Monday, October 7, 2013

Y Que Pasa con Halloween?


Tal pareciera que cada otoño, cerca de la fiesta de Todos los Santos, algun creyente bien intencionado comienza su campaña de advertir y disuadir a los padres que no permitan que sus hijos participen en las fiestas populares que marcan la noche antes de esta solemnidad; La Vispera de Todos los Santos conocida en ingles como Halloween. Es una fiesta diabolica! afirman algunos, tiene sus origenes en una  celebracion pagana, no glorifica a Dios, es el día de las brujas y el diablo! Estas advertencias sinceras, muchas veces infunden temor, de lo oculto, del mal, de ofender a Dios o incurrir en pecado si participamos! 

Aqui razones por las cuales yo no comparto dichas ideas:

Es cierto que las raices de Halloween provienen de un festival pre-cristiano. Los Celtas y otros pueblos antiguos de las Islas Britanicas marcaban el dia primero de Noviembre como el festival de Samhain. Era el comienzo del invierno, dia en el cual, ellos creian, que los espiritus de los muertos podian andar por nuestro mundo con impunidad. En esta noche se encendian fogatas, se usaban mascaras con la intencion de asustar, de  alejar a los espíritus y a todo mal. Al llegar el cristianismo a esas tierras, cambia el concepto de la muerte, a la luz de la resurrreccion de Jesus! Por esta razon, el temor que infunde Samhain, cesa entre los creyentes y pasa a ser una celebracion de recuerdo y honra a santos y fieles difuntos que estan en la presencia de Dios.

Si consideramos que muchas festividades cristianas ocurren en fechas  en las que, en la antiguedad, se celebraban fiestas y ritos paganos, las objeciones de que esto ocurre en Halloween pasa a ser un dato de menor importancia. Nuestra celebracion de la Encarnacion, la Navidad, en el mes de Diciembre, reemplaza la Saturnalia y festividad del Sol Invicto. El periodo de cuarenta dias en el cual observamos la Cuaresma fue anticipado por los dias de preparacion para la resurreccion del dios Tamuz. La Pascua, en ingles, Easter ,lleva en si el nombre de la Diosa de la primavera entre los Anglo- Sajones . 

Nuestros antepasados en la fe no retrocedieron al rozar su fe con la cultura que les rodeaba. Cristo, para ellos, era vencedor sobre todos los poderes de la oscuridad y del mal! Cristo, ellos proclamaron, es rey de todas las naciones y su adoracion y culto reemplaza cualquier otra celebracion.  Todos los dias pertencenen a Dios, ni uno se cede al diablo ni otra deidad! Por eso cada dia y cada estacion fue, para ellos, de manera muy natural otro motivo para adorar a Dios!

Claro que es possible que fiestas como el Halloween y otras se usen para propositos malevolos! Sin embargo, nuestra cultura popular lo celebra como una noche inocente, de fantasia, disfraces infantiles, golosinas y diversion. Ademas de esto, las festividades religiosas que conmemoran a todo el panteon de heroes de la Biblia y aquellos que han pasado a la eternidad  nos recuerdan la verdad que recitamos en el Credo; “…Creo en la communion de los Santos”. 

Cristo vence la muerte! Cristo es la luz que brilla en las tinieblas y las tinieblas no han podido apagarla! En esta noche y dia recordamos llenos de alegría y esperanza que Cristo visito y liberto a los espíritus cautivos, que vencio a los poderes de la oscuridad, que los hizo objeto de burla en la cruz! Cristo esta sobre todo espíritu , principado y postestad! No tenemos que temer a la oscuridad como temian los paganos! Aun en la noche festejamos que Cristo es vencedor! 

En medio de todo el misterio de vivir, lleno de retos y duras realidades que se evocan de manera mas palpable con los cambios del otoño e invierno, un poco de alegría nos sirve de medicina! Nos disfrazamos, no en temor sino en diversion, intercambiamos dulces y golosinas, permitimos que la fantasia y la risa encuentren lugar en nuestras vidas a veces demasiado cargadas por el trabajo, el estress y aun el legalismo de la religion!No dejamos de hablar de las buenas noticias con nuestros vecinos y amigos, enfatizando todo lo que es bueno, puro y digno de alabanza.  Educamos a nuestros niños en medio de sana diversion, dejandoles saber que son hijos de Dios, hijos de luz, llamados a caminar a la luz de Cristo sin temor alguno!

No, no cedemos Halloween al diablo, a las superticiones, al legalismo ni al temor religioso! A Dios pertenecen todos los dias y las noches y sea que celebremos en la Iglesia, en nuestras casas o salgamos con los niños al barrio en busca de golosinas, vamos proclamando el poder de la vida y la luz, sin temor!

“ En el amor no hay temor sino que el amor perfecto echa fuera el temor…”!

Bendiciones!

Seraph



Friday, September 13, 2013

What is Going On With The UTO?



Even as Episcopalians fill the little blue boxes with offerings designated to the work of the church, rumors and disturbing news about the fate of the United Thank Offering are dispersed all over the web.

Let us join in prayer for this vital ministry of Episcopal Women as the UTO and its leaders discern for a way forward. 


Follow the links for more information on this sad situation!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Ex Gay Apologies...





Yesterday, another ex-gay minister issued apologies for the heartbreak and deep emotional pain that , for years, he feels he caused members of the gay community by telling them a change in sexual orientation was possible.  He describes the disappointment felt by many of those he counseled, self-destructive behaviors,  guilt and to make it all worse the condemnation from some in the church!

Okay I get it! Sexual orientation is not something you can change like changing a channel! That this ever was a question is surprising! People like him and others, who gave testimony of life changes, prayed and counseled others, and who began ministries such as Exodus, should have been more cautious with their claims, more transparent with their own struggles. Yet, as he speaks of the harm that he and other ex-gay ministers have caused, I can not help but wonder at their sense of self importance!

In over twenty years of listening to, treating patients and praying with people as a friend, counselor, physician and priest of a progressive outlook, I have encountered perhaps a handful of people disappointed or hurt by  a sexual orientation which was not changed by prayer or counseling! These numbers pale in comparison with the many which I have cared for, suffering from the stigma of HIV, the emotional pain of  unfaithfulness in a relationship, STD’s, the ravages of AIDS, depression, substance abuse and a general disillusionment all too common with humans.  Even among the out and proud, I have friends, now approaching their fifties, who live their lives lonely after serial attempts at relationships and a host of one night stands which have not helped their longing for love, ex gay ministries notwithstanding!

“The problem is the way we treat each other”, are the words from a longtime friend.  Another speaks of the lack of commitment of the many men he has allowed into his life; “It is not worth trying anymore…”. On a reflective note a dear friend, single, professional, successful in many areas of his life, says of an aspect of the male gay culture, as he has experienced it ; “…You have to be young, good looking, have money and be hung”. That is fine and dandy except for when you are aging, overweight and struggling with the realities of being human, of illness or loss! 

The Cuban author Reynaldo Arenas, poet and outspoken critic of the Castro regime gives a powerful witness of his own life as a gay man in Cuba and the United States.  “Homosexuality is not monogamous” , he states in his famous memoir Before the Night Falls.  This was true in his particular experience, but it does seem to mirror the experience of others and what statistics show to be true , even in committed gay male couples. Perhaps, the saddest and most telling portion of the book is the account of a visit to a bathroom frequented by gay men in search of sex. Of the experience, then forty-sh Reynaldo writes; "No one gave me a second look, no one noticed me, I was no longer desirable, I was old...". That will work for some people just fine, but for many others...not so much!    

I am sure we all have friends who have balanced, wholesome, stable lives while gay: married, partnered, single and a few in a relationship with an opposite gender mate!  Their stories are inspiring and remind us that faith, love , commitment , joy and success are not exclusive to certain society approved heterosexual relationships. However we would be remiss not to tell the whole story! It is not the joy of being gay and out that drove many people to Exodus and like ministries! It was the pain, rejection, despair of life in the fast lane, their search for acceptance in a  culture which very often  favors youth, beauty and distraction! 
  
Perhaps, as Christians feel the need to repent or apologize, we should encourage others to do so as well! Maybe the owners of gay bars and bathhouses, not always therapeutic environments! Certainly the publishers and writers of gay magazines which seem to promote a careless attitude towards sex, no better than their heterosexual counterparts! Perhaps those, who rightly tell younger people that “it gets better”, should also apologize for not warning that it could get worse! Call me insensitive but, most of the suffering in the gay community does not seem to have been inflicted by ministries like Exodus, there is enough culpability to go around!  I have never seen a person die from too much prayer, Bible reading, fellowship with people of faith, but I have seen plenty of young men full of life, sicken, some die, from embracing the myth of a “gay life” devoid of consequences! 


Then again, maybe its about time we get off the whole apology bandwagon and be bolder about the love of God! Sexual orientation change not promised, but a life of fulness, faith and integrity not dictated or limited by  the labels of the day is part of the heritage and promise of our faith! After all, the Good Book does say that people, gay or straight, if united to Christ are a "new creation", something beyond the understandings and rigid rules of this world! 

Now is the time to more consistently teach our children, some of which may be gay, about the love of God, their inherent dignity as human persons, the value of their bodies! Perhaps we should do much more to teach and encourage young people to aspire to chastity, true friendships and long lasting love! Despite all the things Christians may do wrong these are things they surely can do right with the help of God! There is no need to apologize about that!

Blessings

Seraph


Monday, July 22, 2013

Martha, Martha, One Thing Is Needed…





Monday is here again, so soon, and I must admit to feeling quite tired.  I did take some time to loaf, but am more certain today that, a vestry meeting Saturday and three services on Sunday probably were not helpful to an overall restful weekend.  Then there was the gospel lesson!

"Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing". 
 No disrespect intended but, if that exchange would  have taken place on a Monday like today, I can envision her dropping the apron and saying with the sweetest smile ever; “…great, make your own dinner, I am in need of only one thing …and it is not this”. 

It is not that I disagree with the Lord about choosing the “better thing” , nor that too much busyness can spoil our perspective and rob us of the joy in service! It is just that, sometimes, there are many things that do need attention, few people to help tend them, and too many who seem intent on making the tasks just a bit harder.  Nothing like a busy Monday morning when you are already tired to bring these reflections to mind!

The gospel scene with one sister working and the other one sitting calmly and perhaps choosing not to notice the chores mirrors real life way too often. I have often asked the Lord about this, but keep running into the passage in the gospel where Jesus tells his disciples to ask the Lord of the harvest to send laborers into his field. Perhaps, my thoughts chime in, that would be a solution, if said laborers would come willing, docile and trained! 

In my experience, more hands do not make the work necessarily lighter…according to my mom, more hands can mean more mess! Sometimes the adage does hold true that, too many cooks in one pot spoil the brew, or perhaps the one where there are too many chiefs and not enough Indians! And then there is the case we read about Sunday, there were enough hands in that house all right; one Messiah, 12 disciples with assorted skills and a sister…not a one in the kitchen!  

Monday is in full bloom!!!! I have a schedule filled of people who come with concerns and physical ailments, several unanswered calls and emails, a music minister to hire, people drama at church, and a host of demands for my limited time and attention…never mind the requests for authorizations, records and assorted mountains of paperwork on my desk!.The chance of any of that disappearing if I just take time to sit, or that there is help forthcoming for the day is nil! 

On this busy day what part can I choose? Not every Mary has the luck of a Martha to enable her choices, even if grudgingly!  Today it is crystal clear that choosing the better part does not always seem to include laying down your apron, your computer or stethoscope, or choosing not to listen! And never ever does that happen on a Monday!

Well here it is; I am going to repent….yes already! Then, pray, smile, slowly and deliberately tend to my duties at hand and thank God for his presence in the midst of busyness and turmoil. I will do what I must and at the end of the day, the rest can just wait!   

Next Friday I must revisit my scheduling priorities, after all, I have it from good authority that ; “there is only one thing needed!  

Blessings

Seraph



Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Bishop Bloopers; Presiding Bishop in Curacao


Presiding bishop preaches in Curaçao, Diocese of Venezuela

The wisest man recorded in Scripture once spoke of the best of perfumes being spoiled by a single dead fly. It is that impression I get when reading this sermon preached in the Diocese of Venezuela by none other than the Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church.

This is part of the text from Acts 16:16-34:


"...With Paul and Silas, we came to Philippi in Macedonia, a Roman colony, and, as we were going to the place of prayer, we met a slave girl who had a spirit of divination. While she followed Paul and us, she would cry out, "These men are slaves of the Most High God, who proclaim to you a way of salvation." She kept doing this for many days. But Paul, very much annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, "I order you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her." And it came out that very hour. But when her owners saw that their hope of making money was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace before the authorities. When they had brought them before the magistrates, they said, "These men are disturbing our city; they are Jews and are advocating customs that are not lawful for us as Romans to adopt or observe." After they had given them a severe flogging, they threw them into prison and ordered the jailer to keep them securely..."
This is the proposed interpretation...
“But Paul is annoyed, perhaps for being put in his place, and he responds by depriving her of her gift of spiritual awareness.  Paul can’t abide something he won’t see as beautiful or holy, so he tries to destroy it.  It gets him thrown in prison.  That’s pretty much where he’s put himself by his own refusal to recognize that she, too, shares in God’s nature, just as much as he does – maybe more so!,”    
What was that?  I had to read this several times to come to terms with what was being communicated here! Is this one of those foot in mouth moments or something else?

We know very well that pastors, including bishops are certainly not infallible, specially in their homilies. However clergy certainly aught to be a bit more careful with their exegesis. This has got to be one of the most bizarre and objectionable interpretations of a Biblical text I have ever heard...! 

I admit that in reading the whole sermon, there are things which are well written, and  that ideas espoused in its text  speak to my sensibilities! However the treatment of this particular passage of Scripture, a classic story of oppression, deliverance, persecution and faith, is totally appalling!

For all the hoopla about how those who come to our churches not needing to leave our brains at the door...looks like some people actually did!  How can someone reading this passage seriously, call spirit channeling and demon possession, a gift of spiritual awareness, good, holy, and participation in God's nature?

With all the criticism we Episcopalians already get from other Christians for the progressive stances of  some in our family this is certainly unneeded attention! Maybe we need to take Scripture in its plain meaning a bit more seriously and demand our teachers explain themselves when they contort the Bible's meaning simply to make a point!

Blessings

Seraph

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Abortion is a Blessing...


It is hard to believe that clergy that claim to profess the Christian faith would hold views such as these! Here are excerpts from the infamous "Abortion is a blessing" speech by the Rev. Dr. Katharine Ragsdale, dean of  Episcopal Divinity school! Parts of it are quite painful to hear!

Christians have as a whole always valued and respected life from the earliest of times. Here is some of the witness from our history:
"...The second commandment of the Teaching: "Do not murder; do not commit adultery"; do not corrupt boys; do not fornicate; "do not steal"; do not practice magic; do not go in for sorcery; do not murder a child by abortion or kill a newborn infant..."  Didakhe , 1st century
 "...In our case, murder being once for all forbidden, we may not destroy even the foetus in the womb. To hinder a birth is merely a speedier man - killing; nor does it matter whether you take away a life that is born, or destroy one that is coming to the birth - Tertullian Apologia 9.6
 "...Sometimes, indeed, this lustful cruelty, or if you please, cruel lust, resorts to such extravagant methods as to use poisonous drugs to destroy the conceived seed by some means previous to birth, preferring that its offspring should rather perish than receive vitality; or if it was advancing to life within the womb, should be slain before it was born..."- St. Augustine, 
What is it about us Episcopalians who in the name of inclusiveness allow  voices like these to go largely unchallenged? We are responsible not only for the evil we commit but that which we excuse or allow, for the things we have done and left undone. Clearly the problem of unplanned or unwanted pregnancy in our  society is complex, but to call a procedure that  results in the end of an innocent life a blessing is unthinkable!  

A pregnancy termination may sometimes be necessary to save a life but , abortion, used as it is increasingly in our society, is most certainly no blessing at all! At a time in history where contraception is inexpensive and widely available, the killing of unborn humans as a method of birth control is an objectionable abomination, a crime against life!

Blessings

Seraph

Monday, February 18, 2013

Homosexual Relationships in the Life of the Church


Once again the question of the Episcopal Church's stance as it refers to same gender relationships comes to forefront with the announcement that, the clergy at the Washington National Cathedral, the nations most visible and prominent Episcopal parish, will allow the blessing of same gender unions.

In the ongoing discussion about the topic of homosexual persons in the church , the Episcopal Church has been in conversation and dialogue for a generation. These papers presented by a group of theologians to the College of Bishops attempts to put both the traditional and progressive perspectives in a theological framework.

A must read for those greater understanding about the diverging positions within our church  and Christendom about an issue that is certainly not going to go away!

Blessings

Seraph

CLICK ON THE LINK FOR PDF.
http://www.collegeforbishops.org/assets/1145/ss_document_final.pdf

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Cuban American Episcopal Priest to Deliver Inaugural Benediction.


The Rev. Dr. Luis Leon rector of St. John's Episcopal Church on Lafayette Square has been chosen to deliver the invocation at President Obama's inauguration. Dr. Leon was baptized as a child into the Episcopal Church in Cuba. He was sent by his parents to the United States in the 'Peter Pan" flights out of Cuba at the age of  twelve.

St. John's Church a historic parish in the diocese of Washington popularly known as the Church of the Presidents has been visited by president Obama and his family on several ocassions.  The Rev. Leoon also delivered the invocation at President Bush's second inaugural in 2005. 

He joins Richard Blanco, who will present the inaugural poem as the second Cuban American with a role in President Obama's inaugural ceremonies. 

Bueno ....los cubanos estan en todas...

Blessings

Seraph

Poet Richard Blanco, Poem, Betting on America, Bryant Park, 2012



Great poem Miss America and growing up Cuban...!