Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Will we be trim and youthful in heaven?

One day, my in-laws saw my family portrait, circa 1987. “Who’s the priest in the picture?” I was taken aback. 25 years and 40 pounds earlier, it was me. Hmm. Somehow, I didn’t remember changing all that much. I still feel like the young, thin man in that photo – but apparently, don’t look anything like him anymore. Funny, the passing of time is often seen as our great enemy. We rail against it, trying with all our might to hang onto our youth. We spend billions of dollars every year in the pursuit of an appearance that will contradict the birth dates on our driver’s licenses.  Aging brings us closer to the end of this life that we love so much, and so we can often convince ourselves that it isn’t happening. Simply put, we love it here and we don’t want to leave. Will we be trim and youthful in heaven? My guess is that at that point, I’ll stop worrying about it since time will no longer be seen as the enemy. Time is a material, not spiritual reality. We cannot comprehend fully what our rebirth into the full spiritual reality will mean – all I know is that I won’t need a mirror to find my joy!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Addictive Anger

“The Politics of Anger” was a cover story of TIME magazine in the mid-90s. I was completing doctoral studies in Washington DC at the time and the phrase rang true. In the hyper political atmosphere of our nation’s capital “the politics of anger” was palpable.

Regrettably, anger can be addictive. Righteous anger, anger about something important, something moral, can be especially so.  

The energy that anger produces in us is exciting. We can grow dependent on that feeling. Aiming and launching a well placed zinger comes to feel very good – much better than the painful, halting process of dialogue. “YES!” we say to ourselves when we level a direct hit, a bull’s eye, a victory over the “enemy.”

We too easily forget that our brothers and sisters are not our enemies. We do not grow from warfare. Warfare, whether in political society or in the Church, uses the energy we need for better things. If instead we channel that energy into prayerful, honest seeking for answers to the dilemmas we face, we will find that God guide us through the discomfort to the judgments and decisions we must make. Fighting it out will not illumine hearts. Let’s be clear: we will not find the truth of God through fighting. Nobody ever has.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Family and change

People at the end of the 19th century felt very much the way we do about family. At the turn of the 20th century, many people of faith were convinced that the family was going to “hell in a handbasket.” (Sound familiar?) Their particular concern was the growing prevalence of divorce. At the time, there was a movement within the Episcopal Church to prohibit divorce by a constitutional amendment – very much like those who advocated the Temperance movement. The “tea-totalers” were more successful in their efforts – but then we see how that all turned out. What’s the lesson here? Over a 100 years ago, a significant number of people of faith thought that society was literally coming to an end – but we know that it didn’t. We are still here. The human family, if nothing else, is tough and resilient. It’s not going to die. It’s just going to change. Family, as we understand it, is at its root a human institution, divinely ordered as we may find it. But it, too will change, as we change our understanding of what it means to be human. And one thing we know for sure – change itself is part of what that means!

Friday, April 5, 2013

Telling the story

Despots and dictators for millennia have known that the fastest way to destroy a people is to destroy its memory. Stamp out memory, language, tradition and resistance to the tyrant’s rule will die out in a generation (or two, at most). One lesson of the history of God’s people is that it is in the telling and retelling of the great story that adherence to God’s fidelity cannot be destroyed. For that reason, we cannot and must not ever be ashamed of “telling out the Good News” regardless of what the dominant culture says about the story we tell. I think the same holds true about our denominational identity. At its root, it is a story about God’s relationship to his people – but a denominational story tells about that relationship from a specific perspective- a perspective that rings true with many brothers and sisters in the human family. An honest analysis of the scriptures and of faith history reveals that there has never been only one way of telling the story of our immense God. The story of the Anglican way has value for the world in which we live. We cannot and must not ever be ashamed of telling that story.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Moving on

Contemporary western culture turns on a basic fact: the experience of the individual is to be the deciding factor in the conduct of our affairs and in our process of determining what is true. Individuals in the west are today portable and self-contained: we don’t normally live in the same place all our lives, or do so the same thing. This runs counter to the experience of ancestors in faith even as recently as two generations ago. There are many people who bewail this. But, we cannot become first-century people, or tenth-century people, or even people from the 1950s. Our history has happened and is happening. We never move backward in time – only forward. So what we need to do is this: Not opt out of history (since we really can’t) but find ways in our own time in which we encounter the sacred and speak that to our world. It isn’t our job to keep an old way of life from drifting into memory. It IS our task to undertake the awesome charge to transform our lives and the world around us according to the message of the Gospel as we receive it. We are not museum keepers – we are disciples.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

God can still lead us

We Christians can seem an unruly lot: big, unwieldy institutions that seem wracked with dissension and internal strife. But in all God can still lead us. It was that way with the Israelites as they made their way to Canaan. Divisions between leaders and factions, prophets and kings that lost their way – God has seen it all in us before. But one thing remained constant: his great faithfulness and love for his people. All we need to remember in what seem to be dark times is that God can lead us. Just as God leads the individual, giving courage to endure things she thought she could never endure, God can so that with the Church-and with the world. We can endure our disagreements; we can live through them in a way that sanctifies the pain they cause us. We should never think that we’ve been deserted by God because its hard to get along with one another. Or that this always means that we’re being unfaithful. Life together is hard. But that doesn’t mean God is not with us. That’s the promise of Emmanuel – God is with us – and the resurrection – he is with us forever!