“I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for solid food.”
Episcopal priest and theologian John Westerhoff, speaking about Christian formation, distinguishes between “nurture” and “conversion.” So often when we Christians do formation – like teach prayer, or talk about the importance of regular worship, or teach about the sacraments – we tend to talk in terms of nurture – how church consoles us, for example, or how prayer helps us get through our day. But nurture will take us only so far, says Westerhoff. A mature Christian faith – if we are truly to be the “salt of the earth” and the “lights of the world” – requires conversion: a deep-down, thorough and systemic transformation of the inner person.
We’ll get back to conversion, but first I want to speak to our present social and political environment. In the weeks since the inauguration, many have told me about the rallies they’ve attended, the letters they’ve sent or phone calls they’ve made, and the convictions they have regarding the environment or immigration or religious tolerance. An activism has been awakened, and I see a care for our nation that I haven’t seen in my lifetime, a desire to make a difference. Continue reading →
As a Massachusetts resident and a part-time history buff, and in light of Friday’s inauguration, this past week I went back to President Kennedy’s inaugural address of 1961, the famous “Ask not what your country can do for you…” speech. In this speech Kennedy lays his vision for the country. A vision of “unwillingness to witness or permit the slow undoing of… human rights.” A vision of the “survival and the success of liberty,” here and around the globe. A vision committed to those “south of the border,” and our “special pledge… to assist free men and free governments in casting off the chains of poverty.” A vision of support for the United Nations, “our last best hope in an age where the instruments of war have far outpaced the instruments of peace.” A vision of a world in which “civility is not a sign of weakness, and sincerity is always subject to proof.” A vision of “both sides [exploring] what problems unite us instead of belaboring those problems which divide us.” A vision of “a new world of law, where the strong are just and the weak secure and the peace preserved.” Anybody remember? It was – and is – a stirring, hope-filled speech. Continue reading →
Like many of you, I have been both fascinated and inspired these last four years by the world’s reaction to Pope Francis: the bishop of Rome; the Roman Catholic Church’s leader; a genuine peacemaker; and an emissary of God’s mercy and pastoral concern for all humanity. He has clearly created quite a stir among both the churched and the un-churched across the globe, including members of other Christian communions as well. And it has been a very long time since—not one, but two—papal documents known as Apostolic Exhortations, an ordinarily obscure and unnoticed Vatican pronouncement, have achieved bestseller status and have been commented upon and debated by so many in the media. They have even attracted commentary from political leaders at the highest level. Our own clergy, wardens, and vestry here at Trinity have “read, marked, and inwardly digested” (BCP) this first Jesuit pope’s stirring exhortation to evangelism, entitled The Joy of the Gospel, and have been moved to enlarge our new parish’s mission statement to include the aspiration to become “contemplatives in action”: missionary disciples and evangelists for whom prayer leads us to action, and action leads us back to prayer. We have multiple copies of The Joy of the Gospel in the parish office for any of you who may be curious—or even inspired—to explore for yourself the cause of the great fuss.
Sermon for Sunday, June 19, 2016
The text for the homily this morning is not so much today’s gospel text itself as it is the text around today’s gospel text. In particular, Jesus’ rhythm of mission and prayer – Jesus going out on mission, then withdrawing to deserted places to pray – that Luke set up three chapters earlier, in chapter 5:
Many crowds would gather to hear him and to be cured of their diseases. But he would withdraw to deserted places and pray. – Luke 5:15b-16
The context of today’s gospel is Jesus’ rhythm of going out on mission and then withdrawing to deserted places to pray; Jesus’ mission leads to prayer, Jesus’ prayer leads to mission. Mission and prayer is the rhythm of Jesus’ ministry in Luke.
But I don’t want to begin there. I want to begin rather with President George W. Bush’s “faith-based initiatives.” Continue reading →
But when God… was pleased to reveal his Son to me…I went away at once into Arabia.”
Though I usually am not able to read the entire Sunday Times, I always try to read the “Modern Love” column in the “Sunday Styles” section. “Modern Love” stories are reader-submitted, and can be about:
the vagaries of dating – “Dating, like insanity, is like doing the same thing over and over, expecting a different outcome.” (May 13, Sarah Moses)
a mother with Alzheimer’s finding comfort in her “perfect” boyfriend – “Unless she’s sneaking out of the window at night,” the daughter writes, “I’m not sure how she’s going on these dates.” (Deenie Hartzog-Mislock, April 9, 2015)
being a gay father on Mother’s Day – “I finally just said, ‘I’m her mom!’” (May 6, David Beach)
Last month, in a column entitled “The Sound and Fury of Silence,” Laura Pritchett told of her quiet divorce after two decades of marriage. She and her husband divorced so quietly, in fact, that “neighbors sometimes can’t tell the difference from before the split and after… Both of our cars are often in the driveway… We [still] like each other and always have.” But… Continue reading →
The mystics keep telling us that the goal of prayer and the— goal of our hidden life which should itself become more and more of a prayer— is union with God. We use that phrase often, much too often, to preserve the wholesome sense of its awe-fulness. For what does union with God mean? It is not a nice feeling we get in devout moments. That may or may not be a bi-product of union — probably not. It can never be its substance. Union with God means every bit of our human nature transfigured in Christ, woven up into his creative life and activity, absorbed into his redeeming purpose, heart, soul, mind and strength. Each time it happens it means that one of God’s creatures has achieved its destiny.
— From The Light of Christ by Evelyn Underhill (1875-1941)
Here we are on “Gaudete” or “Rejoicing” Sunday. We have reached the halfway point in Advent, which we mark by lighting the pink candle on our Advent wreath this morning. It signals that we now have less than two weeks to prepare our hearts and our world for welcoming our Lord Jesus Christ, who came into our history as a vulnerable and innocent child, at Christmas. And so, Saint Paul’s admonition in today’s reading from his Letter to the Philippians: “The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything….” came to me as a thunderclap—especially in the wake of the foreign and domestic terror attacks of the past month. “Really,” I thought to myself, “do not worry about anything?” And then, seeming to add insult to an incandescent injury, Saint Paul goes on to say, “…but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guide your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” Clearly, I groused, Saint Paul’s words have nothing to do with the backdrop to this Christmas of 2015 and our violent and distracted world. I wonder just how many of us are “rejoicing”—let alone “praying”—with just eleven so-called shopping-days until Christmas and, more ominously, in the overshadowing presence of such sheer evil—foreign and domestic—in our midst.
Icon Holy Innocents
And, if we widen the lens of our vision just a little, we must somehow reckon as well with the sad irony that children are suffering and dying all over our world: 8,000 die every day from illnesses caused by lack of access to clean water; 20 percent of American children live in poverty; and at least 250,000 civilians—many of them children—have been killed to date in Syria’s on-going civil war, with almost one-half of that country’s population having been driven by the fighting to foreign refugee camps or to the dangerous and unwelcoming shores of southeastern Europe. We need not look any further than our news outlets to see that Bethlehem’s “Holy Innocents” are still being slaughtered in their thousands by the “King Herods” of our world! For so many of us, rejoicing may not even be on our agenda this Advent. Continue reading →