Tuesday, April 19, 2016
ANGLICAN CONSULTATIVE COUNCIL BREAKING NEWS - IARCA REPRESENTATIVE ELECTED TO STANDING COMMITTEE - Jehoram Melendez, lay delegate from Costa Rica in the Anglican Church of the Region of Central America
Sunday, April 17, 2016
"If there can be distance learning, let’s do distance worship. Todays psalm is the 23rd. It’s such a commonly used/read psalm, I’m going to ask people to take a moment and think about an image or memory Psalm 23 evokes."
Deacon Phyllis Manoogian
Tuesday, April 12, 2016
THE REVEREND JOHN SMITH - "God could say: Look at all the destruction and human suffering and death you are causing to my Creation!"
|The miraculous catch of 153 fish by Duccio, 14th century.|
God is the Victim
For the last couple weeks I've offered for our reflection the very real truth that Jesus is the only Victim ever whose voice has been heard after death. We can hear this voice when the Risen Jesus appears to his disciples and others after his death on the Cross. Our human culture has tried to silence this Voice or make it irrelevant, but the Easter gospels continue to be preached. Jesus lives and his Voice can still be heard!
This week, in each of the scriptures, we hear Jesus speaking. Saul, successful in rounding up those who believe in Jesus, heads back to Damascus and is confronted by the Risen Jesus: Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? Saul, not recognizing who it is, asks: Who are you, Lord? And the Voice replies: I am Jesus and you are persecuting me. Jesus identifies with his followers who have become the first to gather in his Name, the ones "called out," the Church. Persecute them and you are persecuting Jesus.
No one is victim of God's actions. God doesn't create people and bring them into the world in order to ever victimize them. There is no sin great enough to cause God our Father to do that to one of his children. Our human culture, adherent to the will of the crowd and resistant to God's will, or mistakenly thinking they are doing God's will, creates the victims of this world. It's never God. It's God, who created this beautiful world and all human beings, who is the real victim. God could say: Look at all the destruction and human suffering and death you are causing to my Creation! God is Victim. When people in this world are victimized, God is victimized! Not vice versa.
The hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God. Not!
Jesus, is not the expected "Lion of Judah," who would conquer Israel's enemies with the sword, but rather the Lamb that was slaughtered, brought back to life, and seated on the throne, receiving blessings, honor, glory, and might forever and ever!
And when we continue to listen to the Voice of the Victim: Jesus, how about the Gospel today? After Jesus' appearance and words to them, the disciples still had to make a living by the only way they knew how: fishing. One morning, heading to shore after fishing without success all night, they see someone there waiting for their return. Jesus, unrecognized by them, tells them to cast the net one more time. This time on the right side of the boat. What happens? They haul in a tremendous amount of fish! John, the youngest, says to Peter, It's the Lord! Peter jumps in, remembering first to put on some clothes, and swims to Jesus. And what does Jesus say? "Come and have breakfast." The way Jesus breaks the bread and shares the fish, they all know it's Jesus.
Jesus relates to his disciples and us in a very down-to-earth fashion that is reinforced by the ensuing dialogue between Jesus and Peter. Jesus asks Peter (Simon bar Jona): "Do you love me more than these?" (The "more" in the question I take as necessary for anyone that would be in a leadership role among the disciples/apostles.) Simon answers: "Yes, Lord; you know that I love you." Jesus says: "Feed my lambs." then Jesus asks the same question a second time. Simon responds again with the same answer. Jesus asks the same question a third time. Now Simon is getting a little frustrated, answering: "Lord you know everything; you know that I love you."
This is sometimes called Peter's rehabilitation. Peter denied the Lord three times, so Jesus asked him three times if he loved him. "Love," as the scriptures tell us "covers a multitude of sins." But the word "love" in our English translation misses the type or quality of love that Jesus is asking Peter about. The first two times Jesus asks Peter about love he uses the Greek word agapao. (This refers to a love that would sacrifice for another.) When Peter answers Jesus, he uses the Greek word phileo. (This refers to a love between friends, ie. Philadelphia= City of Brotherly love.) Peter, at this point, is at the friendship/love stage, not the sacrificial (give my life) love stage. What is so interesting is when Jesus asks the love question the third time, he uses Peter's word phileo! Jesus comes down, so to speak, to the stage Peter is at: friendship/love!
When I think about this dialogue and all of us who listen to it, I always think that it includes all of us too! If we, like Peter, have denied our relationship with the Lord (perhaps many times!), to save our skin or gain the popularity of others, we can assume or count on Jesus asking us over and over again, "Do you love me?" And, also, Jesus taking us right where we are (Probably most of us at the friendship/love/phileo stage.)
Peter, started, like us, at the phileo stage, but as he grew in friendship with the Risen Jesus and came to embrace the mercy and forgiveness that Jesus communicated to all, Peter moved to the agapao stage. When the Roman authorities caught up with Peter and convicted him of sedition and treachery against the State, they sentenced him to die by crucifixion, the same death that Jesus suffered. Peter told his accusers (by the power of the Holy Spirit, the parakletos, "the One called along side," the Defender of the Accused) he was not worthy to die as Jesus his Lord did. So instead they crucified Peter upside down! (Rome= San Pietro in Monotorio commemorates this)
Each one of us is growing from friendship with Jesus (carried on in an interior dialogue in our hearts and outward service to others, especially the poor and the marginalized who have no voice) to the ability to truly give our very lives on behalf of Jesus and our sisters and brothers. The Holy Spirit is helping with this growth: the ability to resist the victimization of others and the requiring of the death of some so that we might live more "secure." The Word we have heard and the Holy Eucharist we will receive in a few moments will nourish this growth of agapao love within us. Like Peter, we will be led by others where we would rather not go, but we don't go alone, because the Risen Jesus lives in us and the Holy Spirit will stand alongside us, along with a multitude of others on the same path!
THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH WELCOMES EVERYONE
Wednesday, April 6, 2016
Who Needs the Resurrection?
Last Sunday I spoke about the necessary silence of all victims. Our culture loathes hearing the voice of victims. Of course, many victims are dead and their voices are never heard. But the vast majority of victims: refugees of warfare, the poor and hungry, homeless, aged and infirm, are kept out of earshot or not allowed to speak. This is the way our human culture likes it: out of sight, out of mind.
This is what makes the Resurrection of Jesus Christ so important. Jesus, like all victims, put to death by the will of the crowds and powerful of this world, was the One and only Voice that survives and speaks to the world beyond the grave. In these weeks of Easter-tide, we, and the disciples, will be able to hear Jesus' Voice. What does he say?
When the Risen Jesus appears to his saddened, nervous, and guilt-ridden disciples in the Upper Room, the first thing he says is "Peace." He doesn't say it only once but three times!! He is giving them a fresh call to follow him (He called them once, but for three years they really didn't "get it," and, when the going got tough, and their Lord was taken into custody, they fled.) "Peace" because Jesus forgave them. And, instead of calling them to revenge his death, he says "Peace" again, and tells them to get out there and bring God's forgiveness to the world.
Jesus was alive and well, despite his wounds still showing, and he wanted them to know it. "Come over here Thomas and check out my wounds, they're real and so am I!" (When John wrote this, there were many Gnostics and Docetists who said that Jesus only appeared to die on the Cross, or that Jesus was a spiritual illusion of sorts that only "seemed" human. The truth was, Jesus was fully human, went through an agonizing death, and was now standing before them alive and talking!
Why do we need Resurrection? Bottom line: to take away our fear of death completely. God will raise us up to new life. And we no longer have to act out of the fear of our death, especially doing things that take the precious gift of life from others. And we don't have to have the last word, because the Risen Jesus speaks that word.
Problem is, the world doesn't like what the Resurrection offers or Jesus' words beyond the grave. We hate to be doormats for the evil-doing of others. We think it is better to strike first, with overwhelming force, against those who harm us. Just like Jesus didn't.
Sure, we live in hope that our deceased loved ones live with God. We really do! But that is about as far as it goes. As far as living in the real world is concerned, we can do quite nicely without the Resurrection, even while over and over again professing our belief in it. Christians have gotten alone fine without a living belief in the Resurrection. How?
Focus on the Cross. God sent Jesus to die for our sins. Try to be a good person, and when you sin, believe in Jesus' saving death, and God will forgive you and you will go to heaven when you die. Don't really need the Resurrection. Jesus accomplished our salvation when he died on the Cross.
This has worked for Christians for centuries. The Resurrection does very little for us, the living. It's just an add-on: Great for Jesus (happy for Him) and great for Uncle Ben and Aunt Betty, they were such a nice, good people. That's about it. What's wrong with that? My salvation was accomplished on the old, rugged Cross wasn't it?
What's wrong with this picture is that the Resurrection is precisely for the living! It is for the salvation of the whole world. The concern is never, like we've most often thought, about my "personal" salvation. When Jesus says: The one who believes in me, even though he/she die, will live. The word "believes" is very important. It is much more than a sincere mental act, but a radical embracing of Jesus' risen life and teaching that conquers our fear of death and all the negatives that flow from that fear, especially our lashing out at others who threaten us.
Who needs the Resurrection? We do, and the whole world, that every single day acts and makes judgments out of fear and insecurity. All belief systems, all religions, keep death in the picture and all the things necessary to keep death all bay for the greatest number of people possible (usually the strongest and wealthiest).
The Good News of the Gospel is that the Resurrection of Jesus can conquer our fear of death. Forgiveness is the sign of Resurrection. Resurrection faith helps the living get along with each other, take care of each other, and care for God's Creation for the use and enjoyment of all. It's not at all about "getting to Heaven." Resurrection is about living in a new way in love and forgiveness, peace and reconciliation now, not when we die. We can live this way with the Holy Spirit's help. The saints we revere (St. Alban, our Patron) lived in Resurrection faith, and we can too!
The Holy Eucharist, the Presence of the Risen, nourishes the Resurrection life in us, allowing us to live free from the fear of death and live courageously loving all our brothers and sisters with the power of the Holy Spirit.
The Reverend John Smith, Vicar.
5235-6674 cell telephone (502 country code)
THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH WELCOMES EVERYONE
Sunday, April 3, 2016
SACRED VIOLENCE: "What we are seeing is something very old indeed: followers of God who think that they must show their true devotion to God by offering that God sacrificial victims who are unbelievers."
As we gather this morning, my memory is filled with the vision of the many emotionally moving processions Terri and I witnessed this past week, but also the hours of coverage on CNN and the BBC of the tragic bombings at the airport and metro station in Brussels. So many victims! Innocent victims! The thing I've been thinking about the most, is the tremendous outpouring of concern for all these, and indeed all, victims. Crowds of people gather at the site of the tragedy, many leave messages and make flower shrines, political leaders come and lay wreaths, and there are many "moments of silence." This is all well and good, if, and only if, in honoring of the victims, the desire to create or require more victims is avoided.
What we are seeing is something very old indeed: followers of God who think that they must show their true devotion to God by offering that God sacrificial victims who are unbelievers. This is all about "Sacred Violence": violence done in the name of, and with the approval of, God. And the great temptation for us, or those who represent us, is to respond with "sacred violence" or our own.
From the point of view of the perpetrator or crowd calling for death, it is important to never hear the cries of the dying, to be completely out of earshot. (That's why aerial bombardment is favored over "boots on the ground" in most conflicts these days.) At the Cross of Jesus only a detail of soldiers, Jesus' mother, and a couple of other woman, and John, were present. The crowd that called out "Crucify him" and the leaders who gave in to their cries and signed Jesus' death warrant were absent. The voice of mortally wounded victims are always silent. No one ever hears from them, nor do they want to.
But in the whole history of mankind there was only one Victim whose Voice survived death: the Risen Jesus! Jesus, who survived a horrible death at the hands of a crowd who thought they were doing God's work and believed that it was better for this one man to die, than for the whole "people" to perish, this Jesus, risen from the dead, can speak! Jesus, risen, is the only victim ever to be heard from, and, the Voice of this Victim was a voice of forgiveness and not vengeance toward those who put him to death. This is foundational for our Christian faith.
Can Jesus speak for all victims who die? When victims die, or all of us really, they enter a part of Creation where God's will resides in fullness. This is Heaven. This is what we pray in the Lord's Prayer: Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven. We're praying not for escape to Heaven, but rather God's will more and more be done on earth. Earth is where the action is, and victims, from their "heavenly" perspective where God's will is done completely and love and mercy reign supreme, are finally free from the need to imitate and follow the crowds call for retaliation and vengeance and are able to grasp God's intention and desire to show mercy and forgiveness to all. Victims join with all the Saints, many of whom were martyr victims themselves, to pray for us on earth that we might begin to live in God's will for the world.
So Heaven is much more than a Platonic holding tank of souls who have escaped dreary earth, our common notion, but so far from a positive Jewish notion of Creation- God looked at what He made and saw that it was good, that there is no place for devaluing this earth or think we can just sacrifice earth and use its resources any way we want. This too make the earth a victim of our "sacred violence."
When the first Christians celebrated Jesus' Resurrection they moved the day of worship from the Sabbath, to Sunday, the first day of the week and the first day of Creation. So Jesus' Resurrection that we celebrate this Easter day, is intimately tied to the creation of this earth and the entire universe and God's intention for it be a place of real harmony, love, family, renewed by mutual forgiveness and freedom from the need to require people to die as victims in order for true peace to take root. This is Good News! Alleluia!
THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH WELCOMES EVERYONE
(everyone means everyone)