Tuesday, December 28, 2010

GODS GOODNESS UPON ALL OUR LIVES

A beautiful meditation by a Jose Bosque, a remarkable young man...discerning the voice and call of God....enjoy!

I have centered my thoughts on you LORD. May your infinite knowledge guide my feet. May they not falter. May you be my steady footing. May all your ways go before my own.

May you find me a strong and fitting friend. May I find you to be my hearts true Desire. May the thoughts of the enemy fall away from mind and yours fill it with your GLORY. May I be found favorable in your court. May my contemplation be received well in your chamber.

May you guide my every step. May my every step be not my own, but yours Lord. May your will be fulfilled and not my own. May I own my actions. May I suffer the repercussions of those actions Ohh Lord. May your punishment make me a forerunner for you Ohh GOD. JEHOVA JIRA MY PROVIDER. THE GOD WHO CREATED THE HEAVENS AND THE EARTH.

May you train my mind to think as your own GOD. May you show me the error of my ways. May the error of my ways show me how to Listen to your voice. May your voice guide us all. May your guidance show me how to live. May I live for you. May my life be a beacon for your name.

May your name guide me to the greatness that is your GLORY. May your GLORY BE MY LIGHT. May your light be my path. May your path be the way. FOR TRULY YOU ARE THE WAY THE TRUTH AND LIGHT.

May I make you smile for eternity. May eternity bring your GRACE TO MY LIFE!!!

THE LORD IS GOOD. I SHALL NOT WANT. HE WILL FULLFILL MY NEEDS. MY NEEDS ARE NOTHING. MY NOTHINGNESS IS GREAT TO THE ONE AND ONLY TRUE GOD.

WRITTEN BY: JOSE BOSQUE

Many blessings

Seraph

Customs, Camels and Gnats












While helping my son and his bride to be find a venue for their upcoming wedding, I ran across an interesting complication, that although expected, confirmed a longstanding suspicion I have held; Episcopalians are, among Christians, a most curious breed!

Yes, it is true! Many Episcopal clergy will not allow weddings during Lent, and as I inquire of several, am politely reminded that this prohibition is;
“…a long standing custom in the Catholic, Orthodox and Episcopal Churches…”
Now, I respect both custom and tradition, but can not supress a gentle smile! Lent is a season where we prepare in fasting and prayer for the contemplation of the death and resurrection of our Lord, yet we all know Christ is not dying again at all. It is not a penitential season in the heavenlies even if we exclude Alleluias from our liturgy!

Even in Lent other sacraments are celebrated; Sundays are feasts of the Lord; the Eucharist, reconciliation and holy unction are always in vogue. Furthermore, I have seldom seen a priest not celebrate a special anniversary, occasion or birthday nor forgo that special trip regardless of the liturgical calendar.

Despite custom and millenary tradition held in the Catholic and Orthodox churches, we Episcopalians rightly admit women to all orders of ministry, have the first woman to be a Primate in Anglicanism as our presiding bishop, have consented to the consecration of non celibate gay and lesbian persons to the episcopate, commune children before confirmation, are known to bless same sex unions in some places and have questioned what other Christians hold dear. Many of us are proud of our broad inclusive church and our approach to dealing with difficult social issues; holding opposites in tension and pastoral accommodation are part of our tradition!

How funny is it then that we should in deference to “custom” have qualms about weddings during Lent? Really now? Should we serve sauce with that camel while a few gnats are strained for dessert?

No disrespect intended for my family of faith, just saying! It’s hard to take that too seriously in the 21st century’s Episcopal Church. We appeal to custom and tradition even as we merrily and busily overlook both in many areas of our common life… thanks be to God with no Alleluias, please!!!

In the end I trust all will work out! I have a good feeling and Episcopalians are sensible, discerning people by and large. We are, with the help of God, reaching a solution which respects both custom and necessity. I would like my son to be married as a proper Episcopalian; from the BCP, tastefully, in church...! It is hard to argue that this is not a wonderful and most sensible custom!

No camel dishes will be served during the reception to be sure, after all, it will be in Lent!

Blessings


Seraph

Do You Hear What I Hear....?













Do you hear what I hear? Our gospel text from St. Luke’s account of the Nativity lets some of the protagonists of this story speak to us even today. Can you hear their voices on this Christmas Eve?

The voice of an emperor:

Cesar Augustus issues a decree that the entire world should be taxed, and the writer of our gospel account has the whole of Judea on the move to be registered in the city of their family’s origin. Surely the motives of the emperor had nothing to do with neither religion nor the fulfillment of ancient prophecies but his will set into motion events beyond his knowledge and reach. We find parallels to this in Scripture and the history of people of faith. Despite the hardened heart of Pharaoh, the pride of Nebuchadnezzar, the greed of Herod, even the cynicism of Pontius Pilate the purposes of God have been at work. Imposing as the voices of these and other earthly rulers must have seemed to their subjects, they could not drown the proclamations of the prophetic voices nor the coming of the kingdom of God. It is indeed true as St. Paul writes in his letter to the Romans;

“For I am sure that neither… rulers…nor powers, … will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. "

There is more than one agenda for our lives and our world! There is one that is set by the very love of God which moves inexorably forward and is heard above the voice of men. Governments, rulers, politicians will say and do what they will, but beyond their plans and agendas the will of God unfolds in ways unforeseen. Cesar called for a tax….God called for his son to be born in the city of David!

The voice of the pilgrims

It is hard to imagine the scene at Bethlehem as anything but hectic on the day and night which the gospel describes. Travelers to and fro, noisy family reunions, children playing and crying, a flurry of activity at the markets and the inns full of guests. And, unnoticed among the many that had come to the town that day were a carpenter and his very pregnant wife Mary.

The Hispanic tradition of Posadas recounts that journey for nine consecutive nights before Christmas Eve. Joseph and Mary knock at the doors of many in Bethlehem but find no shelter even as the night approaches. Is there no room at a relative’s house or a nearby inn? Their voices bring us a reminder of many in our city and society for whom there seems to be no place. The poor, the homeless, the infirm, the mentally ill, the immigrant, the different, sometimes find their knocks at the door of opportunity, education, family and even religion unwilling to open. These are voices which can be easily drowned out by those of shoppers and carolers, greeters and preachers, politicians and actors.

Could it be that there are voices we do not want to hear during this season? Our gospel story does not allow us to do so, reminding us to listen, to take notice of those who call in their need, retelling the story that, once upon a time, the king of heaven’s very mother was left no place to go for shelter but to a stable

The voice of the Angels

Even as the night settles, Mary and Joseph find much needed refuge and a child is born, celestial voices call for all to hear! To shepherds guarding their flocks, to the poor, the simple, to you, me and to the whole world the angel voices bring tidings of joy! Today in the city of David is born a Savior which is Christ the Lord! Glory to God in the highest and peace on earth! It is a call to worship, to sing, to adore! The light of the heavens, the life of the world….has been born.

The book of Hebrews has a beautiful passage which has been applied to the birth of Christ, how God as he introduced his Firstborn to the world said; “adore him all you angels of God…” It is into that heavenly worship that we are invited by the voices of the angels even as it must have been on that night in Bethlehem.

Do we hear?...

Blessings


Seraph

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Welcome or …well, come …?















Within the last few months the Episcopal Church’s outreach to Hispanics has become more than subliminal. A new ad featuring a Latino family was broadcast in Time Square with the now iconic words….The Episcopal Church Welcomes you…in Spanish. As a Latino Episcopalian I could not have been happier, yet, I must also acknowledge a bit of frustration at times with our church of diversity and welcome for all….

Two episodes in the last couple of months, which are not at all isolated instances, bring to attention a question which Episcopalians need to answer with clarity; Do the letters in our signs spell what we truly mean? Is it a hearty welcome or the half hearted call for people to… well, come…we need more people in the pews kind of thing?

The first of these was, of all places, at a denominational conference for Latino ministers and lay people in the Episcopal Church. I will say that the organizers are people I admire, beloved people with a great sense of mission; they put a lot of effort into the conference, which was well attended and organized. The music and liturgies were reflective of the diverse cultures of Latino Episcopalians.

It is also true that, as the conference unfolded I caught myself wondering if the conference was for Latinos or vaguely about them. Though there were plenty of Latino clergy and strong lay people on hand, only at the opening service were any featured in key roles.

A healing service held the second day of the conference was led by a very spiritual, well intentioned, Spanish speaking Anglo clergywoman…the healing prayers were read from a screen or a little piece of paper in the prayer minister’s hands. Mayhem nearly ensued when one of the prayers ministers was “slain in the Spirit”. Looking around the room, at Latino clergy, for whom these kinds of services are often second nature, I began to wonder about the wisdom of the choice. As the week unfolded, it appeared that, most of the Latinos who were featured in the sessions I attended, spoke better English than Spanish, and; to end on a salsa note, the closing Eucharist was led by two young, very nice, articulate Anglo clergywomen who spoke Spanish almost as fluent as the native speakers which filled the room. The sermon was in English with Spanish translation available.

I could not help asking myself uncomfortable questions even as I enjoyed time with colleagues, new and old friends; Is this just an oversight? Are these really the Latinos in the Episcopal Church? Are the more visible ones those that non- Latino Episcopalians are comfortable with? Is there a bit of sanitizing of our image? Are we indulging on a bit of wishful thinking about how we think we could or should be? Predictably, these and similar questions were echoed by others attending the meeting and its sessions

The second moment was at an annual event held in our city. For the last couple of years our parish has been invited to participate in a Las Posadas service at our cathedral. This year, despite the good efforts of many it was not as well organized, but beyond that it felt rather odd! Just imagine, Latino Episcopalians invited to a traditional Hispanic devotion, where; the “Mexican” food was delicious but hardly authentic, the event itself devoid of any element which could remotely be associated with either the original festival, Latino spirituality or the immigrant experience…. Huh?

Imagine inviting an Anglo family for a traditional American Thanksgiving and then serving them Chinese food, or black beans and rice with guacamole or chimichurri sauce and no pumpkin pie; Delicious to be sure, good intentions maybe but open to a diverse array of interpretations and questions.

What is our message then? ….Welcome… or well, come… to our stuff? These do not have equivalent meanings despite having all the same letters!!! Welcome and inclusion mean a lot more than just asking or allowing people to be present in our events or churches. It also means allowing them the space and room to be and to speak from their own culture and context!

Latino Episcopalians have their own voices!!! Sometimes they will sound a bit loud, may have unfamiliar and heavy accents, liturgies may run a little longer, with more spontaneity or chaos depending on your perspective! Healing services in Latino parishes are seldom neatly scripted or predictable…nor do they feature read prayers…ever! Advent services are joyful, full of devotion and song, spontaneous, seem less orderly at times, but are seldom haphazard.

Someone encountering Latino Episcopalians for the first time would not have learned these things from either of the events I experienced! Sorry to break the mood, with no offense intended ….that just will not do! The perception that we would be relegated to being silent guests at a function, will never work for Latinos, no matter what the words in our signs seem to spell or how nice the commercial ads look! There is much we feel we have to contribute to the conversation, life and spirituality of the Episcopal Church.

We Episcopalians have to be clear about what we want and about what we mean!! If what we want and need are people to populate our conferences, come to our services and be at our things we are doing a good job of conveying that message! If what we want to convey is welcome and inclusion, methinks we have a lot of work to do….

Blessings

Seraph

Friday, December 3, 2010

Otra Mirada a Josue














Hace poco un clerigo hispano de la Iglesia Episcopal, refiriendose al libro de Josue en el Antiguo Testamento de las Escrituras, entre otros, hace el siguiente comentario;
”...Hay que reconocer que el libro de Josué no es muy llamativo para leer y menos aún para intentar encontrar en él un buen mensaje...”
Despues de considerar sus palabras y darle el debido credito por su erudita explicación del genesis de dicho libro, pense en las muchas veces que he leido y encontrado inspiracion en sus paginas. Aqui solo unos pocos episodios en Josue que han sido interesantes e inspiradores a mi y otros en la comunidad hispana Episcopal donde sirvo.

El llamado a Josue

“…Ya te lo he ordenado: ¡Sé fuerte y valiente! ¡No tengas miedo ni te desanimes! Porque el SEÑOR tu Dios te acompañará dondequiera que vayas…” . Josue 1:9

Estas palabras de Dios a Josue justo al comienzo de su labor, despues de la muerte de Moises han sido para inmumerables creyentes fuente de fortaleza e inspiración al enfrentarse a duras tareas y retos en sus vidas. La fuente de valor y de animo para Josue lo era la presencia de Dios mismo que le promete su compañia dondequiera que fuere. Dios estuvo con Moises prometio su presencia a Josue, y nos incluye a cada uno de nostros. Eco de esta promesa los son las palabras de Jesus a los suyos, Id, yo estare con ustedes todos los dias hasta el fin.

Rahab la Prostituta

Vaya una historia interesante llena de intriga y colorido. Nos presentan a una mujer, no del pueblo Israelita pero si sensitiva al poder del Dios que ellos servian. “….Yo se que el Dios de ustedes es Dios de dioses en el cielo y en la tierra”. Una mujer de morales dudosas pero que demuestra respeto a Dios, amor por su familia y valor para hacer lo que cree justo. Es esta Rahab que se menciona como una de las mujeres en la linea de antepasados del mismo Jesucristo y a ella la menciona el autor de Hebreos como un ejemplo de fe. Ilustra ademas que el ser humano no es definido solo por su pasado y sus condiciones.

Las Piedras del Jordan

El arca del pacto cargada por los sacerdotes detiene las aguas del rio Jordan similar al cruce del pueblo a travez del mar rojo. Doce piedras tomadas del rio por orden de Dios servirian como monumentos para que el pueblo recordara la grandiose obra de Dios a su favor. Cuantas veces ha hecho el pueblo de Dios cosas similares para recordar un evento o una respuesta a la oracion? La cruz, vitrales, velas, iconos, capillas memoriales, quizas todas estas tambien son una ayuda a recordar algo de lo que Dios ha hecho como sucede en este interesante recuento.

El Comandante del Ejercito del Señor

“…Es usted de los nuestros, o del enemigo? —¡De ninguno! —respondió—. Me presento ante ti como comandante del ejército del SEÑOR….”

Este encuentro tan hermoso, en un libro donde con frecuencia se presenta a Dios como partidario de los Israelitas, nos trae la luz de que Dios no toma bandos en los conflictos de la gente, su ejercito es otro, el ejercito de Dios. Asi se anticipa hasta cierto punto la idea de que Dios es Dios de todos los pueblos, no solo de algun pueblo escogido sino de todas las naciones.

Los Muros de Jerico


Me cantaban una cancioncita acerca de la caida de los muros cuando era niño que todavia impresiona al visualizar con la imaginacion infantil la caida estrepitosa de la muralla de Jerico! Importan poco los detalles factuales o arqueologicos para la leccion espiritual. La obediencia a Dios, la alabanza a El hace caer lasmurallas de la ciudad enemiga. No hay puerta tan cerrada, nu ciudad tan fortificada, ni obstaculo tan grande para los hijos de Dios que no puedan ser vencidos por el poder de El.

La despedida de Josue

Josue ya viejo y cansado despues de toda una vida de peregrinacion y guerra se despide del pueblo con estas hermosas palabras recordandoles acerca de las buenas promesas y fidelidad de Dios…”Ustedes bien saben que ninguna de las buenas promesas del SEÑOR su Dios ha dejado de cumplirse…”. Eso y una advertencia a la fidelidad siempre son buenas cosas para recordar en nuestro transitar a travez de la vida. Pedro recuerda a sus lectores que Dios les habia dado “grandes y maravillosas promesas” para que por medio de ellas “llegaran a ser participes de la naturaleza divina”.

Estoy seguro que muchos lectores de la Escritura podrian hacer referencia a esta y otras porciones de la Escritura que han sido utiles o quizas instrumentales en su vida de fe. No se trata de dar a estos textos una interpretación fundamentalista sino reconocer que, como dijera el Apostol Pablo; toda la Escritura es inspirada por Dios y util…”.

Es valioso para nuestro conocimiento e interpretacion de la Biblia el recurrir a metodos criticos, pero tambien el recordar que el mensaje que la Escritura contiene va mas alla de esas realidades. En esas historias de conflicto, dramas, incredulidad y fe, a veces vemos reflejos de nuestras propias vidas, luchas, temores y problemas y reconocemos a Dios en medio de todo llamandonos a la fe , el compromiso y la reconciliacion.

Muchas bendiciones

Seraph

Monday, November 29, 2010

Adviento....

La corona que anuncia que Cristo se acerca…

Las velas que iluminan el camino al pesebre…

La fragancia de pino y cipres que se une al incienso de mis oraciones ...

El morado color de realeza… Las profecias del reino que ya llega ...

El precursor proclamando en el desierto, que a conversion llama...

La virgen que en silencio espera…

Me encanta esta estación de Adviento, su solemnidad y quietud en medio de una cultura consumerista y frenetica. Me inspiran sus canticos y lecturas que anuncian un reino que llega un Salvador que se acerca. Me conforta esa espera que es espejo de lo que experimentamos en la vida. Me renuevan las promesas de Dios y el cariño de aquellos que junto a mi esperan...

Ven Emmanuel, El Espiritu y la esposa dicen ven….Maranata….Ven Señor Jesus!

Bendiciones a todos al comienzo de Adviento\

Seraph

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Cuban Americans and the GOP

Even as pundits and pollsters analyze the Hispanic turnout and vote, something odd always props up; Cubans by large margins vote for Republican candidates and most Cuban Americans in public office are Republicans as well.

Cuban Americans tend to be more educated, less religious, older, more affluent and more liberal in social issues than other Hispanics, so it would seem they would be a natural constituency for the Democrats, yet it is not so.

Por que papi? Why are you so hardheaded about politics dad?
“Mijo son comunistas”…”Los cubanos son Republicanos”,
This question and answer set never seemed a good reason for my parents political choices, but it sure cropped up often as an answer. Over many political seasons, election nights and conversation with elders and peers over cerveza and Cuban coffee here are some thoughts on why “los cubanos votan Republicano”:

Cuban Americans come from a land where government dominated most aspects of life. There is an inherent distrust for “big government” or for government intrusion into private life and enterprise. This more so among the early exiles who are the most politically active.

Cuban Americans who arrived to the United States in the earlier days of the revolution were turned off by what they felt was sympathy for the Castro regime among some Latino circles. Che Guevara T-shirts may have been trendy, revolutionary type slogans popular, among Chicanos and New Yoricans; but for Cubans these brought memories of betrayal and repression. That most Latinos they encountered favored the Democratic party only made guilt by association easier.

Cuban Americans remember the Bay of Pigs. CIA trained Cubans invaded the island during John F. Kennedy’s presidency but air cover for the operation promised by the United States government never came. Approximately 1200 exiles were captured and a number were killed. The credibility of the president and by extension his party was completely shattered among that generation of Cuban Americans.That story still resonates among oldtimers in Miami .

Cuban American political leaders were welcome into Republican party early on, and even Ronald Reagan actually went to Miami wearing a traditional guayabera to recruit votes for the party. That sense of welcome along with promises of political change in their homeland were factors in the now 50 year relationship between Cuban voters and the GOP.

Cuban Americans remember Elian Gonzales! I know it is senseless to think of this episode as many in Miami did! Clearly, the child orphaned in his mother's attempt to flee to the US still had a father in Cuba. However, the child's relatives and many in the Cuban community did not see it that way, his plight became enmeshed with their own story. The way he was taken by force from his relative’s home under a Democrat’s presidency was no public relations move. The following election where the Democratic party presidential candidate lost by a handful of votes in Florida, seemed to many Cubans a sweet payback.

Will this trend change soon? Perhaps! There were signs in the election of Bill Clinton when many younger Cuban-Americans broke with the Republican tradition of their parents and voted for a Democrat. Barak Obama’s election saw a significant but not monolithic loyalty to the GOP among Cuban American voters.

Midterm elections 2010 seem to erase that trend! Marco Rubio, the first United States born Cuban running for a national elected office, and a Miami native son was in the scene. Despite his very conservative views and unpopular stance on immigration, he garnered a great majority of the Cuban American vote! Wether that will carry to 2012 remains to be seen...but for now...my dad's words ring true;

"...Los Cubanos son Republicanos..."

Blessings
Seraph

So; Whats the Deal With Halloween Anyway?

Every year on All Hallow's Eve it seems there is some very well intentioned soul recommending that parents keep their children from participating in the festivities that have come to symbolize the secular aspect of Halloween. It has its origin in a pagan Holiday, it does not glorify God, it is harmful spiritually, are all common statements often heard. Here are some reasons why I do not share those concerns.

It is true that Halloween's roots lie in an ancient pagan festival for the dead. For the Celts and other ancient people of the British Isles November 1st was the feast of Samhain, the coming of winter, and on this day, they believed, the spirits of the dead were free to roam the world. Bonfires were lit, masks were worn in an attempt to keep away the souls of the dead and all evil. With the spread of Christianity into these lands the emphasis was changed and in 841 AD the feast of All Saints or a commemoration of the faithful departed was established on that date.

Considering that many beloved celebrations of Christendom are held on days when pagan holidays were originally celebrated, the objection to Halloweens pagan origins seems minor! Christmas celebration in December has replaced the Saturnalia and Feast of the Conquering Sun. A fourty day period of preparation for the resurrection of the God Tamuz preceeded the Christian Lent, and Easter carries within it the name of the Anglo-Saxon goddess of Spring. Our Christian forefathers saw Christ as victorious over all powers of darkness and his worship as replacing other celebrations. All days belong to God and Christians rejoice.

While it is possible that All Hallow's Eve as any other feast can be used for evil purposes, our culture celebrates it as an innocent night of make belief, costumes, children's fantasy and fun. Besides the religious celebrations which commemorate the faithful Departed and remind us of the Communion of the Saints, we who believe in the light of the world can also use it to celebrate the Light.

"Hallow" means holy and the word Halloween refers to the night before the feast of all holies, or All Saints Day. On this day we joyfully remember that Christ made a way for the spirits in captivity, that he dispelled the powers of darkness and made mockery of them in the cross, that he is above all powers and principalities. We do not have to fear as the pagans did but we can rejoice that Christ is indeed victorious over all evil and darkness. We remember also that for men it is appointed that they encounter death and beyond that, the power of resurrection. We recall those whom we love and see no longer because they have preceded us to the presence of God.

In the middle of all that heavy mystery and hard realities we recall this season, a little fun does not hurt! We dress up not in fear but in innocent celebration, we exchange sweets and goodies, we allow fantasy and wonder to enter into our lives which are burdened by work, stress, sin and sometimes even religion . We Emphasize all things good, joyful and pure. Let your children know that they are "children of the light" called to walk in the light and not be afraid!

"...In love, there is no fear, perfect love casts out all fear..."

Blessings

Seraph

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Ignorance is Bliss...?

On Basic Religion Test, Many Doth Not Pass...By LAURIE GOODSTEIN

Americans are by all measures a deeply religious people, but they are also deeply ignorant about religion. Researchers from the independent Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life phoned more than 3,400 Americans and asked them 32 questions about the Bible, Christianity and other world religions, famous religious figures and the constitutional principles governing religion in public life.

On average, people who took the survey answered half the questions incorrectly, and many flubbed even questions about their own faith. Those who scored the highest were atheists and agnostics, as well as two religious minorities: Jews and Mormons. The results were the same even after the researchers controlled for factors like age and racial differences. “Even after all these other factors, including education, are taken into account, atheists and agnostics, Jews and Mormons still outperform all the other religious groups in our survey,” said Greg Smith, a senior researcher at Pew.

On questions about the Bible and Christianity, the groups that answered the most right were Mormons and white evangelical Protestants. On questions about world religions, like Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism and Judaism, the groups that did the best were atheists, agnostics and Jews.

Clergy members who are concerned that their congregants know little about the essentials of their own faith will no doubt be appalled by some of these findings:

¶ Fifty-three percent of Protestants could not identify Martin Luther as the man who started the Protestant Reformation.

¶ Forty-five percent of Catholics did not know that their church teaches that the consecrated bread and wine in holy communion are not merely symbols, but actually become the body and blood of Christ.

¶ Forty-three percent of Jews did not know that Maimonides, one of the foremost rabbinical authorities and philosophers, was Jewish.

The question about Maimonides was the one that the fewest people answered correctly. But 51 percent knew that Joseph Smith was Mormon, and 82 percent knew that Mother Theresa was Roman Catholic.


I guess it should be disturbing that Christians in this study were not more informed about their faith. We after all have the admonishment from Scripture to..."always be ready to give reason for the faith we have in us...". That message seems to have been missed by many of us who call on the name of Christ.

I dont know but, just maybe we should rethink our Christian ed programs and instead of support groups, kinship groups, seeker services and Kumbayah we should go back to basic catechesis. Ignorance may be bliss for some , but when it comes to religion it fails to do what God commands...love the Lord your God with all your mind...!

Blessings

seraph

Rags and Riches: Parable of Lazarus














Luke 16:19-31 "Now there was a certain rich man, and he was clothed in purple and fine linen, living in luxury every day. A certain beggar, named Lazarus, was laid at his gate, full of sores, and desiring to be fed with the crumbs that fell from the rich man’s table. Yes, even the dogs came and licked his sores. It happened that the beggar died, and that he was carried away by the angels to Abraham’s bosom. The rich man also died, and was buried. In Hades, he lifted up his eyes, being in torment, and saw Abraham far off, and Lazarus at his bosom...
Undoubtedly this parable from scripture is one that can make us uncomfortable as it shows us images we may not necessarily want to see. Yet these words of Jesus challenge us to live the life of faith much more aware…

Aware of missed connections.

The main characters in the parable a rich man who feasted sumptuously and dressed in fine linen, and Lazarus, a poor man, covered in sores who longed to eat from the table scraps left by his neighbor, never seem to connect in any way. They certainly must have seen each other as one stayed at the other’s doorstep, but no connection is ever implied in the story. As it unfolds it seems like a wide chasm separated the two or they lived in two different worlds.

Sometimes our society can seem that way! The have and the have not’s of our planet, where millions are wasted by some, others live on less that $5 a day yet they never seem to connect. The connections we often miss with people we pass in the street, those we work with, those we attend church with, those we live with. In a culture where “hooking up” has become a term for casual coupling yet no long term connection, and the web allows us to have virtual friends, where interaction and connection are distorted, this parable speaks to us about something that was missed. These people were so close yet their paths never really seemed to cross; connections were missed.

Aware of missed opportunities

We are not really told about the religious life of the rich man, yet for the society of that day, he must have had some religious practice. He surely went tio the temple and observed the required obligations of his religion but seems to have missed out on an opportunity at his doorstep.” He who gives to the poor lends to the Lord….”, “Almsgiving is remedy for sin”.

The story of the good Samaritan gives us a similar example. Even as they rushed to perform whatever religious or official duties they had, the priest and levite failed to help a stranger on the road, an opportunity for holiness and religious observance. A rich young ruler misses the opportunity to follow Christ, distracted by his possession and others do not make it to the wedding feast because they are occupied with friends, lands and obligations. Sometimes blessing, holiness, service, stare at us right in the face, yet we are too occupied to see it. We miss Christ in the face of the poor, the stranger, the child , the confused teen, our coworker or partner in need, even as the rich man in this story passed Lazarus by every day yet missed the opportunity his presence afforded him to be a blessing, to practice his religion, to grow in love of God and neigbour.

Aware of Misperceptions

There is a lot to think about human perception as we consider this parable. First, Lazarus own thoughts as he draws near to the rich man’s house. I wonder if he chose that one because it looked impressive, bespoke of wealth and it seemed to be the most likely place where he would find help in time of need. That did not turn out to be the case. Then, of course, is our perception of prosperity and blessing. In a religious culture where wealth was looked as favor from the Lord. The contrast between Lazarus and his rich neighbor would have been stark and perhaps we would have seen one as blessed the other cursed! For others the justice of God and his goodness would have been in question. After all what kind of a God would not correct such unfairness in life where one feasts while the other starves?

The parable takes us then beyond what the eyes could have seen, the riches of the rich, the poverty of Lazarus, the death of each… to the world beyond. There our misperceptions become apparent. God’s love, justice, his sense of fairness does not end with human life, choices have consequences, sorrows have consolation and in the writings of the prophets are words of wisdom that can lead us to life.

May the Holy Spirit help us lead lives that are aware of the blessings and opportunities life gives to us….

A Christian By Choice

President Barak Obama addressed the issue of his religious faith at a backyard meeting with passion filled words ...

I’m a Christian by choice,” the president said. “My family, frankly, they weren’t folks who went to church every week. My mother was one of the most spiritual people I knew but she didn’t raise me in the church, so I came to my Christian faith later in life and it was because the precepts of Jesus Christ spoke to me in terms of the kind of life that I would want to lead. Being my brothers and sisters’ keeper, treating others as they would treat me, and I think also understanding that Jesus Christ dying for my sins spoke to the humility we all have to have as human beings, that we’re sinful and we’re flawed and we make mistakes and we achieve salvation through the grace of God.”

Mr. Obama went on: “But what we can do, as flawed as we are, is still see God in other people, and do our best to help them find their own grace. That’s what I strive to do, that’s what I pray to do every day.’’ Yet he said that as president, he also “deeply believes that part of the bedrock strength of this country is that it embraces people of many faiths and of no faith.’’


Amen brother Barak; we pray for you weekly!

blessings

Seraph

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Gay Adoption Ban Overturned in Florida

Florida appeals court strikes down gay adoption ban

Licensed foster parent Frank Martin Gill sued for the right to adopt two boys in his care. A Florida appeals court Wednesday struck down a state law barring gay men and lesbians from adoption on the basis of equal protection under law.

The Florida 3rd District Court of Appeal upheld a trial court ruling that Florida's explicit ban was unconstitutional, noting that the state's adoption law required officials to assess potential adoptive parents in "the best interests of the child."

"By the time of the trial below, the application of the statutory ban was contrary to both the professional judgment of the Department and the legislative directive to assure 'the best interest of the child' in 'every' adoption," wrote Judge Cindy S. Lederman in the 42-page ruling...


This is undoubtedly good news for children who are in foster care as well as for gay couples wanting to provide a stable home to them.

Among some Christian circles dissaproval about this ruling comes almost as a reflex and the objections defy reason. I am sure I have not heard it all , but this is the general litany so far...

"It is bad for children" cry some, despite no objective evidence that children of gay couples fare any worse in life;

"Children deserve a mother and father" say others, perhaps oblivious to the fact that a great deal of children are born out of wedlock or whose parents divorce and are raised by a single parent.

"Its just wrong" other exclaim, ignoring perhaps that the Teacher calls remarriage after divorce wrong as well and there seems to be no objection to remarried heterosexual couples adopting.

"It is a bad example"...give me a break,did these kids parents give such a great example to land them in foster care?

If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck and has web feet it probably aint no dove!!!! Prejudice it what is sounds like! It is not based on love, nor objective evidence, not based on concern for the well being of children stuck in foster care, nor even on the principles we live out our faith by...

Prejudice is not a good foundation for principle!

Blessings

Seraph

Monday, September 6, 2010

God be in my Head

God be in my head,
and in my understanding;
God be in my eyes,
and in my looking;
God be in my mouth,
and in my speaking;
God be in my heart,
and in my thinking;
God be at my end,
and at my departing.
Amen.

The Winds Would Blow...The Rivers Rise...

Its been hard to put any thoughts into writing the past few months, but in the aftermath of a great and terrible sadness these ramdon thoughts merited reposting.

It has become apparent that the one thing we can expect in life is the unexpected, the unpredictable nature of this journey we have to travel. Yes, we would somehow like for everything to be stable, for our life to follow the patterns that we seem to see in nature, the ever constant cycle of the sun, rotation of the earth, the changing but predictable seasons. We love the predictable, the constant; There is a certain safety in believing things will follow a certain pattern, usually the one where we succeed in life, find the one we love plus or minus kids, a dog and white picket fence, and of course we live happily ever after!

Yes, life is stable in a fluid weird way , kind of like the stability one can have living next to an intermittently active volcano, nice lush greenery, beautiful countryside, perfect but for the occasional eruption that incinerates all you love into oblivion. Or maybe the stability of living in a fault line, all is great, beautiful , firm then a category 5 shaker moves the very ground you are standing on and the walls come tumbling down, or maybe if you are lucky a tsunami will wash ashore and add a bit of water to the mix. Such is life, unnerving, scary but oh so true, no matter what fantasies we may wish to hold!

Even Jesus said that, for those who built their house on a rock, there would be unexpected winds, the rivers would rage, the very foundations of the house would be shaken. Yes the rivers will rage, the winds will howl but if built upon the rock, Scripture tells us the house will not fall! How reassuring and true! But.... hey, what about the roof, the fallen shingles, the damaged windows and the water damage, the ruined gardens, the mold and mildew, the swarm of mosquitoes and the nonfunctional air conditioning. Sometimes it is little comfort that it still stands, with all that was lost in the unexpected storm. So it is with our dreams, illusions, relationships, health, perceptions and even our faith.

So what then..well here it is; hang on for dear life in the middle of crisis, do yell at God, he can handle it, make no sudden decisions, take long walks alone, sip Cabernet, take up the Rosary or contemplative prayer.....less stuff to say! In the aftermath; shun convention, live for the day; its all you have, love yourself be kind to others, honor God even if his rationale escapes you, and dont forget to rebuild simpler...less crap to pick up , less loss to mourn the next time!

Blessings

seraph

Monday, June 14, 2010

The Beloved Physician












 




St. Luke's Day Sermon
by The Rev. Dr. Carlos Sandoval, MD, psychiatrist and Episcopal priest in the diocese of Southeast Florida. 

I swear by Apollo, the healer, Asclepius, Hygieia, and Panacea, and I take to witness all the gods, all the goddesses, to keep according to my ability and my judgment, the following Oath and agreement: I will prescribe regimens for the good of my patients according to my ability and my judgment and never do harm to anyone. I will not give a lethal drug to anyone if I am asked, nor will I advise such a plan. But I will preserve the purity of my life and my arts. In every house where I come I will enter only for the good of my patients, keeping myself far from all intentional ill doing. If I keep this oath faithfully, may I enjoy my life and practice my art, respected by all men and in all times; but if I swerve from it or violate it, may the reverse be my lot.

This is an excerpt from the Oath of Hippocrates, written around 400 B.C. I only recently have been reciting a modernized version of it as part of my morning prayers. This is the oath that Lucanus, a Greek physician, swore by when he graduated from medical school in Tarsus or maybe its rival school in Alexandria. Today Lucanus is known as Saint Luke, and today the church honors St. Luke, whom Saint Paul called most dear physician. Luke fascinates me because I see that my steps have followed his, though I did not realize it at the time I was heading into the field of medicine, and afterwards into the priesthood.

What do we know of Luke the physician, a native of the Greek city of Antioch? Some think he may have been a former slave or the son of a freedman. It is also believed he was a ship’s physician, as he seems to have known in detail many of the coastlines of his part of the Mediterranean. Why would this Gentile become a Christian? Perhaps, as the years went by and he witnessed all manner of human suffering, he realized that the gods of the ancient world were nothing more than petty super-heroes, with their multiple affairs, jealousies, and squabbles - gods who cared nothing for the welfare of humankind. Perhaps Luke questioned the very existence of any of the gods, or of the idea of one God. I know that I have questioned God’s existence many times, and still continue to have my own struggles in faith.

But the Greeks also had a belief in the unknown God, and perhaps Luke sought him as he questioned the meaning of life itself. Somehow, he learned of the life and death of Jesus the Christ and saw in him the God he was seeking. Perhaps this occurred when he met Saint Paul in Tarsus. Then, to find out all he could about the life and teachings of Jesus, whom he never saw, Luke must have visited all the places where Jesus had been, questioning everyone who had known Him or heard Him preach, including His mother, Mary. At last, when he had gathered all information possible, he wrote down what we now know as the Gospel according to St. Luke.

How could anyone not love Luke, the only Gentile author in the Bible? Luke wrote not one, but two books in the Bible – his gospel and also the Acts of the Apostles. Acts is the story of how the apostles began to teach the message of Jesus after his ascension. A good part of it is his eyewitness account, for Luke became Saint Paul’s travel companion and stayed with him until Paul was martyred. Luke tells us how the Church began to grow and spread. Luke alone reports the Annunciation, the Birth of Jesus, and the Flight of the Holy Family into Egypt. Only Luke records the Song of Mary and the Song of Simeon, which I now sing in the Cathedral’s Anglican Chorale.

Imagine Luke meeting Mary for the first time, kneeling before her and kissing her work-worn hands. “I am Lucanus, a Greek physician, Lady. I have come a long way to see you, for I love and serve your Son, though I have never seen him except in my dreams. Please tell me about your son!” These are Luke’s first words to Mary in Taylor Caldwell’s book, “Dear and Glorious Physician.” Imagine the talks Luke had with the Blessed mother as she told him about her son, as she showed him a chair or table that Jesus had made, as she told him how happy he was as a little boy, and as she became very still and serious when she recalled his suffering and her own. I can imagine Luke’s final meeting with Mary, touching her feet with his lips, and weeping in reverence and love. Perhaps he saw in Mary his own mother, she who is mother to us all, and the most blessed of women.

Luke is unique in his attention to children and women, whom he treats with the greatest respect – and to the poor, the outcast, the marginalized, the disadvantaged, and the suffering. As I read his gospel I know what he is talking about. Like Luke, I have traveled to many places and have seen the plight of people in the many parts of the world where I have lived and traveled, including our own country, and this city of Miami. To think that we, the United States, one of the most powerful countries in the world, are squabbling to come up with some sort of universal health care coverage is shameful. Luke is unique among the gospel writers because he has the keen eye of a physician, and sees the wounded of the world every day.

As a physician and as a priest I tell you that Luke has taught me a lot. Luke understands that illness is more than being sick. Illness marginalizes the individual from the community. The individual who is ill has something that those surrounding him do not have. Many of my patients have told me that they feel abandoned and isolated from their family and friends because of their illness. Abandonment and isolation are among the worst conditions that one can suffer. That is why Luke recounts the story of how the only person who is willing to help a wounded Jewish traveler, abandoned on the side of a dusty road and ignored by his own people, is a Samaritan.

Though the Samaritans were also of Hebrew extraction, believed in the same God of Abraham, and had the same books of the Torah, they were considered half-breeds and inferiors by their Jewish neighbors. But it is this outcast, the Good Samaritan, who helps a Jewish man in need. Luke the Gentile tells us this story to let the world know that the gospel of Christ is for everyone – Gentiles, Samaritans, Jews and non-Jews – no one is excluded.

Luke teaches me what my goal as a physician, priest, and Christian should be. It is to help reintegrate into society those who feel outcast and marginalized. This may be due to physical or mental illness, or due to other factors such as prejudice, ignorance, language or cultural barriers. I have been a physician 26 years, and I was ordained a deacon 21 years ago. I have seen how we humans treat each other poorly because of our differences. I do know what it is to be marginalized and also be untouchable. When my father, a captain in the US Air Force, retired and we moved to Miami, I was called a spic, and told I should return to Cuba, even though I was born in the United States, and on an Air Force base, no less! As a medical student I contracted tuberculosis from my patients, was put into isolation and quarantine for several weeks, and still have a scar on my lung to prove it. When I was discharged from the hospital, and considered “safe,” my food was still brought to me on paper plates, and some relatives completely avoided me for weeks.

When I worked as a missionary for the Episcopal Church in Ecuador, I contracted Hepatitis A, and was so sick that I lost twenty pounds in a couple of weeks. I was hallucinating and wanted to die. Not even my bishop would visit me. But he did tell me that if after two weeks I did not recover fully, he would dock half of my pay. At a hundred dollars a month, I could not afford to get only fifty! Many in the church have told me that I was not worthy of God’s love because I am gay. Earlier this year, when I was a candidate for Bishop of Ecuador, I was told that as well. A few years ago I applied to the Air Force Reserve and they told me they would love to have me either as a physician or a chaplain, as long as I signed a document swearing I wasn’t gay, and hid it. Some well-meaning relatives and parishioners still feel that way. How do you hide a six foot two man who weighs 220 pounds – excuse me, 223 pounds?

I share my personal life with you because I want you to know that when a patient or a parishioner shares with me what troubles them, I can honestly say I understand. I understand what it is to be an outcast, not good enough for this country nor the church. I have been told both, and at one time believed it. I understand how illness can marginalize you. It has happened to me. I have been bitter at times and have cried in dejection. I suppose that along with the scar on my lung, I also have several invisible scars I am not even aware of. Aeschylus, the Greek playwright, reminds us that if we would learn we must suffer.

The Jesus that Luke reveals to me in his gospel teaches me to always love in return. “Father, forgive, them for they know not what they do!” While I cannot say that I am always successful in this endeavor, I do try. What Aeschylus does not mention is that humor and laughter can bring learning as well. Luke tells us the story of Zacchaeus, a very short tax collector, who really wanted to see Jesus when he came to the town of Jericho, so he climbed up a sycamore tree. Jesus did see him in the tree, and shouted: “Zacchaeus, make haste to come down; for I must stay at your house today.” That was a happy day for this very short tax collector whom everyone hated. Perhaps he was actually a kindly and generous man. After his invitation to be the host for Jesus, we know that he must have become a more gracious man.

There have been happy and funny incidents in my life. When I was an exhausted intern at the Labor and Delivery department at Jackson Memorial Hospital, as I awaited the afterbirth after having safely delivered a woman’s baby, I fell asleep on her thigh. Can you imagine her reaching over and touching my head, saying: “Doctor, doctor, please wake up!” One of the reasons I switched to psychiatry was due to the fact that I do not do well with all-nighters!

There have been incredible advances in medicine since the time of Luke, but we still don’t have a cure for all maladies. I have witnessed several healings, which one could regard as miraculous. But in many cases all we can do is to treat the illness, delay its progression, and add years to a patient’s life. For ten years I worked as a psychiatrist among people living with terminal illness such as cancer and AIDS. I frequently became disheartened at the long-term prognosis, lying awake at night, wondering why these things happen, and questioning the apparent futility of my ministrations. The insomnia was getting worse, and one day, when I was having a real crisis of faith, I called Bishop Schofield and told him what was happening to me. “I don’t know if I believe in God anymore, Bishop, what do I do?” So Bishop Schofield took me sailing, gave me a couple of beers, and while he gave me no answer, I felt a lot better after the sailing trip. Sometimes in life all you can do is catch the wind and go sailing! We cannot cure every illness, but if we can give the sick comfort and a sense of purpose and belonging to the community, then we have given them healing. This is a wonderful thing!

Luke teaches, however, that there is something else we can offer. Luke tells us the story of ten lepers who approach Jesus on his way to Jerusalem seeking a cure. All ten were cured of leprosy, and could reintegrate themselves to their community, but only one, the Samaritan, a gentile and therefore an outcast, had a change in heart. “When he saw that he was healed, he turned back; praising God with a loud voice, he prostrated himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him.” Jesus replied, “Your faith has made you well!” Jesus had offered him the gift of salvation. He was not only reintegrated to the community, but was reconciled with God. This is a state of total wellbeing, in body, mind and spirit. This is what the World Health Organization defines as health. This truly encompasses what it is to be human, and to be made in the image and likeness of God. This is the fullness of being that accepting God into our lives offers.

Luke’s gospel has taught me not only to restore the isolated individual to the community, but also to offer the dimension of faith. Faith is to be known and loved as Christ’s own forever, just as our baptism states. Dear and Glorious physician you have taught me much. Thank you for showing me how to find Christ in all those I minister to.

I would end with a hymn that the Orthodox Church uses for the Feast of Saint Luke.

Let us praise with sacred songs the Holy Apostle Luke,
The recorder of the joyous Gospel of Christ,
And the scribe of the Acts of the Apostles.
Luke’s writings are a testimony of the Church of Christ:
He is the Physician of human weaknesses and infirmities.
He heals the wounds of our souls,
And constantly intercedes for our salvation!
Luke, you became a disciple of God the Word,
With Paul you enlightened the entire world,
Casting out its darkness by composing the Holy Gospel of Christ.
Let us praise the godly Luke: He is the true preacher of piety,
He is the orator of ineffable mysteries And the star of the Church,
Jesus who is the Word, and who alone knows our hearts,
Chose Luke, with the wise Paul, to be a teacher of the gentiles!

Amen.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

A Shining Target on a Hill That Nobody Tries to Hit


By EUGENE KONTOROVICH
The First Amendment prohibits any "law respecting an establishment of religion," and in recent years the Supreme Court's Establishment Clause cases have focused on religiously themed public displays. Yet the court has failed to develop clear rules for deciding such cases, ensuring further litigation. There is something picayune about these disputes, over courthouse Ten Commandments displays or school-yard crèches. In this term's Establishment Clause case, Salazar v. Bruno, for instance, the justices will soon decide whether an eight-foot cruciform war memorial in a park in the Mojave Desert violates the Constitution.

All the while, the court has never come to grips with the existence of a literal established church on a hill just across town—the National Cathedral. Although the Cathedral helps put issues like those in Salazar in proper perspective, it seems the court can't see the Cathedral for the crosses.

The Cathedral's parent body, the Protestant Episcopal Cathedral Foundation, was "constituted" by an act of Congress in 1893, and the cornerstone was laid in the presence of President Theodore Roosevelt in 1907. The charter Congress issued on the Feast of the Epiphany called on the Foundation to "establish…within the District of Columbia a cathedral . . . for the promotion of religion" and other worthwhile causes.

No one has ever challenged the constitutionality of the Cathedral, and rightly not. The Establishment Clause, as understood for most of the nation's history, does not concern itself with such passive ceremonial nods to religion.

The Cathedral is a private entity. It stands on private land and no public money has ever been used for its construction, maintenance or for any other expenses. Congress has no say in its operations (although the first board of trustees, named in the charter, included the sitting vice president and chief justice). The Cathedral has no formal governmental role.

Yet the chartering had clear religious dimensions. The recognition of the Cathedral's special status has since been abundantly confirmed in practice, with it hosting the inauguration of four out of five of the latest presidents, as well as state funerals, memorial services and, under FDR, "annual national patriotic services." At the Cathedral's final dedication in 1990—private funds take a long time to raise—President George H. W. Bush called it "a house of prayer for the nation."

To be sure, the Cathedral's charter gives it no special prerogatives. Yet its generally undisputed status as the "national" cathedral is owed to the charter, and to its subsequent use for official ceremony. By contrast, when a Washington synagogue dubbed itself the "National Synagogue" several years ago, its claim was not accepted by others and it enjoys no particular distinction.

This setup—official recognition, private management and funding—was arrived at specifically because neither Congress nor the clerics of the time wanted an established church. As Bishop Henry Satterlee, the first head of the Cathedral, put it: "The Framers of the Constitution . . . held, from religious conviction, the necessity of the separation of Church and State. . .Unlike the Medieval Cathedrals of Europe. . .Washington Cathedral will stand on the firm foundation of a Free Church in a Free State—free from any entangling alliance with the government; free to declare the whole Word of God without fear or favor of any political party."

The Cathedral's presumptive constitutionality suggests some broader points about Establishment doctrine. When the Supreme Court attempts to reconcile its increasingly broad prohibition against Establishment with the ubiquity of religious symbolism in public life, it resorts to some dubious distinctions. When the court sustains a particular religious display, it says that the symbols in question do not "endorse" religion, or are denatured—essentially "secular." Yet the governmental use of religious symbols, from among all possible symbols, necessarily reflects a favorable view of faith. To call such displays secular either trivializes the faith of those for whom they are meaningful, or simply underscores that their spiritual message is widely subscribed to.

The existence of the Cathedral illustrates the weaknesses of these tests. "Religious and patriotic associations have [always] been intertwined," Satterlee wrote, and thus some public religious forum is needed to give full scope to peoples' national feeling. (Consider the national motto, or the Pledge of Allegiance.) The Cathedral's charter suggests Congress agreed. It would be hard to pass off a working cathedral as predominantly secular.

While the ACLU and other plaintiffs have scoured public spaces for religious symbols to challenge under the First Amendment, no suit has questioned the Cathedral's constitutionality. That in 120 years Americans of all and no creeds have not found it obnoxious is excellent evidence that it is not. In deciding Salazar, the court would do well to be aware of the full extent and rich history of governmental use of religious symbols, such as the Cathedral. A decision against the Mojave cross could have larger implications than the justices might desire.

Mr. Kontorovich is a professor at Northwestern University School of Law.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Charismatic Generation Gap












Study Shows Charismatic Generation Gap
Monday, 29 March 2010 04:43 PM EDT Adrienne S. Gaines News - Featured News

Some 21 percent of all adults—and a quarter of all Christians—consider themselves Pentecostal or charismatic, according to a new Barna Group poll.

The study found that the demographic crosses denominational, geographic and political lines, with 20 percent of Catholics and 26 percent of Protestants stating that they have been filled with the Holy Spirit and operate in at least one charismatic gift, such as tongues, prophecy or healing. Nearly a quarter of Republicans, 23 percent of Democrats and 21 percent of Independent voters identify themselves as Pentecostal or charismatic.

But the national telephone survey of 1,005 adults found striking generational differences among the group. Baby busters, or those ages 26 to 44, were the most likely to describe themselves as Pentecostal or charismatic, with 29 percent embracing that label. Some 26 percent of Mosaics, or 18- to 25-year-olds, and 25 percent of Christians aged 64 and older described themselves as Pentecostal-charismatic. Only 20 percent of baby boomers, or those between the ages of 45 and 63, described themselves as Pentecostal or charismatic.

Younger Christians-56 percent of Mosaics and 49 percent of baby busters-also were more likely than were baby boomers (44 percent) and older Christians (30 percent) to believe charismatic gifts such as tongues and healing are active and valid today.

Roughly 43 percent of those under age 45 also believe the gift of tongues is valid and active today, compared with 37 percent of those age 45 and older. However, only 7 percent of Mosaic Christians and 9 percent of baby busters said they had spoken in tongues, while 13 percent of the baby boomers and 9 percent of those over age 63 said they had spoken in tongues.

But while they embrace the charismatic gifts, younger generations had unexpected views of the Holy Spirit. Older believers were morel likely to say they "consistently allow their lives to be guided by the Holy Spirit"-64 percent of older Christians and 59 percent of baby boomers, compared with 54 percent of baby busters and 38 percent of Mosaics.

Mosaics were much more likely to believe the Holy Spirit is just a symbol of God's power or presence rather than the third person of the Trinity, with 68 percent saying the Holy Spirit is not a living entity. Though the percentages were lower for the other generations, more than half of the respondents in each group held the same view. Fifty-nine percent of baby busters, 55 percent of baby boomers and 56 percent of older Christians said they believe the Holy Sprit is only symbolic.

For younger Christians, the charismatic, Pentecostal and Spirit-filled labels are not as divisive as they were for their parents' generation, said Barna Group President David Kinnaman. And though they spend less time defending their views, they also seem less certain about what they believe or how to put their faith into action, he added.

Kinnaman said that though the Pentecostal-charismatic community has become more influential in the 50 years since the movement emerged, generational shifts and the flow of Pentecostal theology across diverse denominations have made its beliefs less focused. He believes connecting young Pentecostals and charismatics to better theological training will be vital to the future of the Spirit-filled movement.

"Facing less criticism from within the ranks of Christians, they must focus on being grounded theologically and finding a way to live faithfully within the broader culture of arts, media, technology, science and business," Kinnaman said.

The report comes just days before the anniversary of what many consider to be the start of the charismatic movement. On April 3, 1960, the late Father Dennis Bennett told his Episcopal congregation that he had been baptized in the Holy Spirit and spoke in tongues. The revelation led to his resignation but sparked charismatic renewal among mainline denominations worldwide.

Read more: http://www.charismamag.com/index.php/news/26647-new-study-shows-pentecostal-generation-gap#ixzz0jiu61n7d


Yes...that was a big surprise...LOL! Younger folk are more in tune to experiential religion,a sense of the supernatural, worship that is less structured, involves the emotions and with an openness to the immediate actions of the Holy spirit... sure is true in my parish!

Blessings

seraph

Overture To Catholics, From an Episcopal Priest | Religion & Theology | ReligionDispatches


Overture To Catholics, From an Episcopal Priest | Religion & Theology | ReligionDispatches

Funny sort of tongue in cheek turning of the tables on a rather delicate ecumenical misstep....! Though I must admit, warts and all I love the Episcopal Church!

Blessings

seraph

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Pope Practiced Flagellation

VATICAN CITY - Pope John Paul II whipped himself with a belt, even on vacation, and slept on the floor as acts of penitence and to bring him closer to Christian perfection, according to a new book by the Polish prelate spearheading his sainthood case. The book was written by Monsignor Slawomir Oder, the postulator, or main promoter, for John Paul's canonization cause and was released Tuesday. It was based on the testimony of the 114 witnesses and boxes of documentation Oder gathered on John Paul's life to support the case.

At a news conference Tuesday, Oder defended John Paul's practice of self-mortification, which some faithful use to remind them of the suffering of Jesus on the cross. "It's an instrument of Christian perfection," Oder said, responding to questions about how such a practice could be condoned considering Catholic teaching holds that the human body is a gift from God.

In the book, Oder wrote that John Paul frequently denied himself food — especially during the holy season of Lent — and "frequently spent the night on the bare floor," messing up his bed in the morning so he wouldn't draw attention to his act of penitence. "But it wasn't limited to this. As some members of his close entourage in Poland and in the Vatican were able to hear with their own ears, John Paul flagellated himself. In his armoire, amid all the vestments and hanging on a hanger, was a belt which he used as a whip and which he always brought to Castel Gandolfo," the papal retreat where John Paul vacationed each summer. While there had long been rumors that John Paul practiced self-mortification, the book provides the first confirmation and concludes John Paul did so as an example of his faith...
There will be no shortage of raised eyebrows at this revelation that a man we consider an example of holiness and extraordinary virtue included self flagellation among his spiritual disciplines. Yet, the image of John Paul II at whatever age whipping himself with a belt is one that, if we are honest, most of us are not completely comfortable with.

The practice of asceticism as a path to Christian holines has an ancient history. Though not exclusively a Christian practice, it has been present in the church both east and west. The Apostle Paul speaking to the Church at Corinth, speaks of punishing his body and keeping it in servitude. Asceticism, including fasting, limited sleep, work and mortification of the body are in mild forms practiced among Christians today. More severe forms such as self flagellation, found still in popular Holy Week devotions in the Phillipines and Latin America are not officially sanctioned by the church.

For most 21st century American Christians mention of such a practice is not comforting! It may evoke obscure tales about the Middle ages or worse images from popular culture and film. The most memorable perhaps the image of Silas, the murdering albino monk featured in the Da Vinci Code, nude before a crucifix while whipping himself until bleeding. I am not sure where to fit the image of the saintly John Paul engaging in this practice without the picture of Silas intruding!

Maybe it is us! We live a much more confortable Christianity where the idea of self inflicted suffering does not fit in. Maybe we are bombarded with the reality of suffering, images flooding our eyes and ears through the media and see it as an evil, not an instrument of holiness. As for me, it seems I have seen enough suffering in the lives of people, including those I love, to last me ten lifetimes! There is surely more to come, it is an unescapable fact of life!

Humans suffer in mind and body, often in ways which seem senseless.It may be that we participate on the sufferings of Christ, that we learn through the trials which life brings us, that we are consoled in our misery so we can console others, Scripture assures of many of these things. Yet in the state of uncertainty, fleeting happiness and despair which characterize much of human life it seems self defeating to add to the pain we already must bear! I can not help but to think of the Roman soldiers whipping Jesus, the devil or the taskmasters whipping slaves into submission...it is hard to see flagellation as a spiritual discipline without feeling an accomplice to those whom I would be free of! Perhaps I am not healed enough, nor strong enough nor free enough nor mature enough...but I sure feel I have been whipped enough!

I need to be consoled by Christ, in my sorrow, my woundedness, sadness, insecurity. Humans clamor for healing from the emotional scars left by sin, the whipping of the belts of rejection, illness, separation from loved ones, the death of dreams and innocence, the certainty of death! It feels as though we need no whips or belts but oil to soothe, life restoring grace, a helping hand a loving embrace, a kind word, a litsening ear, a champion, a deliverer!

I will always admire and revere John Paul II though I may not understand this aspect of his spiritual discipline. Maybe it is a grace given to some, or a path to be freely chosen, God only knows and he guides each soul as he sees fit. Perhaps I need a little whipping sometimes but... for now no belts please....Christ have mercy on me a sinner!

Blessings

Seraph

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Majority of Americans see abortion as morally wrong

















-- On the eve of the 37th anniversary of the Supreme Court's decision in Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion throughout the United States, a new survey shows a strong majority of Americans believe abortion to be "morally wrong."

"Millennials" (those 18-29) consider abortion to be "morally wrong" even more (58%) than Baby Boomers (those 45-64) (51%). Generation X (those 30-44) are similar to Millennials (60% see abortion as "morally wrong"). More than 6 in 10 of the Greatest Generation (those 65+) feel the same.

The most recent Knights of Columbus – Marist survey – conducted in late December and early January – is the latest in a series of such surveys commissioned by the Knights of Columbus and conducted by Marist Institute for Public Opinion. In October of 2008 and July of 2009, the survey has

been tracking an increasing trend toward the pro-life position – a trend confirmed by Gallup and Pew surveys in mid-2009. K of C – Marist surveys are available online at www.kofc.org/moralcompass.

"Americans of all ages – and younger people in even greater numbers than their parents – see abortion as something morally wrong," said Supreme Knight Carl Anderson. "America has turned a corner and is embracing life – and in doing so is embracing a future they – and all of us – can be proud of."

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Coming Home












A Gay Christian Speaks to Fundamentalists

Jonathan Odell

Last year I got a call from an administrator at a Midwestern seminary with a reputation for its “take no prisoners” conservative theology. He had permission to conduct a series of seminars on hot-button issues like abortion, stem-cell research, and gay marriage. His plan was to bring in a succession of speakers, one to take the pro side of an issue, followed by a second to present the opposing view.

I took a deep breath. I knew what was coming next. “We want you to take the pro side on homosexuality,” he said.

“Yippee,” I thought. “I get to argue for Satan.” So I asked him, “Why me?” Why me indeed... “The administrator pleaded his case. “I want you to come here not only because you’re gay, but because you’re religious. You’ve obviously held on to your spiritual beliefs.”

I didn’t tell him I’d been able to retain my faith by steering clear of the hateful fundamentalists that universities like his turned out. Instead, I lied and told him I’d think about it. “Well, I can’t blame you if you say ‘no,’” he added. “In fact, I might lose my job over asking you. But I think it’s worth it.”

...I decided I would say no to the request, but I couldn’t tell my contact that I was really declining his invitation because I was terrified of being rejected. After all, I was apparently the only homosexual he had come across who actually believed in God, so I had to keep up the image for what to him must be a very select group of gays. So I did what I usually do when I need to make a purely emotional decision appear rational: I turned to Google. I entered the name of the school and the word “homosexuality” into the search engine. My aim was to find a way to blame these fundamentalist Christians for being so hopeless that I wasn’t going to waste my time on them.

The first hit was an anonymous letter, written by one of the seminary’s own students to a gay support group, pleading for help. He wrote about being a Christian, a closeted gay, and suicidal. “From the outside, I appear much like any other student on campus,” he wrote. “I am a Christian, dedicated to my family, my friends, and my academic career. I am also gay. I came close to committing suicide several times, but God had been looking out for me. He had given me one friend on this campus with whom I could be totally honest. I believe that were it not for him, I would not be here today. One day, I hope that we can be seen for who we truly are, as fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.”

This student’s poignant testimony of desperation and isolation, his love for a church that rejects him, these brought me back to my own youth. As a boy, I too was desperate for some adult to say, “I know just how you feel. I was afraid, too. But look at me. I survived. So will you.”

Now I couldn’t refuse the invitation without rejecting this young man, and by the same token, rejecting that kid inside me who is still waiting for some adult to stand up for him. I guessed this terrified adult was going to have to do the job for both young men...

When I walked to the podium that night and scanned a room of budding fundamentalist preachers, I discovered the place was only partially filled. Most in the audience were faculty and female students. Hanging in the back was a crowd of young guys who eyed me suspiciously, still deciding whether this talk was for them, and what exactly their attendance might say about their own testosterone levels. I nervously blurted out the first thing that came to my mind: “Hello, I’m the gay guy!” It was meant to be humorous, but the silence was so thorough that I could hear them breathing.

“OK,” I told myself, “don’t be clever. Just tell the truth. If they walk out, they walk out.” I began again. “When I got the invitation to come speak today, it was a no-brainer.” I looked directly at the young men massed in the back of the room: “Not in a million years!” I noticed a few smirks, but at least we shared some common ground. We all would rather be somewhere else.

“I’d like to say I’m happy to be here today,” I continued, “but I’d be starting our relationship with a lie. Right now, you are the folks I grew up with. The folks I fled over thirty years ago and have kept running from: my family, my community, my church. You were my first family, and families know how to wound you the deepest. So today I just need to say I’m not here because I want to convert you, or change you, or sway you, or make you like me. I’m here because whether I like it or not, you are in my life and I need to somehow make peace with that part of my life.”...



Very thought provoking essay on a difficult subject for many Christians. It is definitely worth reading! I particularly liked the author's father statement "I guess both will have to be true". Sometimes congtradictory as it may sound it is the best possible answer!

You can read the entire essay by clicking on "Coming home", at the top of this post, or by going to;
http://commonwealmagazine.org/coming-home

Blessings

Seraph

The day I decided to stop being gay - Times Online










A minor incident in a barber’s shop last week has helped me to realise that I may no longer be gay. Not a fully fledged homo, anyway; perhaps not even a part-timer who helps the team out when it’s busy. It appears I may be going straight.

I was in Tenterden, the Kentish village where I was brought up and to which I have lately returned, working at a nearby aerodrome as a helicopter pilot. I was waiting my turn for a chatty Latvian to apply the hot towels and razor. A handsome young dad entered with a small, fair-haired boy at his side. The man took a seat and hoisted the wide-eyed child proudly on to his knee. The first haircut, I speculated inwardly, as an unfamiliar fatherly glow and feeling of mild envy swept over me. I could not tear my attention away from the mirrored reflections.

From time to time, the dad leant forward as they waited and whispered close to his son’s ear, tenderly kissing his fair head. Touching stuff.But then my eyes lowered and I became transfixed by the sight of the boy’s tiny pink fingers gripping his father’s huge, workman-like fist. And I almost wanted to burst into song.

I think my life changed at that moment...


I absolutely loved this post by a gay airline pilot contemplating fatherhood and the impication of such a desire to his lifestyle.

Life is seldom as simple as we would make it and that applies to the author's depiction of his life and hopes, yet it seems honest and refreshing. He tells his story and, though we are seldom objective when doing so, he comes across as sincere.

I can not help but to smile at his words "I may be going straight" in the same breath as he notices the handsomeness of the young father who brings his son for his first haircut.." . Talk about conflicting desires! But hey, life is complicated and people do evolve! He certainly will not be the first!I for one which him the best!

It is fun reading and the host of reader comments is very interesting.

Blessings

Seraph