Saturday, October 13, 2012


We were at my son’s school concert when the text message came…”se murio Fidel”, “Fidel is dead…”.     Even as I dismissed it as yet another rumor, I was overwhelmed by a flood of memories, long forgotten! Memories of a childhood marked by insecurity and fear, of my dad being taken from our home and missing for weeks. Memories of hushed whispers about the government, of long lines to buy basic necessities, of feeling as outcasts because of my parents political views.

Our childhood was one of constant waiting for the day of the “salida”, the day we would be allowed to leave our homeland, of nervous anticipation, yet fear of how our lives would be changed forever.  The most intense memory I still hold is of the night of our departure! My grandmothers tearful prediction that this would be a parting until forever, my mother’s sad eyes, my father’s muffled voice as we said goodbye to our home, seem so vivid today when, once again, rumor has it…”se murio Fidel” .  Children may not understand the complexities of politics nor the reasoning which goes into their parent’s decisions, but they certainly understand sadness, despair, pain and loss.

I never saw my parents look back, cry nor shrink back from the decision to leave their home for a new life in the United States. They had too much ahead, a new language to learn, the struggle to find work, to adjust to a life and culture very different from their own. They relentlessly encouraged me and my sisters on the path to education, to not accept circumstances as final, to have faith in God and ourselves, question authority, be skeptical of politicians, and never to forget how uncertain life can be….theirs was changed in an instant. I am sure that privately they grieved, but we were not made privy to their sorrow!

So what if Castro, now 86 is dead? We call the US home, our children were born here, and our oldest family members rest in cemeteries in Miami and across this great land that we have learned to call our own. Few of us would contemplate going back to the land of our parents, yet the news affect us still!

Today in a dark auditorium, hearing my youngest, American born son sing, I was reminded of much I had chosen to forget, feelings long buried, unspoken losses, unshed tears!  My children sympathize, but they do not really understand how or why an old dictator’s life or death should mean anything to their grandmother, their aunts or to me. To them it is all but a story, and Fidel the comic book villain therein. To those of my generation it is much more!

 Fidel is dead…se murio…yet again! Should I pray, mourn or dance for joy on that day which is sure t to come….who knows?  Perhaps, for those of us who still recall life as children in Castro’s Cuba, his passing, whenever that occurs, will give us a chance to truly grieve, to heal from the wounds of our childhood, to finally turn the page in a story that has affected us for as long as I can remember.

For tonight, with those I love and still can remember how it was, perhaps it will be enough to speak about old times and sip a few mojitos.



Friday, August 10, 2012

The Deporter-In-Chief?

Very interesting ad targeting English speaking Latinos about President Obama's record on Immigration Reform. Though to Latinos in Florida, mostly of Cuban and Puerto Rican descent, this is not a big election issue, it is bound to raise questions.

Many Hispanics were hopeful that the promise made by then candidate Barack Obama during his campaign; "...we will have by the first year an immigration bill...", would bring some solution to the plight of  indocumented  immigrants and their children. This did not occur, and though some concessions were made to young Latinos brought by their parents to the US, it seems for many, to be too little, too late! This ad depicts it as a political move which offers very little in the way of real solutions to our immigration problem. The idea that he could have done more for reform and less in deportations does resonate among Latinos, irrrespective of political leanings!

It remains to be seen wether the President's less than stelar Immigration record, as highlighted by this ad, will have any effect on the support of Hispanics for the president this election cycle. As it stands he has a sizable lead specially among those Latinos for which immigration is a big issue. However, a recent  a Quinnipiac University poll showed that President Obama’s Latino support now 59 to 30%  has slipped some.

One thing this ad does do, regardless of how Latinos choose to vote in November;  It is a reminder that when it comes to politicians, promises don't always translate to action.



Thursday, July 26, 2012

It’s Just Chicken Dude…!

The Chick Fil' A Controversy seems to have taken a life of its own and now the chickens have come to roost way too close to home. This week alone I have been asked to eat at the chain, join the boycott, denounce the fast food chain’s anti –equality stance and questioned on my orthodoxy and politics simply because of where I may choose or not to eat! I officially announce I am completely over it!

Dan Cathy, the company’s owner has long been a supporter of traditional definitions of the family. In a recent interview he makes that longstanding position clear by stating on an interview with Baptist press;  

“…We are a family-owned business, a family-led business, and we are married to our first wives. We give God thanks for that...”.

It is also true that his company has donated funds to pro opposite gender marriage causes and to organizations which promote traditional understandings of marriage. That said, the company has made it clear on more than one occasion that they are committed to “treat every person with honor, dignity and respect – regardless of their belief, race, creed, sexual orientation or gender.”
In the last few days it seems like everyone is joining the bandwagon!!! Some ask us to "Eat Less Chickin" because of the insulting remarks of Mr. Cathy against gay marriage, others join the cows and insist we "Eat More"! In reading the above quote, amidst all this controversy, I  have wondered how long before the restaurant chain incurs the ire of the divorced which are sure to react to the “still married to our first wives” pun! And no biblically literate person would miss that their support for Biblical marriage standards means; one man one woman for life! Forget the remarried, the cohabitating or the single parent homes! Wow, talk about foot in mouth; these are surely a much bigger demographic than those intending to marry their same gender partners, even if laws in every state allowed it!
I dare say that if we look carefully there could be more than enough "insult" in his statements to go around! Or just maybe, people in our free society are mature enough to realize there is room in our democracy for differing views! Not everyone wants a little offense or politics with their food, or at the movies or with the places they choose to shop at! I do not choose restaurants or shops based on the political sentiments of their owners! If that were the case, it would be exhausting, with an ever growing list on the left and right. Please do not invite me, nor pretend to use my like or dislike of a fast food chain or business establishment as a litmus test of orthodoxy for the left or right. It is not my cup of tea!

Alexandra Petri in her ComPost blog put it this way:

“…Starbucks supports marriage equality. That’s not why I drink its coffee. I drink its coffee because I have a serious caffeine problem, and they are located on every corner. It is possible, it turns out, to go through the political preferences and leanings of every company that makes anything you want to buy, every athlete whose prowess amazes you, every fashion designer with an eye for color. … It is not a question of being an informed consumer, of trying to buy things that aren’t made in conditions you find appalling. That’s germane. … But this isn’t about the sandwich. It’s about what happens afterward. And that’s a slippery slope...If you’re upset that the Chick-fil-A founder donates to causes you don’t believe in, then donate to causes you do believe in. Fight apples with apples and oranges with oranges…”
                                                                                                         For the record, I do not frequent Chick Fil A because I do not like their sandwiches…they are… too fried…! I could care less if they are open or not on Sundays, nor who their CEO’s are married to! It’s Pollo Tropical for me with a little habanero sauce of the side! This, though I know for a fact its original owners were not Latinos and wonder how got our tasty recipes! 

On a practical note, If I were going to boycott food based on the political sentiments or donations of those who cook, I could hardly eat at all at any church lunches or social affairs. The Episcopal Church I have the good fortune of attending is politically and ethnically very diverse. Frankly, I know for a fact , the very best desserts are made by people whom I completely disagree with! Never mind the times I would have to skip my wife's very delicious "arroz con pollo".

Call me shallow, but when it comes to food, that is all it should be about! It’s just chicken dude!


Friday, July 13, 2012

Comentarios Calientes....

Ya pasaron los primeros dias desde la decision de la majoria de votantes en nuestra Convencion General de aprobar un rito provisional para la bendicion de parejas del mismo sexo! No dejan de faltar las conversaciones y comentarios acerca de este candente tema . Como es natural no todos los comentarios son igualmente edificantes. Aqui algunos de los comentarios "calientes" mas comunes que ya he escuchado y algunos pensamientos y aclaraciones de mi parte.
"...La Iglesia Episcopal aprobo el matrimonio de homosexuales..."

 Claro esta que la palabras que algunos usan no son tan delicadas pero la idea es la misma! "...Casan a mariquitas y a lesbianas!..." La realidad es otra. El matrimonio en la Iglesia Episcopal es un sacramento que solo puede otorgarse a una pareja de generos opuestos, un hombre y una mujer! Esto asi debido a nuestra interpretacion de la Escritura, la ley canonica de la Iglesia y el Libro de Oracion Comun. El rito aprobado es una respuesta pastoral a una realidad ya vivida en la Iglesia y en el mundo; parejas homosexuales que viven juntos en una union comprometida, monogama y de larga duracion! Precisamente porque la Iglesia no puede ofrecerle el sacramento del matrimonio pero es testigo de la fidelidad, respeto, compromiso y amor mutuo que puede existir, es que aprueba esta liturgia provisional.

"...El Matrimonio en la Biblia es entre un hombre y una mujer..."

Es cierto, en la creacion Dios “les creo hombre y mujer”, y Jesucristo aclaro que “el hombre se une a su mujer para formar una sola carne”. Tambien dijo que; lo que “Dios unio el hombre no separe.” Ahi el cambio sutil de la definicion del matrimonio entre cristianos modernos! El ideal presentado por Dios es; un hombre y una mujer para toda la vida! Jesus mismo no admite el divorcio a no ser por causa de adulterio, y advierte que el que se casa con otra pareja despues de un divorcio, comete adulterio. S. Pablo aclara que si una pareja se separa que se “quede sin casar” o que la "mujer regrese a su marido.” No es esa la realidad que vivimos! Las segundas nupcias despues del divorcios son communes, bendecidas en la Iglesia y apoyadas por una mayoria de los fieles de todas las denominaciones cristianas. Esto a pesar de que la Biblia prohibe terminantemente esas relaciones en la mayoria de los casos. Para aquellos que leemos la Biblia con seriedad, parece incosistente y algo hipocrita extender la bendicion de la Iglesia a una relacion que la Biblia parece prohibir y al mismo tiempo vehementemente negarsela a otra.
"...Esta en contra de la Biblia..."
Estas palabras son serias, pero en los labios de alguien en su segunda o tercera relacion o matrimonio parecen algo ingenuas. Jesus ni menciono al homosexualismo pero hablo claro acerca de algo que los creyentes acceptamos como bien , normal y la voluntad de Dios, el casarse otra vez despues que una relacion fracasa.! Nada hablar de los versiculos acerca del papel de la mujer en la Iglesia, las normas para los esclavos, el velo y el cabello largo y otras que han pasado a la historia. No se puede tomar en serio a este uso de la Biblia para condenar lo que no nos agrada e ignorar lo que no nos molesta.                     
"...Dios puede cambiar a los homosexuales..."

No hay duda!! Sin embargo, esa es la perrogativa de Dios, no la nuestra. Dios puede cambiar a los divorciados a que permanezcan celibes y santos tambien sin volver a casarse, y a los embusteros y a los que juzgan a los demas! Sin embargo eso es algo entre Dios y la persona, no puede imponerse por ley en la Iglesia. Dondequiera que el egoismo sea reemplazado por el amor y el cuidado mutuo, donde la fidelidad y la amistad crecen, alli esta Dios trabajando!!! Demosle lugar y espacio para hacerlo!

"...Esto va a acabar con la Iglesia..."

Puede que haya quienes dejen de asistir a la Iglesia Episcopal debido a esto! No sera la primera vez! Cuando se abogaba a favor de la libertad de los esclavos o la igualdad spiritual de la mujer paso igual! Cuando se ordenaron las primeras mujeres como diaconos y sacerdotes hubo los que no pudieron soportar tal afrenta y se marcharon! A veces las personas se alejan aunque las causas sean justas y el mensaje veraz. Al mismo Jesus a quien seguian multitudes se le fueron muchos porque las palabras que decia eran “dificiles de sorportar”. Hasta sus discipulos les pregunto; “se quieren ir ustedes tambien”? Habra algunos que se iran otros se quedaran y no faltaran los que se acercaran segun les dirija el Espiritu de Dios!

"...No quiero que mi familia vea eso, ni que se conviva con homosexuales..."

Bueno, tal cosa no es posible en este planeta!Me he preguntado al oir estas palabras si el que las dice realmente piensa que reflejan el sentir de Dios o el desprecio del mundo! Dios llama a todos a su familia, no en base a los meritos de cada cual ni a la aprobacion de otros! Es el mundo el que excluye!  

"....Como me puedo quedar en la Iglesia si no estoy de acuerdo con esa decision?..."

Somos Cristianos en una tradicion acogedora, somos Episcopales! No pretendemos que estemos de acuerdo en todo! Tener la misma opinion no es requisito para vivir la vida Cristiana en nuestra Iglesia! Nuestra union viene de Cristo!!!! Nuestra union la da el Espiritu Santo! Nuestra union se manifiesta en nuestra oracion comun y en la mesa del Senor! No abandonamos a nuestra familias por desacuerdos , ni dejamos el trabajo por ello, no nos mudamos para un pais donde todos esten de acuerdo, eso no existe! No podemos imponer en la Iglesia una conformidad inventada que no aplicamos en ninguna otra faceta de la vida! La unidad de la Iglesia esta en la misericordia , en el amor, en la oracion y en la Eucaristia.

Muchas Bendiciones para todos, no se olviden de orar y de amar!


Thursday, July 12, 2012

Reflexiones Sabias...

Comparto con ustedes las sabias reflexiones del Padre Ron Pogue. Nos pueden ayudar en estos momentos especiales de la Iglesia. Bendiciones

Queridos hermanos y hermanas: Ayer, la Cámara de Diputados de la Iglesia Episcopal estuvo de acuerdo con la Cámara de Obispos para adoptar una resolución que autoriza el uso provisional del rito "El Testimonio y la Bendición de un Pacto Permanente" a partir del 02 de diciembre, 2012, (el primer domingo de Adviento). El clero necesitará el permiso de sus obispos para ofrecer este rito, por lo que su uso puede variar de diócesis a diócesis. Muchos se molestarán o incluso se enojarán por esta decisión. Muchos otros estarán agradecidos por las nuevas oportunidades para el ministerio que serán posibles gracias a esta decisión. Y otros no tendrán sentimientos fuertes acerca de él de una manera u otra. ¿Quién se puede sorprender por estas reacciones? Después de todo, nuestra Iglesia se compone de ¡personas de "todas clases y condiciones"! Sea cual sea tu respuesta en esta decisión, ofrezco las siguientes perspectivas pastorales.
Seamos humildes:

- Condenas arrogantes de quienes están en desacuerdo contigo y gozar con malicia acerca de una decisión en la que tu punto de vista "ha ganado" no honran el evangelio o construyen comunidad entre los seguidores de Cristo. Recuerda que hemos prometido, con la ayuda de Dios, "buscar y servir a Cristo en todas las personas, amando a tu prójimo como a ti mismo," y de "respetar la dignidad de todo ser humano." Piensa en estas cosas y píde a Dios que te de una respuesta humilde.
Vamos a ser generosos:

 -Actuar fuera de la suposición de que tu vecino se siente obligado a hacer observaciones sobre esta decisión lo hace por el más puro de los motivos. Incluso pueden pensar que te están haciendo un gran favor al señalar el error de las formas de aquellos con quien tú adoras. Ellos puedes creer sinceramente que esta culpa por asociación podría poner en peligro tu bienestar espiritual. Es posible que quieran ponerte en sobre aviso de que deben evitar contacto contigo con el fin de proteger su propia justicia. Escucha lo que nuestro Señor Jesucristo dice: "Amarás al Señor tu Dios con todo tu corazón, con toda tu alma y con toda tu mente. Este es el primero y grande mandamiento. El segundo es semejante a éste: amarás a tu prójimo como a ti mismo. De estos dos mandamientos dependen toda la Ley y los Profetas. "Dios te ha dado suficiente amor para compartirlo con todos tus vecinos y todavía habrá mucho más cuando lo compartas con ellos en este contexto. ¡Puedes darte el lujo de ser generoso!

No hay que pedir disculpa:
- Nuestros vecinos, especialmente los de otras comuniones, pueden decir cosas que nos hacen estar a la defensiva, inseguros, con miedo o vergüenza. Podemos sentir que tienen una ventaja sobre nosotros en su particular comprensión de las verdades bíblicas o doctrinales. Tú puedes elegir sonreír simplemente, no decir nada, cambiar de tema, o marcharte simplemente. O, tú puedes sentir que necesitas debatir con tu vecino. Si sientes la necesidad de debatir el tema, toman tiempo para prepararte. Estudia, consulta fuentes confiables de información, usa tu mente en la mayor medida posible. Por otra parte, prepárate para sentir que has "perdido" el debate al final del mismo. Convicciones muy arraigadas, como sobre la sexualidad humana y la política, a menudo se basan en la emoción con una información superficial. Tus intentos de borrar las emociones con la lógica, probablemente no tendrán éxito. Cualquiera que sea la respuesta que elijas, no tienes que pedir disculpas por la Iglesia Episcopal, que no ha llegado a esta decisión de la noche a la mañana y sin una enorme consideración puesta en oración.
Vamos a ser misioneros:

 - En general, los cristianos no somos lo mejor de nosotros cuando nos involucramos en debates bizantinos sobre las diferencias teológicas, morales, o eclesiásticas. Estamos en nuestro mejor momento cuando escuchamos juntos la Palabra de Dios, cuando nos arrodillamos juntos para ser alimentados en la Mesa de Dios, y cuando nos arremangamos las mangas para manifestar la gracia de Dios en el campo de la misión en nuestra propia puerta. Hay personas en ese campo de misión que nos están esperando para ser enviados a hacer el trabajo que Dios nos ha encomendado.
Vamos a ser inclusivos:

- Mis puntos de vista sobre el tema de la sexualidad humana, especialmente acerca de la plena inclusión de mis hermanos y hermanas gays, lesbianas, transexuales en la vida de la Iglesia, fueron modelados y han tomado forma a lo largo del tiempo. He buscado en las Escrituras, buscado la sabiduría contenida en las enseñanzas de la Iglesia a través de los siglos, considerado lo que hemos aprendido con la razón a través del tiempo, he pasado un tiempo con aquellos cuyo estilo de vida y la orientación son diferentes de los míos, escuchado a las personas cuyos puntos de vista difieren de los míos, y he orado. En cuarenta y un años de ministerio, me han pedido para bendecir uniones del mismo sexo sólo tres veces. A causa de mi respeto por los cánones de la Iglesia y mi votos de ordenación, nunca he realizado esas peticiones. Yo he obedecido a mis obispos y voy a seguir haciéndolo donde quiera que esté.
Vamos a seguir adelante:

– He oído decir por algunas personas que esta decisión marca el final de la Iglesia Episcopal. Yo prefiero creer que es el comienzo de una nueva era de oportunidad misionera de la Iglesia Episcopal. Ahora hemos añadido una nueva forma de abrir las puertas rojas a las personas que hemos marginado. Agregar esta decisión de cómo esta Iglesia en los últimos años se ha expresado al enfrentar la esclavitud, el trabajo infantil, el derecho de la mujer a votar, el racismo, la ordenación de mujeres, y una serie de otros temas para los cuales personas cuyos puntos de vista eran opuestos fueron apoyados por las escrituras y argumentos teológicos para mantener el status quo. Añadir esta decisión también a los cambios que ya hemos hecho con las enseñanzas ortodoxas de la Iglesia sobre la sexualidad humana, específicamente, lo que permite control de la natalidad y la autorización de las segundas nupcias de personas divorciadas.

Unamos nuestras manos:

- Algunos de ustedes que leen esto no estarán de acuerdo conmigo. Entiendo que hay otros en la Comunión Anglicana en otras partes del mundo que tienen problemas con estos puntos de vista. La diversidad de opiniones es normal y natural en la vida en general y en la Iglesia en particular. No hay nada que podamos hacer para cambiar eso. No puedo obligar a nadie a creer o actuar como lo hago yo. Pero podemos luchar con la conciencia tranquila para vivir una vida que encarna el amor de Dios, para que ese amor de Dios pueda hacer posible en nosotros buscar la reconciliación en todos los niveles. Nuestra unidad de esta Iglesia no es ahora ni ha sido sobre la base de que todo el mundo esta de acuerdo en todo. Nuestra unidad proviene de nuestra oración común y la búsqueda común de un mundo donde hay más justicia, paz y amor.Por lo tanto, les digo a mis hermanos y hermanas que están de acuerdo conmigo y los que no lo están, "Si tus intenciones son buenas como las mías, dame tu mano." Los cristianos pueden lograr mucho más para el reino de Dios en la tierra con nuestras manos unidas que con nuestras manos levantadas unos contra otros. Como cristianos católicos, no tenemos que estar de acuerdo en todo con el fin de "andar en el amor como Cristo nos amó."
Vamos a ser lo que decimos que somos:

- Realmente no tenemos nada que temer acerca de esta decisión. Tenemos todas las razones para alegrarnos a medida que aprendemos a vivir en las nuevas oportunidades que se presentan. Podemos mantener la cabeza en alto y con la humildad, la generosidad y sin pedir disculpas, podemos hacer más que nunca para manifestar el amor de Dios. Somos mayordomos de un trabajo importante que transforma la vida que Dios quiere realizar específicamente a través de nuestra Iglesia. ¡Somos episcopales! Y, como alguien ha señalado, no hay ningún asterisco en los letreros que dicen: "La Iglesia Episcopal te da la bienvenida!"


Friday, June 22, 2012

South Florida Reverend Preaches Tolerance From the Pulpit

Leo Frade, Cuban born bishop of the Diocese of SE Florida makes his stance clear as it relates to the place of gay and lesbian people in the church. In a diocese where there is a great number of socially conservative Latinos, he throws caution to the wind in this humorous but pointed homily! He has already allowed same sex blessings in at least one church in his diocese. Time will tell wether his convictions will strengthen or scatter his flock. Blessings Seraph

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Christ gives Victory! Meditation for the Second Sunday of Easter.

After days of distress and sorrow due to the death of their beloved teacher and friend, the disciples gather during the evening on the first day of the week behind closed doors. This night they have an encounter that changes their lives forever, giving them victory in the midst of what had, to this point, seemed to them utter darkness!
Victory over fear-!
They were gathered behind closed doors because of fear ! Truth be told, it was fear which had not not begun just this night! On multiple occasions in the gospel writings Jesus spoke to his friends about fear. There was the night when Jesus and his disciples got on a boat to cross the sea of Galilee and a storm railed against the small craft. Jesus slept quietly but his disciples were beset with fear and called out to him. There was the occasion when they saw him walk towards them on the water, and they cried out fearful that it was a spirit. The very night he was betrayed, his disciples fled out of fear! Peter the more verbal of the twelve, who had promised to never leave his master, denied knowing him three times out of fear. We can relate to that, we have all been afraid! Sometimes we fear the challenges and uncertainties of the present, other times it is the unknown future which looms threateningly, or maybe that our past will catch up with us! We fear life and death, we fear for our children and loved ones; there is so much fear in our lives! Fear clouds our judgment torments our thoughts, paints a grim picture before our very eyes so that all hope and faith is drowned out!
"The only thing we have to fear is fear it'self - nameless, unreasoning, unjustified, terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance." ---- FDR - First Inaugural Address, March 4, 1933.
Fear is like a storm, like a raging sea! Yet, as we feel we will drown, Christ comes and speaks to us a word of peace. Even as he did to his disciples and their fears were stilled! As John Newton poetically writes:
“…How sweet the name of Jesus sounds In a believer's ear! It soothes his sorrows, heals his wounds, And drives away his fear…”
Where do I go with my fears? I go to the Christ! In song, prayer and worship, I bring to him the tumult of my mind, my racing heart and thoughts and, from him somehow, I receive a peace beyond my fright! I find a strength in myself I could not think was possible and discover that; He
“has not given me a spirit of fear but of love power and a sound mind”. Christ gave his disciples victory over their fears and does so in our lives also.
Victory over sin!
“Receive the Holy Spirit, if you forgive the sins of any they are forgiven!”. Who can forgive other than someone who has been forgiven? The apostles are burdened by their faults; they have missed the mark when it came to Jesus’ betrayal and passion. Christ forgives and gives them power to forgive and be forgiven! It is in forgiveness that we find victory over sin! That truth is repeated often in Scripture:
Acts 13:38 “Therefore, my friends, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you. Ephesians 1:7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace
It is echoed in the words of St. Mathew in our common prayer…; “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” We need victory over sin and the power to forgive and be forgiven at every turn in our lives. We sin when we act out of selfishness and say no to love! We sin when we act against the virtue of faith, when we demean or hurt or ignore our brother! We sin by what we do , but more often by what we choose to allow. Sin binds us but Christ sets us free. He gives us victory over the power of sin and a key to unlock its chains. The power to forgive!
Victory over Doubt!
Of course here we think of Thomas, who doubted the words of his friends concerning the resurrection of the Christ , but truth be told it speaks to each of us! Here are the sincere words of St. Matthew about the state of Jesus's friends when they first saw the risen Lord!
Matthew 28:17 "When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted"
“…Doubt is natural within faith. It comes because of our human weakness and fraility. [...] Unbelief is the decicion to live your life as if there is no God. It is a deliberate decision to reject Jesus Christ and all that he stands for. But doubt is something quite different. Doubt arises within the context of faith. It is a wistful longing to be sure of the things in which we trust. But it is not and need not be a problem…”
As Augustine expressed it. The world of Christian faith is not a fairy-tale, make-believe world, question-free and problem-proof, but a world where doubt is never far from faith's shoulder! Be that as it may, doubts unanswered and ignored can affect us in our spiritual life: It kept Peter from walking on the water…It hinders us from experiencing themiraculous.
Matthew 14:31 Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”
It hinders the answer to our prayers….
Matthew 21:21 Jesus replied, “Truly I tell you, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and it will be done.
James 1:6
But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind
It affects how we live out our Christian faith Romans 14:23
But whoever has doubts is condemned if they eat, because their eating is not from faith; and everything that does not come from faith is sin.
Christ came to Thomas who would not be convinced by the words of his brethren! He shows him the proof he required and received the words of homage, “My Lord and my God…”. He also comes to you and me. How did he get to each of us skeptics and overcome our many doubts? How did he overcome our unbelief? Each of us has different answers to that question! In our lives and experiences of doubt and faith we can agree that it is God alone that can truly convince a soul, persuade a mind, transform doubt into reverent faith! He did it with Thomas and the twelve, he does so with you and me! Victory is waht we need today! May we receive from Jesus the Lord victory over our fears, victory over every sin, victory over doubt and unbelief! Blessings

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

"Release Barrabas...

These seemingly incredible words were uttered by many in the crowd gathered at the palace of the Roman governor demanding justice be done in the case of the Nazarene!

The New Testament writers say little about this man whose story is so intertwined with the events of Holy Week. John speaks of him as a bandit, using words which later Jewish historian Josephus used to describe patriots, revolutionaries opposed to the Roman government of Judea. Matthew refers to Barabbas as prisoner of some notoriety”. In the gospels of Mark and Luke we are given the added detail that he was in prison for his involvement in a riot.

Who was Barrabbas anyway….? Was he a bandit, a rabble rouser, a patriot or revolutionary seeking justice and freedom for his people? We may never have those answers but one thing seems certain, there are no easy stereotypes when it comes to Barabbas. His full name was Jesus Barabbas which literally means Son of the Father, a name by which the other Jesus identified himself with among his followers.

He is a stranger to us, but to some in the crowd he was intimately familiar. He was, as his name declares, the son of a father, he had a mother, may have had a wife, children, brothers sisters,friends as well as those who admired his cause, whichever it may have been! There were some in that multitude who probably loved him! With certainty there were some glad for the political scheming that called for the freeing of Barabbas, their family member, lover or friend!

In a world increasingly divided by political ideologies, class, race and ethnicity, this episode reminds us that people are more than the labels and stereotypes we would put them in! There are lives and particular stories behind the names and selective images flashed from our phones, computers and TV screens! Christians, Episcopalians in particular, who promise to uphold the dignity of every human being, should be careful and prayerful as we face the difficult issues that threaten to divide and alienate people from each other in our society!

“Release Barabbas”… were also words that would have been uttered by the man whose death was clamored for; the man Jesus of Nazareth. John and Matthew record the words of the Nazarene saying, “…No one takes my life from me. I give my life of my own free will…” “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many…”. Would that not have included a man who was sentenced to death , even as he?

In the release of Jesus Barabbas, Jesus the Nazarene, though innocent, dies in his stead. This idea of substitution, where the innocent freely gives his life to save the guilty, has long been at the heart of how Christians understand what happened in the cross.

Here are some of those reflections from Scripture;

“For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins…”

"But we see Jesus…that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man" (Hebrews 2:9)

“… Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us…” (Galatians 3:13)

“… God made him who had no sin to be sin for us…” (2 Corinthians 5:21)

Our liturgies give testimony of that firmly held belief. Here are the words of the Eucharistic prayer A, 1979 BCP:

“…He stretched out his arms upon the cross and offered himself in obedience to your will a perfect sacrifice for all mankind….”

This idea called “Substitutionary Atonement” is for modern Christians hard to comprehend. There are some in Episcopal circles that decry the concept and its models, yet it seems like a simple truth that speaks to the heart! Someone has taken my place so that I may go free….! I am Barabbas, so are you! We were accused and condemned but God loved us, Jesus took our place and we were set free. St. Paul in his letter to the Colossians speaks of the list of decrees against us that was made null by Christ in the cross we are liberated, given a new chance, a new life!

Release Barrabas…I wonder how incredible those words sounded in his ears on that afternoon. He who had come to terms with certain death was let go! Wow…The unthinkable has happened and he was set free!

I wonder what he did with his newfound life and liberty? We have imagined it in all sorts of ways ! There is version where Barabbas becomes a follower of Christ , the one where he returns to the life of a revolutionary or a brigand . For the philosopher Khalil Gibran Barabbas becomes the ever tormented soul. Here are the words he puts in the mouth of the condemned man who was released;
“…THEY RELEASED ME and chose Him. Then He rose and I fell down... I was freed from my chains, and walked with the throng behind Him, but I was a living man going to my own grave…I should have fled to the desert where shame is burned out by the sun... I know now that those who slew Him in my stead achieved my endless torment. His crucifixion endured but for an hour. But I shall be crucified unto the end of my years…”
There is a choice to be made as to how we live the rest of our lives! What will we do? Have you ever felt accused, condemned by people, by your heart, your conscience? Jesus calls for your release and gives you the choice of a new life and a second chance! May we have the grace to choose well and …May the odds ever be in our favor….!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

The Last Bastion of Prejudice, the Church! Dr. Geoffey John

I have always believed that the only possible Christian model for a same-sex relationship is monogamy. I wrote a booklet about it in 1991 called ‘Permanent Faithful Stable’ which will be republished later this year. At that time I took the view that it didn’t matter whether we call it a marriage or not – what really matters is the nature of the relationship and the commitment on which it rests. In a sense that is still true. But of course the obvious, natural term for monogamy is marriage, and most people instinctively refer to civil partnerships as marriages anyway. So I think ‘marriage’ probably is the best term to use for same-sex as well as well as heterosexual monogamy, and it also has the great advantage of making clear that both should be given equal respect.

Are you willing to chart your theological journey to that point?

I start from the fact that the Church calls marriage a sacrament because the covenant of love between the married couple reflects the covenant of love between Christ and his Church, and so becomes a channel of God’s own love into the world. The secure framework of marriage helps you to keep loving through the bad times, and in the process it teaches you a deeper sort of love – the sort that involves the will and self-sacrifice and not just feelings. Growing in that sort of love means you are growing in the image and likeness of God.That is the traditional understanding of Christian marriage. But the big point is, exactly the same love and commitment are possible between two people of the same sex as between two people of different sexes, and it is not immediately clear why the Church should regard such a relationship as ethically or spiritually inferior to a heterosexual marriage. Of course the procreation of children by two same-sex partners is not possible. But the Church has never seen procreation as a necessity for marriage, and so has always married partners past the age of childbearing. Even in Genesis the first reason given why God created Eve is not childbearing but because ‘God saw that it was not good for man to be alone’. While the Prayer Book states that marriage was ordained first for ‘the procreation of children’ the modern marriage service begins by emphasising the quality of relationship between marriage partners ‘that they shall be united with one another in heart, body and mind.’So same-sex monogamy seems to me to be spiritually indistinguishable from a marriage between two people who are unable to have children together. Admitting same sex couples to marriage would extend the sacrament, not undermine it. Like the Church’s decision to admit women to the sacrament of ordination, it is a lot less revolutionary than it seems at first sight. The ordination of women has not fundamentally changed the priesthood, but has extended and enriched it. The same would be true of extending the sacrament of marriage to people of the same sex. It is not the physical gender of the people involved that matters, but the quality of their commitment and their response to the call of God. It is often assumed that scripture rules out same-sex monogamy, but that is not true unless you read scripture in a selectively literal way. In the few places where homosexuality is mentioned in the New Testament the texts show no awareness that some people are homosexual in orientation. When St Paul condemns people who ‘exchange’ heterosexual intercourse for homosexual, he is assuming that this is a perverse choice on the part of naturally heterosexual people who are simply choosing the alternative out of an excess of lust. What is being criticized in these passages is the kind of homosexual activity that was most visible in the Hellenistic society around him – promiscuity, prostitution and paedophilia. The case of two responsible, adult, homosexual Christians wishing to commit to each other in love for life is simply never envisaged.

It is also important to notice that those who choose to interpret the apparently anti-gay passages in Paul literally are usually much less literal when it comes to what Paul has to say about the place of women, or re-marriage, or slavery.

What is your opinion of the secular, political debate on the issue?

What really pleases me is that the call for same-sex marriage comes from gay people themselves. In the past gay people were often accused of being inherently promiscuous, uninterested in or incapable of permanent relationships. Civil partnerships have shown that to be the lie that it always was. The truth is that the great majority of people, gay or straight, know that their best chance of happiness and fulfilment lies in finding a partner to love and grow together with, someone who will be there at the end of the day and at the end of their life. That is not a heterosexual hope or a homosexual hope, it is just a human hope.

It is illogical to argue that same-sex marriage somehow undermines heterosexual marriage. On the contrary, it confirms the value of marriage and extends its blessings to many more people. From a purely secular viewpoint it is clearly good for the whole of the society when people commit to each other and care for one another without being reliant on the state – and this will become more important as we all live longer.

I was very struck by David Cameron’s statement that he is in favour of same-sex marriage, not in spite of being a conservative but because of being a conservative. I am not a political animal, but I want to say something very similar as a priest. I am in favour of same-sex marriage not because I am a wild liberal but because I am instinctively a traditional Anglo-Catholic. I believe in the sacrament of marriage; I believe we all need a disciplined framework for faith and love; and I believe we all need God’s grace and blessing to live by it. I think most of the 120 or so priests in the London Diocese who recently petitioned for the right to bless civil partnerships would say the same.

What do you think of what George Carey has been saying and his new Coalition 4 Marriage?

They seem to ignore the fact that the ten other countries which have already legalised same sex marriage have not experienced any of the horrors that they keep predicting. Marriage and family life in those countries have not been harmed in any way. The ‘slippery slope’ argument that same-sex marriage will somehow lead to polygamy or incest or increased debauchery is particularly illogical and rather insulting. Nor am I impressed by the argument that we should not use the law to bring about social change. If we had not made changes in the law discrimination against women, ethnic minorities and the disabled would still be firmly in place.

What message do you think the church opposition gives long term about the church and Christianity and does this worry you in any way?

It is enormously worrying. In the sixties the Church of England was in the forefront of the movement to decriminalise homosexuality. The fact that fifty years on the Church is seen as Enemy Number One of gay people is a disaster, both for our own morale and for our mission to the country. The Conservative Party realised ten years ago that the equal treatment of gay people had become a litmus test of basic human decency and changed its view; but it is a test the Church now spectacularly fails. We have become the last refuge of prejudice.

It is worse because the Church’s opposition to gay relationships is so patently unprincipled. In the Church of England we readily bless the second and even third marriages of couples who never darken our doors, yet we reject hundreds of our own faithful clergy and laypeople who long to bring their love and commitment before God and ask his blessing. While we dare to preach justice and equality in Christ’s name to the world, we seek exemptions to equality laws when it comes to our own employment and disciplinary practices. While we threaten to demote or debar American and Canadian Anglicans for appointing openly gay bishops and blessing gay unions, we are trying to appease homophobic Anglican churches in Africa which support extreme social and legal measures against homosexuals.

Not only gay people are repelled by all this. Many more people of goodwill who instinctively expect the Church to uphold justice and truth are scandalised when it so obviously does not. If secularism has gained ground in Britain in recent years, along with the demand that the Church of England must be disestablished and surrender its voice in national life, then it is our mishandling of the gay issue more than anything else that has brought it about.

Food for thought



Monday, February 6, 2012

When You Get in Bed With The Devil…

Roman Catholic bishops and institutions have in the last several months vocally opposed the new mandates from the administration in implementing the new healthcare law.

As currently crafted the policy would mandate Catholic universities, hospitals, and charities to provide insurance for their employees covering contraception. This, say church leaders, is a conflict pitting law against church teaching and conscience, which they see as a violation of their religious freedom.

James Carney , press secretary for the White House states the government’s position clearly; In a recent press briefing he is quoted as saying;
“The administration believes that this proposal strikes the appropriate balance between respecting religious beliefs and increasing access to important preventive services…”.
Catholic leaders in letters to be read by every priest at weekend celebrations see the mandate in a different light to be sure! It is a government intrusion into their religious liberty! Among other things the letter states;
"Never before has the government forced individuals and organizations to go out into the marketplace and buy a product that violates their conscience."
Let me be clear on this! As a Christian in a free society I do not agree that the government should dictate policies that force religious institutions to go against their deeply held beliefs! As an Episcopalian, contraception for me is a matter of personal choice, one which many Catholic women choose despite their church’s doctrinal stance. However, it is one thing to disagree with your church’s teaching on a subject matter, quite another for the government to seem to infringe on a religious institutions right to practice their faith and do business accordingly.

Many years ago, when working with a particular church community which desired to open a safe house for families in transition, the pastor and leadership of that community rejected federal grants that would have made it easier for that project to be accomplished! Even as I voiced my complete opposition to that stance, someone made clear their position with the words;
“…when you go to bed with the devil, you may wake up scorched…”.
The concern in that story was that money from the government comes with strings attached! To this small church, even though engaged in a purely social program, there was a risk of their mission being compromised or restricted by accepting funds from a government agency.

It was hard to see then, but seems a lot clearer now! I do not see the governement as the devil,but clearly there are times the imperatives of a given administration can come into conflict with the tenets of a religious community! Catholic institutions have accepted money from the government to fund part of their charitable endeavors, now there are demands placed on how they exercise their mission!

It is a sad day when a religious institution has to choose between its deeply held beliefs and its mission in order to comply with a government mandate! Hopefully the administration will relax its rules and allow religious institutions to be exempted. On the other hand, churches may need to bite the bullet and to be true to mission and faith , forgo government funds altogether. The ability they have to offer services to those in need will be limited but there will certainly be less risk of …waking up scorched!



Sunday, February 5, 2012

Jesus comes to Capernaum

Jesus is at Capernaum with his disciples and, when the Sabbath came, he entered the synagogue to worship.

I wonder if the synagogue was a little bit fuller that day as happens in churches where there is a guest speaker, especially one who is new and a bit controversial? Maybe some of the curious among the Jews of Capernaum, who were not frequent attended decided to come. Others may have hear Jesus teach or seen the miracles that he performed. Then again, maybe some of the usual Sabbath attendees decided to stay away that day! They had to time for the horde of newcomers nor were in the mood to listen to a carpenter turned preacher! Specially someone of such bad repute; after all it was said that he hung around the worst classes of people, tax collectors, loose women, and ill educated fishermen. For some perhaps this was just a regular day of rest. They were not too in tune with the gossip of the town, their lives were busy enough! There was little time to mind religious matters as they went about the business of living and working! They would not have noticed nor recognized the young rabbi and his followers ! Yet, on this Sabbath Jesus accompanied by his closest followers enters into the synagogue, the place of gathering, the place of worship!

How would it be for us if this was the synagogue at Capernaum that received Jesus on that morning? What kind of welcome he would find? Would he be noticed in our gatherings? Would he find a friendly face, a smile and a gesture of welcome? Would we welcome his presence?

It is said among Christians that Christ, comes to us often in guises we do not recognize, and, that as we receive and welcome a child, we welcome him! As we extend our hand of greeting to the needy, the friendless , the rejected we welcome him! It is said when we receive someone in the name of Christ that He is welcomed and that as two or three gather in his name , He is right there in the midst of them!

Are we conscious of the presence of Jesus here on this day of gathering and worship? Are we conscious of him in the faces and hearts of our brothers and sisters gathered here, are we conscious of his ever present Spirit when we, leaving all behind focus our attention on His nearness? Are we conscious of His presence as we handle his very body and blood around the Table this morning? Do we welcome that presence, that person, the person of Jesus Christ the Lord?

I would love to say that it is always the case that we welcome Christ in our midst! However, growing up in church I have seen otherwise on more than one ocassion! I remember going to a very large church, famous for its worship and miracles, and to my dismay found all seats had been reserved! As I looked around aimlessly contemplating whether I should leave, I was rescued by a kindly lady who offered me the seat at her side…alas it was another visitor, a Presbyterian come to the church for the first time! The music was wonderful; people seemed to be focused on the invisible presence of God but there was little to show they cared much about the presence of God in others! Then again, we have all been to services where it seems Jesus would not be missed at all! It is a choreographed performance from beginning to end; up and down , sign of the cross, pass the peace and don’t turn around! Like going to the symphony or maybe a pub but not as fun…. Jesus could be present but He would be utterly ignored!

Jesus comes to Capernaum on a Sabbath takes his place in the worship of the day and begins to teach! Would we welcome HIs words? I love it when it says Christ teaches with authority and contrasts him with the preachers and teachers of the day! He teaches them as one as having authority, not just knowledge….! It is interesting that the apostle Paul in the portion from Corinthians read this morning speaks about the difference between knowledge and love…;knowledge puffs up, love builds up! The Scribes and religious teachers of the day had a lot of knowledge about the requirements they saw in the law; Jesus had the authority which is given by love!

Of note is the fact that many of the places where it is said Jesus taught with authority are places in Scripture where He challenges the presuppositions of the religious culture of his day! Jesus challenged them and us to go beyond the mere acceptance of suppositions about religion, the memorizing of rules and rituals to a life united to God , a life of love to God and our fellow man! Christianity is not just about learning things, its not just about reminiscing about God, nor reading how once upon a time Jesus did his thing! It is about living in connection to that truth and allowing the very love of Christ to speak with authority into our lives and change us!

Where Christ is present, where his words are spoken, where his teaching plain things change!!!! I wonder what the reaction of the people in Capernaum’s synagogue was to the cry of the man oppressed by evil in their midst? Maybe it was a stranger or visitor, but more likely it was someone they knew! For us Episcopalians, maybe he was a respected member of the vestry of sung in the choir, led Bible study…yet he was a man afflicted! RELIGION HAS NO POWER TO EXPOSE DARKNESS, NOR DOES IT HAVE THE POWER OT FREE A SOUL, ONLY GOD CAN DO THAT! ONLY LOVE can do that….! Would we welcome His power?

There is no peace between Christ and all that would destroy people! Christ has come to destroy the works of the enemy! There are many places in Scripture that document the confrontation of Jesus with forces of evil!

* Woman who came to Christ to seek cure for her oppressed daughter!
* The man whose child was oppressed since infancy!
* Peter himself as he tried to dissuade Christ from his mission!
*Judas as he with betrayal in his heart took the bread from Jesus hands.


“…The devil tries to disrupt our hope in Christ and our love for Him in many ways. Inwardly he brings afflictions on the soul aided by evil spirits or he fills it with foul thoughts, or he stirs up the memory of former sins so as to make us sluggish and despair or our salvation. Or else he brings us suffering and tribulation by means of other people, but the more he does this, the more we must enkindle our hope in God…”

Jesus’ presence and words, like light in a dark place reveal and discover areas of darkness in our very souls, in our religion, in our lives; but even as we fear, wonder, despair He has the power to free us!

There are some in our postmodern societies who scoff at the idea of evil, or devils…who even as they approach the Gospel would divorce it from all what is “mystical or supernatural". Myths they say of a pre scientific era….! The poor guy at the synagogue that fateful morning was just a man with Tourettes’s syndrome, some would say! A soul caught at the wrong place at the wrong time.

I have a dear friend that wrote to me asking, why must we Christians believe in a Jesus who heals the sick who confronts the devil, who does miracles and walked on water…? How about a moral teacher come from God? My respectful answer was; sorry that is not the Jesus at the synagoge in Capernaum, it is also not the Jesus we need! I do not need another philosophy professor, nor another moral guide…! I do not need a tame , sanitized 21st century version of Jesus, whose words had to be approved by scholars! I need a guy whose words have authority and can touch me in my need!

I do not need just a friend and teacher or a role model, but a deliverer! I need a Jesus who can turn water into wine, walk on water! I need to welcome the Jesus that can face and dispel death, one that did not stay defeated in the grave…! I need the Jesus who speaks from the pages of Scripture and whose presence, words and power came to the rescue of the oppressed man in the synagogue at Capernaum!

Jesus we welcome you this day; your presence, your words spoken with authority, your power !