It is all changing

As I was watching ABC Evening News, the final story was on the retirement of Keith Jackson – the 50+ year sports reporter with a very distinct voice and a “Woe Nellie.”
All those things that I grew up with and just kind of expected to be around are passing away. It is inevitable, I know, but the lose of those things is disconcerting. When I think about watching ‘The Wide World of Sports’ in the ’70’s, the Olympics, and especially football games, it is that voice – Keith’s voice – that I hear.
It is all changing.

Inward and Outward

Several months ago, if you remember, the Bruderhof Community ended their daily e-mail ‘meditation’ known as “The Daily Dig.” I loved their posts not only because they presented good stuff to think about, but also because they were simply, graphically wonderful. I love simplicity, subtlety, and understatement. There was a guy (Gentry) who wanted to encourage the Bruderhoff to resume their Daily Digs and started a web-mail campaign, but the Community ended all their Internet projects, including bringing down their extensive website. It was a shame.
Now, there is a new project that achieves about the same thing from ‘Church of our Saviour’ in Washington D.C. and their daily e-mail ‘meditation’ (if that is the right word to use?) known as “On the Way.” It could be good. We shall see. Regardless, here is today’s message, an excerpt from Bruce Willis from ‘Sojourners:’

People of the Way
by: Jim Wallis
The early Christians were known for the way they lived, not only for what they believed. For them, the two were completely intertwined. The earliest title given to them reflected the importance of their kingdom lifestyle. They were not called the people of “the experience” or the people of “right doctrine” or even the people of “the church.” Rather, they were the people of “the Way.”
It is equally significant that the Christians were known as “the people” of the Way. More than just individuals who had been converted, they were now a people, a new community of faith, which had embarked together on a new way of life. To follow Jesus meant to share Jesus’ life and to share it with others.


It is far too easy to claim that one’s (or a group’s) beliefs or calls for change are “Spirit-led,” especially when those beliefs are contrary to the long and traditional understanding of things. Anything we want to change, we now tend to claim the leading by the Spirit and a prophetic voice. Where is the proof?
Coming from a Pentecostal background, I have witnessed Spirit-led stuff that defies reason or logic. I have heard prophetic voices that I know did not know the situation or facts before the prophetic utterance.
Much of what is claimed to be “prophetic” within our Church is nothing more than voices calling for change. I think we need to be very careful when we use the word “prophetic,” and when we really mean change, say change. Lots of things need to change within our Church, but not all of the calls for change are “prophetic” or specifically “Spirit-led.”
The proof of the correctness of any change, I suspect, must come with time and with hindsight. Only if we are willing, that is, to admit or recognize that the previously called for changed, or the change itself if undertaken, may in fact not have been led by the Spirit and then we are willing to undo such change. Otherwise, we are not truly seeking the Spirit of God for the Truth of God, but only striving for change for the sake of change and the ascendancy of our particular viewpoint.

Loss of Community and Self

Here are the last few paragraphs from this week’s ‘My Turn’ essay from Newsweek, written by Carolyn V. Egan and entitled, “Sidewalks Can Make a Town a Neighborhood.”

“Parents have become slaves to their children’s schedules, terrified to let their offspring out of sight. New houses are huge, enclosing all of life. They’re connected by technological portals to the outside world, making an abstract of everything beyond their walls.
“We worry about the safety of our children if we let them loose to wander sidewalks, even while we hear more and more stories of predators on the highways and byways of the Internet. We have forgotten that we cannot protect our children by telling them to hop in and buckle up. Our children do not develop the instincts to discern and avoid danger from the back seat of an automobile. We deprive them of self-mastery by insulating them from very cold and very hot temperatures, from rain, from wind. They do not know who they are without a plan, without a ride. While we encourage dependence in our children by chauffeuring them everywhere, we also encourage in them habits of selfishness and parochialism.” [Interesting thought!] “Adult maturity is rooted in the unstructured roaming of childhood.
“Sidewalks are becoming nostalgic artifacts of a time before three- or four-car families. To me, their absence represents disturbing changes in the way we connect to one another – and the habits, values, and capacities we bequeath to our children…”

What are we trying to accomplish? What kind of people are we trying to form as we deal with our children? How many of our decisions concerning our children are based solely on fear?
I truly believe we do ourselves and our children no good by trying to remove from their lives all hardships, all inconveniences, all failures, all responsibilities, all things that might impinge upon their self-esteem, all the things that build character, sense of self, understanding of their true potential born of experience rather than psycho-babble, understanding of their limitations… We do them no good by making them, even unintentionally, as neurotic, self-absorbed, and over-burdened by planned-activities, as ourselves.
We do our children no good when we make excuses for our own laziness and apathy when we don’t get up on Sunday mornings for church and say things like, “I don’t take my children to church because I want them to have the freedom to choose their own religion.” I have experienced far too many new college students who arrive on campus with no ability to make good and rational judgments about what is a legitimate form of religious expression and devotion and what is not – they are prime targets of the cults. They’ve been taught nothing and do not know how to judge or discern – they have no foundation.
So, what is the answer to a world that is, in fact, dangerous? Part of the answer is rediscovering the very real experience of community, which also means the rediscovery that the ‘other’ is at least as equally important as the self. We are increasingly loosing our ability to understand the experiential necessity of living in tactile neighborhoods (communities) where the other adults and older children are engaged with one another and are looking after the younger children for their safety and formation. While this is a very loaded phrase, it really does take a village to raise a child, at least as well-adjusted child.

Fr. Jason

Well, I just got word that my former roommate and classmate at General Theological Seminary has begun blogging. Here is his blog:
Barefoot Priest
I have to tell ya, I am a bit surprised (in a good way) that he uses the term “father” rather than the more egalitarian “brother” (he just seems more the “brother” type to me???), and he is wearing a chasuble! A betrayal of your low-church leanings, Jason! 🙂 Unless, of course, I’m just clueless, which is more than possible.

It is what it is…

A heterosexual who is in a relationship with someone of the opposite-gender is a heterosexual
A heterosexual who is in a relationship with someone of the same-gender is a heterosexual who is acting against his/her orientation (nature?), but is still a heterosexual
A heterosexual who is celibate is one who is celibate, but still a heterosexual
A homosexual who is in a relationship with someone of the same-gender is a homosexual
A homosexual who is in a relationship with someone of the opposite-gender is a homosexual acting against his/her orientation (nature?), but is still a homosexual
A homosexual who is celibate is one who is celibate, but still a homosexual

Offensive (or not?)

The politic of “affirmation” and politically correct assertions that to offend is the paramount sin continue to march through the Church.
An article caught my attention from the Christian Science Monitor on the newly released “Gospel of Judas,” the early Gnostic writings determined to be heresy well over a millennia ago. I first saw reference to this article on Kendall Harmon’s weblog, Titusonenine.
The article mentions that many progressive Christians are taking this newly released gospel and using it to buttress their claim that “diversity” has always been a hallmark of Christianity. They are using the fact that there were various communities and theologies during the beginning centuries of Christian development to justify their own variant views of Christian belief and practice.
Now, I am the first to agree that we change and our understanding of God, the Gospel, and the way we live it out in the world change. I don’t believe this means that God changes! Likewise, as an Anglican I support the vigorous debate of different ideas, but there comes a point when one stops believing in much of the traditional and orthodox Christian tenants at which point one stops being a Christian, despite what one wants to call one’s self. To use the early controversies as a justification for the chaos in theology and practice that is present today is not right, since during those early days many of those variants of Christian belief and practice were declared to be heretical, especially the Gnostic forms of all this stuff.
“To think that noncanonical texts legitimizes diversity today ‘is to ignore the fact that that diversity was not accepted [in the early church],’ says Ronald Simkins, director of the Kripke Center for the Study of Religion & Society at Creighton University in Omaha, Neb. “It’s a naive use of history.'” Amen.
Then, there is the whole thing about being offensive!
“At the Episcopal Cathedral of St. Paul in Boston, the congregation has stripped Holy Week observances of traditional content that strikes members as offensive. On Palm Sunday last weekend, for instance, parishioners heard an adapted Passion narrative that removes biblical language seen as blaming Jews for Jesus’ crucifixion. And the hundreds who observe Good Friday won’t pray for those who haven’t yet received ‘the Gospel of Christ’ but for those untouched by ‘the grace of God’…”
The Gospel is patently offensive to this world, whether a conservative or a liberal world. There is no possible way to remove the offense without completely gutting the teachings of Jesus! It does none of us any favors by attempting to strip the Gospel of its offense and of its power, except that there are too many people who do not want to be held to account for who and what they really are – all of us! We have all sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
To attempt to strip the Gospel or the Bible of offensive things will end in having none of it remaining, because offense will be found by some in all of it! So, just stop. Deal with it as it is. Let it challenge us, enrage us, reform us, save us, transform us, convict us, enliven us, instruct us, and lead us into relationship with the God who desires that we be reconciled to Himself, to one another, and to His good creation! To do otherwise is to be so very paternalistic by believing that people can’t handle the Truth, which may cause them some sort of discomfort or amendment of life. How sad. How shortsighted. How immature. How untrusting.

“God or the Girl” & The “Call”

Holy Week is over and I am so tired, worn-out, bushed. It was wonderful, but I’m paying the price right now. Try staring at data on a computer screen all day – everything is in a fog and I keep loosing track of what I am doing.
Last night, I finally was able to watch a couple episodes of “God or the Girl” on A&E. The show follows four young guys as they work through discerning whether they are called by God to be Roman Catholic priests and celibate. I remember my fellow CPE’er, Noel, who was a Roman Catholic seminarian in Chicago and from the Philippines, when he would come up and say to me, “How’s live without a wife?” Joking with him, I told him that only Roman priests had such a problem – Anglican and Orthodox priests don’t. This TV program is well done and so poignant, at least for some of us.
I saw in the four participants the struggles I have experienced over the last six or seven years in my preparation for the priesthood. One guy, Steve, is so vulnerable as he struggles through the “giving-up” of so many personal things as he discerns his call. Here is his bio, “Steve Horvath, 25, shocked his friends and family back in Virginia by leaving his job as a high-paid consultant to become a campus missionary at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln. Now shaking off the comforts of the privileged life he once had (and could still return to at any time), Steve finds himself simultaneously drawn to and terrified of the level of sacrifice he must make in order to truly heed God’s call.” At 24, Steve was making eighty thousand dollars a year, etc.
In this particular episode, Steve relinquishes his hesitation and agrees to go to a mission in Guatemala to work for a short time with the poor – the real poor. His life is changed forever, and by the time he leaves he is in tears. I can see in him the process of giving up of self. It is so hard giving up all that could be in our lives for the incredible and tremendous privilege of serving the people of God, His creation, humanity.
My dean at Kent State wrote a letter of recommendation to General Theological Seminary as I was applying for admittance. He wrote something along the lines of “I believe Bob’s pursuit of the priesthood is a tremendous waste of his talent and ability, but he will do very well…” A bit blunt. I have a great deal of respect for my former boss, Dr. Terry Kuhn. I don’t know exactly what happened, but I do know that after the completion of his Ph.D. and during his first teaching position at a Roman Catholic college run by nuns, he was forever turned off to organized religion, although not to faith. He was truly a mentor of mine (and I use those words very sparingly).
There are so many different things I could have done. I was a very reluctant aspirant to Holy Orders. I started the discernment process really because a group of priests would not let me go, not because it was something I wanted to do. I am thankful, but the process has been so hard.
Lord willing, I will soon come to the end of all the preparation and will be ordained priest. It is then only the beginning. The dying to self and giving of oneself to God and His Church, to people, is the process of making oneself completely vulnerable to… what?… everything. The process of coming to the point where one willingly gives up one’s life for the work of God is arduous, but I can’t think of anything I would have rather done or anywhere I would rather be right now.
I thought a couple times this past week as I watched the people of St. Paul’s: how incredibly fortunate and privileged I am to be able to be with them, to serve them, to watch God work in their lives, and see them transformed into the very people of God. Having to work a full time job, especially as a data-analyst, in order to be able to be with these people is not what I want to do. In yesterday’s episode, as Steve was going to Guatemala he kept saying that he could go back to work, make lots of money, and give it away so that lots of other folks could go and do the hard work of caring for humanity. He was making excuses, hanging onto his previously prosperous life, in the midst of having that part of him ripped out, and facing his fears and anxieties. Steve could go back to his old life, but the place God has for him is probably not in the business world, but in the world of the Church. He has to give up self.
I don’t want to work a full-time job and then put in what is left of my time and energy for St. Paul’s, but this seems to be what God has for me now. The position at the Medical Trust is a good one, and I am thankful for God’s provision, but my most productive hours are spent not being about the cure and care of souls. I have to come to terms with the fact that this may well be, and is probably, what I am called to right now. I have to give up self.