22 November 2014

soon to be a Volunteer again



We gave our notice to the folks where we’ve been serving as interim co-pastors.  In a couple of months, Banu and I will be moving to Tennessee, which I left in 1991.

I look forward to re-acquainting myself with Nashville, which continues to grow, not only in population, but more importantly, in diversity.  It’s also been a while since we lived in a metro area.  We left Philadelphia in 1997. 




But I really will miss New York.  It’s a beautiful state—and I will miss the winter weather!

18 October 2014

without and within


St. Luke, whose feast day is today, wrote the gospel dearly loved by many.  It has many parables of Jesus—ones that only he includes—among them probably the best-known, the Good Samaritan and the Prodigal (or Lost) Son. 

He also preserves some sublime sayings of Jesus.  One of my favorites deals with some Pharisees asking about the kingdom of God.  “Once Jesus was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God was coming, and he answered, ‘The kingdom of God is not coming with things that can be observed; nor will they say, “Look, here it is!” or “There it is!”  For, in fact, the kingdom of God is among you’” (17:20-21).  The word translated as “among” is the Greek word, entos.  It can also mean “within.” 

Too often, we look for certain events that signify the kingdom, the reign of God.  It is among us; it is within us.  Even though it might not seem like it at times, especially in times of trouble and grief, that Spirit, that love, pervades the universe.  We draw the courage we need to live.

29 September 2014

drone terror

In his book, Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander, based on journal entries up until 1965, Thomas Merton said this about terrorism: "The very essence of terrorism is that it is lawless and absolute power." Watch John Oliver's bit on our government's use of drones (especially toward the end), and see how prescient he was:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K4NRJoCNHIs

20 September 2014

fifty years of markings



In a post three years ago, I acknowledged the fifty-year anniversary of Dag Hammarskjöld’s death, who was the current UN Secretary General.  This year is the fiftieth anniversary of his posthumously published book, Markings.

It was actually brought to my attention by the comments of Sister Anne Wambach, prioress of the Benedictine Sisters of Erie, PA.  This was at a service marking the fifty-year anniversary of monastic profession of some of their own.  She noted that Markings “was a kind of spiritual diary, a collection of reflections over a lifetime.”

When reading the book, one can’t help but notice his introverted, and introspective, nature.  He grapples with his unusual position as a deeply spiritual and deeply committed public official.  (It’s too bad that that would be considered “unusual”!)

Hammarskjöld comments on a number of things, but I especially appreciate his quirky entries:

“The ride on the Witches’ Sabbath to the Dark Tower where we meet only ourselves, ourselves, ourselves.” (51)

“Is your disgust at your emptiness to be the only life with which you fill it?” (70) 

Let’s find life on that road to the Dark Tower.

03 August 2014

purple baptism



One of my favorite women in the scriptures is Lydia.  Here’s what happens when Paul and his companions encounter her:

“On the sabbath day we went outside the gate [of Philippi] by the river, where we supposed there was a place of prayer; and we sat down and spoke to the women who had gathered there.  A certain woman named Lydia, a worshiper of God, was listening to us; she was from the city of Thyatira and a dealer in purple cloth.  The Lord opened her heart to listen eagerly to what was said by Paul.  When she and her household were baptized, she urged us, saying, ‘If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come and stay at my home.’  And she prevailed upon us.”  (Acts 16.13-15)

Some great themes come together with St. Lydia—baptism, hospitality, and.....purple!  Today is her feast day, and I love the fact that today is also the anniversary of my own baptism.  Plus, I love the color purple.  And a quality that I need to love and work more on is hospitality.

But back to the story.  Paul and Silas are arrested, but the authorities realize that it was an illegal arrest.  They dont want to get in trouble, so they release the pair and ask them to leave town.  (Please!)  But Paul and Silas realize that Lydia’s hospitality offers them another choice.  “After leaving the prison they went to Lydia’s home; and when they had seen and encouraged the brothers and sisters there, they departed” (v. 40).

What wonderful things come from a purple baptism! 

(The image is from fc01.deviantart.net/fs71/i/2010/325/6/3/purple_water_drop_4_by_shayne_gray-d33c9pf.jpg)

04 July 2014

revolution



Last Sunday, my sermon title was “Faithful Patriotism.”  I included a quote from the movie The American President (1995), which stars Michael Douglas as President Andrew Shepherd.  He says this during a televised speech:  “America isn’t easy.  America is advanced citizenship. You gotta want it bad, ‘cause it’s gonna put up a fight.  It’s gonna say, ‘You want free speech?  Let’s see you acknowledge a man whose words make your blood boil, who’s standing center stage and advocating at the top of his lungs that which you would spend a lifetime opposing at the top of yours.”

On Independence Day, we celebrate the American Revolution.  Those of us of a certain age remember the logo in 1976 which marked the bicentennial of the revolution.  (I was 11 years old on that particular July 4th.)

For people of faith—and certainly for Christians—too often the love of country gets confused with the love of God.  We too easily equate those things.  In my sermon, I also quote Dan Clendenin:  For those who love and serve a Lord encompassing all space and time, it’s hard to claim “that God loves your own country more than…other countries.”  It’s difficult to go along with “confusing and conflating God’s loves with national values, and invoking God’s wrath against your enemies.”  It’s not easy to settle for a God who is that small and spiteful.

Can we foster a patriotism that celebrates the truly great things about America?  Can we work for a patriotism that doesn’t simply shout, “U-S-A!” at every turn, but rather works for more creative and faithful ways of making decisions than with the tired old methods of threats and war?

That’s the path to a real revolution! 

(The lower image is from www.goddiscussion.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/patriotism.jpg)