Thursday, August 29, 2013
(Sculpture on wood, by Santiago Martinez Delgado, 1942,
Museo Nacional de Bogota Colombia)
"Since the memory of blessed John the Baptist is not to be passed over cursorily, it is important that we should note who he was, and by whom, and for what cause, and how, and when he was slain. A just man is slain by adulterers, and the guilty passed sentence of death upon the judge. Further, the death of the Prophet was the reward of a dancing girl. Lastly (which all the barbarians even would be likely to shudder at) the order to consummate the cruelty went forth amid feasting and conviviality; and from the banquet to the prison, from the prison to the banquet, the obedient agents of this death-dealing and disgraceful act went to and fro. How great are the crimes contained in this single infamy!"
(From the book of St. Ambrose, Bishop, On Virgins)
Wednesday, August 28, 2013
(Icon by Richard G. Cannuli, OSA)
"Too late have I loved you, O Beauty so ancient and so new,
too late have I loved you!
Behold, you were within me, while I was outside:
it was there that I sought you, and, deformed creature,
rushed headlong upon these things of beauty which you have made.
You were with me, but I was not with you.
They kept me far from you, those fair things which,
if they were not in you, would not exist at all.
You have called to me, and have cried out, and have shattered my deafness.
You have blazed forth with light, and have shone upon me,
and you have put my blindness to flight!
You have sent forth fragrance, and I have drawn in my breath, and I pant after you.
I have tasted you, and I hunger and thirst after you.
You have touched me, and I have burned for your peace."
(The Confessions, Book 10, Chapter 27)
Sunday, August 25, 2013
In 1997, Guidepost magazine told the story of a woman from Chappaqua, NY, named Elizabeth Sherold. Elizabeth was working at her computer one afternoon when all of a sudden she saw a skunk stumble across her front yard wearing a yellow helmet, at least it looked like a helmet! It actually turned out to be a yellow plastic yogurt container which was stuck on the skunk’s head. The skunk ran around frantically trying to get it loose, but the container wouldn’t come off. So the skunk continued blindly running this way and that, unable to see. Elizabeth called the Department of Wildlife and asked what she should do, and was politely told that she needed to pull the yogurt container off the skunk’s head! “What if it sprays me?” she countered. “Well, if a skunk can’t see you, he won’t spray you”, said the official. “Yeah, but what happens”, Elizabeth asked, “when I pull the container off?” “Make sure he doesn’t feel threatened!”, came the answer.
She thanked the official somewhat unconvinced, hung up and went outside. The skunk was nowhere to be found. As she was about to turn and go back inside, all of a sudden a black and white streak suddenly emerged from the bushes and ran straight toward her. Throwing caution to the wind, she stooped down, quickly grabbed hold of the container, and pulled it off the skunk’s head. Suddenly Elizabeth found herself staring into two alert black eyes a mere two feet away. But it was free, no longer limited, released! She held the skunk’s gaze for a full 10 seconds before it turned, ran a few yards, then continued on, disappearing down a culvert.
Here’s what Elizabeth Sherold wrote later about that encounter: “A timeless parable played itself out, I thought. For this skunk was all those needs that I hesitate to get involved in. You know, involvement takes time. And I have deadlines to meet. I probably can’t do anything anyway. And somebody else with more expertise can probably handle it better. And besides, involvement can be ugly, and the stench may rub off on me. And all of those things, of course, may be true, but I’ve got a yellow pencil holder on my desk—a rather scratched and battered one—to remind me that every now and then God’s answer to a need is me.”
Without pressing the comparison of a skunk to anyone in your life or mine (!), “every now and then God’s answer to a need”, to helping someone else get, at least metaphorically, “straightened up”, loosened from their burden, made free again, is you and me!
Tuesday, August 20, 2013
Recently I was asked to facilitate a small regional group on spiritual formation
this semester for four students of the School of Deacons, Berkeley, CA.
The following are some thoughts in this regard.
+ + +
REFLECTIONS ON THE MINISTRY OF A DEACON
(Jeremiah 1:4-10; Psalm 84; 2nd Corinthians 4:1-6; Luke 22:24-28)
- “Go to everyone to whom I send you...”
- “Say whatever I command you...”
- “Do not be afraid...”
- “Do not lose heart...”
- “Renounce secret and shameful ways...”
- “Do not use deception...”
- “Do not distort the word of God...”
- “Set forth the truth plainly...”
- “Commend yourself to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God...”
- Do not preach yourself, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and yourself as a servant for Jesus’ sake...”
Though all of these characterize the call by God in Baptism, as well as the call to the oldest ordained sacred order, the last item mentioned above is key. One’s ministry as one who serves, as a deacon, even though for some it will be called “transitional”, will always be central to one’s Christian life and to the life of one ordained. Diakonia is essential in the thinking of both Jesus and the Apostles, as well as of the early Church Fathers and Mothers. The great martyr Ignatius of Antioch envisions the Bishop as representing the unity of one God for all people, and the presbyters as representing the council of the Apostles. In his Letter to the Trallians, Ignatius says: “Everyone must show the deacons respect. They represent Jesus Christ...” And, Ignatius adds, “You cannot have a church without [all of] these.”
The late Bishop Stewart Zabriskie published a profoundly thought-provoking book in 1995, entitled Total Ministry: Reclaiming the Ministry of All God’s People. In it he tells of a picture of a ship in his office bearing this inscription: “A ship is safe in a harbor, but that’s not what a ship is for.” The ship of the Church, if it’s to survive and prosper, must always be heading out for the high seas. Each of us “on board” , in the unique way God has called us, has a part in tending to and navigating the Church through the calm weather and peaceful waters, as well as through the threatening storms and squalls. God brings to fruition the gift given to a person, begun in the womb and in Baptism, in their call and ordination as a deacon. God invites that person to be a servant leader in the Church, bearing the “pole”, if you will, of God’s Word, compassion and love as she or he ministers to and helps guide all those committed to their, especially “the poor, the weak, the sick, and the lonely.” (Book of Common Prayer, The Ordination of a Deacon, The Examination, p. 543) God bids that person:
“Andiamo, Diaconessa/Diacono! Andiamo, Servo!”
Sunday, August 18, 2013
That’s not a message we particularly want to hear! We prefer the quiet, gentle, reassuring Jesus. Luke’s Gospel pictures Jesus and the disciples getting nearer to Jerusalem, the City of Peace where untruth, cruelty and violence -- even death -- will be unleashed on Jesus, as it was on the prophets before him. Jesus goes to the heart of his teaching, namely, the “reign of God”, the reign of truth and all that it implies. Jesus, the Living Word and Example, the Message of God in the flesh, challenges the disciples and each of us to choose whether or not we’ll generously align ourselves for or against the kingdom, the reign of truth.
Thursday, August 15, 2013
Tuesday, August 13, 2013
- fear of the dark; the need to have a light on
- fear of ghosts or monsters
- fear of loud noises
- fear of large animals
- fear that Dad or Mom will leave us
As young adults:
- fear of embarrassment or of being made fun of
- fear of standing out in a crowd
- fear of being rejected by a boyfriend or girl friend
- fear of the future, of what’s going to happen in college, or in a new job, etc.
- fear of being unsuccessful, of not accomplishing, of not meeting others’ standards
- fear of whether or not we can remain financially secure
- fear in raising children: that they’ll learn the right values, that they’ll be safe, that they’ll make good life-choices
- fear that our spouse no longer loves us
In advancing age:
- fear for one’s physical health, mental alertness, security
- fear of being a burden on the family
- fear of losing our close friends
- fear of dying
- to Jacob: “Do not be afraid...for I will make you a great nation.” (Genesis 46)
- Moses to Israel: “Let not your heart faint, do not fear...for the Lord your God is the One who goes with you.” (Deuteronomy 20)
- the angel Gabriel to Mary: “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.” (Luke 1)
- God’s messenger to Joseph: “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary for your wife...” (Matthew 1)
- Luke 12: “Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows.”
- Acts 27: “Do not be afraid, Paul...”
- Revelation 1: “Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living One.”
- in the Genesis 15 reading this week: “Fear not, Abram, I am your shield, I am your sure reward.”
- in Luke’s Gospel passage (12:32-40): “Do not be afraid, little flock...”
- in Genesis 15: “...the Lord reckoned it to him [Abram] as righteousness.”
- in Hebrews 11: “...God is not ashamed to be called their God: indeed, God has prepared a city for them.”
- in Luke 12: “...it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”
Sunday, August 4, 2013
Here is a story which I gleaned from the blog site of Fr. Rick McCracken-Bennett, rector of All Saints Episcopal Church in New Albany, OH:“There is an old story about two brothers who inherited the family farm. They also inherited the core value that, within the family, everyone must be treated with absolute equality. One brother was single and the other was married with three children. As the story goes, there were two houses on the farm, so each brother got one. There were two large barns and two smaller barns and each brother got one of each. The animals were divided equally and when there was an odd number they had a cookout in which they, of course, equally shared down to the last bratwurst. The land was divided equally as well, acre by acre, pasture by pasture.
1) “Friend, who set me to be a judge or arbitrator over you?” If Jesus, to whom God gave authority to judge, refuses to condemn the greedy brother of the man who approached him, what makes you and I think that we can condemn others, and even do so in Jesus’ name?
2) “Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.” There was a motto back in the 1980s which declared "Greed is good". Obviously, Jesus doesn’t “buy” that. Sara Dylan Breuer says that Luke “makes clear that Jesus' way privileges reconciliation over merely being right. And that's a very liberating way to live. When we're dead set on accumulation, whether it's some kind of moral points we think we're gathering or wealth to shield us from misfortune and suffering, we end up trapped in anxiety. Behind insisting that we're right, others are wrong, and God will vindicate those who are truly good, there's usually an anxiety that others are getting ahead of us. Behind our efforts to accumulate enough to handle any illness or disaster that comes our way, to live in a ‘good neighborhood’ where bad things supposedly don't happen, and to experience enough luxury to distract us from insecurity and fear, there's usually an awareness that we're kidding ourselves, that life involves vulnerability…”