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Don’t Snuff Out the Light

A recent reading from Luke demonstrates all too well how We Simply Don’t Get It Sometimes. Here, we read about people following Jesus being quite willing to refuse his mercy to others, which plays out all too often in terms of intolerance. As much as many professing Christians claim to let their light shine and be a good witness, many fall horribly short when it comes to discussing politics or religion, to use a good example.

I’ll admit, I’ve had a few times where I’ve almost “snuffed” out my own Christ-light when hearing or reading certain things about politics (religion, too, but political divisions have been more sharp). Someone I know recently asked me how I manage when someone makes a particularly insensitive remark or shares content implying they agree with the author’s assessment that the other side is stupid.

It’s not a simple answer by any means, but is best summed up in the baptismal covenant. When I affirmed this covenant for myself in confirmation,  I vowed to renounce Satan and also made other vows that included respecting the dignity of every human being.

Respecting the dignity of those who don’t return the favor is hard, since they often can’t see what they’re doing is wrong, God love ’em. However, there are two very different possible ways of dealing with such situations – one, I believe, is God’s way, the other is the other guy’s:

  • I could respect their worth as a child of God, realize that their story varies from mine and maybe influences how they see things, and pray for God to work in their hearts so they may treat others with love and respect
  • I could return the comments about ” Liberals are stupid”, “Perfect proof that all religions is BS”, etc. with comments in a similar vein, but it would, in the end, be more about my anger at being insulted than anyone respecting the other’s dignity

Even though the Episcopal and Evangelical Lutheran baptismal covenants are the ones best-known for including promises about our treatment of others, I think our treatment of people is a good litmus test of how well we’re actually renouncing the devil and his works. We are, after all, called to be representatives of Christ.

Something to think about: would your average discussion of politics or religion draw people to Christ, or push them away? Give it some thought the next time these types of issues come up.


June 20, 2016 Posted by | Christian Living | | Leave a comment

A Good Place to Start

Maerten van Heemskerck - Christ Appearing to St Peter on the Sea of Tiberias (Bowes Museum)

How often do stories include a line about starting at the beginning? How often do hit TV shows open with a character presumably going back to the beginning?

Starting at the beginning, or getting back to the basics, is a theme that also crops up in the Bible. Jesus’ appearance in John 21:9, though it is post-Resurrection, ironically starts where he first called the disciples.

Going back to where you were before God called you at the point you are in your life can be a very scary thing. Although remembering where we were when we decided to heed Jesus’ call makes us grateful for what we turned away from, remembering the past can give us a clearer picture of the future.

Christianity has taken so many twists and turns over the centuries that it often seems as though common ground is difficult to find. Ages-old controversies about the nature of the Godhead now take their place alongside controversies over worship styles and the use of sacraments in an increasingly digitized world.

One thing to bear in mind: many of today’s controversies likely would have befuddled Jesus’ earliest followers. Your mileage may vary, but I think they would have rejected anything that eclipsed Jesus as Lord, reduced honored traditions as stale, rigid laws, denied the importance of those who had gone before, or that tought any group of people was unworthy of ministering to.

Creedal Christianity, at its best, gets back to basics while providing adaptability for a world that constantly changes. What more could we ask for today?

April 10, 2016 Posted by | Christian Living, Uncategorized | | Leave a comment

Redemption, Peace and Healing

Jf8406Our Lady Mount Carmel Parish Guaguafvf 18

Some of our sisters and brothers outside the liturgical tradition feel that confessing sins is strictly a thing of the past. It may be seen as legalistic, or, when it involves confessing to another Christian, usurping god’s place.

Nothing is further from the truth. In fact, some of our most beloved Psalms, many attributed directly to David, take the form of a confession.

In 2 Samuel 11:1-15, we read about David doing something that he was very sorry for, indeed. His actions would later have consequences that would affect many. The account of his affair with Bathsheba fits in perfectly with Psalm 14.

We all mess up, even royally sometimes. (Absolutely no pun intended!) Sin affects the most powerful and those with no power of influence alike.

The good news is that Jesus has brought redemption, peace, and healing into the world. If God can work in and redeem someone who has committed several serious sins, even the little, everyday ones we commit are no big deal for God to handle.

July 26, 2015 Posted by | Christian Living | , , | Leave a comment

Why Religious Movies Get People Riled Up

Please note – This is a reprint of an article from another site that is scheduled to shut down soon. Some minor grammatical and factual changes were made.

Religious-themed movies (or at least some of them) tend to get people riled up because they concern one of those “don’t touch!” topics. Religion and politics have a tendency to hit peoples’ sore spots like nothing else can. Regardless of whether you consider yourself a person of faith or an atheist/agnostic/secular humanist, you can’t really take a neutral approach when it comes to religion.

Also, religious-themed movies are told from a certain perspective, which may mean a perspective that’s controversial, not “politically correct”, or has elements and themes that conflict with one’s theology. A movie that were to depict Jesus as a gay man or married man, for instance, would be controversial for all but the most liberal of Christians. Some might expect Biblical events to be re-told in a way that’s more sensitive to other religions but not in keeping with a strict interpretation of the Scriptural account. Movies that depict Mary in a very prominent role might anger some Protestants, while Catholics might be offended by depiction of the early Church as a more evangelical group.

The Passion was very controversial. The violence when Jesus was scourged was much more graphic than most movies typically are. However, it wasn’t the violence that attracted the controversy so much as the film maker’s beliefs and some of the themes in the movie. Actor and director Mel Gibson is known for being a devout Catholic. However, his practice of Catholicism is a conservative variation that rejects the reforms of Vatican II and is not in communion with the Vatican. Among the reforms of Vatican II were a more conciliatory stance toward the Jewish people. There were concerns that Gibson’s particular form of Catholicism might influence how Jews were portrayed in the movie. “The Dolorous Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ according to the Meditations of Anne Catherine Emmerich”, based on the visions of a German nun who died in 1824, was used as an additional source for some of the movie’s plot. “The Dolorous Passion” has been criticized as being anti-Semitic. While I didn’t find the movie to be anti-Semitic, I believe there is a real danger of uninformed Christians becoming anti-Semitic when they don’t realize that the Bible doesn’t hold the Jewish people as a whole responsible for the death of Jesus.

The Da Vinci Code also sparked controversy. In it, the Church supposedly covered up the fact that Jesus and Mary Magdalene were married and had a child, Mary was chosen to be the leader of the new Church, and the Catholic Church under Emperor Constantine altered the Scriptures for political reasons. The Da Vinci Code is fiction, based on ideas that have been proven to be false by historians. However, many people believe that the ideas behind the Da Vinci Code are historical fact. A large number of people have been raised outside of the Christian faith and have no background experience to help them discern valid Church history from pure fiction. Others are disillusioned with “organized religion”, and gladly embrace conspiracy theories that turn Christian belief upside down. People that fail to make distinctions can end up spreading misinformation about Christianity. It’s a good story, but should be accepted as what it is-a movie, not a Church history lesson.

Hopefully, this helps explain the controversy behind some religious movies.

August 10, 2014 Posted by | Christian Living | | Leave a comment

Good Shepherd Sunday with Fr. Greg Chisholm

May 15, 2014 Posted by | Christian Living | , | Leave a comment

Reconciliation: Father Matthew Presents the Sacraments

Confession is good for the soul, indeed.

May 1, 2014 Posted by | Christian Living | , | Leave a comment

What IS Our Position in This Family, Anyway?

Shrouded altar cross

What are we really fasting from?

We (or at least most Westerners) live in a society that is very individualistic. There’s a lot of emphasis on something to suit everyone, even in our approach to worship and other “church stuff”. This can often come into sharp conflict with the Biblical and traditional Christian view on being part of a larger community.

The Scripture readings for 2 Lent provide two different views of a community of faith: one, in Genesis 12:1-4, speaks of the descendants of Abraham. John 3:1-17 discusses being “born from above” (as opposed to biological birth). Paul ties everything together in Romans 4:1-17, emphasizing that it is grace that gives us a place in God’s family.

How do we put this together in the context of today’s world? We certainly aren’t called the deny any of our unique character or identity aspects, or otherwise develop a “herd animal” mentality. However, we definitely should reject the materialism, greed and selfishness that categorizes so much of daily life today.

Maybe we (the Church as a whole) have missed the point by emphasizing Lenten fasting that focuses on food, beverages or TV. While we should cut back on or give up things that aren’t beneficial to us, it’s also important to consider whether they have the ability to bring about true spiritual change in our lives. Fast from:

  • Self-centeredness
  • Greed
  • Materialism
  • What else?


March 15, 2014 Posted by | Christian Living | , , | 1 Comment

A Walk with Many Helpers

Christians in many traditions may feel as though their witness is lacking if they’re not enough of a “soul winner”.  A lot of pressure is put on bringing friends and loved ones to Christ, with success measured by the recitation of a prayer or possibly getting them into their local congregation. Indeed, some ministries even train members to lead people to Christ (according to their ministry’s teachings), when many of these people are, in fact, already Christians.

The biggest problem with this way of thinking is that it pushes God out of the equation and puts too much of the pressure on the individual Christians who are witnessing. Rather than raising up Christians with healthy spiritual lives, this can create people who are more disciples of another person than Christ.

1 Corinthians 3:1-9 deals with something very similar. New Christians were affirming that they belonged to whoever introduced them to the Gospel, rather than rightfully acknowledging them as servants whom God sent. Back then, as it often is now, sometimes one would “plant”, while another would “water”, with God being behind the growth. Over the course of our lives, we are often introduced to many people who play a foundational role in shaping us as Christians. Should you be in a situation where God calls you to be a “helper’ for another Christian, just remember Who is responsible for any growth that takes place.

February 16, 2014 Posted by | Christian Living | | Leave a comment

Don’t Lose Hope – When Churches Leave You Spiritually Dry

One thing that many people aren’t prepared for is the fact that Christians do in fact go through spiritually dry periods. We live in an era where some of the most well-known Christian personalties teach that the Christian life is totally trouble-free.

Nothing could be further from the truth, or more alien to early Christian teaching.  In 2 Timothy 1:1-14, Timothy is encouraged to join Paul in suffering for the sake of the Gospel. While he was obviously referring to persecution, there are many other hardships Christians face.

One of the problems that Christians often face is feeling spiritually dry.  When it happens because of the local church, this can present different problems, with different solutions.

  • Sometimes the issue is due to a problem going on in the person’s life, and it’s not actually due to church. Taking a step back from non-essential activities for awhile may make it easier to cope.
  • People who are coming into liturgical churches from evangelical or Pentecostal/charismatic backgrounds may need to adjust to a new way of worshiping. This is especially true for those coming from groups that place a lot of emphasis on emotionalism and must learn to separate feelings from genuine faith.
  • Personality conflicts with the clergy or other leaders, or infighting in a congregation can make spiritual life difficult.  Taking some time away from the congregation or switching to another church may be necessary.

How do you cope with spiritually dry places in your life?

October 9, 2013 Posted by | Christian Living | | Leave a comment

Seriously…Come to Discovery Weekend

This is somewhat similar to a Discovery Weekend I attended at an Episcopal church several years ago (The event mentioned in the video here is a middle school event, while the one I attended was for all ages).

If you’ve ever been a part of a Discovery Weekend, how did it enrich your spiritual life?

September 12, 2013 Posted by | Christian Living | | Leave a comment