Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Thinking about God's Invitation...

As we gather to day in this last Sunday of Advent, sing the songs and hear the lessons from Scripture that invite us to prepare for the coming of Christ, our gospel lesson takes us to a village in Galilee where and angel makes an unexpected visit to a teenage girl by the name of Mary . There he will in the name of God ask her, call her, invite her to take part in a wonder filled plan, to advance the birth of a king and a kingdom that would have no end!

That the invitation would be issued to such a one may seem unexpected to us! Our own bishop Howard in his Advent meditation for this week says the following about God and about Mary:

"...She was young. Twelve years of age was the minimum age for marriage for Jewish girls of that time. She might not have been much older.Neither she nor her family had great stature, wealth or influence.In all likelihood, she barely knew Joseph to whom she had been promised in marriage.We first learn of Mary at a moment which must have been confusing and frightening for the young girl. It was a moment in which not only her fate, but yours and mine as well, hung in the balance. Human history itself was on the line...awaiting the response of a young girl...So it was that the good news of Jesus, of God's incarnation, began. Not with compulsion. Not with an arbitrary act on the part of God. Not with God forcing himself upon the unwilling..."
It began with an invitation from God!

Here are some simple truths about the invitation of God we can find in this blessed story...

* The Invitation of God is not to the expected

Many modern day Christians would probably feel a bit uncomfortable with God's invitation issued to a mere teenage girl! I am not sure I would be completely comfortable to entrust the fate of a newborn into the hands of any teenage unwed mother! Yet, God did not see it that way! His invitation is not related to our expectations!

You and I tend to underestimate people, we underestimate the young in particular! However, He who sees the heart of all looked into the heart of Mary and there found favor and grace! We think of David a mere teenager when, depite been passed over by his family, is annointed, chosen to be king! He is underestimated by his brothers and his very enemies mocked his youth…! God was not amused! Samuel comes to mind , a child raised in the temple, one to whom God had never been revealed but called to be a prophet of God! Jeremiah, too young , said he, I can barely talk!...yet chosen by God , invited to be part of His plan!

Whom does God invite? A simple glimpse through the Scripture leaves us amazed! A young girl of a poor family, a simple carpenter, an octogenarian woman of prayer, a bunch of fishermen, a woman of ill repute Jesus meets at a well, another possessed by the very devils, a persecutor of Christians! Certainly no one that we would expect nor have had on our short list for likely invitees to the plans of God ! And, that invitation has been issued to you and me, by someone who knows us intimately, acquainted with all our ways! We too are the unlikely…the least expected!

* The invitation of God is not to the possible!

I will never forget my mother's encouragement whenever I faced a difficult task or decision..." You do the possible, God does the impossible" I have found her advise true and helpful in many ocassions, except for the fact that often God invites to to do quite impossible things!

So it is with Mary and the angels's invitation; "now you will conceive... and bear a son! The "bear a son" part is in the realm of the possible, Mary was after all promised to be married! It’s the "you shall conceive now" which is hard to fathom! How can this be? The answer; "...for nothing shall be impossible with God!..."! God’s invitation is not to merely acomplishing the possible, WE CAN DO THAT VERY WELL ON OUR OWN THANKYOU! He calls us beyond that which we feel and know we can do, he calls us to trust him, to believe him, to follow him beyond our senses, beyond our knowledge, wisdom an experience to that which can only be done by the power of the Holy Spirit!

Isn’t that how it very often seems with God? Moses was called, one man to lead an entire people out of slavery , while armed with a speech impediment and a stick...impossible!! Noah- had no ship building skills, and was not a zoo keeper! Besides Sampson’s long hair and his good looks he did not seem have a lot more working for him, yet he was called to be a judge for Israel. Fishermen with no formal education were issued the invitation to form the basis of the kingdom of God , to carry on the good news of God’s love! Upon disccusing the impossibility for a rich man to get into heaven, Jesus looked at his stunned disciples and said, "With man this is impossible, but with God all ... Mark adds, "but not with God; for with God all things are possible!

Likewise the call of God to the Christian is to a task "impossible for the natural man". We are called beyond our pretty churches , altars , the confort of our pews and stained glass windows. We are not merely called to be Episcopalians, nor Christians, nor religious, we are called to be the "dwelling of God", the "temple of the Holy Spirit"..., the "body of Christ", "the light of the word..."! God does not call us to be goody two shoes, mere church attenders, he calls us beyond that to "new life"! To be a Christian is to live an impossible life, made possible by the very life of God lived inside you and me! Quite an impossible task for any human but for the power of the Holy Spirit!

* The invitation of God is not to the faint hearted!

Mary do not be afraid! These are words of encouragement and power! Words that encourage the hearer from timidity to expectant faith! There are so many times these words are uttered in Scripture by a heavenly messenger!

"...After this, the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision: “Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward..".

But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife..."

"...Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul..."

"...So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows..."

It can be a bit scary to hear God's call, to feel him tugging at the strings of your heart, his Spirit leading you to paths you would normally not have chosen! To follow him in commuicating good news to the needy or to a hospital room to comfort the sick or to a more intense life of prayer. We fear the loss of our priorities, our time, the disruption of our schedules and life! The confortable and timid are very hesitant to follow! Yet as Episcopalians we should very well know that to follow Christ takes "courage and singleness of heart"! We pray at every Eucharist to have the strength and valor to serve God! God does not invite us to timidity or to lives of hesitation and fear, but to be unafraid!

Mary rises to the challenge, decides to risk it all! Her plans, her wedding , her parents expectations, her very life! Her response "Here is the Lord servant, be it done unto me according to your words" leaves no doubt of her courage as she accepts the invitation of God.

May it be so with us, may we valiantly face life's challenges, may we accept the call of God in our lives, may we follow him even in the way of the cross!

Have a very blessed Christmas


Friday, December 2, 2011

Evening Prayer

A few seconds of a beautiful and peaceful evening prayer service at St. Luke's. "...Lord you have the words of everlasting life!..."

About Those Ten Virgins…

"...Then the Kingdom of Heaven will be like ten virgins, who took their lamps, and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. Those who were foolish, when they took their lamps, took no oil with them, but the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps. Now while the bridegroom delayed, they all slumbered and slept. But at midnight there was a cry, "Behold! The bridegroom is coming! Come out to meet him!" Then all those virgins arose, and trimmed their lamps. The foolish said to the wise, "Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out." But the wise answered, saying, "What if there isn't enough for us and you? You go rather to those who sell, and buy for yourselves." While they went away to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast, and the door was shut..." Matthew 25:1-13  

As Advent approaches it is inevitable that a reference to this parable of Jesus will show up in our liturgies, either in the gospel lesson, a hymn, some other worship song, or perhaps in the Sunday homily. For some of us raised in a strong evangelical tradition with a hint of fundamentalism there is always a bit of inner turmoil associated with this particular story.

The foolish virgins, we were told, of course, were the unprepared, did not have enough oil in their lamps! They did not pray enough, or did not have enough of the light of the word, or the oil of the Holy Spirit! They took their duty lightly and as a result missed out! They were left in the outside looking in , even as strangers! The wise ones, of course, were the well prepared; lit lamps and extra oil, and when the bridegroom came they went into the feast with him!

I cannot begin to tell you the many ways this lesson was drilled to the young in the church of my childhood, in song, lessons and fiery preaching! Reflecting back to those times, though it is true that Christians should be prayerful, filled with the Spirit and awaiting the coming of the Lord, it was the fear rather than expectancy of the Lord’s coming that made more of a mark in many of us!Today I do not read the parable with the same dread, but it does have valuable lessons for us who live in wait for the revealing, for the coming of the Lord.

I see this parable as…

A parable of the kingdom- “the kingdom of heaven is like ten virgins…”. Jesus himself speaks of the kingdom of God “among us”, not just the kingdom at the world’s end. Therefore we do not necessarily have to apply the imagery and lessons in the story exclusively to the end of the world or the second coming of Christ. Christ comes to us, in a variety of ways even now; in the gathering of two or three, in the bread and wine of the Eucharist, in the child we welcome, in the poor and needy we help, in the sick we visit; even in the hour of distress and death we have the promise of his coming, his presence. It should be no trouble for Episcopalians to see this dimension in the parable; after all, we proclaim at every Eucharist that God’s kingdom is “now and forever”.

A parable of waiting- Advent is for us a reminder that we wait, not just for a distant and rather fearful event but the imminent appearance of the bridegroom for a joyful feast. Well it seemed so in this parable, until the delay of course! The groom did not show for quite a while and the girls seemed to have lost some of their pep, got tired, perhaps bored and fell asleep. I have always thought that this could have never been a Latino wedding; no groom would be allowed to upstage the lateness of the bride and her maids! But, whatever the culture the element of delay is a key to understanding the parable’s message. Often the expected takes time, seems longer than what we want to wait, sometimes it seems like the wait is unending and we lose focus. Perhaps learning to live waiting is the hardest lesson to learn in life, specially the life in the spirit. It takes time for new life to mature, for spiritual gifts to flourish, for seeds planted to grow, for that which we expect to occur, all of which requires grace filled patience.

A parable of opportunities- Opportunities abound at every turn in this parable and sadly some were missed. Five of the virgins in our story
did not take the opportunity to prepare well. They took oil in their lamps but did not take into account that things might be delayed. The other set of five did not avail themselves of the opportunity to be charitable. They had oil and reserves, surely they could have spared even a little for their less prepared friends. There are very few places in Scriptures where this kind of selfish actions would be lauded….get some for yourselves! It certainly sheds a note of caution for people looking for solutions and answers from their friends rather from the bridegroom himself. Not all the advice we are given by those waiting with us yield the best outcomes for us! And finally, at least to me, probably the main reason some of girls were called foolish, the lost opportunity to be present when the bridegroom arrived. The story makes it clear the lamps were not yet empty of oil, they could have stayed put gone into the feast and shone at least for a while. They could have pleaded with the bridegroom, apologized to the bride, maybe bribed the mothers in law and who knows what else. As it was, they left and did not make it back before the doors were already closed and the feast begun! Be present, even if unprepared, do not miss the opportunity for mercy and for grace which these girls unfortunately let pass.

A parable about us- Sometimes we are very much the prepared virgins, ready for come what may! To be of service to someone in need, to deliver that word of prophecy or hope, to evangelize at the drop of a hat. Other times we are less so! We are tired, down, distracted , sleepy, we miscalculated the moment or the wait, we just cannot find the enthusiasm or the words! This parable gives us a lot to reflect about in our own lives of faith.

So there you have it…its about the kingdom of God here and now, about graciously and patiently waiting, about opportunities we should not let pass by and finally about you and me!

Have a Blessed Advent


Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Old Pictures: A Cuban Exile Story - Mario Loyola - National Review Online

Old Pictures: A Cuban Exile Story - Mario Loyola - National Review Online

(click above to read it all)
Every Cuban-American family has the following black-and-white picture hanging somewhere on a wall: Grandfather and his many brothers, dressed in smart suits with thin ties; wives and sisters in floral and pastel dresses; everyone crowded together, some kneeling, others standing, all beaming broadly. That was Cuba in the 1950s. That was the country that Fidel Castro ruined.

For those of us in my generation – the first to be born in the United States – the memory of our families’ exile begins with that old black-and-white picture. It is the backdrop to the family history we were raised on, which all Cuban exile families share, stories of upheaval, loss, and salvation....

Great story which many Cuban Americans can truly identify with!



Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Bienvenido a La Iglesia Episcopal ...

Estas palabras escritas por el Dr. Joseph Fort Newton en su obra "Rio de Años", hace mas de 60 años, todavia expresan el sentir de muchos que hemos hayado un hogar espiritual en la Iglesia Episcopal.
"...Algo profundo en mí responde a los modales dulces y moderados de la Iglesia Episcopal. Su atmósfera de reverencia, el culto ordenado y majestuoso, con su tradición de continuidad histórica, que une el hoy a edades pasadas; sus símbolos que consagran la fe del pasado y la esperanza del futuro; su tolerancia sabia y amplia; su liturgia antigua y hermosa - como una escalera, gastada por muchos pies, por la cual se llega a Dios - y, más aún, el misticismo organizado de sus sacramentos - todas estas cosas de belleza y gracia me impresionan profundamente!

Más importante aún, si es posible, es la posición central y estratégica que la Iglesia Episcopal mantiene en la confusa situación religiosa de nuestro tiempo. Es la más acogedora iglesia de la cristiandad, en el sentido de que acepta los hechos básicos de la fe cristiana como símbolos de verdades transparentes, que cada uno puede interpretar mientras su intuición explora su profundidad y maravilla!

A medio camino entre un liberalismo árido y una ortodoxia acre, mantiene su sabio curso, conservando los valores eternos de la fe, al paso que procura leer la palabra de Dios revelada en el tumulto de los tiempos. Si su espíritu y actitud fueran mejor entendidos, se convertiría inmediatamente en el refugio y hogar de muchas mentes vejadas divididas entre la lealtad a la fe antigua y la nueva verdad.
Después de todo, hay una sola iglesia de Cristo. Se pueden usar muchos nombres, pero la fe es una, y finalmente, tarde o temprano, será una comunión, unidos por el deseo creativo o impulsados conjuntamente por la pura necesidad de hacer frente a las fuerzas de destrucción de nuestros días, que, si se salen con la suya, terminarán en el materialismo y la futilidad. Cada persona debe trabajar donde pueda hacer su mejor tarea en nombre de nuestra empresa cristiana común, y miro a un futuro servicio feliz y fructífero en una comunidad grande y misericordiosa..."

No hablamos de Iglesias o comunidades perfectas, no creo que eso sea posible en esta vida. Pero si, de una comunidad acogedora, donde todo ser humano en su busqueda de la fe, en medio de sus dudas, en el fervor de su experiencia con Cristo o simplemente en la busqueda de un compañerismo humano con preguntas acerca de Dios, pueda encontrar un lugar donde conocer, amar y ser amado...! Ese espacio espiritual, de compañerismo, devocion y solidaridad lo ofrece sin reservas la Iglesia Episcopal!

Es una alegria para mi que nuestro pueblo hispano esta comenzando a descubrirlo y apreciarlo!

Muchas Bendiciones


Friday, October 21, 2011

Justice or just plain Violence?

Why must it always end in violence and murder?

I must confess feeling a little distress at the images of deposed Lybian leader Muammar Kaddafi helpless, bleeding, manhandled and killed at the hands of his captors, which were all over the internet on this day. Of course all in the name of justice liberation and ....revenge perhaps!

Don’t get me wrong, I hold no sympathy for dictators and am aware of the brutality perpetrated by this man during his forty year regime! I just can not see how the cause of humanity is advanced when we treat other humans such!

The striving for justice and peace among all people, in my mind, has to be balanced with a great respect for the dignity of every human person, even out of luck dictators! Justice for all Libyans and peace for that nation could have begun today with justice and dignity for a defeated man. Instead we were treated to carnage, the end of an era of violence and injustice ushered in by ...more of the same!

The Episcopal Church’s baptismal covenant phrases it precisely so; Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being? As we answer yes, and begin to consider with wonder the ineffable mystery of life, the breath of God in every human, the image of God imprinted on each human person we can not look at degradation, violence, oppression or the killing of persons in the same way!

It is in this spirit of recognizing and respecting human dignity that Christians reach out to help the needy, shelter the dispossessed, speak on behalf of the voiceless,are advocates for immigrants and the poor, oppose the death penalty and in no way can condone abortion as birth control! It is also why the brutal killing of a defenseless, wounded, senior citizen,albeit evil, ex dictator, feels odd in our souls!

It is reported that the wounded dictator repeatedly asked his captors “Do you know right from wrong”? It is a question I fear has been answered in the pictures and stories of the day!

May God the merciful and compassionate look with grace on the events of this day, may his Spirit of peace and goodwill blow over Lybia as it faces a new day.



Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Remembering The Victims of War

As we come upon the tenth anniversary of 911 and our nation prepares to remember the innocent victims who perished on that day, perhaps the following will help widen our perspective.I found these to be quite an eye opener.

COLLECT FOR VICTIMS OF WAR: Lord God, your own Son was delivered into the hands of the wicked, yet he prayed for his persecutors and overcame hatred with his love. Come to the aid of the innocent victims of war;grant rest to the departed, comfort to the suffering, peace of mind, healing of body, and a renewed faith in your protection and care. Grant this through Christ our Lord.

COLLECT FOR PEACE: O God, who art the author of peace and lover of concord, in knowledge of whom standeth our eternal life, whose service is perfect freedom: Defend us, thy humble servants, in all assaults of our enemies; that we, surely trusting in thy defense, may not fear the power of any adversaries; through the might of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.



Thursday, August 11, 2011

Santa Maria, Madre de Dios

Otra vez se prepara la Iglesia para celebrar la alegre festividad de Santa Maria Virgen y, como en otras ocasiones, surgen preguntas acerca del lugar de la Bendita Virgen en la fe y espiritualidad de la Iglesia Episcopal.

Quizas la mas comun sea en cuanto a la designacion de Maria como “Madre de Dios”. Madre de Dios? Como va a ser eso? Ella es solo madre de Jesus! Dios no tiene principio ni fin! Como pues puede Maria ser madre de Dios! Hace unos años hasta me regalaron un CD con una cancioncita en cumbia que decia..” no hay una madre, Dios no ha nacido…”

Esta respuesta clasica en algunos circulos de la comunidad cristiana no es nada nuevo! En el siglo 4to de nuestra era, el presbitero Nestorio en Alejandría se oponia a que la Virgen fuera llamada Madre de Dios sino solo madre de Cristo. Su enseñanza la cual hacia una separacion entre la naturaleza humana y la naturaleza divina de Cristo fue eventualmente condenada como herejia en el concilio de Efeso en el 431. Los cristianos de su epoca respondieron, correctamente, que María es madre de Cristo, el cual es Dios encarnado, por lo tanto ella es propiamente llamada madre de Dios.

Es esta verdad de la encarnacion la que anima la espiritualidad del Anglicanismo y de la Iglesia Episcopal! Si hay una madre, Dios si ha nacido, “El Verbo se hizo carne y habito entre nosotros y vimos su Gloria…”. A Dios nadie lo vio jamas pero el hijo de María es la “imagen visible del Dios invisible…”. El mundo es diferente desde este acontecimento unico! Dios entra en la historia y forma parte de ella, comparte nuestra humanidad, El viene como dijese la liturgia Eucaristica “para vivir y morir como uno de nosotros".

Desde las paginas de la Escritura la voz de Isabel, madre de Juan el Bautista y llena del Espiritu Santo, es la primera en dar testimonio de esa verdad! Saluda a la joven Maria, ya encinta, que la visita diciendo; quien soy yo para que me visite la madre de mi Señor!

Unamos nuestra voz a la de ella, dando honor al que honor merece y reconociendo en Maria, una simple joven Galilea a aquella que fue y es madre de Dios encarnado!

Muchas bendiciones


Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Learning at Church

With summer well underway and fall approaching, Christian education and catechesis always seem to come up in our parish. Are we having a fall Bible study? Do we need a longer new member’s class? How about Sunday School? Are we offering enough opportunities for people to learn their faith or drowning them in information?

There is no question that part of the church’s ministry is to offer people the opportunity to learn and deepen their faith. However it’s in the methods by which we feel this can be accomplished that we find differences, and our vision of the church comes into play.

How do we see the church and its mission to teach? Is church primarily a school where classes are offered and the faith taught systematically at all ages? Are newcomers brought into this educational system so they can be brought up to par with the doctrinal conviction of the parish? Or, is the church envisioned primarily as a family with learning and growth happening organically as people live the life of faith? There does not have to be an either or approach to this question, but we each seem to have preferences based on our own experiences.

Personally, I prefer the latter approach. Maybe it’s my reaction to endless hours of studying for exams, licensing boards, continuing clergy and medical education; its dull and forgettable! When it is not, I suspect it can contribute to our storing information divorced from its context! Information without life, not linked to emotion or experiences, apart from a setting to color its meaning, and with no relationship to real people, can be less than helpful to growing in the spiritual life. I have met very uninspiring people educated this way! Some with very a very impressive knowledge base, lots of information about Bible verses and theological concepts but oh so dry!!!! I have also encountered others, perhaps unable to cite a chapter and verse of Scripture to prove a point, but whose lives irradiated the love of God and his presence.

For me, nothing compares to the learning that happens in ones daily life and experience. We live it in our own homes! Most of us do not hold formal toilet t raining classes for toddlers, nor dinner etiquette lessons with an exam, nor pimple care for teenagers, it happens naturally in the context of family life. There, by conversation, redirection and plain interaction most of the things important to family are learned. The things we value, those that are acceptable, the things that make us laugh, those that we remember with sadness, dress codes and music appreciation, are all part of rich lessons while living in family and community!
It is the same in the life of faith, and though we may hold classes to help people get a basic understanding of what it means to be a Christian, the business of knowing and loving God and neighbor is not something one can learn in a classroom!

For Episcopalians living through the liturgy, as we go through the year, is a great aid in instruction. Our observation and interaction around Scripture, creed, prayer, and sacraments can be an experience of learning in the context of our life together as a family! No amount of book learning taught me about devotion to the Lord in Holy Communion as the experience of seeing it in the faces, outstretched hands and lives of real people with whom I share the life of faith. Likewise with so many things in our Christian walk; The baptismal covenant in the context of a baptism, a Taize service teaching the value of silence, a good Charismatic service opening our ears to speaking in tongues , a child’s first communion, a workday, prayers for healing! God and His words come alive, not just in a classroom setting but in the lives of his people, in their journey together, their joyful celebrations, challenges, sorrows, devotions and suppers, births and death.

The idea of catechesis incorporated into life this way feels so very natural to me. It may be slower, but in the end I think it will be deeper and more true to life. I also am very aware that it will be uncomfortable for some. We crave information and live in a time where it is instantly available at our fingertips. Some will want a new member’s class covering all the bases. Others will insist in a structured program of Bible study and Sunday school. Some will think there is too much already and for a few, there will be no amount of educational opportunities and offerings which will be enough! Yet for the patient seeker, who wants to not just learn about but also experience the marvel of growing in grace and the knowledge of God, every day, every Eucharist, every encounter holds a promise of growth and discovery.

May God be our teacher and the Holy Spirit always near to lead us to all truth.

Many Blessings


Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Juzgar por Apariencias

" No juzgara por apariencias, ni sentenciara de oidas..."
Estas palabras del profeta Isaias refiriendose al Mesias siempre me han llamado mucho la atencion. No solo me hablan del carater del Señor Jesucristo, sino tambien me proponen un ejemplo a seguir.

El deferir juzgar rapidamente es una de las cosas mas dificiles para nosotros los seres humanos. Lo hacemos a veces automaticamente, al conocer a alguien aun verle por primera vez! Comentamos si es inteligente, si es bonita, si parece peligroso o peligrosa, si pegaria entre mis amistades o no. A veces hasta tendemos a caer en el prejuicio…..catalogamos a las personas, las pintamos a grandes brochasos…;los negros americanos, los blancos, los latinos...! La cultura popular hasta nos incita a el enjuiciar negativamente a las personas como dijera este dicho cubano..."piensa mal y acertaras…".

No solo juzgamos sino que suponemos el futuro y porvenir de las personas en base a nuestro juicio personal. Sin embargo, La Biblia esta llena de ejemplos en los cuales el juzgar por apariencias nos llevaria a equivocarnos….

Recuerde a las siguientes personas y como quedarian si las sometieramos al juicio de nuestros criterios:

Noé era un borracho, Abraham estaba muy viejo, Jacob era un mentiroso,Lea era fea,Jose fue abusado, David era mujeriego, Gedeón era miedoso, Samson tenía pelo largo,Rahab era una prostituta, Jeremías and Timoteo eran muy jóvenes, Elías era depresivo,Juan el Bautista comía langostas, Pedro era impulsivo, Juan creía que él era mejor que otros, Los discípulos se durmieron cuando oraban, Marta se preocupaba por todo, Su hermana María era haragana, María Magdalena estaba poseída por un demonio, La mujer samaritana tuvo 5 maridos, Zaqueo era muy bajito, Marcos se dio por vencido,Timoteo tenía úlcera en el estómago...

Claro esta que de esta lista seria dificil encontrar a ningun candidato para ser ejemplo en la fe, ni para ejercer ningun tipo de liderazgo en la Iglesia. De algunos dudariamos que pudieren llegar a ser personas de bien! Sin embargo, a pesar de estas limitaciones muy aparentes a nuestros ojos, Dios ve en cada uno de ellos cosas invisibles a nuestros ojos y que se escapan nuestro juicio. Si seguimos la historia de esta ilustre lista poco a poco vemos que se van revelando en ellos cualidades que quizas nunca nos hubieramos imaginado.

Dios no juzga por apariencias por que el mira el corazon, conoce a cada cual intimamente y a cada uno ofrece su amor y perdon! Dios no envio su Hijo al mundo para condenarlo, sino para que el mundo fuera salvo por El.

Que podamos ser en esto imitadores de Dios, no juzgamos por apariencias ni antes de tiempo sino que confiamos nuestras vidas y las de los demas al cuidado amoroso y juicio justo de Dios!



Saturday, June 25, 2011

A Prayer for Married Couples

O God, you have so consecrated the covenant of marriage that in it is represented the spiritual unity between Christ and his Church: Send therefore your blessing upon these your servants, that they may so love, honor, and cherish each other in faithfulness and patience, in wisdom and true godliness,that their home may be a haven of blessing and peace;through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

New York Says I do To Marriage Equality

Lawmakers voted late Friday to legalize same-sex marriage, making New York the largest state where gay and lesbian couples will be able to wed and giving the national gay-rights movement new momentum from the state where it was born.

The marriage bill, whose fate was uncertain until moments before the vote, was approved 33 to 29 in a packed but hushed Senate chamber. Four members of the Republican majority joined all but one Democrat in the Senate who supported the measure after an intense and emotional campaign aimed at the handful of lawmakers wrestling with a decision that divided their friends, their constituents and sometimes their own homes.

With his position still undeclared, Senator Mark J. Grisanti, a Republican from Buffalo who had sought office promising to oppose same-sex marriage, told his colleagues he had agonized for months before concluding he had been wrong.

“I apologize for those who feel offended,” Mr. Grisanti said, adding, “I cannot deny a person, a human being, a taxpayer, a worker, the people of my district and across this state, the State of New York, and those people who make this the great state that it is the same rights that I have with my wife.



Friday, June 17, 2011

"Still Very White”

“…Baptist leaders also believe that attracting more minorities would help reverse the decline. About 19 percent of their churches are African-American, Hispanic, Asian American or other minority congregations. “We’ve got a long way to go for more ethnic diversity,” Rainer said. “We are still a very white denomination….”

These comments as Southern Baptist leaders reflected on numbers indicating a decline in their denomination made me smile! Of the approximately 37,000 Southern Baptist churches, home to 16,136,044 members in the US, only 19% of their churches are minority congregations...I was green with envy!

While the membership statistics of the SBC do not reflect the diversity of the US population, they certainly do so better than our own Episcopal Church! This is true, despite the mantra we hold dear; “The Episcopal Church Welcomes You", and our insistence that we are an "inclusive" church. Figures reported on the 2008 Faith Communities Today Survey showed that a mere 8.5% of Episcopal parishes were predominantly minority; 5% African American, 1.5 % Native American, 1.4% Latino, and 1.5 % Pacific Islander. There are many historical and practical reasons for this, I am sure! There are also patterns we must overcome as we approach church planting and evangelism if we are to be the more than a church for white retirees!.

Consider this from our own diocesan experience; the diocese of Florida has been in existence since 1838, which is 171 years, and in that time, has a handful of primarily African American congregations, a Hispanic congregation which came fully formed into the diocese from another denomination and a mission planted by Diocese. The Southern Baptists, by contrast have, just in the Duval county area, at least 10 Hispanic churches and several stable missions. The Baptist outreach to Latinos in Jacksonville began in 1960 when less than 0.5% of the population of the city was Hispanic. Our diocese had no Spanish language services, no missions or prayer groups active in any of its churches in 2008! That is almost 50 years later, even as the number of Latinos mushroomed in the county and region. One has to wonder how that happens!

In the three years since coming into the diocese of Florida as part of its first Latino ministry, there have been Spanish language ministries planted by Southern Baptists in at least 4 other locations in the area served by the diocese of Florida; in St Augustine, Neptune Beach, and just around the corner from St. Luke’s Episcopal Church! They use space provided by larger Anglo congregations, share pastors and lay leaders, alternate service times and are beginning to show promise! We in contrast, despite willingness among the Latino clergy and vocal support from diocesan leaders, have managed to plant one mission with hopes for more at some undefined point in the future.

Sadly, that seems to be the norm in many dioceses of the Episcopal Church! We have a distinguished history, beautiful liturgy and music,theological roomyness and despite the economic crises, no lack of funds! Yet we find ourselves static, unprepared, uncertain, and frozen even as our neighborhoods change, members age, and people of other colors and languages show up at our doors to an uncertain welcome! What is it about us Episcopalians? Even as we say our doors are open to all, we seem to make little effort to reach them and appear to be locked into inaction as opportunities for mission pass us by! We are inspired and intent on helping people of different colors and languages who live far away, even as those same people live next door to our parishes and are becoming more the face of the neighborhoods we serve.

“Still very white”…what an honest statement from a community of faith that has shown a willingness to reach the unchurched and, been pioneers in ministry to Latinos and other minorities! We definitely should take it to heart, reflect seriously on our evangelism priorities, and with prayer and concrete actions make the changes and difficult choices that make welcome and diversity more than words in our diocese and the Episcopal Church!



Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Give to all that ask…Really?

I must say I am having a crisis of sorts after events in the past four weeks. I am questioning a longstanding precept in my walk of faith. It is found in the words of Jesus; "...give to all who ask...". Even as I try to follow the gospel imperative to take care of the poor, to give to those in need and to not turn away from those who ask for help, my faith is put to the test!

Consider the case of a single mother of 5, none of the dads are involved. She is on welfare and Medicaid and recovering from…..cosmetic surgery! Perhaps, the unemployed father of two children who tearfully asks, not for a handout but for a short term loan so he can get to a nearby state and a job, … as he has been doing repeatedly for about a year! The disabled “veteran” who shows up at the doorsteps of the parish office, by coincidence, on Memorial Day, with the story of being discharged from the hospital with no money, no care , no follow up, and of course was robbed and has no source of income! Or the homeless guy who curses at your car when you offer to buy him the food his sign says he will work for, instead of giving him the cash he requests! Let’s not forget about the needy couple with kids, showing up at church for benevolence after they blew their paychecks on a weekend getaway, or the nice lady in the Lexus who comes to the free clinic with the 3 u’s; unmarried, unemployed and uninsured!

It really touches your heart, but after a while you come to realize it is merely heartburn and not any kind of spiritual or laudable sensation. Did God really intend for us to believe and always respond kindly to these kinds of con?

After years of service as a priest, a volunteer at free clinics and of caring for people with limited means, it is disheartening that these types of stories are not all that rare. Sadly, I am much more likely to be a little skeptical of these narratives, and the folks telling them, than when I was a starry eyed youngster! Back then, I was certain that all people needed was love, an affirming smile and a hand to help them get through a rough time! Helping the poor, the friendless and needy is a gospel imperative, being a perpetual enabler of the irresponsible or the gullible prey of con artists …not so much!

The parish I serve is rich on generosity from people who live on very fixed incomes, some who make under minimum wage, have multiple jobs and still struggle monthly to make ends meet. Even so they give of their time, treasure and talent to serve God and help others. It hardly seems fair, godly or good stewardship to be careless with their gifts and offerings. It is with people’s faith, their precious time, their very hard earned money that we play when we extend our charity lightly to those who would take advantage of others.

Perhaps St. Paul’s admonition should be part of the spiritual directives we consult when faced with a request for aid from a less than credible source, “if anyone is unwilling to work, let them not eat…”! I once heard a conservative Baptist politician make similar Bible references and cringe at entertaining similar thoughts but, alas...I can not help but think it merits prayerful consideration!

May God give us love, patience and wise discernment as we strive to love God, neighbor and give to those who ask.



Monday, May 9, 2011

Journey to Emmaus-Easter 3

St. Luke 24: 13-25

Headed to Emmaus, the mood of the disciples could not have been more somber. They had seen their hopes and prayers, their best wishes for a restored Davidic dynasty and for an end to foreign rule of Israel dashed on a hill outside Jerusalem. The man they thought would be king, the rabbi with the healing touch and fire filled words that was welcomed in the city with shouts of Hosanna, was put to death on a wooden cross and, after three days, it seemed all was said and done. The road from Jerusalem was a road back to reality, to whatever each had left behind to follow the carpenter they called Christ. They were men disappointed by the outcome, disappointed by hope and by extension, though they may not have dared voice it, disappointed with God.

Does this not happen in each of our lives? A prayer not answered as we thought, a project that comes to no fruition, the relationship on which we had placed our hopes falters, the new job so full of promise turns out to be a source of stress and despair. Our faith filled prayers and struggle not leading us to the outcome we had envisioned takes a toll on our convictions. Disappointment and perhaps a bit of shock when, despite the prayers, well intentions, love and great faith do not lead to the healing of a loved one, or perhaps as we face the loss of a parent or close friend. We can relate to the disciples in route to Emmaus, sooner or later we all seem to find ourselves in a similar journey.

It is a source of great comfort that Jesus himself came near them, and tough they did not recognize him the journey was changed by his presence. The commiserating over the sad events becomes a conversation about the happenings and they transform from people mourning for Jesus, mourning for lost hope, to people engaged with Jesus; walking and talking with Him. Even as they discussed the Scriptures familiar to them, their hearts burned within and new insights became apparent which they had not considered before. I have to believe that Jesus, that God does this in our very lives, even as we come to difficult times in our journey of faith. When we feel that we are disappointed with God, or that he is disappointed with us, when our hopes seem feeble and our faith less than a mustard seed, Christ still comes near. When we have trouble understanding or believing, God does not abandon us, but even as in this journey to Emmaus, though he was not recognized he comes near!

There are times, much as it was with these disciples that our eyes are veiled and our ears seem to be closed to the love and presence of God in our lives and in the world. Sometimes it is difficult to see past a problem we are having, past a temptation, a blessing or a test. We focus on it almost to the exclusion of all else. More often than not we are caught in mental models which affect the way we perceive reality and the world around us. “

In the words of Peter Senge: “Mental models are deeply held internal images of how the world works, images that limit us to familiar ways of thinking and acting. Very often, we are not consciously aware of our mental models or the effects they have on our behavior”. Perhaps, the disciples were unable to see past the limitations imposed by such and could not recognize the Christ, nor find in the Scriptures they knew the insight to give them hope and renewed faith. We too are limited by our own mental models which color our perception of what is, how things should be, how and why we believe and do the things we do as Christians, as Episcopalians. We would entrap God within our own limitations as if such a thing were even possible or feasible. Fortunately Christ comes to our aid! In his life, parables, ministry, and miracles, he constantly challenged the mental models, the limitations people imposed upon themselves, others, and on the love and mercy of God.

For people who thought they knew all about the sacred, Jesus reframes for them what is allowed on the Sabbath, what kind of prayer is acceptable to God, the Holy One of Israel he called daddy, he included women and outcasts in his inner circle insisting he came to seek the lost. When it came to explaining what the proper place for worship was he told a Samaritan woman it had nothing to do with places but with worship in Spirit and truth. Here on the road to Emmaus he challenges the mental models of the disciples and opens for them the scriptures, so they could see beyond their naïve, parochial triumphalism over Rome , to find the suffering savior, betrayed , crucified but then coming to His Glory. His very presence challenged the limitations imposed by the reality of human death….by the power of God He is risen!!!!

The journey leads the disciples to a table where, as Jesus blesses and breaks bread his atonished travel companions recognize him even as he disappears from their view. For the early Christians this story was often seen as a metaphor for the Eucharist, Jesus opens the Scriptures and blessed the bread! Word and sacrament intimately united in the journey of the Christian. I can think of no greater place to challenge our mental models than at the table of the Lord. Weekly we come looking beyond the physical elements of bread and wine towards a reality they communicate, the body and blood of Christ. Weekly we see across the altar people from all races and persuasions and walks of life eat of the same bread, drink of the cup and, despite their diversity, somehow members of one body, part of the same family, children of God.!

I love this story, it begins with people on a sad journey of disappointment and loss of faith. These are transformed into people walking and talking, engaged with Jesus, people whose hearts are once again warmed with hope, people whose understanding is opened, their eyes recognize Jesus and they become heralds of good news! May it be so in our own lives!



Sunday, April 24, 2011

Christ Is Risen, seek the things above!

Very early in the morning, some texts say before sunrise, on the first day of the week, certain women who had been followers of Jesus went to mourn at his tomb, and much to their surprise, the stone covering the cave was rolled away and the body of their beloved teacher was not there! Even as the news spread among the small band of disciples, skepticism and unbelief gripped the group. Some could not understand what had happened, others thought the women were being a little exaggerated with their claims and stories! A few insisted they would never believe, one even saying he had to physically put his fingers in the hands and side that had been pierced at the crucifixion! Yet to these very fist group of surprised and unbelieving disciples something amazing was happening that would change their lives and the world forever.

Out of an empty tomb, that of a preacher, rabble rouser in an obscure province of the Roman empire, came out Christ alive!!!! His disciples the first skeptics, were forever changed and the story of his resurrection has trough the ages come to our very ears….

Jesus made twelve appearances after his resurrection:

1. His first appearance was to Mary Magdalene, on that early Sunday morning. (Mark 16:9; John 20:10-18).
2. Jesus appeared to the women returning from the tomb. (Matthew 28:9-10).
3. Jesus appeared to two disciples on the road to Emmaus. (Luke 24:13-32; Mark 16:12-13).
4. He appeared to Peter in Jerusalem. (Luke 24:34; 1 Corinthians 15:5).
5. He appeared to his disciples and other followers,
6. A week later, Jesus again appeared to his disciples behind locked doors, and this time Thomas was present. (John 20:24-29).
7. Jesus appeared to seven of his disciples on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. (John 21:1-24).
8. Jesus was seen by 500 believers at one time. (1 Corinthians 15:6).
9. He appeared to James. (1 Corinthians 15:7).
10. He appeared to eleven disciples on a mountain in Galilee. (Matt. 28:18-20).
11. He walked with his disciples along the road to Bethany, on the Mount of Olives, (Luke 24:50-53).
12. He was seen by Paul on the road to Damascus. (Acts 9:3-6; 1 Corinthians 15:8).

Jesus, crucified, dead , now risen! What magnificent news, all is changed! Our reading from the book of Acts has a beautiful example of the message of good news preached by the earliest of Jesus disciples to a hostile world that had seen Christ crucified- Jesus anointed by God, Jesus healing the oppressed, Jesus betrayed and unjustly crucified, Jesus, risen by God, Jesus forgiver of sins!

Does it end there for us? In an intellectual or even a faith filled assent to the story we hear? Easter oh, that is nice! Or could it be that we too have been impacted by what occurred in Jerusalem long ago-? Have we been touched by the resurrection? have we encountered the Christ who lives? have we experienced the presence of the Spirit, Lord and giver of life?

Paul challenges us, reminding us that our very lives are touched by the resurrection of Christ, that we have somehow been made alive, we are risen with Christ, our lives, the very meaning of our lives is hidden with Christ, Christ has become our very source of life- and we can live, fully alive by the power f the resurrection!

If you be risen with Christ – seek the things above, look for things above!

We are people of the resurrection, with our feet firmly on planted on earth- even as our heart always seeks the heavenly! One of my early teachers in the faith frecuently cautioned us about people too heavenly minded to do any earthly good. I have found that not to always be so, my experience differs from that. It is with our heart, mind and eyes fixed on the things above that we truly live a fully human life and make the greatest difference here on earth.

* As we move about the earthly kingdoms, with the mix of goodness and grave flaws-we look above and call for God’s kingdom to come, on earth as it is in heaven!

* As rulers rise and fall- our eyes fixed on heaven and our heart and lips pray; Maranatha come Lord Jesus come! The Spirit and the bride say come!

* As we sojourn through life’s trials, challenges and difficulties- look above even as Abraham, Sarah, heroes of faith for the heavenly city whose architect is God.

As we come to religious feast- set our feet at a building used for religious purposes, we look for things above! We are reminded in the letter to the Hebrews, that as we draw near to God we come to mount Zion, we join myriads of angels that have come together to worship God, to the spirits of men made righteous! We are encouraged to; lift up your hearts- we "lift them up to the Lord" and with angels archangels company of heaven who forever sing, we join the heavenly chorus!

We look above, find love where there is hatred, comfort when sorrow strikes, faith when doubts come, strength when all strength seems to fail , provision and peace and goodness and mercy and hope and ….peace and life to be lived abundantly!

Look above to Jesus seated at the right hand of God- We see the example of the saints who faced adversity with their feet firmly on the ground but with their eyes on the risen Christ! Steven, surrounded by his enemies, pelted with stones, looked above and saw Christ seated at the right hand of God- Because of the power of the resurrection and his seeking heavenly things he was able to utter a prayer for his very tormentors; father forgive them! John prisoner in the Isle of Patmos looked beyond the walls of his cave, beyond earthly limitations and saw the angels and heavenly creatures worshiping around the throne of God!

Today we will be witnesses of baptism- a sacrament, visible signs of an invisible grace! We see mere water , but as we look above, we perceive forgiveness, grace new life! We come to the table, some see mere bread and wine, but as we look above by the power of the resurrection we see beyond, we see forgiveness, we see grace, we experience God, life is renewed, we see Christ!

Alleluia Christ is risen!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Good Question: Is Suicide Unforgivable? | Christianity Today | A Magazine of Evangelical Conviction

Good Question: Is Suicide Unforgivable? | Christianity Today | A Magazine of Evangelical Conviction

Click on title for full article, see below for a another helpful commentary by Thomas D. Kennedy.

The Church's task...portion of an article by Thomas D. Kennedy
When I comes to dealing with suicide, the church must do more than teach about it, for the church's primary task is to be the people of God.

First of all, the church must commit itself to being a community of truth, a community in which believers tell the truth about their own lives. A church must hear the stories of pain, suffering, and failure in the lives of its members; and those who tell the stories must receive from the church both lamentation and the healing balm of Christ. When the church is open and honest about pain and suffering, it can then confront in love even the most difficult of human crises and failures--suicide.

Second, the church must commit itself to being a community of love, not quick to judge. Since suicide often brings with it the stigma of "unpardonable sin" and feelings of shame and guilt for the surviving family members, those currently free of pain must welcome those who suffer in the name of Christ; and with the aid of the Holy Spirit, they must place themselves at one another's disposal. A church might well have a team ministry to contact and inquire daily about those who are troubled. A church might also designate certain gifted individuals to whom one might turn in distress. A community of love bears patiently with those who contemplate suicide and those who grieve and feel guilty as a result of suicide.

Third, the church must commit itself to being a community of joy, a community in which the new life of Christ is celebrated, a community that calls others to celebrate in the new life of Christ. By living as a community of joy, by regularly celebrating God's goodness to us in Jesus Christ, the church ministers to those who are saddened, joyfully acquainting them with the One who has known their sorrows.

This article originally appeared in the March 20, 1987, issue of Christianity Today.

The article linked, as well as the commentary posted, help us as we think about this difficult subject. We are challenged to be such a community bringing healing for those who are in pain, those affected by the death of a loved one, or contemplating suicide. It is also important to note that depression, often linked to suicidal thoughts and attempts, must never be discounted nor mistaken for a purely spiritual malady. Christians suffering from depression should be refered to medical and mental health professionals for evaluation and treatment. Depression, a factor in suicide is a treatable condition.



Friday, March 25, 2011

Lenten Pilgrimage

Its time once again to what has become an annual tradition for our parish; a Pilgrimage to Our Lady of la Leche sanctuary in St. Augustine Florida. The site, which is the oldest site of Christian worship in the United States is nestled in a garden setting, along with an ancient cementery and rustic altar. It is the small chapel itself and the stone beacons depicting the seven sorrows of Mary that are the focus of our meditation.

Often we forget Mary as we look at the events surrounding the public ministry and pasion of our Lord Jesus Christ. Yet, how must it have been for the one who heard the angel call, her blessed and that her child would be Savior and King? How do you reconcile what you feel is a promise of God to you or your family with the way life seems to turn out or the way God chooses to fulfill it? Surely this struggle must have been our Lady's as she lived through tumultuous events culminating in the death of her son. The prophecy of Simon, given at a time of joy for Mary makes all the more sense during this time; "Your child will be set as a sign in Israel...but a sword shall pierce your own soul...". Sometimes our life is that way, a curious mixture of hope and sorrow as we cling by faith to the promises of God!

Usually we arrive and begin with a short time of prayer and praise in the garden, followed by walking to each of the seven beacons and its corresponding image. Bible texts are read which correspond to the depiction in stone as prayers are said for the hurt, sick, homeless and persecuted in our world. The service ends with a time of silent prayer, praise and Eucharist at the old chapel , dedicated to Mary our Lady patroness of good labor and delivery. After the pilgrimage usually families go individually or in groups to the Old city of St. Augustine for sight seeing, lunch and much needed recreation.

I must say it is a simple, beautiful and renewing experience of prayer and faith during Lent that I look forward to every year. This year's pilgrimage will be on April 2nd from 9 AM-12 noon.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

What Was That...?

Great questions for Lenten Reflexion!



Seeking The Other Jesus... ?

From Seeking the Other Jesus: by Greg Garrett

"...Many Americans, particularly people in their teens, twenties, and thirties, have a virulent negative reaction to Christianity as they understand it. It seems to them to be too narrowly focused on piety and individual salvation, too judgmental and homophobic, too directly identified with a particular far-right political agenda... The qualities they identify describe the tradition in which I was raised -- and the tradition I fled.

My book, The Other Jesus, grows out of my upbringing in a conservative evangelical denomination, my decades in the wilderness seeking spiritual connection, and my rescue by a multi-cultural Episcopal congregation in Austin, Texas who introduced me to that possibility of faith as love and radical hospitality. It's my exploration of how following the Other Jesus has been life-giving for me and many other people who felt we could never identify ourselves as disciples of Christ.

Instead of piety, salvation, and politicized morality, many of us -- the sort of folks that Diana Butler Bass calls "the other Christians" -- have embraced love and radical hospitality (the messages of the Hebrew and Christian testaments), and the two-fold commandment (love of God and love of neighbor) articulated by Jesus and spotlighted by Augustine....

When I arrived in 2001, that radical hospitality was manifested in their welcome, in their worship, and in their liturgy, where everyone was encouraged to take communion. I walked into St. James a broken man who thought his life expectancy was measured in months; I walked out loved, accepted, accompanied, and encouraged to rescue others. The people of St. James showed me a faith that was living and vibrant, that wasn't based on assent to a set of beliefs, but on a communal journey toward God, and that has made all the difference for me.

How did the people of St. James look past differences in race, culture, and theology? How could the people of St. James commit themselves to care for others in and outside of their community? Why did the people of St. James exert themselves on behalf of the hungry, the poor, the marginalized?

The answer was that they were coming at faith in a different way from other Christians. I realized that although the people of St. James called themselves Christian, the Jesus they served was not the angry Jesus of my youth, nailed to a cross to atone for the sins of the world. He was not the Spiteful Jesus of Scott Cairns' poem, "quick to dish out just deserts." Their Jesus was the Other Jesus, the one who advocated compassion and sacrificial love, who called people to walk the Way, who fed, and healed, and reconciled, and so they modeled themselves on him and tried to do what he did.

The Other Jesus and the people doing his work in the world saved my life, and they can be a powerful corrective to the kind of faith and practice many people identify with such disdain today as Christianity..."

This interesting post from Gregg Garret at "The Huffington Post" left me with a lot to think about in my own walk of faith. Though I agree wholehearted with many concepts in his article and identify with the experience of faith at St. James, some of his comments leave me out of sorts.

Coming from a similar religious background and serving at a multicultural Episcopal Church where all are welcome, I want to know and follow the real Jesus, not an artificial persona product of imagination, politics or bad experiences! There is no such person as "angry Jesus", nor a "spiteful Jesus", nor a "Jesus quick to dish out". These are caricatures whose existence is limited to the imagination and words of people, and are in no way connected to the reality which is Christ!

As we approach Jesus we must, with the help of God, shed images that distort the person who is described as "the visible image of the invisible God". When we begin to, we find that, this same compassionate advocate, who called people to walk the way, fed and healed... was indeed nailed to a cross! We discover that his gift was born of love and his offering of self does atone for the sins of each and all!

It is also true that as we seek to follow "The Way" and make a difference in our world, the Jesus we seek to follow and imitate, points us to a hope which is not limited to improving our lot and that of others in the here and now! He reminds us, even as we engage in welcoming , and loving and feeding and healing that we are called beyond today! We are here but part of us does not completely belong, we are citizens of a kingdom that extends beyond this world. The Apostle Paul takes this theme and reminds Christians that "if, we only hope in Christ for this life we are of all men the most unfortunate".

As Episcopalians, our church's weekly liturgy helps form us in our continuing journey with God. It recalls for us images found in Scripture, stained glass, the prayers, songs and hopes of all sorts of Christians... "Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world" , "Saviour", "our passover who has been sacrificed for us".! The communion we are all invited and encouraged to partake in every Sunday is a "proclaiming" of "Christ's death until he comes again"! Our "spiritual food" is the bread "broken for us" and "blood of Christ" from which we receive strength for our journey! I assume it is much the same in St. James as in San Lucas! These words, certainly must seem odd if we repeat yet overlook the images, riches and truth they contain about the Lord we love.

The other Jesus must not be a "cafeteria Jesus" a mere construct that enshrines in our mind only those qualities and concepts compatible with our political sentiments or that shield us from bad childhood experiences! That is as artificial and unhelpful as we perceive the fundamentalist version to be. It is not true to Him, and cheats us from experiencing the fullness of His person and love.

It is my sincere prayer as we proceed in our "communal journey towards God" that we have the grace to look beyond all stereotypes and seek Jesus...the real one!