C., the only African American serving in the United States Senate, wasn't invited to the event commemorating the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King's march on Washington, though a host of Democratic luminaries spoke on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial." (Washington Examiner)
Should come as no surprise to Republicans. The event has become less about Dr. MLK's dream and more about the dream of the Democrat party. People like Tim Scott who hold views that are contrary to the Democrat party platform should plan on staying home and watching things play out on TV. African Americans who dream of being able to participate fully in the political process by being able to express a conservative viewpoint, are not considered by the current folks in charge of the March on Washington celebration to be part of Dr. King's dream.

In fact, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. himself would not be invited to speak at this week's event held in his honor because of something he wrote back in "Ebony Magazine" in 1958
Question: My problem is different from the ones most people have. I am a boy, but I feel about boys the way I ought to feel about girls. I don’t want my parents to know about me. What can I do? Is there any place where I can go for help?
Answer: Your problem is not at all an uncommon one. However, it does require careful attention. The type of feeling that you have toward boys is probably not an innate tendency, but something that has been culturally acquired. Your reasons for adopting this habit have now been consciously suppressed or unconsciously repressed. Therefore, it is necessary to deal with this problem by getting back to some of the experiences and circumstances that lead to the habit. In order to do this I would suggest that you see a good psychiatrist who can assist you in bringing to the forefront of conscience all of those experiences and circumstances that lead to the habit. You are already on the right road toward a solution, since you honestly recognize the problem and have a desire to solve it. —Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., “Advice For Living” Ebony Magazine, 1958 p. 34 (h/t Here I Blog)
I have a nightmare, and I saw it played out in real life last week.