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To fast from serious vices, feast on their opposite virtues...with God's help.

Here we are, just a little more than halfway through the season of Lent. A good time to check in on what difference our Lenten resolutions are making to others in our everyday life.

Some time ago, I realized that "giving up" the customary habits (petty vices) for Lent -- things like sweets, alcohol, and time-wasters like spending too much time on mindless entertainment -- didn't really make much of a positive difference in my daily life to others if I was not also at the same time "taking on" positive habits.
So the past couple Lents, I've tried "giving up" non-customary habits in order to uproot (or at least address) their underlying serious vices.* I've tried "giving up" or fasting from things like snarkiness (cynicism), procrastination (perfectionism), interrupting people (impatience or arrogance) and ingratitude (inattention or entitlement). Because the best way to fast from a vice is to feast on its opposite virtue, this has mean…
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Hate is the Proverbial Hare, Love is the Tortoise

I realize I've been quoting this line from Presiding Bishop Michael Curry a lot lately:

"Nothing can stop the movement of God's love in this world. And if we are part of that movement, nothing can stop us."

I've quoted it in (at least) the last three of my sermons. I've quoted it at Adult Forum; I quoted it at the Annual Meeting; used it at our vestry retreat; I shared it during several staff meetings. I'm pretty sure I've brought it up during dinner with my family. I even quoted it to a Lyft driver.

"Nothing can stop the movement of God's love in this world. And if we are part of that movement, nothing can stop us."

Well, it's a truism in life that oftentimes, if someone keeps repeating themselves, chances are they're trying to convince themselves.

And the dirty little secret is, that may well be the case with me, and this quote.

I admit it: I'm trying to convince myself that the claim is factual (and it is factual: as Bishop Curr…

If there's a will, there's a way.

For Lent, I was thinking of doing the typical fasts: fast from Facebook and take up reading, fast from petty vices like overindulging in sweets and alcohol and take on moderation, yada yada yada.
But I'm re-thinking that this year.
What I'm fasting from this Lent is discouragement. That means cutting back on what is so often the source of discouragement, which is a tendency to gorge on, or dwell on, bad news.
(Let me be clear: that does not mean giving up news or otherwise burying my head in the sand: it means staying informed while finding ways not to get pulled into a downward spiral of feelings of numbness and helplessness; it means giving up unproductive feelings like hopelessness and resignation and taking on visible behaviors like giving encouragement and taking action.)
It means making visible -- here, on my blog, and even on Facebook -- the good.
Because the problem is -- to paraphrase the community organizer Rich Harwood -- a lot of times we see "good news stories…

Fasting from Discouragement, Making Visible the Good

So for Lent, I was thinking of doing the typical fasts: fast from Facebook and take up reading, fast from petty vices like overindulging in sweets and alcohol and take on moderation, yada yada yada.

But I'm re-thinking that.
Now one of the things I'm thinking about fasting from during Lent is discouragement. That means cutting back on what is so often the source of discouragement, which is a tendency to gorge on, or dwell on, bad news.
That would mean taking on encouragement: to make visible -- even on Facebook -- the good.
Because the problem is -- to paraphrase the community organizer Rich Harwood -- a lot of times we see "good news stories" as being quaint -- they are tossed in at the end of the news as an inspiring story, or put in the style section. But stories of good things happening -- people coming together to do things, is not a touchy-feely, feel-good story, but something affecting real change.
So for starters: I'm inspired by the leadership example of…

Rules and Relationships

On the last Sunday before the season of Lent -- as this Sunday is -- it's the custom of the church to hear the Gospel story of the Transfiguration.

The transfiguration story is the one where Jesus takes Peter and James and John up a high mountain, where they received a stunning glimpse of Jesus' divine glory. There are parallels in the Transfiguration story to the Old Testament story of Moses ascending the mountain to receive the Ten Commandments.

What I find fascinating is that when Moses came down the mountain, he had a set of rules for the community: a civic code, and a list of precise instructions for worship.

When Jesus and his disciples came down the mountain, they had not a code, but a person--and not instructions on how to worship, but someone TO worship: the Living Son of the Living God, Jesus.

God's message in Exodus was, "Love me by obeying these commandments."

God's message in the Transfiguration was, "This is my Son, whom I love: listen to h…

Give back to Caesar what is Caesar's and give back to God what is God's

"Give back to Caesar what is Caesar's, and give back to God what is God's." 

Ever since the earliest days of the church, I'll bet preachers have been using this Sunday's passage to preach sermons on church - state relationships, or (surprise, surprise), stewardship/annual giving.

Certainly, the issue of church-state relationships is important.
For a book of historical fiction I intend to write, I've long researched martyrs -- people in every age who had to wrestle with the issue of what to do when the values of their government conflicted with the dictates of God and their own conscience. And I can assure you that throughout human history, "church and state" relationships have been impossible to separate.

And obviously stewardship - giving back to God, in thanksgiving, the things that are God's - is important.

Indeed, what we do with our money says as much about our relationship to God, and our trust in God as any other single factor. There'…

How not to be a Hypocrite

This Sunday's Gospel story about two sons saying one thing but doing another invites us to consider the ways our actions speak louder than our words - the ways we say "yes" to God at one level but then behave differently throughout the week in our daily life.

So today I'd like you to think about hypocrisy. But not in the way you're probably used to thinking about it.

"Hypocrisy" is usually thought of as simply "saying one thing and doing another."

But it's about more than that. The word "hypocrisy" comes from the Greek word for "play-acting" - wearing a mask, acting as if you are someone you are not.
I'd like you to consider that hypocrisy is not being your true self.
And what is your "true self"? On Sundays - and, I hope in your daily prayer and Bible reading - you are reminded of it: you were lovingly created by God;you are put on the face of the earth for God's purposes: to love God and love your neighbor…