31 December 2012

By-tor, the snow dog (with apologies to Rush)

While shoveling our walk—notice the orange blade in the corner of the photo—I heard a “chomp.”

 Aidan, our Shetland Sheepdog, was leaping into the shower of tossed snow, mouth fully open. 

Summoning my wife and our camera, we documented his behavior on this New Year’s Eve afternoon.

15 December 2012

the dark side of Christmas

Newtown, Connecticut (14 Dec 2012).  Bethlehem, Judea (Matthew 2:16).  Christmas has not yet arrived.  Still, our proximity to it prompts an observation.  The dark, and usually overlooked, reality is that the Christmas story carries within it the slaughter of little children.  Two weeks from yesterday, we observe the feast of the Holy Innocents. 

Pointing out the reality of the massacre of young ones doesn’t explain or excuse it.  How could anything?  But what it does do is to show how Jesus was born into a world with the same hatred and insanity that still plague us.  Our challenge is to work for the “peace on earth” that the angels proclaim—to ask for and use that courage.

10 December 2012

living it, believing it

In his Daily Meditation for today, Richard Rohr says, “The Scriptures very clearly teach what we call today a ‘bias toward action.’  It is not just belief systems or dogmas and doctrines, as we have often made it.  The Word of God is telling us very clearly that if you do not do it, you, in fact, do not believe it and have not heard it.

I find that relevant in a particular way today, since this is Human Rights Day.  As I mentioned in a sermon yesterday, this is the date in 1948 when the United Nations adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  That document has had a foundational role in international law regarding the protection of human rights.

I’m forced to ask myself, “How important is promoting human rights to me?”  Is simply talking or blogging about it enough?  Rohr says something that has been attested to in many times and places:  “We do not think ourselves into a new way of living as much as we live ourselves into new ways of thinking.  Lifestyle issues ask much more of us than mere belief systems.” 

That, of course, applies to the entire range of life.  I suppose we each have to ask ourselves how much we live what we think we do.  How much do we welcome the good Holy Spirit to lead us in action?  And being in the season of Advent, do we embrace the Advent call to turn around and to be our best selves?

23 November 2012

blue and silver tears

I’ve hardly posted anything about sports in the past two years—until now.  Yesterday was a heart-breaker.  Yes, I’m a fan of the NFL team that people love to hate, the Dallas Cowboys.  And while I wasn’t wearing a silly costume (unless a Cowboys tee shirt qualifies), I would have to join the two who are holding the sign saying, “Sorry Mom…I had to spend Thanksgiving with the Cowboys.”  Yes, I was quite sorry.  And of course, the worst part of all is that the loss came to their historic rivals, the Redskins. 

It’s not fair to pin the Cowboys’ shortcomings on quarterback Tony Romo.  Their offensive line is, well, offensive.  And as talented a receiver as he is, Dez Bryant does have a tendency to fumble the ball.  But more than any of the players, owner Jerry Jones’ ego seems to be as inflated as Cowboys Stadium.  I can appreciate his enthusiasm for the team, but he seriously needs to hire a general manager and stop with the micro-managing.

11 November 2012

church as frenemy

We’ve all heard the saying, “With friends like that, who needs enemies?”  Actually, some people fuse those two words together and come up with “frenemies.”  It can be quite distressing how those who are the closest to us do us the most damage.  Unfortunately, the church is not immune to that.

Henri Nouwen, a beloved spiritual leader who died sixteen years ago, had many thoughts on this very issue.  “When we have been wounded by the Church,” he says, “our temptation is to reject it.  But when we reject the Church it becomes very hard for us to keep in touch with the living Christ.  When we say, ‘I love Jesus, but I hate the Church,’ we end up losing not only the Church but Jesus too.  The challenge is to forgive the Church.  This challenge is especially great because the Church seldom asks us for forgiveness, at least not officially.”

I definitely agree with him on that.  And worse than that, far from asking our forgiveness, sometimes the church reprimands those who point out its errors.  Often it does that in ways (using intimidation, shame, and even physical violence) that must leave Jesus weeping tears of sorrow.

Nouwen also says, “Loving the Church often seems close to impossible.  Still, we must keep reminding ourselves that all people in the Church—whether powerful or powerless, conservative or progressive, tolerant or fanatic—belong to that long line of witnesses moving through this valley of tears, singing songs of praise and thanksgiving, listening to the voice of their Lord, and eating together from the bread that keeps multiplying as it is shared.”

What are some ways in which we can act—and not for the sake of appearance?  Where are we on that strange continuum of “frenemy”?  No doubt, sometimes we’re more “friend,” and other times, we’re more “enemy.”

As those who Jesus calls friends, may we be there for others who have been hurt by the church.  Let us be a living example of God’s love, grace, and peace. 

(These are extracts from my sermon, “Church as Frenemy.”  Quotes from Henri Nouwen come from his Daily Meditations at www.henrinouwen.org, 27 Oct 12 and 24 Oct 12, respectively.)