Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Rector's Rambling: March 2015

Tomato seedling in a Jiffy 7 Peat Pellet (TM)
As we enter Lent this year, Lancaster is in the grips of winter.  It snowed again today, and the temperature has been chilly even by my standards over the last few weeks.  But the tomato plants are up in the propagator, and I expect the peppers and cabbages to follow within the next couple of days.  While I won't order any chicks until May, the cages for the quail are in place and the barn is just about ready for spring.  I suppose all of this is to say that Winter, like Lent, is a mixed bag of experiences.  It certainly has (at least when properly observed) those chilling days when we recognize our own sin and are compelled to make difficult changes in our lives.  But it is also filled from beginning to end with the hope of new life and the anticipation of Easter joy. 

My prayer for all of us this Lent is that the Holy Ghost would convict us all and give us at least one or two sleepless nights and rather miserable days- days when we will not have to fast, because our sorrow over the things we need to change in our lives will render us unable to eat with any sense of satisfaction or enjoyment.  Most of us, indeed all of us from time to time continue doing what we have always done and never really thought about.  That doing hurts people around us and forms a callous on our souls that prevents us from seeing who God would have us to be.  I sincerely pray that our Lord would help us to see through our own inattention and self satisfaction in these next few days and so enable us to purge from our lives something that really needs to go.

detail from L'Estasi di Santa Teresa
Santa Maria della Vittoria, Rome
Gian Lorenzo Bernini
But I also pray for each of us that He would give us an experience of his love which will ravish us and steal our breath away as we rest in the arms of God and know the forgiveness of sin and the joys of having been accepted as a dear child of God.  Jesus offers this experience to all of us.  He will enable us to see the small sprouts of life and joy and peace and hope which are already all around us, and just waiting to be noticed.  As the Lord accomplishes our healing, the scales fall from our eyes and we see these promises of the full joys that shall be when Jesus comes to receive us as his own.  Like my new tomato plants which I can already see producing bushels of tomatoes, God has placed these little promises all around us. But often we get so busy, perhaps even with good things, that we fail to see them, and thereby miss the daily joys of knowing the promises of God.

In these days leading up to Easter, might we all be open to God's correction, and to His blessing- and as we enter Eastertide, might we all find ourselves transformed through the keeping of an holy Lent.  In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, forever one God.  Amen.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Rectors Report 2014

God has blessed us wonderfully this year, and I give thanks to him and express my appreciation to everyone who has volunteered to serve, or give, or pray in any capacity to make our parish viable and successful.  We have a beautiful building and a glorious liturgy, but the greatest treasure God has given us in this place is each other.

2014 has been a year characterized by gradual change and adjustment to the demographic realities of our situation here at St. John's. Our Average Sunday Attendance (ASA) of 84 represents a drop of 13 .5 from 2013.  This is accounted for in part by our decision to discontinue our nursing home services for the time being because the age and physical condition of our volunteers made the services very difficult to staff.  Those services had increased our ASA by about ten people per week over the last several years.  With this taken into consideration, our actual drop in parish attendance over the year was in the neighborhood of 3.5  to 4 per week.  We had 3 baptisms, 4 confirmations, 4 weddings, and 9 burials in 2014.  Many of us continue to grey, and we have said goodbye to several faithful friends in this past year.  But there are new faces, and children in our congregation as well.  Our financial numbers looked very good at the end of the year.  The faithfulness of our pledgers and donors, combined with solid rental income (the result of good management by our volunteers), the assistance of Fairfield Anglican Fellowship, and a strong stock market, allowed us to come in better than budget, and without significantly reducing the total amount of our holdings.  Surely we are blessed by God with faithful managers and many who love this parish.

St. John's has continued to be very active in our community over the past year.  We provide meeting space for Alcoholics Anonymous, 4-H, and the Girl Scouts, and participate in the FairHoPe Hospice Cookie Walk, The Lancaster Festival Art Walk, and Fairfield Historical Society Candlelight Tour of Churches.  Our ministry outreaches include a Community Warming Station for the homeless, regular Parish Health informational luncheons, Fairfield County Jail visitation, and assisting with the Community Dinner at St. Paul's in Logan.  We cooperate with other denominations in our town through the CROP Walk, the downtown warming stations, and our annual Thanksgiving Service and ingathering, not to mention regular donations to local food pantries and mission giving to numerous community and para-church ministries at home and around the world. 

Our Christian Education offerings, while not well attended, are substantial.  Our Wednesday and Sunday Morning classes have featured discussion starters from leading Church of England parishes, and from prominent preachers and teachers in our Communion.  While we did have several graduates in the Education For Ministry program in 2014, our numbers were insufficient to offer the program for 2015.  We hope to offer the program again in the not too distant future.  But the shining light of our education program this year was the restart of our Sunday School for children 2nd grade and younger, and the continuation of Pizza and God Talk for middle school youth.  Truly we are blessed with the laughter and joy of children.  We also support Young Life at Lancaster High School and encourage our Senior High Youth to be active in that fine ministry.  The ministry of our ushers and acolytes also involves  the young people of our parish in our common life.  Much of this ministry has been made possible by the willingness of our people to receive diocesan training in creating a safe place for our children and other parishioners.

The worship of God, which is our primary purpose at St. John's, is rich and full.  Our regular weekly services offer Eucharistic services from across the full spectrum of historic Anglicanism, and we are one of the few parishes in Ohio which offers weekly solemn choral evensong.  We were sad to see Deacon Don Eager leave us after Thanksgiving, but are excited to see the faithfulness of our choristers, guild members, lay readers, lectors, and ushers- and are thankful that we have parishioners enrolled in the Diocesan Worship Leader and Preaching courses.  And God willing and with the consent of our Bishop, we anticipate welcoming Nick England as our Deacon in mid 2015.  We are particularly blessed by our professional musicians, and have enjoyed their original hymns, anthems,  and service music compositions throughout the year. 

We meet all of our Diocesan responsibilities on time and in full, and work hard to implement our bishop's vision of a Church which brings people together and to God.  Our model continues to be one of  shared, or "Common Ministry", which acknowledges the realities of scarce resources and seeks to empower all the people of God to follow the ministries to which God calls them in his kingdom.  Our implementation is not perfect, but we are definitely moving in the right direction.  God has blessed us with strong and compassionate leadership and with a management methodology sometimes called "consensus model", which seeks to bring us together to act more as a family making decisions than as a board developing and implementing policy. 

God has blessed us in 2014, and I anticipate another year of opportunities to share the good news of Jesus in 2015, for surely God is in this place.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Rector's Rambling February 2015- Developing a Proper Attitude for Lent

The New Year has come in with a vengeance.  Cold, ice, and snow seem to be the norm.  I had hoped to get Oscar out for a few more duck and goose hunts, but the water has been far too cold for my furry friend.  Princess has been in her stall far more than she likes, and the chickens tend to stay on their roost most of the day, just a few inches from the brooder lamp I have installed for them.  We are in the grip of winter!

But inside, things have already begun to thaw.  Herbs and lettuces are sprouted in the seed propagation trays, and within a month will be ready for transplanting into the greenhouse.  By the time Lent begins, their places under the bright lights will have been taken by tomatoes and pepper plants.  Even in the depths of winter, the new life of spring, and the hope of Easter, are just around the corner.  The days get longer every week now, and before long the chirp of replacement chicks and ducklings will bring cheer to the barn.

Sometimes, events in the world around us can seem like a long winter with no end in sight, but yesterday I ran across a video which brought me great hope in the immediate wake of the tragic terrorist strikes in Paris.  Anglican TV interviewed a Christian Priest who has been working in Northern Iraq, and he had very encouraging things to say about what is happening in the broader world of evangelism and Christian understanding.  His approach was very refreshing in an era where so many people seem to adopt hardened positions and live their lives in fear, or dominated by a need to control everyone around them.  The entire interview can be found at, and I commend it to you.  I can't vouch for the absolute accuracy of everything which is said, but I can certainly appreciate the spirit of a ministry which shows respect for those who differ, which honestly seeks to evaluate and understand the complexity of the situation, and which holds to the received Christian teachings about the importance of evangelism and the unique work of Jesus in history. 

All of this brings me to the beginning of Lent.  Our disciplines for the season will begin with the imposition of ashes on Ash Wednesday, February 18th, at Noon and 7PM.  I would urge you to abstain at least from red meat, sweets, and alcohol on that day, and come to one of the services to offer yourself to God in a time of preparation.  On Sunday the 22nd we will pray the Great Litany in both services, and that day at 4 the St. John's Choir will offer Solemn Choral Evensong.  Services of Holy Communion throughout Lent will be Wednesdays at Noon and Sundays at 8 and 10:30.  Special Lenten Educational and Devotional Programs with simple meals provided will be held Each Sunday at 5PM.    I encourage everyone to consider abstaining from red meat, sweets, and alcohol on Wednesdays and Fridays during Lent.  Shorten or eliminate your lunch meal on those days and spend the time you gain in prayer for your own reformation and for needs in the world around you.  Take any money you save by your disciplines and give it to support some work of mercy done in the Name of Jesus Christ.  As we participate in these historic disciplines of the Church, God will meet us and draw us ever closer to himself, and he will work through us to transform the world in which we live.

May our Lord grant to us all a blessed Lent, and fill our hearts with joyous anticipation of a wondrous Easter.  In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Christmas Eve Sermon: Luke 2:1-20 The Shepherds

To be preached at St. John's on Christmas Eve, God willing.

I began my preparation for this year's Christmas Eve sermon as I begin the preparation for all sermons.  First comes a prayer for God's guidance, then a reading of the text, then some devotional reading from the Church Fathers on the text, and then the more difficult work of examining the text in its original.  A regular companion on this textual study has long been The Rev'd. Dr. Marvin R. Vincent, who was the Baldwin Professor of Sacred Literature at Union theological Seminary in New York from 1888 until his retirement.  I was intrigued by his comment on the Shepherds in verse 8 of today's Gospel Lesson from St. Luke chapter two.  "Luke's Gospel is the gospel of the poor and lowly.  This revelation to the shepherds acquires additional meaning as we remember that shepherds, as a class, were under the Rabbinic ban, because of their necessary isolation from religious ordinances, and their manner of life, which rendered strict legal observance wellnigh impossible." (Vincent's word Studies in the New Testament Volume I p. 269.)  This statement brought to mind something I had read just a few minutes before from the Venerable Bede's "Homilies on the Gospels 1.7"  "The shepherds did not keep silent about the hidden mysteries that they had come to know by divine influence.  They told whomever they could.  Spiritual shepherds in the church are appointed especially for this, that they may proclaim the mysteries of the Word of God and that they may show to their listeners that the marvels which they have learned in the Scriptures are to be marveled at." (Ancient Christian commentary on Scripture: New Testament III. p. 42.)  Then I began considering Dr. Vincent's regular citing of John Wycliffe's 1395 translation of the New Testament, which he says is noted for its literal rendering of the Latin Vulgate.  Wycliffe translates the angel's (or the "heuenli knyythod) message as "Y preche to you a greet ioye, that schal be to al puple. For a sauyoure is borun to dai to you, that is Crist the Lord, in the citee of Dauid."  And again  "Glorie be in the hiyeste thingis to God, and in erthe pees be to men of good wille." The translator here points out that the Heavenly Army is proclaiming peace to the world.  Already our categories are being turned on their heads.  But a closer examination of Wycliffe's translation is even more astounding.  Instead of our beloved "I bring you good news..." he translates "Y preche to you a greet ioye."  The phrase in Greek is "euangelidzomai humin karan megalain" and literally means "I evangelize to you a great joy."  Is it any wonder that at the end of the day the shepherds made known the saying concerning this child?  Having been evangelized themselves, they were compelled by what they had experienced to share the great joy with others.

Now explore with me the implications of this brief exegesis.  I would submit to you that we are not that different from the shepherds.  We believe in God and seek to serve our Lord faithfully, but like them, our lives seemed filled with realities which prevent us from serving God they way we might like to.  There are probably those who think that we could do a lot better in the spiritual department, and they might well be right.  But for reasons of his own, God dispatched his heavenly Army, his "heavenly knighthood" to bring us to the awareness that Jesus came to us in a way which changed everything, and which refuses to fit into our categories and expectations.  This is not a sentimental message delivered by Victorian angels taken from the cover of a Hallmark card, but a fearful, and yet peace bringing proclamation delivered by heaven's most fearsome warriors.  It says that Messiah is come among us, in a way that we can verify, and that God is glorified as our darkness turns to light and the peace of God is offered to all of us who will seek him in good will.  Surely this is great joy, the kind of joy that none of us can keep to ourselves.  It is the kind of joy that the English Evangelist Rico Tice says causes us to dance in the street and hug strangers.  It drives us to evangelize the world just as it drove those shepherds to tell everyone they met that Christ was come into the world!

At the beginning of this short exegesis, I read a selection from Bede's Homilies on the Gospels.   "The shepherds did not keep silent about the hidden mysteries that they had come to know by divine influence.  They told whomever they could.  Spiritual shepherds in the church are appointed especially for this, that they may proclaim the mysteries of the Word of God and that they may show to their listeners that the marvels which they have learned in the Scriptures are to be marveled at."  Let me take this a bit further now.  Not only are we like the shepherds in our degrees of separation from what we might wish to be, but we are all shepherds, or examples, or guides to someone in this world.  It might be a child, or a student, or a relative, or a friend, or a neighbor.  Whoever it is, someone is there to notice and hear all of us.  As shepherds, we are all called "to proclaim the mysteries of the Word of God..."  We are all called to "evangelize to you a great joy."  It is a good thing, and a Christian thing in this Christmas season to be kind, and to help the poor, and to comfort the afflicted.  But the greater vocation, the primary vocation which God gives to all of us is to share the good news of the coming of Jesus to be our example, and our Saviour, and our Lord.  I hope that all of us might be able to share that good news with the people to whom we are shepherds during this most holy season.  Might I suggest that when you get together with your friends and family between now and the Feast of the Epiphany, or "Auld Christmas" on January 6th, you suggest that as a group you read together the Gospel of Luke, chapter two, verses 1-20.  The sharing of this good news is true evangelism, and it is at the very heart of what God calls us to do.  It is as radical today as it was then, and it still brings peace into our troubled and notoriously busy lives.  It is the first enabling step of our acceptance and healing by God in Christ, and it has already started the transformation of our world.  In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

Monday, December 15, 2014

The Question of Art and the Healing of Society: Rector's Rambling- January 2015

December has been a very eclectic month at Briarwood.  In addition to the observance of Advent and the celebration of Christmas, I did a bit of reading in early modern Scottish philosophers and theologians, and have thoroughly enjoyed traditional Christmas events like the Lancaster Chorale Concert and BalletMet's "Nutcracker."  As I sit down to write the first Rector's Rambling of the new year, the ideas are beginning to coalesce into a discernible whole.
The BalletMet 2014 production of "Nutcracker" at the Ohio Theatre, and to a slightly lesser degree, the Lancaster Chorale concert at St. Mary's Church, were for me powerful and flowingly beautiful examples of what Homo Sapiens can become by God's grace as we strive by discipline, training, and perseverance to realize the potential God gives us.

Both events brought me to tears, and the ballet even brought my son, the former Marine, to tears.  Both events are almost like human dressage.  They portray us at our best, and call us to rise above those shortcomings which so often characterize our lives together.  But they tend to be reflections of the ideas and experiences of a small, highly educated, relatively prosperous group of people.  To the vast majority of my fellows, this is another world.  In times of alienation or social unrest, such events can become for many people icons of privilege and elitism.  They have in some revolutionary periods become targets of scorn and rejection.  One upshot of such social unrest and division has sometimes been a leveling of expectation and a degrading of all that is good and noble and true in the arts, and in our relations with each other. 

And so the question becomes, "How can we make the best, the most beautiful and most ennobling things in our culture, to be the property of all people?"  It is for me a serious question, because I believe that God is the ground of all being and is perfect beauty, and perfect harmony, and perfect function.  As a Christian, one of my duties is to attempt to create a society where individual lives, and relationships, and political realities are characterized by a fluidity of motion, by an economy of design and function, by a beauty based on justice and personal responsibility, and by true spiritual and institutional harmony which enables every man and woman to reach their full potential before God.

As a community, we here in Fairfield County and Central Ohio work hard to accomplish these goals.  The Lancaster Festival does a good job of bringing the arts to all of the people (especially children) in an affordable and accessible venue.  The Nutcracker provides scores of young dancers the opportunity to work on stage with accomplished professionals.  Our worship here at St. John's attempts to blend the best of the western musical tradition and sensory apprehension and apply our common experience to the glorification of the Triune God.
Worship at St. John's Lancaster
But as recent current events demonstrate, divisions of class and race and creed are still far too evident in our society.  We manage to "convert" an individual now and then to a deeper understanding of how our art can express our hopes and our experiences, and our faith in a loving heavenly Father.  We occasionally lead a person here or there to understand that true art allows us to express our common humanity at its best as we live together in a fallen world.  But the fine arts are still a distant and foreign thing to far too many people.  The celebrated and addictive brutality of popular film and of some athletic competition still drags far too many of us into the inhumanity which grows from power divorced from our Christian faith.  The sense of violence and alienation which dominates so much modern American literature and popular music has hardened many of us into beings who assume the worst, and arm ourselves to survive at the expense of our neighbors. 

It may seem like a small thing, but I hope in the year to come, all of us might resolve to take someone to a concert, or a gallery, or even to our Easter or Christmas services here at St. John's.  Many of the concerts in our community are free to students and seniors,  and most of us have the means to treat a friend to a concert and dinner.  Our worship services are always free of charge.  I cannot help but believe that the beauty of our lives and our architecture and our music, and of our souls, are all good things.  If we present them with humility and genuine friendship to neighbors made in God the Father's own image, they will come to yearn for his appearing, and will be drawn by the power of the Holy Spirit to join us in the proclamation that Jesus is Lord!  From that glorious and transforming phrase will necessarily flow the transformation of our society into the very image of heaven.
Flaxman's Shield of Achilles 1821 
The Western Artistic Ideal of a purposeful and Harmonious Community

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Comfort Ye My People: Sermon II Advent

Sermon on Isaiah 40:1-11, Advent 2B Revised Common Lectionary
To be preached at St. John’s on December 7th, God willing.

King Hezekiah had been very sick.  God intervened miraculously and healed him.  Shortly after he was restored, visitors came from a far away land.  They represented Merodach-baladan, the King of Babylon.  They brought gifts and letters of congratulations to the king of Judah.  The emissaries seemed to have good intent, and seemed to express a genuine joy at the King’s restored health.  In what might be called a “fit of generosity,” Hezekiah showed them all that he had.  The Prophet Isaiah saw the guise for exactly what it was.  These ambassadors were scouts for the raiding parties and invasion that were sure to follow.  God employed the Prophet to detail to King Hezekiah what was soon to come when the invaders came back in force.  At the heart of the message was the stark pronouncement, “Not a thing shall be left.”

Against this background of impending doom and desolation, God came again to the prophet in today’s first lesson from Isaiah 40.  Our proper today consists of the first few stanzas of a poem of consolation, one of the most beautiful in the literature of the Hebrews.  “Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, says your God.”  Against the stark realities of the darkness of life, Isaiah is commissioned by God to deliver a message of hope and deliverance to the people.  It is a message that they had heard before, but they had always seen it as a message from their history, from their distant past.  It concerns deliverance from captivity across a barren wilderness, and ultimate restoration to a promised land.  But it also points out the weakness and insufficiency of mere human wisdom and provision.  And ultimately, it invokes the image of the “good shepherd” to assure the people of God’s love and provision for them.  With the coming captivity in Babylon, what had been a distant memory of their tribal history became real-time experience.  When we face times of difficulty and hardship today, we join them, and people throughout history in experiencing firsthand this same message from God. So what does it all mean for us today on this second sunday of advent?  I offer a few suggestions.

The first stanza in verses one and two speaks of sin and atonement, and of the punishment which accompanies that atonement.  Hezekiah and the people had sinned against God.  Sometimes it had been blatant sin, like when idols were erected in the temple precincts, or the poor were dispossessed of their property in the great economic upheavals of the eighth century.  At other times, the sin consisted of the adoption of cultural values or popular political agendas which were inconsistent with God’s will, such as when a good king was killed because his sense of duty and commitment to friends caused him to put his trust in horses and soldiers and fight with the Egyptians when the prophet had told him to stand firm and place his trust in God.  And then there were those things such as Hezekiah had done in extending absolute hospitality, a Biblical and cultural imperative, to those who had determined to do him and his people ill.  His misinterpretation of the law of hospitality happened because he was perhaps a bit prideful, or as Isaiah 39:8 and the opening verses of chapter 38 would seem to indicate, that he thought first about himself instead of about the job that God had given him to do.  How often do we in our ignorance willfully misinterpret scripture in a way that  tries to justify our actions or allow us to continue in our character defects and sins?  Our sins, like those of Israel, are very real, whether they be based on a willful rejection of God’s word, on a thoughtless adoption of the cultural values around us, or on a more nuanced attempt to see ourselves justified because our situation is special, or different.  

This leads us to ask, why must sin be punished at all?  Couldn’t God just let a few little things pass?  So much of bad decisions and stupid mistakes are rather harmless after all, aren’t they?  Well, not really.  If a person bounces cheques, he should not be surprised when people stop extending him credit or accepting his cheques.  If a woman cheats on her husband, betraying his trust, breaking his heart, and exposing him to disease and social rejection or ridicule, she ought not to be surprised if he divorces her.  If someone drinks too much or drugs and is ineffective in the performance of his job, he shouldn’t blame his employer when he gets sacked.  If a man engages in risky behaviour sexually, or by being a glutton or a heavy smoker, he should not be surprised when he dies young of health issues.  Sin has consequences in this world.  It also has consequences in eternity.  If God is who we say he is, that is, he is holy and good and true, and the essence and origin of those things, then sin and darkness and imperfection cannot exist in his presence.  Imagine that all sin and shortcoming and pain and hurt are a deep darkness.  When the light comes into the darkness, the darkness ceases to be.  So when God comes into our lives, all of those bad things are put away as well.  The time of punishment has ended because we have received from the very hand of God that undeserved gift of atonement which restores us and makes us one with God again.  Our sin is put away as far as the east is from the west, and we are healed.  In this world, God gives us positional holiness and looks upon us as sinless, even though our lives are still characterized by struggles and occasional failures, and by the ongoing consequences of past sin.  But this positional holiness is a foreshadowing of that day when Christ returns and we shall be perfect even as he is perfect.  We have all received punishment for our sins in this life.  But our faith tells us that when Jesus comes again, we shall be completely free, and in the mean time, we see those evidences of coming freedom in our lives every day when we make good decisions and walk away from the destruction of addiction, and selfishness, and bad behaviour, and perverse attitudes.

Isaiah says a voice cries in the wilderness, “Prepare ye the way of the Lord! Make straight in the desert a highway for our God!” Like many of you, for years I drove the snakelike valley roads of southeastern Ohio, with their steep climbs and treacherous turns when the topography finally runs out.  And then the route 33 bypass was completed between Logan and Nelsonville.  Every valley was filled in, and the mountains were laid low.  What used to take over an hour now just takes a matter of minutes, and I can run 70 miles per hour all the way to my destination.  When the Jews were led out of Egypt, they wandered in the wilderness for forty years.  God would have shortened the time, but their faith failed at several critical junctures. He kept loving them, and ultimately he got them to where they were going.  Here is a promise to the people of God.  Whether you are held as a slave in Babylon, or in prescription medicine, or in lust, or in gluttony, or in pride, or in discouragement, or in any other land,  God is still in the delivering business, and he offers us the same deal he offered the Jews the first time.  “Walk with me and I will give you strength and take you to the promised land. I am coming to you again, to lead you out of the wilderness, this one of your own making, into the promised land.  All of your efforts to this point have been ineffective, I know that.  They wither like the grass and fade like a flower, but now I am with you, to make the way .  I come with power and victory, and joy- to gather you into my arms as a shepherd gathers his sheep, I will hold you to my breast and bring you rest.”   That is the hope of Advent and the story of Christmas.  

Have you taken the time in this busy season of preparation to honestly catalogue those bad habits and worse memories and ongoing sinful decisions which defeat you, and make you want to give up?  Have you actually made a list of the things which make you feel distant from God, or unclean, or less than whole?  The God who loves all of us, speaking through Isaiah in today’s first lesson, has promised that when we acknowledge these realities in our lives, he will deliver us in wonderful ways and restore us to spiritual health and purpose as we await the consummation of this age.  We cannot do it ourselves, but he will make for us a highway through the wilderness.  Where we cannot see a way, he will bring us restoration and peace.  Today in this Holy Communion, which is the emblem of his acceptance of us, bring him your list, and receive his healing, and know his peace.  Hear the voice of the joyful messenger, that our God is here!  In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.  

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Deer Season 2014

I lost interest in deer hunting years ago.  It is a sport which is slow even on a good day, and generally accompanied by bad weather and cold.  But, I still try to take at least a couple of days off during the season to pursue deer shooting as I do it.  I sit in relative luxury on the top back porch of our home at Briarwood.  Here I read books and articles with gun at the ready and hot beverages of my choice.  If things get too cold, I can step inside to warm up and do a few chores.  If something manages to stumble in under the apple tree to eat a bit, I have no aversion to putting it into the freezer, but my main purpose is an uninterrupted day away from the phone to read and think.
The view from my "Deer Stand." Note what a great bench rest the bar makes!
A hide fit for a king!
This morning's reading has consisted largely of  "How the Scots Invented the Modern World," by Arthur Herman.  It is a rather predictable romp through Scottish history which spends a lot of time on people like David Hume and Adam Smith, who I consider some of the greatest intellects and greatest wits of western culture.  Consider Smith's description of the University as a "sanctuary in which exploded systems and obsolete prejudices find shelter and protection, after they have been hunted out of every other corner of the world."  I guess things haven't changed all that much in the last two hundred and fifty years!.  I would love to be able to write in such vein. 

But I am restrained by a blog article I read last night from Bishop Dan Martins, the Episcopal Bishop of Springfield, Illinois, in which he points out that our position in the church, or arguably in any broader institution, ought to limit our grand philosophical generalizations because of the impact such statements have on the institutions we serve.  (You can read the entire article at .)  His argument makes absolute sense to me.  We are all part of a broader community of some sort.  When we choose to speak boldly or rashly, even if our motives are the best, we often find that there are unintended consequences to our exhibitions of individual free speech and claims of individual liberty.  I have seen the tragic consequences of such acts in my own faith tradition as many have been pushed out of their congregations by the loud political exhortations of leaders and conventions assembled.  It does not matter whether the opinions expressed are on the left or right, or in the center.  They set us against each other and damage our ability to live together in harmony and prosperity.

And so I guess I will have to wait until I no longer wear a collar or draw my income from a parish to write after the fashion of Hume, Smith, and others.  Perhaps one day that time will come, but until then, I just sit in my deer stand and think.