Sunday, July 26, 2009

Guidelines to the 10 Commandments

I saw these guidelines on some internet post and they seemed pretty right-on. So, here they are . . .

God’s Guidelines to the Ten Commandments

Here are the first of ten guidelines to the 10 Commandments. God already gave us the 10 Commandments. Keep them. But follow these guidelines, also:

1. QUIT WORRYING Life has dealt you a blow and all you do is sit and worry. Have you forgotten that I am here to take all your burdens and carry them for you? Or do you just enjoy fretting over every little thing that comes your way?

2. PUT IT ON THE LIST Something needs to be done or taken care of. Put it on the list. No, not YOUR list. Put it on MY to-do-list. Let ME be the one to take care of the problem. I can't help you until you turn it over to Me. And although My to-do-list is long, I am after all... God. I can take care of anything you put into My hands. In fact, if the truth were ever really known, I take care of a lot of things for you that you never even realize.

3. TRUST ME Once you've given your burdens to Me, quit trying to take them back. Trust in Me. Have the faith that I will take care of all your needs . . . YOUR problems and your trials. Problems with the kids? Put them on My list. Problem with finances? Put it on My list. Problems with your emotional roller coaster? For My sake, put it on My list. I want to help you. All you have to do is ask.

4. LEAVE IT ALONE Don't wake up one morning and say, "Well, I'm feeling much stronger now, I think I can handle it from here." Why do you think you are feeling stronger now? It's simple. You gave Me your burdens and I'm taking care of them. I also renew your strength and cover you in my peace. Don't you know that if I give you these problems back, you will be right back where you started? Leave them with Me and forget about them. Just let Me do my job.

5. TALK TO ME I want you to forget a lot of things. Forget what was making you crazy. Forget the worry and the fretting because you know I'm in control. But there's one thing I pray you never forget. Please, don't forget to talk to Me - OFTEN! I love YOU! I want to hear your voice. I want you to include Me in on the things going on in your life. I want to hear you talk about your friends and family. Prayer is simply you having a conversation with Me. I want to be your dearest friend.

. . . to be continued.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, not angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

(Romans 8:38-39)

There is a new debate coming out of General Convention this year. It is the age old question which theologians have struggled with through the centuries, “are we saved by works or saved by grace.” I for one, am happy to see this question being asked because I know either answer is good (though for me one is better than the other.)

Presiding Bishop Schori has called it the "great Western heresy—that we can be saved as individuals, that any of us alone can be in right relationship with God." In some quarters it occurs through "insisting that salvation depends on reciting a specific verbal formula about Jesus." The specific verbal formula she refers to is what some of us call the Jesus Prayer; “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner."

I have always been strangely suspicious of placing too much faith in my recitation of the Jesus Prayer. It seems so presumptuous to believe that my salvation can be influenced by this simple act. I understand how some might fall into this Pelagian heresy—believing that Jesus set for us a good example and provides the atonement for our sins. But, this allows humanity to possess full control and responsibility for obeying the Good News of Christ. We don’t have that much control. If it were completely up to us no one would every achieve salvation.

As we travel upon our individual roads toward God we are under constant attack by the enemy, whose favorite target is our vanity. When we are determined to find that personal door to salvation, he attacks most viciously by telling us we can petition our way to God. The Jesus Prayer is a wonderful little piece of mystical spirituality. Through it we can lay all that is in our hearts at the feet of Jesus. But it is not the source of our salvation—that belongs to God. When we say “Yes” to the free gift of God’s grace, then we are assured our place in the Heavenly realm.

Works are good—Grace is better. Don’t be distracted by the doctrines of man but focus on the Dogma of God in Christ Jesus.

Father Mark

Sunday, July 12, 2009

We are held together by our common faith and love for each other

Once again we are entering that triennial time Episcopalians call General Convention; always a time of coming together in faith to talk and worship—but recently a time of controversy and disruption in our church. This week a local news reporter opened his story on Convention with the prediction of loss of membership and continued conflict between the various constituencies. How mis-guided, sad, and sinful.

I am continually amazed at the ways we humans in general and Christians in particular, have to act sinfully toward each other. The human capacity to make massive mistakes is virtually unlimited in this world. We were born into a world of greed and our ability to delude ourselves about that greed is amazing. We get caught up in sin and don’t even know it.

When our governing body meets at General Convention, Episcopalians seem eager to line up at the feeding trough of controversy, self-seeking, and judgmental-ism, waiting for reports of actions which we deem heretical. Fortunately, our polity contains a series of checks and balances to control the actions of over-eager cynics and foot-dragging sentimentalists. I for one will be listening to the reports from Convention with a different ear this year.

I recognize that there are many agendas in our church and in the world and the best we can hope for is to live in a community of faithful people who continually remind each other we are not the center of the universe. We are cracked vessels and the best we can hope for is to love our crooked neighbors with our own crooked hearts.

In this season as in all others, I implore you to love each other. Hold your differences lightly in your hands and look for your common faith which has held us together and strengthened us over the centuries. Love is not a small thing. Love conquerors all.

Father Mark

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Shouldn't We Be Strong for Christ?

“I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong.”

When Jesus sent his Apostles out two by two, he made sure they went out in their weaknesses – with no provisions except a walking stick. As I think about the journey’s I made over the last two weeks, I am reminded how difficult it would be to travel without provisions. I certainly took all the stuff I thought I’d need. I traveled light, but with several changes of clothes, my cell phone, money, and my Bible.

But when we go into the world as representatives of Christ, we are called to go out in our weakness: for then we will be strong.

How can this be, we ask? Shouldn’t we be strong for Christ?

Our answer is this; when we act as representatives of Christ we are armed with the Grace of God and the power of Jesus Christ. We are armed with a sense of humility in our devotion to our Lord and Savior and we are equipped with the gift of God’s grace which covers all contingencies we might face.

As we go about living our lives of grace and peace in our neighborhoods and communities and workplaces, be bold in allowing the Love of God to show forth through the lives we live. As St. Francis of Assisi once said, “Preach the gospel at all times . . . when necessary, use words.”

It is not our words that bring people to Christ but our actions.

Father Mark