Monday, October 24, 2011


This week's reflection was provided by the former Rev. Judith Schenck, and discusses the importance of the little word - all.  "We call it the Great Commandment or the Summary of the Law: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart and all thy soul and all thy mind and thy neighbor as thyself."  And that word has huge meaning.  I highly recommend reading the entirety of the sermon at the link provided. 

One of the points in the piece talks about, who is your neighbor. 
“Who is your neighbor?” asks Jesus. Our neighbor is anyone who stands beside us on this small planet, our island home. Distance is no obstacle to neighbors. A neighbor is any other human being with whom we share the image of God, which is to say, all human beings. A neighbor is not based on worth, on quality of life, on intelligence or beauty, on health or sickness, on moral development or religion, on color or sexuality or geography. We are all neighbors to one another.
Our wonderful interim priest, PattiAnn Bennett, proved just what a neighbor is, as she wrote to us recently:  "Upon returning from convention Sunday evening I learned that an elderly parishioner from St Michael had no place to live and was suffering from some kind of mental dysfunction. She has stayed here with us this week and after many phone calls to her family back east & Adult Protective Services involvement and doctor's appointments I will escort her [home on the East Coast] to meet her daughter on Saturday."

Setting aside her own responsibilities (and likely assisted in that by her family and friends, also helping their neighbor as needed), she helped another made in the image of God, and did as she would hope others would do when presented with such an opportunity. 

I appreciate the examples we are provided from the words of Rev. Schenck and the actions of Rev. Bennett.  May we all strive to live up to the definition of "all" the Commandments provide.

Monday, October 17, 2011


The Gospel this week talks about rendering unto Caesar that which is Caesar's, and rendering unto God that which is God's.  Interestingly, Christ's response is based on what is stamped on a coin - the image of Caesar.  What He does not say, but which is fascinating to contemplate - were we not each "stamped" in the image of God?

Thinking about His response from this perspective puts a whole new meaning on the Gospel.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Parables - And Capacity

There's a good joke that describes how parables can come across:  "A flat-lander was invited to preach in a mountain Baptist church. He was worried, remembering that they eschewed educated preachers and were known for their fundamentalism and simplistic approach to the gospel. He preached with masterful command of allegory and hard truths veiled in simile. At the close of his message he gave the expected invitation and just one old gentleman in starched overalls responded. He came forward and whispered in the minister's ear, "Young feller, I want you to know that I know that just because the water's muddy, don't mean it's deep!"

Parables ... Symbolism... Something standing for something else, or meant to remind you of something else.  Sometimes it seems quite mysterious - complicated and obscure.  The thing is that the word for "mystery" in Greek contains a technical meaning - something unintelligible to outsiders, but clear to those initiated into the mystery.  When you get it, it truly expands your understanding, and when you don't, you're left with rather more of a feeling that it's another one of those stories that really has no purpose, but shows how great Jesus is, and you move on. 

So to bring another joke here:  Young Assisant Pastor Bill was giving his 427th children's sermon. "Now kids," says Pastor Bill, "What's green, lives in the pond, sits on a lily pad, and hops?" The children looked at each other with vacant eyes as silence ruled that magical time. "Surely, someone has an idea?" Finally, little Susie stood up and said, "Well, it sounds like a frog, but it must be Jesus!" 

How many times have you walked away like Susie thinking, well, I probably just don't get it, but that's okay?

So for a more modern twist, have you seen the movie, "The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe"?  Did you find it to be a great kids' story about good and evil?  Did you know the symbolism for Aslan to be Christ; the stone table to be the "Old Laws" written on stone tablets; the White Witch to be Lucifer; Peter to be the Apostle Peter; Susan to be Mary; Edmund to represent Mankind; and Lucy to represent children and the innocence and faith of a child?  Did the understanding of those symbols change the story for you at all?  How many have seen the Matrix Trilogy and found it to be a relatively cool sci-fi series, but kinda confusing?  And if you put the Christian overtones in, does the movie take on a bit more depth?

Christ said of parables in Mark, Chapter 4:13 and 25:
And he said unto them, Know ye not this parable? and how then will ye know all parables? ... For he that hath, to him shall be given: and he that hath not, from him shall be taken even that which he hath.
Parables are the subject of much study for Christian scholars and apologists.  Fr. John Hemer wrote an excellent essay on parables in which he said:
The only way the crowd can understand with the heart is to experience a collision, an offence, and then if they can get beyond that they have faith. If they can’t they remain in scandal. But, if they are not in any way put out by what Jesus says (think of the Vineyard labourers) if they simply fit what Jesus says into their world, they will never really come to faith but will imagine that they have. A parable can obstruct truth or reveal it – it depends on the attitude of the hearer.
So Jesus shows both possibilities: This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. With them indeed is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah which says: `You shall indeed hear but never understand, and you shall indeed see but never perceive. For this people's heart has grown dull, and their ears are heavy of hearing, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should perceive with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and turn for me to heal them.' (13:13-15)
But a little further in the same passage he says: All this Jesus said to the crowds in parables; indeed he said nothing to them without a parable. This was to fulfil what was spoken by the prophet: "I will open my mouth in parables, I will utter what has been hidden since the foundation of the world." (13:34-35)
So when we listen to the parables, perhaps we should challenge the easy understanding, put in a little more historic context and what the norm was for the listeners at the time.  Then do the same thing for ourselves - challenge our own "easy" understanding and see if maybe there's more to the message for all of us.

Monday, October 3, 2011

When Necessary

St. Francis of Assisi is said to have said, "Share the Gospel at all times; when necessary, use words."  In actuality, there's no evidence within 200 years of his life and death that he ever said such a thing, let alone lived such a life.  Like the great troubadours of his time, Francis of Assisi was a wonderful storyteller.  He taught the message of Jesus five times a day, climbing onto bales of hay to gather a crowd, telling them of the wonders of Christ's birth, his ministry, his death - helping people to be in the stable at the birth, to really see what Christ did.  And at the drop of a hat, he could switch to talking about the evils of sin, and sermons of hellfire and brimstone emerged.  Mark Galli, author of Francis of Assisi and His World, suggested people today would prefer to see the kinder, softer side of St. Francis, rather than focusing on the man as a whole.

The very nature of the Gospel requires that it be talked about.  People can always live a good, moral, just life, performing excellent works of kindness, charity, healing and forgiveness.  These actions are important, and walking your talk is definitely needed to help people understand you're sincere in your beliefs, but you first have to have a talk you're walking.  For people to understand your motivation is to live a Christian life, a "Christ-like" life, words are absolutely necessary. 

Another author, Ray Comfort (written over 70 books/Christian apologist,, wrote:  "Saying preach the gospel, when necessary use words is like saying, feed the poor, when necessary use food.” 

Sharing the stories of the Gospel, the words of Christ - St. Francis did this on a regular, ongoing, life-long basis. And he ensured that his actions matched his words, and expected the same of those who chose to follow in his footsteps.
Adding a quote from our priest, PattiAnn Bennett about St. Francis, taken from The Lessons of St. Francis by John Michael Talbot, p. 192:
"Talk is cheap, but love is costly. When Francis and his friars went out into the world, thy didn't practice a form of hit and run, kamikaze Christianity. They didn't just preach and run. They reached out to people and did what they could do to serve. Thomas of Celano described Francis as "preaching  everywhere the kingdom of God, and rendering his whole body a tongue, in order to edify his hearers by his example as well as by his words."
I think this makes the whole thing make much more sense.