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Archive for August, 2011

“Then Jesus told his disciples, ‘If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life?” -Matthew 16:24-26

My church was closed yesterday due to Hurricane Irene. I wanted to attend Sunday Mass, and after asking my friend Joe if he thought the local Roman churches would be open (he said yes, the priest usually lives next door), I settled on a church in the next town over that I have been to a few times in the past.

The priest focused his sermon at the beginning on St Thomas More and More’s rejection of the conformance to the ways of the present age. More refused Henry the VIII’s request to sign his annulment, and paid for it with his life. And then he launched into the present day conformance to the age as opposed to being transformed by Christ to follow the Gospel. For some reason I can’t explain, maybe because I had hope, I expected him to first talk about materialism and the lack of charity for others. Or the culture’s overall distain for the poor and the minorities. Or something actually relevant to bringing the social justice that Christ commanded and demanded to a reality.

How unfortunately wrong I was. How telling his sermon was of the present day US Conference of Catholic Bishops’s mangling of Catholics’ voting priorities (the whole edict of vote for X and you can’t receive Communion nonsense).

Here is a rundown of this priest’s “present day issues”:

Same-sex marriage (really? this is our number one problem?)
Abortion (I expected this one to be number one).
Contraception (he actually used the word contracepting)
Living together before marriage
Divorce (not a lot of helpful advice here, and no cross-references)

At this point he stated that the Bible didn’t offer any guidance on whether government or taxes were “right” or “wrong”. Still no mention of helping those in need until he started into a weak statement on immigration, that he didn’t know what was right, but that human dignity needed to be preserved. He was out of gas at this point, and this bit was so uninspired it was, well, sad.

The Roman Catholic church is a powerful organization. The US Conference of Catholic Bishops is a powerful arm of that organization. The message? Damn social justice if it comes at the expense of a government that supports same-sex marriage. Might I remind Archbishop Dolan and all his cronies that Jesus never answered a question about marriage, he answered a question about divorce. One question. One passage. Yet Jesus constantly commanded us to take care of and love the poor, the needy, the outcast. Our neighbors.

I implore my Roman Catholic readers to cast aside the words of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops. I know some of you may attend churches run by Jesuits or Franciscans that preach the true Gospel of inclusion, and I think that is wonderful. Keep going, keep praying, and keep loving your neighbor. Close the door on Archbishop Dolan’s agenda of hate over love.

I pray constantly that the Roman Catholic church will somehow turn to the Gospel and turn away from their own conformance to the ways of the present age.

Amen.

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“Jesus said to his disciples, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also. And you know the way to the place where I am going.” Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” -John 14:1-6

Last night, St Anthony Shrine in Boston posted this message on their Facebook page: “Mr. Wayne Jefferson, a homeless man who lived on the streets of Boston, has died. As part of the Lazarus Program, a funeral Mass will be held for Mr. Jefferson in the 2nd floor chapel at 10 am on Wednesday, August 24. (Mr. Jefferson had one sister, who will be attending the Mass.) If you are free, please join us”.

The Franciscans have a wonderful, compassionate ministry known as the Lazarus Program. This ministry provides no-cost funerals for homeless people as well as bringing the faithful to pray for the departed’s passing into God’s hands. I stumbled upon this ministry months ago when I decided to go to a 10am Mass one day and found myself at someone’s funeral. I was quite moved by the service, so when I saw the post last night, I committed myself to attending. My priest, Fr Paul, posted this comment in response to my repost “Insofar as you have done it unto one of the least of these, you have done it unto me.” which served to further solidify my commitment.

The service was a beautiful and holy experience. The priest’s homily was perfect. I would like to share the music program with you. But first, I would like to ask your prayers for Mr Wayne Jefferson’s (1959-2011) quick arrival to the Kingdom.

The Processional: You Are Mine (David Haas)

1. I will come to you in the silence,
I will lift you from all your fear
You will hear my voice,
I claim you as my choice.
Be still and know I am here.

2. I am hope for all who are hopeless,
I am eyes for all who long to see.
In the shadows of the night,
I will be your light.
Come and rest in me.

Refrain: Do not be afraid, I am with you.
I have called you each by name.
Come and follow me, I will bring you home.
I love you and you are mine.

3. I am the Word that leads all to freedom,
I am the peace the world cannot give.
I will call your name, embracing all your pain.
Stand up, now, walk and live! [refrain]

Responsorial Psalm: The Lord’s My Shepherd (Stuart Townend)

And I will trust in you alone.
And I will trust in you alone,
for your endless mercy follows me.
Your goodness will lead me home.

Gospel Acclamation: Ye Sons and Daughters (Traditional)

Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia! (2x)
All those who die with Christ to sin
by grace can rise to life again;
with Him, eternal victory win.
Alleluia!
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!

Song at the Preparation of Gifts: Hosea (Gregory Norbet, OSB)

1. Come back to me with all your heart.
Don’t let fear keep us apart.
Trees do bend, though straight and tall;
so must we to others’ call.

Refrain: Long have I waited
for your coming home to me
and living deeply our new life.

2. The wilderness will lead you
to your heart where I will speak.
Integrity and justice
with tenderness you shall know. [refrain]

3. You shall sleep secure with peace;
faithfulness will be your joy. [refrain]

Song of Remembrance: Go in Peace (Sarah Hart and Dwight Liles)

Go in peace, God be with you.
Go in peace, be at rest
with the saints and the angels.
Now you are free. Go in peace!

Recessional Song: Amazing Grace (New Britain)

1. Amazing grace, how sweet the sound
that save a wretch like me.
I once was lost, but now am found,
was blind, but now I see!

2. Through many dangers, toils and snares,
I have already come.
‘Tis grace has brought me safe thus far,
and grace will lead me home.

3. When we’ve been there ten thousand years,
bright shining as the sun,
we’ve no less days to sing God’s praise
than when we’d first begun.

Let light perpetual shine upon you Wayne.

Peace.

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Another brilliant post from Fr Paul over at his blog Heaven and Earth.

God set a rainbow in the clouds for a sign to all humanity of a covenant between us and God. It is a thing of great beauty. All the colors of the spectrum are present in the rainbow. Many of us see it as a sign that God’s love is inclusive in ever widening circles of compassion.

Speaking of God’s love and human love, there is a teaching of Jesus about marriage that is certainly provocative. It is this:

“Some Pharisees came to him, and to test him they asked, ‘Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any cause?’ He answered, ‘Have you not read that the one who made them at the beginning “made them male and female”, and said, “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh”?So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.’ They said to him, ‘Why then did Moses command us to give a certificate of dismissal and to divorce her?’ He said to them, ‘It was because you were so hard-hearted that Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but at the beginning it was not so. And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for unchastity, and marries another commits adultery.’

His disciples said to him, ‘If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry.’ But he said to them, ‘Not everyone can accept this teaching, but only those to whom it is given. For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let anyone accept this who can.’” ~Matthew 19

This is one of the most interesting passages in the Gospels. Jesus teaches his disciples about marriage and divorce, and suddenly he veers off into a totally unrelated subject about eunuchs. What in the world does that have to do with marriage? Or does it?

We can only imagine. Whatever Jesus is teaching, we do know this; not everyone can accept it. This passage cannot be easily dismissed. Eunuchs are common in the ancient Near Eastern world. The practice of castration for any number of reasons is widespread.

But what of the ones who are born “that way”? And what of the ones born that way who love others born “that way”. Explain that to me.

Here it is now in black and white. Explain to me why Jesus goes to these lengths to embrace those “born that way”? Why, when he is teaching about marriage does he say that this teaching is so difficult for humanity to accept?

The fact is Jesus reaches out to all the outcasts; and specifically those distanced from the Temple by the Levitical Law code; such as prostitutes, lame, blind, tax collectors, and other unclean sorts. Leviticus specifically distances maimed sorts like eunuchs. Jesus contradicts that law code by his very life and in this particular teaching, by indicating that eunuchs can make themselves so for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. How remarkable!

Dare we say that Jesus is teaching us something about eunuchs we don’t want to hear? Jesus didn’t shy away from confrontation and controversy. So when his finds himself besieged by biblical literalists who press him for his thoughts on marriage, he describes an ethic of uncompromisingly high standards.

Then the disciples are bewildered and wonder why anyone should marry at all if these impossible standards are set in a manner that is so uncompromising.

Then, in an instant we find Jesus teaching something else difficult to accept.

Marriage is a covenantal relationship. Many heterosexual folks establish such relationships; some don’t. Many gay folks have covenantal relationships that last a lifetime, some don’t. Here is a controversy for you; when Jesus died for the sins of the whole world, do you suppose he died for those who love one another in fulfillment of Jesus’ own command of whatever orientation?

[…read more]

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“For this I will extol you, O Lord, among the nations,
and sing praises to your name.” -Psalm 18:49

We had an interesting situation at our 10am service this morning. I ended up at the 10am service because I had to work this morning, or at least be on-call early. Our music director is taking a couple of well-deserved weeks off, but this morning we had two Baptisms and we enlisted our Spanish speaking music director Ramon for the service.

A few moments into our opening hymn, Here I Am Lord, I was a bit confused. Ramon was singing the song in Spanish, and I was briefly back in pre-epiphany land. Having quickly realized that brief regression, I realized the brilliance in what was going on. Ramon was leading the song, period, music and lyrics. And we non-Spanish speaking folks followed along in English according to his cadence. It was brilliant! The whole “not about me” thing is working out quite well for me indeed!

During Communion, Ramon led I am the Bread of Life in Spanish and on his guitar. The hymn was not printed in the bulletin, but we knew it, and we sang it, and it was so, so, so beautiful. It is my favorite Communion hymn.

God has given me the grace to realize and actualize this epiphany, and to bring me back to this church with a new heart and a new spirit.

Thanks Be To God.

Peace.

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I was reflecting on my epiphany last Saturday and my wonderful chat with my nephew about the differences between the Roman and Episcopal denominations (I think he is going to be a great Episcopalian!) and was struck by my lineage.

My mother is a Roman Catholic. My grandfather is a Roman Catholic and I am pretty sure my late grandmother was a Roman Catholic.

My father is a Congregationalist (UCC by the way). My grandfather was a Congregationalist. My grandmother was a Unitarian, and had no local church in the Winchester, NH area. I do get sad when I think about that, that she had no church, but my grandmother was a strong woman to say the least.

My dad “converted” to Roman Catholicism (I have never asked him about this process, and probably won’t ever bother) before he married my mom. After the divorce, we were generally raised by my mother in the Roman Catholic tradition. I did spend at least one Easter with my father at his Congregational church. I remember it being different from what I was used to.

So it occurred to me that despite having never stepped foot into or even being aware of the Episcopal church prior to 3 years ago, I was born Episcopalian. 50% Roman, 50% Protestant with both Congregational and Unitarian roots.

100% Episcopalian! Thanks be to God!

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“And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone” -Matthew 14:23

One of the best decisions I made during my first year back at church was attending the annual retreat at the Barbara C. Harris camp. I was reminded of this time by Rebecca’s post at …all things visible and invisible recently. The St Peters retreat was a combination of spiritual exercises led by our priest Fr Paul and free time to pray in whatever way the Spirit guided us. Not only did I learn and grow from hearing others’ experiences and feelings, I learned a lot about my own experiences and feelings. Being a rather shy person, I had little choice but to open up, and it was wonderful!

If you live in the New England area, check out The Society of Saint John the Evangelist and their retreat offerings. I have not done a retreat there yet, but I plan to do one at some point. The Jesuits also have what by all accounts is a wonderful retreat house in Gloucester Massachusetts.

A retreat is a great way to refresh your spirit and grow in your relationship with God.

I would love to hear from other folks on their retreat experiences! Comment away!

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“To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.” -Romans 8:6

Fourteen years ago, my goal was to quit smoking before I turned 30. Seeing as I just turned 37 a short while ago, and I haven’t made one honest attempt to quit, dwelling on that epic fail is folly. However, resetting that goal to 40 is also folly. Smoking is a very selfish habit. Smoking is setting the mind on the flesh. I recognize that more at this moment than I ever have before. In the past, every time I would think about quitting, the Wormwood on my shoulder would remind me how much I enjoy it and how it is a ingrained part of my existence.

Pardon my language, but that is bullshit.

Yes mildly confused reader, I know, it may seem odd that I am calling bullshit on myself. In some respects I am logging this post as a reminder to myself. Perhaps I am calling bullshit (sorry, but I have to be consistent) on the Deceiver and that part of myself that is too weak, too focused on the flesh as St Paul would say, too tell him to go (back) to hell as it were.

My family is an ingrained part of my existence. God is an ingrained part of my existence. Smoking is an addiction, a way to death. Tragically I know this fact all too well.

Many times I have prayed for the strength to break this habit, but these prayers are in vain because I haven’t tried. There have certainly been many mornings where I haven’t felt the need to have that first cigarette, but I have anyway.

I have to start somewhere, so I am starting simple. Every morning I will stop and think about why I am smoking that first cigarette. I have nicotine replacements at hand. If that fails to yield results, it is off to the doctor. I strongly dislike the idea of prescription drugs, but I also strongly dislike going to the dentist, but I do it.

For my gentle, ex-smoker/drinker/etc, readers, I am interested in feedback on how your faith helped you break an addiction and what, if any, other means you leveraged to set your mind on the Spirit.

Peace

Chris

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