Monday, October 31, 2011

Searching for Jesus

One of my favorite lines from any movie comes from "Forrest Gump."

The always cynical Lt. Dan asks Forrest if he has found Jesus, and Forrest replies...

"I didn't know we were supposed to be lookin' for him, sir..."

I chuckle to myself every time I think of that interchange. But in reality, many a biblical scholar is still looking for Jesus in their own way. One of them is Marcus Borg. He is very thought provoking, even though I disagree with most of his conclusions.

Fleming Rutledge, a noted contemporary preacher in The Episcopal Church offers a critique of Marcus and others of his scholarly tradition...

Last night at a gathering, Marcus Borg said (twice), “Jesus trumps the Bible.”This is an extraordinarily irresponsible thing for a scholar and leader in the church to say. It can’t be said often enough: we have no access to knowledge of Jesus except through the Bible and its interpretation. There is no record of him outside the Bible until years after his death. The only way to understanding who he was is through the witness of the New Testament apostles. Therefore to suggest that he “trumps the Bible” is to suggest that we can cut loose from the Scriptures and construct a Jesus according to the perspectives of our own time. It has been shown over and over again that attempts to construct a “historical Jesus” or “real Jesus” apart from the faith-based witness of Scripture end in failure because such attempts are grounded, not in the text, but in the bias of those who undertake them.

She goes on for a bit, and it is worth reading...

The full text is here.


Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Getting sick watching TV and the Tea Party Debate

I gave up on TV a few years ago. I can't remember what I was watching at the time, I just remember getting up off the couch and fetching a book while I announced to everyone in the room that I was sick of it.

I haven't stopped watching it all together, but I'm down to 3 shows, Amazing Race, Deadliest Catch and Survivor. I realize it's a strange mix, but I've pretty much given up on everything else. This annoys my wife at times, especially when she's watching something she likes and I make some snarky comment over-top of my current read.

So why I had the TV on the other night I can't say...maybe it was curiosity or maybe it was a mix of concern about the future of the Republic and what life will be like for my kids some day, but I watched a little of the Tea Party Debate. Just a little. Enough to make me get sick at my stomach. Seriously!

I don't even know where to begin. I guess the most obvious moment was when Ron Paul, who is a Physician, was asked about what he would do for a man who was dying and needed hospital care but had no health insurance. Actually I was not so troubled by Dr. Paul's answer as I was by the response of the crowd. As the moderator said, "should society just let him die," the crowd jeered, "Yes, Yes," and applauded.

At that moment I was caught up in the spirit. I was no longer watching TV, I was in first century Palestine standing with the crowd as Pilate brought Jesus out....

So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, ‘Here is the man!’ When the chief priests and the police saw him, they shouted, ‘Crucify him! Crucify him!’

The next moment I found myself sitting with the disciples days before the crucifixion as Jesus was teaching the parable of the King separating the sheep from the goats. He said...

‘When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. Then the king will say to those at his right hand, “Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.” Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?” And the king will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.”

Another moment in the debate that wreaked havoc on my upper GI track came in the moment when a young man asked the question, "Out of every dollar that I earn, how much do you think I deserve to keep?"

Again, I was caught up in the spirit and found myself standing in the crowd as Jesus was interacting with the rich young man...

The young man said to him, ‘I have kept all these; what do I still lack?’ Jesus said to him, ‘If you wish to be perfect, go, sell your possessions, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.’ When the young man heard this word, he went away grieving, for he had many possessions.

I am concerned about the future of our republic...not about the economy, not about jobs...but about the soul of a people who have forgotten that we are our brothers keepers. We are called to help those in need, not just as Christians but as citizens of this great nation. How quickly some forget the very Constitution they claim to uphold...

I can't forget...and those words should be forever etched into the lives and actions of those who take their faith and their citizenship seriously...

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

At one time, the people of this country believed that freedom and liberty were wrapped up in the general welfare of all its citizens. Now it seems these things should only be made available for those who can afford it...

What are we becoming as a nation...

I worry about the future my children will have and can't help but remember that line from Proverbs...

Those who trust in their riches will wither,
but the righteous will flourish like green leaves.
Those who trouble their households will inherit wind,
and the fool will be servant to the wise.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Remembering September 11th

Some have forgotten or did not realize that Rowan Williams, current Archbishop of Canterbury, was a block away from the World Trade Center on September 11th, 2001 recording a church video series at Trinity Wall Street. Here he is in 2010, reflecting on his experiences of that day.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Boring Sermons...

Thomas Long, professor of preaching at Candler School of Theology, wrote a blog entry about boring sermons the other day. He gives some good food for thought. Here is a little taste...

The intriguing puzzle to me is not why centuries of churchgoers have carped about boring sermons, but why it is that sermons often seem so much more boring than they really are, objectively measured. It's been said that 99 out of 100 people are interesting once you get to know them, and the one who's not is interesting by virtue of being the exception. So it is for sermons. It is actually rare to find a sermon completely devoid of inspiration or creativity, yet sermon has become a word like politics, a noble term with a tarnished reputation. People who remain alert through an NPR report on agricultural reforms in the Sudan or who are all eyes and ears for a half-hour pitch on QVC for zircon earrings become testy the moment a sermon overflows the banks of their endurance.

Read the entire article here...

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Having a ho-hum day...

Lately when I hear the word ho-hum, I think not of having a dull or boring time but I think of a recent creation of the General Convention of The Episcopal Church. I'm talking about Holy Women, Holy Men...referred to as "Ho-Hum" by its detractors. It is a supplement to Lesser Feasts and Fasts, and is being used on a trial basis until GENCON 2012.

I was in the gallery at GC 2009 the day Sam Chandler, Dean of the St. Phillip's Atlanta and Chair of the Standing Commission for Liturgy and Music, called for its approval. At the time, I remember being concerned that many of the new additions to the sanctoral calendar where at best marginally christian. Having had more time to review it, my concern for its continued use in the church has only grown.

I recently came across this critique of the work by Scott Gunn, the new Executive Director of Forward Movement Publications. Here is an excerpt from his blog entry...

There are people on the kalendar (John XIII is one example) who are not Anglican and whose own traditions do not commemorate them as saints. There are others (John Calvin would be one) many of whose contemporary Anglicans would have understood to be heretics.

Others are puzzlingly missing. Where is King Charles I? He is the one person who has been declared a saint (in effect) by the Church of England — and many other provinces of the Communion. There is a devotional society in his honor active in this country. But he doesn’t make the cut. Or where is Bishop Frank Weston? He’s another person with a worldwide following, and who continues to impact preaching and practice in many parishes. He’s not there.

I hope you'll take a moment to read his entire entry located here.

After that, let your local deputy to General Convention know how you feel about, good or bad. It is but one of the interesting items that will come before Convention next summer.

Father-Son Day...

One of the back-to-school customs in the Thompson-Queen household is spending some quality time with each of the kids. It’s a one-on-one, fun fest where each kid gets some special time with mom and dad. The other day was spent with my son, Griffin, for our father-son day. Or as he was quick to remind me, a son-father day, because he got to decide what we were going to do.

Here’s how the day went….

I started out by going into the office early to get a few things done and free up the entire afternoon and evening for G. First on the list, deliver backpacks and school supplies collected by the church to the local elementary school for distribution. When I got back to the office, I received a call that one of the long time parishioners of the church had died. I spoke to the family and started making arrangements for the funeral. Then a few moments updating the website and sending emails.

Next came the moment I had been waiting for…Griffin came bounding through the office door, he announced for all to hear that he was just in time for lunch at Chick-fil-A. After that, it was off to see The Smurfs movie in 3D, followed by a stop at the pool store, Toys-R-Us and Hobby Lobby…I know, I know, Griffin’s tastes are as eclectic as my own. The shopping trip turned out to be a dry-run with Griffin deciding to save his money for the Lionel 0 gauge train set commemorating the Boys Scouts of America 100th anniversary. (For the last year, we have been eyeing this train and saving up our pennies together. Griffin starts his second year as a cub scout and loves all things Scouts and all things trains.)

We finished off the evening with a corn dog and ice cream at the local dairy bar followed by an hour of weeding the front flower bed.
Thankfully my son is still at the age where spending time with dad is really cool.

Reflecting back on the activities of the day, I came away with a few ideas about priorities and commitments. Sure, there were plenty of other things I could have done that day. All of them important, and a lot of them work related. I, like anybody else, have lots of commitments and lots of obligations that crowd for attention in my daily life. And like anyone else, I have to make choices about where I focus my attention from one day to the next so that I can do my job, provide for my family, raise my children and try to be a good churchman and a good citizen. Where I think we often get in trouble is confusing activities with the real goal and purpose of life. It is easy to believe that staying busy all day long is the goal we should strive to attain. But at the end of the day, these things are just means to a higher goal in life. That high goal or
calling as it were is to live faithful lives to God in Jesus Christ and pass that faith to the next generation. Everything else ought to work as a means to that end.

Looking back on my day with Griffin, I was doing the most important thing I could have done…spending time raising my son and along the way teaching him about faith, hope and love. That was a day well spent.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Busy Bishops...

Here is a recent article about the Bishop of London. It is an interesting read, and I encourage you to take time and read it in its entirity. Here is a quote...

Does he struggle with the conflict of being a bishop for the people and being a christian with them? "No!" he says unhesitatingly. "It's essential to keeping yourself in proportion by making the division between the role and the person..."

Click here for the article.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Dormition of our Lady

I can't help but talk about Our Lady. You know, the Theotokos, the God-Bearer, the Madonna...Mary!

This is especially true on one of her feast days. August 15, is the Dormition of the Theotokos...the falling asleep of Mary. The picture on this post is the icon of the feast hanging over the vigil lights in the church I serve.

My devotion comes from Her intervention on my behalf at a time in my life when I needed it the most. And for that miracle, I will always be grateful.

One of the best talks given about this feast can be found by following this link...

What Fr. Hopko says in that lecture is just one more reason why I believe there is something about Mary.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Death and the Budget

A recent NY Times article brings to light the recent budget crisis and our inability to face our own mortality. I don't know if I agree with all of the authors conclusions but he makes some interesting points from a theological and pastoral perspective...

The fiscal crisis is driven largely by health care costs. We have the illusion that in spending so much on health care we are radically improving the quality of our lives. We have the illusion that through advances in medical research we are in the process of eradicating deadly diseases. We have the barely suppressed hope that someday all this spending and innovation will produce something close to immortality.

Take time to read the article here. Let me know what you think...

Monday, July 18, 2011

God and Technology

Kevin Kelly is the founder of Wired magazine and the last person in the world I would have expected not to have a smart phone.

Here is a really interesting interview with him done through Christianity Today. It's worth the's a little taste for you...

All human artifacts, from words to wheels to Wikipedia, together act like a living, breathing organism that reflects something of the Divine. Technology has its roots in God's work through the universe...

Read the entire article here.

Thanks to Kendall Harmon for bringing it to my attention.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Shared Sacrifice

I’ve been reflecting recently on the word “viability.” I hear it used a lot these days in a wide variety of circles. I hear church administrators talking about the viability of small churches. I hear politicians talk about the viability of continuing to do business as usual where budgets are concerned. And I hear diplomats in the news talk about the viability of countries with significant social programs. All this talk made me wonder what is was all about...the word itself. After searching some online dictionaries here is what I found…

The ability to work as intended or to succeed.
The ability to continue to exist or develop as a living being…

Or how about this definition…

Capable of living, developing, or germinating under favorable conditions. Capable of living outside the uterus. Capable of success or continuing effectiveness; practicable...

Whether or not we agree on a definition, I think it goes without saying that we all want viability in our lives, in our communities, in our churches and in our schools. The second and harder aspect of viability is how to obtain and sustain it in our lives and in our institutions.

When I think about my own experiences with viability and vitality, they all seemed to share a few things in common.

Clarity of identity...Commitment to the common good…Shared sacrifice

People and institutions function at their bests when they are clear about whom they are and whom they are not. Shakespeare might have been clever when he said, “to thine own self be true,” but the wise person follows the ancient Greek aphorism “know thyself.”

Commitment to the common good is also found in the characteristics of things viable and vital. From the everyday citizen to the President, from the small church to the Fortune 500 company, if you are not committed to the welfare of all people there is no health within you…(hat tip to the connfession in the daily office of the 1928 Prayerbook).

And whether we want to talk about it or not, shared sacrifice is absolutely necessary if we are to live and work together as church and community. There has been so much talk about the mess we are in and so little or no shared sacrifice. It really is a shame we have come to this moment when state and national politicians keep cutting valuable programs, and at the same time walking away from discussion about raising taxes to help share the sacrifice. We can all take a lesson from the staff of one of our local school districts which recently agreed to take an across the board pay cut so no one would loose their jobs.

Although in recent times we have convinced ourselves otherwise, you cannot claim the name of Jesus Christ if you are unwilling to participate in shared sacrifice for the needs of others. The Rt. Rev'd. Frank Weston said it best in his closing address to the 1923 Anglo-Catholic Congress...

"You cannot claim to worship Jesus in the Tabernacle, if you do not pity Jesus in the slums. . . It is folly -- it is madness -- to suppose that you can worship Jesus in the Sacraments and Jesus on the throne of glory, when you are sweating him in the souls and bodies of his children."

Bishop Weston was as right then as his is today. This is not about economics or politics, this is about the Gospel and the church better start treating it as such.

Monday, May 09, 2011

On Seminary Education

I serve as a trustee for an Episcopal seminary. We recently concluded our spring meeting, and among other items on our agenda elected a new Dean. I'm excited about the future for this school, but I also know that we are in the midst of drastic changes in the life and culture of the institution. So it was with interest that I read this recent article from a Forbes blogger. It is obvious from a surface reading that the author last little experience with seminary education but he does provoke some good discussion....

...the prospects are worse clergy than for other forms of professional education, because there is no legal seminary requirement which stifles professional competition. If you go to medical school, you know you’ll have challenges in the job market, but at least you know you won’t be competing with non-medical school graduate physicians. Ditto for law school; it’s illegal to practice law or medicine without the requisite graduate schooling. Other professions, such as CPA and engineer, require at least the four-year diploma.

If you graduate from seminary and become an Episcopal priest, the church almost certainly required that you get the degree, but there’s no guarantee that increasingly indifferent churchgoers won’t, at the drop of a hat, leave your church and move a few blocks down the street to attend a Pentecostal, charismatic or fundamentalist church led by a high school dropout with generous dollops of the gift of gab, no school loans and probably less overhead...

Click here for the entire article...

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Ebor's Lenten Reflection on Poverty

The Archbishop of York offers an interesting reflection for the Third Sunday in Lent. His website is located here... D.T. Niles said that the Good News of God is Christ makes all his followers to be like "one beggar telling another beggar where to find bread". In Lent we are reminded that we should share in the life of Jesus, who called himself the Bread of Life, and our wealth, our material daily bread if you like. If only we did this more effectively, how different the world would be. Research shows that Britain is more divided than ever between the rich and the poor. We need to 'mind the gap' which has opened up between the haves and the have-nots – otherwise there is a danger that many people will fall into the hole between! Wherever I go, at home or abroad, I have often noticed that those who live in the poorest communities are the most welcoming and generous in their hospitality. There is a dignity about giving, about contributing to the common good, which the poor seem to appreciate more than the well-off, because they see what a privilege it is. Jesus pointed out a poor widow putting her last mite into the offering – her action put the wealthier worshippers to shame because she gave her all. It is those who have the most resources who bear greatest responsibility for bridging the gap. We all need to rediscover the wellsprings of solidarity – the unstoppable grace which hold us together as a human family. What would this look like in the community where you live? What could you do to help make it happen? Jesus, you rested at a well once and you gave the woman of Samaria the honour of drawing you water when you were thirsty. She quenched your thirst, then you offered her the living water, a new life to replace the shame and broken relationships of the past. Help me to see where I am needy, and where I have something to offer. Help me to play my part in making things better, with your Spirit in me to give me strength. Amen. +Sentamu Ebor

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Beginning Lent

Lent Video Series: #1 Ashes from Dan Puchalla on Vimeo.

I found the link to this at Episcopal Cafe. I'm looking forward to the remainder of the series. Take a look.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Nothing New Under the Sun

I came across an interesting review of the condition of The Episcopal Church. It reads as follows...

A sense of weariness and resignation prevailed as the…General Convention of the Episcopal Church convened. Loyal church people were anxious and fearful. Distrust of church leaders was pervasive. Revenues for the previous three years had fallen far short of projections, resulting in the curtailing of ministries and large-scale borrowing.

Prospects…were bleak. Many saw a looming decline facing their church. Even with an increase in diocesan giving of 25 percent (by no means a certainty) and adding money from the United Thank Offering and investment income, revenues….against anticipated expenditures….show a nearly 17 percent shortfall. The Joint Committee on Program and Budget had been meeting all summer to attempt the apparently impossible—the gap seemed unbridgeable and the decline in giving seemed to signal a spiritual exhaustion throughout the church…

Now take a guess at when it was written, then follow this link and read the rest of the article and what followed.

A great reminder that we can overcome all things with God on our side.