26 January 2016

Canterbury 2016

So Archbishop Welby decided to bring the primates (that is first or leading bishops) together to talk and pray. Given the inability of the arch-misleaders to agree on much, we have issues with the first affirmation of the church, "Jesus is Lord" in unison,I thought he was quite optimistic.

The Americans cannot manage to say the Nicene Creed together. I won't say the "et filioque" the statement that the Holy Spirit is begotten of the Father and the Son. I think it is an error. People have been excommunicated for holding both my view and its opposite. While Americans are not prone to excommunication, the history is still there.

Modern, "Conservatives," so called, are much fonder of limiting church membership. So much so that the context of gatherings sometimes eludes them. This appears to be such a time.

His Grace of Canterbury did not call a, "Primate's Meeting" into session. He can, with His Grace of York do that. They didn't, probably in fear of exactly what happened. This "gathering" for "conversation" turned into a let's-slap the-Americans session. Clearly, the intent and agenda of His Grace were ignored. His Grace wanted a discussion leading to a plan which allowed both the liberal North and the ultra-Conservative South to share a space, and both talk and pray together. Uganda, and its friends came looking for a path to exclude those who have the temerity to believe something they don't. The excluders seem to have taken over and imposed their hate-filed views on at least the final communique.

So, did the right-wing, "win?" No. TEC is still itself. ACCanada is still itself. CoE remains the established and moving church in England, (They seated the first female in Lords today!) TEC Scotland has not suddenly become conservative, nor has the Church of Wales. The actual governing body of the Communion, the ACC has no reason to obey or further the communique, in fact institutionally, it has reasons to ignore the primates. Unlike the ad hoc gathering, it has constitutional status. Paying attention to the primates would arguably reduce its status.

So keeping the second meaning of primates (monkeys) before us, we can look at the gathering as a swarm making noise, but signifying nothing. In that sense it is sort of like a Republican debate....

30 December 2015

Nothing is, "over"

We are told of the coming of God, that the people who were in darkness have seen a great light. What are we to do with that in a secular culture that considers Christmas over after the flood of returned gifts and clearance sales ends. We have not, the secular culture proclaims, seen a great light, unless this year it is the combustion of a hover-board.

Bp.Lee preached in Advent in our parish. His message was not that the secular and commercial aspects of Christmas are wrong. Rather, he called us to slow down, take some time for ourselves, and let the story of a 14 year old girl, some angels, a carpenter, and a birth talk to us.

To the surprise of visitors, Episcopalians, Lutherans, and Roman Catholics are still singing Christmas carols in church this week. While the rest of the world rushes off into post-Christmas merchandising, we are singing, "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing," and, "Joy to the World."

There is still time. Christmas is not over. As Dickens wrote, we can keep it in our hearts all year. There is never a moment when we do not need to be the Jesus movement, and never a moment when the world does not need that movement. From now, today until Ash Wednesday, the liturgy contemplates the Epiphany event, that those in darkness have seen a great light. The lessons, and songs are intended to aid in contemplating what it was we saw in that birth, those journeys, that baby, and eventually, that life.

Take some time, a few minutes a day, and as Mary did, think about those things. What did you see as the couple took their child and fled to Egypt? What are you, am I, fleeing? Will we respond to the call to return?

I believe the best time for a "Children's Pageant" is not Christmas, it is at the Epiphany. After all, "epiphany" means insight. Offering us their understanding of the event, the children can share something very special. We used to do this in my current parish, but the schedule won, it is easier for relatives to see the event if they are making Christmas visits.

But(!)at the end of the season, as the greens come down, this is a good time to ask ourselves what we saw in that stable? Take some time, consider the bravery of a couple of unmarried teenagers, treading through the desert to Egypt as strangers, carrying a divine baby. Why do we think it matters? How should we respond?

16 December 2015

He is back!

The thing about facing 70 is that one has been through it all at least once. I have been through Donald Trump before. His name was Joe McCarthy.

At the end of World War Two, the euphoria that America experienced after the defeat of both Germany, and Japan, gave way to fear. That fear was caused by, and focused on the Soviet Union and China. We summarized that as, "godless Marxism."

How afraid of Marxism were we? Congress, always a bellwether of our fears added the words, "under God" to the Pledge of Allegiance. We went from a post Civil War affirmation, "One nation" to "One Nation under God. Somehow, some Americans believed that if we just said that loud and often enough, we would create a world without Marx. To say the least, that was not a success. The damage done to the First Amendment is perhaps a topic for another post.

We became more afraid. As our fear rose, the level of our political discourse, and the quality of our candidates fell. By 1952, an out-of-control alcoholic, bombastic, and dishonest demagogue named Joseph McCarthy had become a national politician. He left a new, "ism," word: McCarthyism. He fed on the fears of the country, and very nearly took control of the Senate, and presidency. He had allies in the fear business, Richard Nixon, Bishop Sheen, and a fairly large number of protestant clergy.

So what do we say about this time in America? The Christmas story we Christians tell ourselves in almost countless children's pageants, begins when an Angel appears to Mary and says,
“Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!”[c] 29 But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. 30 And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.

Luke 1 v28 - 30, The Holy Bible, English Standard Version as found at this site

The Christmas story, as told by Luke, Mathew, and explained by John, over and over again tells us, "Do not be afraid" for a reason. It is fear, which is the enemy of faith, love, and democracy. Irrational fear of minorities, ethnic, gender, or religious, is the tool of the demagogue.

I do not mean we should be headless. Yes, we should maintain an office of vigilance, looking at whom it is who seeks our visa. Yes we should feel free to exclude fundamentalists, jihadists, of any religion. And yes we should seek out Constitutional ways to regulate the application of the Second Amendment. Some of my progressive / liberal friends fear guns at the same irrational level Mr. Trump asks us to fear Muslims, so we need to be careful in this action too.

But we need always, to say to ourselves: do not be afraid. Informed caution does not tarnish the many for the evil actions of the few.

In the process of not being afraid, we need to cast the Trump candidacy on the scrap heap of history, next to McCarthyism, and its European cousins. Be not afraid, be active, committed to you faith as it may be, and seek to move forward.

14 December 2015

St. Francis Xavier La Grange, IL.

We are broke. The cost of my insulin is greater than our disposable cash. So, we struggle. One way we have been surviving is essentially begging - we stand in line at St. Francis one day a week, and the lovely (they truly are) people treat us as guests, and give us food. They have even learned that we are stuck with a completely gluten free diet. Sue is a celiac. For her, wheat is a toxin. They actually set donations aside when the see they are marked GF. Without them, an amazing physician, and several other churches. we would have to choose between food and medications.

I tell you this because the children of St. Francis did something extraordinarily nice. They obtained 11 Christmas trees, with lights and stands, and then hand made ornaments to decorate them. As you might guess, a fairly large number of poor people come to the pantry. So the staff held a drawing, and I won a tree!

Our decoration budget for 2015 is zero. But life is less drab now thanks to the kids at St. Francis school. We are surrounded by saints. They are still out there, still quietly doing the loving things of God.

02 December 2015

ht to Francis

"Fundamentalism is always a tragedy. It is not religious, it lacks God, it is idolatrous," the Argentine pontiff told journalists on the plane back from the Central African Republic.

His Holiness Francis, as seen in this video.

I sometimes think a bishop of my church who called Francis the first Episcopal Pope had it right. His Holiness has summarized my thesis that fundamentalism is a mental condition or sin, not a theology and infects any number of religions. Consider that Gandhi was shot and killed by a fundamentalist Hindu, and Mr. Rabin was killed by a fundamentalist Jew. Fundamentalism is a disease.

On other subjects however, His Holiness gives me ample reason to stay where I am, if not in the same congregation. None-the-less, he is definitely on to something with this comment.

Christmas Spirit, and Poverty

It has been my habit to activate an Advent Wreath graphic on this blog, and as my profile picture on Facebook. Today, "Cyber Monday" as we now must name it, is when I would do it.

Doing that, on this blog, is the work of only a minute or two. So why do I hesitate?

In much of the apocalyptic language in the Hebrew Scriptures, (Cf. Jeremiah or Daniel,) the coming of the Messiah is called, "The Day of the Lord." The picture is not kind, gentle or peaceful. Over and over one reads, "On that day" followed by foretellings of judgment. Mathew 25 moves the story into the New Testament with the foretellings given by Jesus himself describing the coming judgment. Mathew 25 is never included in the Christmas lectionary.

Given the complete mess, we have made of God's creation, and the rampant injustice visible anywhere one chooses to look, why exactly should we pray for that coming event?

So, are these merely the bleak meanderings of an old, destitute, and depressed fat man? Maybe, and yet maybe not. John the Baptiser did not appear with a message of comfort, he came proclaiming that the day of the Lord, the kingdom whose birth would be an event of judgment and terror. If we listen to Jesus both affirming John and in his own comments, the day of the lord is to be devoutly delayed.

And yet here we are, Catholics, Lutherans, Anglicans, the churches of the liturgical year, in Advent. We pray, "Oh come, Oh come." That prayer calls to mind the ancient Celtic saying, "be careful what you pray for: you might get it!"

We have sanitized the day of the lord. We do not want the mature Christ who drove the merchants from the Temple, and disrupted the sacrificial system, the Jesus who quite intentionally led his followers into Judea by crossing the Jordan, mimicking and claiming Joshia. No, we want the baby, the distorted image of Mary.

"Be careful what you pray for, you may get it." Jesus comes to all of us. The question is what we do about it? Maybe I am just not ready for the baby, the anticipation. We shall see.

17 November 2015

aliens among us

From the Gospel of Mathew Chapter 25
41 Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:42 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: 43 I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not.
44 Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee?
45 Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me.
Jesus as quoted by Mathew and found in the Authorized Version. Biblegateway
The governors of among other States, Texas and Illinois, have decided that their States (the idiots think they own them) won't be assisting in the resettling of incoming refugees from Syria. I mention Texas because that State's first bigot has been supported bt a legislator because an embedded terrorist could benefit from Texas' lax gun laws. The idea of changing those laws did not seem to occur.

Here in Illinois we are cursed with a first bigot, but at least most of our legislators have IQ's higher than their shoe size. I suppose I should be grateful. I shall work on it.

Jesus taught us to take care of the stranger, you know like the Syriac Christians persecuted by ISIL. Or the Iraqi woman fleeing the mess we helped make of her country. To date, since 911, something around 700,000 thousand refugees have found their way here. Yes, our standards are high and we do not admit everyone. In those 700,000 there has not been one arrested terrorist. But the State's chief bigots know that Mr. Obama is black, so they assume he will let Syrians in without the background checks and other security tests now in use. Given the governors' stupidity, one wonders why refuges want to come here.

So what can you or I do? We can start by treating Rohner as the irrelevant fool he portrays, and start looking for a real governor. I will donate the website and support for a Draft Jesse White campaign. And we can vote in this general election. Every Democrat we elect is a step closer to ousting the bigots. And with a copy of Mathew 25 handy, we can ask the pseudo-Christians in government, WWJD?
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