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August 1, 2017, 12:00 AM

If It's Not About Love, It's Not Abou God!

There is a saying that I have seen on Facebook a couple of different times lately, attributed to the Dalai Lama or with no attribution at all.  Regardless, it rings true: The issue we have to deal with today is that people were made to be loved and things were made to be used, but now things are loved and people are being used.  It is reminiscent of what Presiding Bishop Michael Curry has often said: If it’s not about love, it’s not about God!

With summer break over and all aspects of the church and society getting back into the routine of the academic year, all the increased activity can lead us to forget what all the activity is supposed to be about in the first place.  Too often the gospel is used for political or personal gain rather than for its inherent purpose: the proclamation of the good news of God in Christ Jesus; the love of God and neighbor as self.

The fall gets awfully busy.  Life piles on.  Regardless of what swirls around us, I hope the simplicity of the gospel message grounds us in love, because if it is not about that, it is not about God!

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July 1, 2017, 12:00 AM

No greater love does a person have than to lay down his life for his friends.

No greater love does a person have than to lay down his life for his friends (John 15:13).  Our freedom to worship as the Holy Spirit so guides, rather than the State, is one of the founding principles of this country (see the First Amendment to the US Constitution).  We should take advantage of all the recreational activities our freedom provides as we celebrate our nation’s independence on July 4, but we should not forget the sacrifices it took to allow us grill our burgers free from persecution.  As for me, on Sunday, July 30, from noon to 4:00 PM, I will be offering pastoral presence to any who may need it at the traveling Viet Nam war memorial, a smaller replica of the memorial in Washington, DC, that American Legion Post #24 is hosting at the Fairgrounds July 27-31.  I gave it some serious thought in college, but I have never served in the military.  Still, I think one can serve his or her country in other ways, even if not in uniform, if you take your citizenship seriously and participate in your own governance, or in this case, be willing to be present with those who served in Viet Nam (or any other military conflict, for that matter) or with the families whose loved ones made the ultimate sacrifice in service to our country.  If you are so inclined, pay your respects at the Viet Nam war memorial at the Fairgrounds sometime that week and be grateful for the freedoms we enjoy by others’ sacrifices.

June 1, 2017, 12:00 AM

150 Years of Episcopal Presence in Columbus

2017 marks the 150th anniversary of the Episcopal presence in Columbus twelve dedicated Episcopalians began meeting under the leadership of William Turner, a deacon who had come to live in Columbus.  It would be another nine years before St. Paul’s would be formally recognized and established as a parish, but St. Paul’s has been serving the needs of the congregation and the surrounding community ever since.

On June 29 (which happens to be a Thursday this year), we celebrate the Feast of St. Peter and St. Paul.  (They combined the two on the calendar a while back and Peter gets top billing in the gospel reading for that day, but Paul gets another shot on the day that marks his conversion on the road to Damascus, January 25.)  On this day, we pray (in part): “Almighty God, whose blessed apostles Peter and Paul glorified you by their martyrdom: Grant that your Church, instructed by their teaching and example, and knit together in unity by your Spirit, may ever stand firm upon the one foundation, which is Jesus Christ our Lord.”

June puts us in the throes of summer and the activity level at the church tends to wane for a couple of months, but this is a perfect time to take stock of witness of the namesake of our church and what Paul’s teaching and example has meant for these 150 years of presence in Columbus; even better, what Paul’s teaching and example, standing firm upon the foundation of Jesus Christ, can mean for the future of the Episcopal presence in Columbus.  I am not suggesting anyone seek martyrdom(!), but I am suggesting that if we value the presence we have had for lo these many decades and want to see St. Paul’s flourish for another century and a half (and longer), then we really need to take stock of Paul’s example of zeal for the gospel (and Peter’s, and the other apostles and disciples and saints, for that matter) and how we mirror that in the 21st century, standing firm upon the foundation of the faith while proclaiming our message of good news in a way that will resonate with the increasing number of people who have no concept of faith.  Gives whole new meaning into what we say is our mission as a church: To proclaim by word and example the good news of God in Christ.  Consider well: What example shall we be - now and for the next 150 years?

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May 1, 2017, 12:00 AM

From Good to Great

(Saw this on some Facebook post, so assuming it’s in the public realm.)

From good to great.  We have come through the all the whirlwind of Holy Week, culminating with the cross on Good Friday and are now in the throes of what is called the Great Fifty Days, the fifty days of the season of Easter, between Easter Sunday and the Day of Pentecost (the pente- part of the word).  The BC comic strip above pretty much sums up the way only comic strips can why the darkest day of our faith, that particular Friday, is called “good”.  Not too hard to understand why the fifty days that follow are called “great”.

It is one thing, though, to use an adjective and another thing altogether to actually give those adjectives and their attendant nouns meaning.  We do not do that just by reading (or writing) about them in a parish newsletter.  What gives them meaning is what we do to actually live them on their day, in their season, and in our lives.  So ask yourself how you move from good to great.  (As something of an aside, the implication here is that we start with what is already good and make it even better.)  If joining your fellow parishioners for worship once a month is good, wouldn’t it be great to worship together twice a month (or more)?  If feeling empathy for a friend is good, wouldn’t it be great to actually minister to that person in a pastoral way (say, through the agape ministry)?  If bringing food to church to fill the shelves at Love Chapel is good, how great would it be to actually serve on the Outreach Commission or volunteer at Love Chapel?

Anyway, you get the point.  As we come through the dark days of Holy Week and move through these wonderfully celebratory days of the Easter season, don’t just make them good.  Make them great!

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April 1, 2017, 12:00 AM

Aslan Is Not a Tame Lion

Aslan is not a tame lion.  In C.S. Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, the children were concerned whether the lion (the Jesus figure), being a lion, was safe to be around.  “Safe?” said Mr. Beaver; “don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you?  Who said anything about safe?  ‘Course he isn’t safe.  But he’s good.  He’s the King, I tell you.”

Sometimes when I am in the wilderness, I am reminded of how vulnerable I am - dangerous and exhilarating at the same time; a good way to shatter my delusions of being in control.  God is eminently approachable, but is utterly Other at the same time - beyond control.  When was the last time you had that exhilarating experience of realizing how dangerous it is to be in God’s presence?  Ancient Israel certainly knew that risk.  Moses had to hide in the cleft of the rock as God passed by in order to not be struck dead.  When it came time for God to be more directive in the face of Israel’s hard-heartedness, no one wanted to approach God.  Send Moses! they said.  No, we like to domesticate our God (as it has been termed), make God safe to be around so we can be in control, not have to risk dying to that of parts of us that try to keep God housebroken so our faith does not make any demands on us to love as God loves us.

In a 2012 article in Christianity Today, Harry L. Kraus, Jr. said, “What we're doing, unconsciously to a large part, is to bring down what is huge, wild, and untamable and repackage him so that we can function.  And in the process, I've domesticated the Almighty.  Tamed him.  Advised him.  Put him in a box.  Fenced him into a safe pasture.  Expected him to function like a divine vending machine.  I like that because I get to be in control.  Not one of us on this side of heaven will ever really understand Christ in all his glory.  But every one of us can make an effort to remove a few of the filters that have dimmed the true light and replaced it with something else altogether.”  Jim Fikkert, on his Pastor’s Blog, put it this way: “We don’t want to have to rely on God.  We would rather do it our own way OR create a system that convinces us that we are doing it His way (while we still actually do it our own way).  What either of these solutions does is simplifies God down into a diluted form of His actual self.  It makes God digestible, but to do that, it makes Him predictable and simplistic.  It creates for us a housebroken God.”

A domesticated, housebroken god (yes, lowercase “g”), safe to be around.  That is not the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; not the Father of our Lord, Jesus Christ, who could sweep life from the face of the earth with a sweep the divine Hand…or love stronger than death.  ‘Course God isn’t safe.  But God, the King, is good.  In April (this year, anyway), we come through Holy Week, the most agonizing, most holy several days of our church year - the Last Supper’s novum mandatum (new commandment to love), the brutal agony of the crucifixion’s unjust execution, the emptiness of the tomb…to resurrection.  Nothing domesticated or housebroken about that - unless the Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday and Easter services are just a way to practice a feel-good piety or worse, given no consideration at all.

This Easter season, how about having the courage to hang out with an untamed lion, to risk allowing yourself to get caught up in the power of love strong enough to overcome death?  It makes us vulnerable which is a dangerous position to be in, but then Aslan is certainly not a tame lion and ours is not a domesticated or housebroken God!

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