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!



A Collect for Peace and Protection

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 defence, may not fear the power of any adversaries, through the might of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

O God, from whom all holy desires, all good counsels, and all just works do proceed, give unto thy servants that peace which the world cannot give; that both our hearts may be set to obey thy commandments, and also that by thee we being defended from the fear of our enemies may pass our time in rest and quietness. Amen

Book of Common Prayer