Saints Preserve Us (Or Elves)

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A great-grandmother in Brazil has been accidentally praying every day for years to a figure of Elrond, an elf from “The Lord of the Rings” after mistaking it for a figurine of Saint Anthony of Padua. Her relative made the discovery after taking a look at the figurine, and realizing something wasn’t quite right. Following a hunch, they searched online for the figure – and found one exactly identical to the great-grandmother’s. However, there was only one problem – the figure wasn’t listed under ‘Saint Anthony’, it was in fact listed under “Elrond.”

Oops.

While Anthony is the patron saint for the recovery of lost things it’s unclear what Elrond is assigned to cover – maybe the recovery of lost rings, lost wizards or lost hobbits?

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An Advent Poem

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In the darkest night, in the deepest pain, when all seems lost, no hope is found,

God is with us, Emmanuel.

Eternal light, shines forth bright, scatters the darkness around our hearts;

Fills with peace, the space within, his love reaches where none else may.

In midnight field, in nighttime fear, his presence guards our way; 

Not alone, not alone, joined with thousands unseen, joyful song rise again.

In the darkest night, in the deepest pain, when all seems lost, no hope is found,

God is with us, Emmanuel.

Signed, Sealed…

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I have voted. Since Colorado has mail-in ballots I have completed mine. Tomorrow, I will deliver it. I voted neither for Trump Inc. or Billary Inc. I was never convinced and still am not persuaded that the lesser of these evils will be better. I refused to waste my vote for a man who is a crass, vulgar, sexually predatory blow-hard & the corrupt party that nominated him.

There are a number of Christian leaders and self-appointed spokesmen who continue to urge, cajole, threaten and distort their own imaginings as the voice of God requiring a vote for Trump – even though they admit he is barely morally tolerable, personally repugnant and a political liability. We are urged – Vote the platform! Vote the party! These are  voices of desperation. What they do not seem to realize is that these have been co-opted and corrupted by the very political process and party leadership they continue to support and its nominee. It is also the failure to see beyond a 2 party system.

This election shows the bankruptcy of the GOP. Yes, the results are the judgement of God – and we have been under that for quite awhile. What is feared will be lost, was lost a long time ago and it wont be restored except by genuine repentance. And that’s not part of anyone one’s current political platform.

If HRC wins as is expected it may be a blessing in disguise as maybe God will awaken the church to stop leaning on the staff of a broken reed (Is. 36:6) and become the church with a gospel rather than a church of American consumerism who sells its soul & inheritance for a mess of political pottage & privilege.

Grabber in Chief?

“When a government is in its prime, the public good engages the attention of the whole; the strictest regard is paid to the qualifications of those who hold the offices of state; virtue prevails; everything is managed with justice, prudence, and frugality; the laws are founded on principles of equity rather than mere policy, and all the people are happy. But vice will increase with the riches and glory of an empire; and this generally tends to corrupt the Constitution and in time bring on its dissolution. This may be considered not only as the natural effect of vice, but a righteous judgment from Heaven, especially upon a nation which has been favored with the blessings of religion and liberty and is guilty of undervaluing them and eagerly going into the gratification of every lust.”

Samuel Langdon (1723-1797)

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To start – I have no rat in the “Billary Inc. vs. Trump Inc.” rat race – I consider neither major party’s presidential candidate fit for the highest office in the land. I am voting for a 3rd party candidate that aligns with my political and moral views. I am not persuaded that I am “throwing away” my vote – if the GOP had wanted to defeat “Billary Inc.” it could have nominated a plausible candidate of whom there were sufficient number to at least make a contest of it. But due to Reince Priebus, the Republican National Committee & a majority of the delegate’s desperation and terror of Hillary, it has given into a hostile take-over of the party and is now held hostage by a psychopathic text-book narcissistic, sexual predator who has a scorched earth policy of relational skills. Now that Trump seems to have decimated his chances for even a close loss, he has resorted to theories about left wing-media conspiracies, threats of uprisings or simply whining. He has no one to blame but himself.

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Sadly, some Christian leaders on Trump’s “Evangelical Executive Advisory Council” have proven hotter & more wanton for power than Oholah and Oholibaha (Ezekiel 23) reversing their long cherished culture war morality, principles and values to excuse Trumps insults of war heroes & veterans, judges and citizens of different ethnicity, and minimize and dismiss his extended history of misogynistic words and actions against women with “yeahbuts” – the lame justification usually employed by 6 year olds (yeahbut -it’s not as bad as he-she-they did) or platitudes about forgiveness that demonstrate the cheapness of Trump’s so called conversion &  how willing they are to trivialize the Christian gospel.

Maybe as Russell Moore has pointed out, this is the last death rattle of the old-guard Religious Right establishment. I will skip the funeral. Maybe after the smoke & fog of the election has cleared, believers can get back to the work of being the church and making the land in which we live a better place than Trump Inc. or Billary Inc. portray it.

A Few Ideas to Avoid Dead Ends for “the church that meets in your house.”

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1) Welcome the stranger – Its very difficult to walk into a church building when you know no one. Its even harder to go to someone’s home when you may know few there. When a person is brave enough to make the stretch out of their comfort zone of American anonymity be sure to greet them and try to make them feel at home. Set down the I-Phone, the Tablet, the last minute tech adjustments. It will determine if they will be back. Hey, even if they are visiting and you know they won’t be back why not help them experience something unique they can take with them?

2) Do something different – I don’t want to sit in someone’s living room and watch what usually happens on Sunday morning in a bigger building. A 45 minute sermon really doesn’t fit. Be interactive. Put 1 Cor. 14:26 into action (“whenever you come together, each of you has a psalm, has a teaching, has a tongue, has a revelation, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification…”). Have people pray for one another. Break bread and eat your meal together.

3) Break the mold (and the moldy) – Meet sometime other than Sunday morning!

“In ideologies there is not Jesus…”

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“In ideologies there is not Jesus: in his tenderness, his love, his meekness. And ideologies are rigid, always. Of every sign: rigid. And when a Christian becomes a disciple of the ideology, he has lost the faith: he is no longer a disciple of Jesus, he is a disciple of this attitude of thought…”

There was a time when the Pope was considered the anti-christ. There numbers have diminished besides hard-core Chick comic fans, however, suspicion remains. Francis’s speech to the U.S. congress was scrutinized and parsed and found lacking by those on the right wing and by many conservative evangelicals, who don’t seem familiar with Catholic social teaching. Because he is a contrast to his predecessors especially with Cold War era John Paul II, his words seem to be judged primarily if they fit into the bifurcated either-or black-white thinking of the right and left wings of our own national politics. Francis is not running for office (which may explain the lack of “Jesus in my heart” sentiments some expected) and he speaks for and has responsibility for more than the small market share of big-name evangelicalism.
I am not a Roman Catholic so I speak from the outside and as a non-expert, but it seems to me he hit the high points of how current culture, politics and ideology part from historical Christian teaching on the family, marriage and the value of life. He is not from Poland or Germany but Argentina – that’s why he speaks from a different perspective and maybe highlighted some spiritual rabble rousers unique to the U.S. such as Dorothy Day & Thomas Merton. That’s a whole lot more than one usually hears especially from Capitol Hill – or those with lousy comb overs trying to get there.

Exsurge Domine!

Train-Wreck

So eventually it has come to this. Over the last 30 years I have watched the our cultural meltdown concerning human sexuality metastasize from Hugh Hefner and girly mags in brown paper wrappers to “don’t ask, don’t tell” to a rainbow illumined White House, from denominational task force arguments about Bible texts to the Federal redefinition of marriage by judicial decree. Many times I was told by church leaders and other pastors not to cause waves, counseled that it was not a pertinent issue but a dead end distraction, to ignore things and “do mission” instead. I rarely listened to that counsel and did my best to be faithful to the truth but did finally grow weary at congregations that did not want to wrestle with tough moral issues, didn’t want to rock the boat, or instead wanted to fight and fume over pipe organs and chorus music yet still expected God to increase their coffers and people fill their pews. It was the counsel of avoidance – if we just ignore this or pretend it doesn’t matter it will go away. It was the counsel of cowardice – and how has that strategy worked?  The churches and denominations, such as the Episcopal Church in which I was raised, that have capitulated to the culture tsunami of sexual confusion have shrunken and declined. Those more evangelical who have soft-pedaled or censored the truth of God’s wrath against immorality, sexual or otherwise & the requirements of holiness in the name of relevance and market share will now see how lasting the shaky one way bridge of cultural engagement they were trying to build will last.

But now the gloves are off and the make-nice façade of “dialogue” has been exposed as a stalling tactic for the end run it concealed. Pastors, churches, leaders and believers will have to make known where they stand since neutrality is no longer possible. The previous implicit social contract between the culture, the state and “churchianity” of “God & Country” that dates back to colonial days has been dangling by a thread for decades with the hope that “our guys” in office would get us back to the way it was. Forget it. Believers have known for a long time that they can no longer assume or hope that the culture or the state will support their values or beliefs. This will be good for the church. This will be good for God’s people. Now the Gospel, can be demonstrated and revealed not as 10 steps to self-improvement or life balance enhancement within the expectations of upper middle class prosperity but God’s liberating power to transform people created in God’s image from sin’s destructive and damning power. It is also an opportunity for God’s people to shine in our culture’s Stygian morass and to rebuild the shattered lives that will result from the inevitable pile-up that’s coming.

And it is coming. Beyond the dismay so many believers feel is the purpose of God in demonstrating his wrath in action – by removing his restraining grace and abandoning people (giving them up as Romans 1 puts it 3 times) to the warped desires of their hearts. However, there is a future court date set with a Judge of supreme authority (2 Timothy 4:1) who will weigh the nations in the balance – including those nation’s leaders, presidents and jurists.

As always…

  • It is necessary to pray for elected leaders
  • It is necessary to pray for pastors & spiritual leaders
  • It is necessary to pray for churches & ordinary believers who will have to make crucial decisions
  • It is necessary to pray that the Gospel will be boldly proclaimed.
  • It is time to call out to the Triune God to arise and employ us for his purpose so that we can see “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah, and he will reign for ever and ever.” Revelation 11:15

 

“A Future Not Our Own”

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(The Long View –Archbishop Oscar Romero)

It helps, now and then, to step back
and take the long view.
The kingdom is not only beyond our efforts,
it is beyond our vision.

We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction of
the magnificent enterprise that is God’s work.
Nothing we do is complete,
which is another way of saying
that the kingdom always lies beyond us.

No statement says all that could be said.
No prayer fully expresses our faith.
No confession brings perfection.
No pastoral visit brings wholeness.
No programme accomplishes the church’s mission.
No set of goals and objectives includes everything.

This is what we are about:
We plant seeds that one day will grow.
We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise.
We lay foundations that will need further development.
We provide yeast that produces effects beyond our capabilities.

We cannot do everything
and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that.
This enables us to do something,
and to do it very well.
It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way,
an opportunity for God’s grace to enter and do the rest.

We may never see the end results,
but that is the difference between the master builder and the worker.
We are workers, not master builders,
ministers, not messiahs.
We are prophets of a future not our own.