Sunday, June 28, 2015

Though rich, Christ became poor

NET Letter – June 28, 2015

Though rich, Christ became poor for our sakes, 
so that by his poverty we might become rich

You see a lot of strange things on the Jacksonville highways as you commute to and from work. The other day I saw a van with very neat script on the rear window.  It said, “This is America, we don’t re-distribute wealth, we work for it.” Really? The streets provide me with a never ending supply of people for whom to pray.

I know that most priests and pastors are seen as bleeding-heart socialists. We are often accused of being more interested in money than souls. People think churches trade favors with politicians for their tax exempt status. But all this stems from a lack of understanding of our own abject poverty that Jesus exchanges with us that we might experience his absolute wealth.

In spiritual terms, our reconciliation with God and God’s reconciliation with the world through Christ, overflows into our lives and the lives of all people who share in this reconciliation. When this happens to us we cannot help but be transformed into an attitude of sharing our excess—of time, talent, treasure, and grace—with one another.

When we feel the excess of grace through Jesus we feel God transforming our theology from one of scarcity into abundance. No longer do we hoard our excess in the hope of having our needs taken care of today, tomorrow, and all the days of the future.  When we feel the power of abundance we suddenly feel the power to forgive, to be generous with each other, and the power to share our wealth so that “no one might have too much and none shall have too little.”

Jesus exchanged his vast wealth as the son of God, because though rich, Christ became poor for our sake so that by his poverty we might become rich.

Father Mark+

Sunday, June 14, 2015

All Are Welcome

What say you at the judgment seat of Christ?

I’ve been wrong in the past and I will be likely wrong in the future.  I am not thankful about that but being wrong is not a bad thing.  It is often just an indication of a need for clarification and understanding.

When I was young I was often wrong—as I’m sure many of you were.  I didn’t understand lots of things; what my father did all day at his job, why my high school athletic program was so poor, or why I cried when my favorite dog died but not when my best friend did.
People are eager to set us straight about how things are—even if they don’t really know any better than we do, they weigh-in with their opinions no matter how right or wrong they may be. What I have learned about opinions—and right and wrongness—is this, when things get personal all bets are off regarding wrong and right.

My father and mother were bigots for most of their lives.  They didn’t like Catholics or people of other faiths, had no respect for people of color, and knew that homosexuals had chosen the wrong life-style.  But when Sol, a Jewish co-worker asked my father to be a character witness at his divorce hearing dad readily agreed.  When mom baked pies for us at home she always make an extra for the black janitor at the school where she taught, and when the son of a neighbor contracted AIDs and died they both volunteered at the Gay Pride clothes distribution center.  For them things became personal and that overcame the bigotry with which they had grown-up.

My Christian faith is on full display in our Book of Common Prayer. I believe that our duty to our neighbors is to love them as ourselves, and to do to others as we wish them to do to us.   I believe that God has been revealed to us by his Son as love, and it is our duty to follow Jesus; to work, pray, and give for the spread of the kingdom of God.

To do this I believe that the Church must be a big tent into which we welcome all people regardless of race, creed, gender, or sexual orientation—erring always on the side of inclusion.

At our General Convention this summer the Church will once again take up discussion of topics of same-sex marriage and the rights of LGBT people to receive Sacraments in our Church. Do not be shocked to read about our denomination in the news in the coming weeks. Many wish we would take our conversation and go away and stop talking about such things. But God is not about exclusion—He is a God of inclusion.

I may be wrong again.  When I appear before the judgment seat of Christ I may learn God was not in favor of same-sex marriage—that God did not want us to welcome all people.  But for me now, I will err on the side of being a welcoming priest—offering full acceptance of Christian LGBT persons and couples into the church.  All are welcome!


Father Mark+

Sunday, June 7, 2015

The Work of Satan's Minions

"Truly I tell you, people will be forgiven for their sins and whatever blasphemies they utter; but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit can never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin”— for they had said, “He has an unclean spirit.”

As early Bible Authorities, my friend Scott and I lacked much in the way of experience and understanding.  One of our favorite things was to argue over which sin was the most serious—or which commandment was the most important to keep.

Scott always believed that to kill someone was the most egregious. I however, took serious this passage in Mark in which blaspheming God was the unforgivable sin and therefore must be the most important. But I have grown and matured in my understanding of the Biblical texts.  What does Jesus mean when he says that “… whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit can never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin.”

The sin that is spoken of here is the rejecting of Jesus’ and attributing his saving work to the devil.  By not recognizing the Messiah, rejecting the good work of God in Christ, and refusing to credit God’s Holy Spirit with the renewal and redemption of Creation—one risks not receiving the grace God offers us freely given—wholly undeserved.

But, I wouldn’t worry too much about your soul and eternal damnation.  God has a way of looking past our slip-ups and momentary fits of rage and anger—unless you have decided to engage in an ongoing rejection of God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit.  Jesus most certainly is more concerned with our having a long-term, rigid stance against God’s work in the world. The sin Jesus is naming here is a permanent refusal to be open to the work of the Spirit in the world and in our lives.

Jesus will not let us be swept away by Satan’s minions by an accidental slip-up.  To be guilty of this sin one must have a systematic way of being which utterly rejects God. If you can fathom such a thing and you are worried, you probably need not be concerned.

However, if you are debating your best friend you should probably hold out longer on you position.  It’s always good to let the opposition sweat.

Father Mark+