Thursday, March 28, 2013

Is this but a taste?

Please forgive me if this post appears to ramble. The post I had planned to write is just not resonating with me right now, maybe another time. It was to be titled, "A wrongful conviction".

While this week started off as it normally does it de-railed on Tuesday then on Wednesday, yesterday I had a tooth pulled. Everyone who has ever suffered from a tooth ache and especially recovered from having a tooth pulled knows how hard it is just to move through the day. Why is it that such a small thing as a tooth can stop you dead in your tracks. Well, that's what happened to me. I woke up this morning, ready to lead a Maundy Thursday service for my co-workers and quickly realized I could not do it all by myself. I learned yesterday that if I talk to much my mouth starts to hurt. I found a co-worker who was willing and able to assist me and a nice service was had, communion included too.

After lunch it struck me that part of the Stations of the Cross I had installed last week reflected on how Jesus had to rely on someone to help him carry his cross. And the question came, "Is what I am going through right now a small taste of what Jesus went through carrying his cross?"

Despite the pain in my mouth I went to walk the Stations in our chapel on campus and found it difficult. Not really surprising because tooth pain seems to be the one pain that we have a hard time ignoring. Jesus had been flogged before he was given his cross, flogged almost to the point of death. If tooth pain can distract me from the Stations of the Cross can the pain of flogging distract Jesus from his purpose?

We can accept Jesus' humanity when he asks his father to remove this cup from him in the Garden of Gethsemane. If it was within Jesus to ask to be spared is it also not within Jesus to be so overwhelmed by physical pain that he is unable to focus on the purpose of the cross? I am inclined to believe so. Yes, Jesus did die upon the cross for us so that we would be redeemed but he did undoubtedly suffered up until his final breath.

If you are experiencing pain of any kind may the Lord grant you peace as you find solidarity with Jesus who understands the pain.

The Lord be with you.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Guest Blogging today

Today I a guest blogging at Sub Renovationis. Ken Pettigrew is doing a series titled; Living the Eucharist: Beyond Bread and Wine. To read all the posts go here. Below is a brief excerpt from my post today

"I grew up in a Southern Baptist Church in North Carolina and I can remember as early as 5 years old begging my mother to let me have a wafer and juice during communion and she would say, “Not until you are a member of the church.” Mind you I was never told that I had to accept Jesus, though this was understood, but that I had to be a member of the church. I learned then that believing in Jesus and joining a church were two different things..."

Go here to see the post in its entirety.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Common Good Part 5: Separation of Church and State

I continue my series on the Common Good looking at the issue of Church and State. You can find the previous four posts here, here, here and here.

The First Amendment to the US Constitution: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.


“Religious institutions that use government power in support of themselves and force their views on persons of other faiths, or of no faith, undermine all our civil rights. Moreover, state support of an established religion tends to make the clergy unresponsive to their own people, and leads to corruption within religion itself. Erecting the 'wall of separation between church and state,' therefore, is absolutely essential in a free society.”
Thomas Jefferson

During this season of Lent and in the context of Church and State I want us to look at Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve disciples that followed Jesus. Scripture tells us the Judas was a less than honest man. He was the one in charge of the purse that was to be used for the poor, widows and orphans, but at times he would help himself. As we continue to read scripture we find it was money played a role in Jesus' crucifixion. Judas was payed in return for turning Jesus over to the religious leaders of the day. The reason I bring this up is to shed some light I what I think Thomas Jefferson meant when he said, "established religion tends to make clergy unresponsive to their own people and leads to corruption.." Judaism, during the time of Jesus, had some favor with the Roman government that was currently in rule. Judas' agreement with the Religious leaders led to corruption that led tot he neglect of those Jesus said his disciples where to minister too. Instead of people being fed and orphans given homes Judas received a payoff so that the religious leaders could turn Jesus over to the local government and be crucified, Judas became unresponsive to his own people and his Savior.

Just recently, I had to go apply for a license to perform weddings in the state of Virginia. To be honest, this has not set well with me. Prior to moving to Virginia I had already performed one wedding in the state of North Carolina and have since performed a 2nd one. The state of NC accept my designation of Reverend simply because I signed the Marriage Certificate that way and according to the 1st Amendment it should be that way. By having to submit my credentials as an ordained clergy the State is in a position to determine what is a legitimate religion. In doing some research I have found cases where clergy of faith traditions other than Christianity being denied the right to marry persons from within their congregations. These people went on to appeal the decision but in our country that guarantees us the right to exercise a faith this should not have happened. Because this is one of the highly debated issues in our country I want to look at an example of a country that the government has an established religion and what the implications are for people not of that faith who live in the country.

Recently I watch a show on HGTV that followed three families that moved from the United States to the United Arab Emirates. United Arab of Emirates is a Muslim country and everyone who lives there has to live under their form of Sharia Law. During this show the families talked about how they had to adjust the law. If they wanted to drink alcohol they had to get a letter from their US company that requested the country to grant them a license to purchase alcohol. The woman learned that their status was one of property, property of their husbands. Woman had to follow strict rules on clothing, Nothing sleeveless, skirts below the knees and they had to cover their hair. The families never mentioned if they had a faith tradition but I wonder how many of us would be comfortable living under a law based on a religion other than our own.

That is the question we have to ask ourselves. I am a Christian and I would not be lying when I said that I could not live in a country and abide by the law of the land based on a religion differnt from mine. As a christian who lives in a democratic country I am not willing to give up the freedom I enjoy to live according to my faith. Would you? If the answer is no then why should we expect people of other faiths to live under a law that is written according our own faith? What makes the United States great, in my opinion, is that we are free. If we take steps to change our democracy to a theocracy then we become no different than countries like United Arab Emirates.

Lastly, from a christian perspective. God gives me the freedom to make my own choices, and Jesus was never legalistic in his message. For me, to be a christian means granting others the freedom to make their own choices and to refrain from making my faith into a government with laws. It only betrays the message that Jesus came to tell. To embrace the common good here is to allow people to be free, just as the 1st Amendment guarantees.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

How far does a dollar go?

NOTE: To my regular followers, the Common Good series will resume next week. There are two posts remaining and the last one will be the start of another series on Equality.

What difference can a dollar make when it comes to human trafficking? I mean really, there are over 20 million people who are modern day slaves around the world. The fact is a dollar can make a lot of difference when many people come together and pull their resources to free such victims from a life of slavery. Check out the video below from my friends @ Exodus Road.

India: We're Coming for You from The Exodus Road on Vimeo.

For question you may have about what Exodus Road does you can now go to their FAQ page here.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

What is a family?

What is a family? Most people would probably say that it is 2 parents, 2.5 children and maybe a pet. I would have said that myself but in my lifetime I have seen family that existed outside the norm stated above and I witnessed it last night and this morning.

See, HopeTree family services has suffered a loss. One of our adult residents for 20+ years lost his battle with cancer on Friday. Last night was the visitation and this morning we remembered him and what he meant to all of us. Here at HopeTree's DDM program adults become family for one another. What I witnessed last night and this morning among the residents and staff was love, care and support. That for me is what family is about. And I dare say that is how God has designed it to be. See, family isn't about blood or even a nuclear family with 2 parents. Family can be aging people with staff that care for them, and even thought the staff may be younger they take the role of parents, friend become brothers and sisters, all because of love.

I want to take this time to thank the staff of RCC in Salem for the care they showed Teddy in his final days and I want to thank ll of our DDM staff who care for our wonderful and amazing adults int he program. You inspire me to open my heart a little more and to care deeply for our guys and gals in DDM. Thank you and God bless you.