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How Jesus wanted to make the faith pretty simple:

Each Sunday in Lent, we begin our worship with a recitation of the Ten Commandments. It's good to recall these ancient pillars of the Judeo-Christian faith, these "ten freedoms" that God, in God's wisdom, knows humanity needs in order to live fully and well.
However, thanks to the wisdom of the authors of the Book of Common Prayer, we always end our recitation of the Ten Commandments by hearing the "Summary of the Law" from the Gospel of Mark, chapter 29 --
"Jesus said, 'The first commandment is this: Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is the only Lord. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second is this: Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these.'"
Do yourself (and those around you) a favor and don't let those words become rote, or go in and out without soaking in...because...
...when God became a human being and wanted …
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Steal the Script this Lent

Ash Wednesday 2017
The Reverend John Ohmer, Rector, The Falls Church Episcopal
Ash Wednesday, the season of Lent -- and for that matter Christian spirituality in general -- has two general messages.
On the one hand, there is the message or theme of sin, brokenness, and dis-ease…
…on the other hand, there is the message of forgiveness, grace, and healing.
Several years ago, I had an epiphany about people’s relationship with God, and these two themes. And the epiphany came not from a spiritual resource, but from some advice column, some very wise advice for retailers or restaurateurs oranyone who deals with customers or the general public.
The columnist said that whenever there is an aggrieved person, and you – as a retailer or restaurant owner or cashier – are dealing with that person, you need to realize there are two scripts.
One script – call it “script A” -- goes like this:
“I can’t believe this is happening!” “This is OUTRAGEOUS!” “I demand something be done about this!” “Nothing like…

Why Ashes, and Why Give Up things for Lent

Ash Wednesday - this year, falling on March 1st - is later in the calendar year than in many years, so I wanted to take advantage of the extra time to write a couple of "pre-Lent" messages about Ash Wednesday and the season of Lent. 

Two of the most frequently asked questions about Ash Wednesday and Lent are 

1) Why do we put ashes on our foreheads? and 
2) Why do we give up things for Lent?
More about #2 next week, but a short answer to #1 is that we put ashes on our foreheads because ashes are a sign of mortality and penitence. "Mortality" means, bluntly, that at some point or another, we will die. "Penitence" means taking stock of one's misdoings. 

Ash Wednesday, it is said, is a kind of Christian Yom Kippur - and as Rabbi Alexis Roberts says of that day, 

"Many say we're practicing to be dead: looking over our values, accomplishments, and failures as though it was all over and now we have to make an accounting." 

"Thinking about our mo…

Let's Unpack One Trump Tweet on Refugees

No one can  -- and I certainly don't want to try -- to unpack every tweet the person currently holding the office of President of the United States sends out.

No one has the time to respond to every one of his tweets on just one issue. Although I wish I had the time on the issue of the Executive Orders recently issued in regard to refugees.

But every so often I feel I MUST respond to at least SOME of those tweets, lest I grow accustomed to them as normal. And I refuse to normalize the abnormal. 

Take one of Saturday's tweets, for example: in response to Judge Robart's temporarily stopping an Executive Orders, there was this: 



“What is our country coming to when a judge can halt a Homeland Security travel ban and anyone, even with bad intentions, can come into U.S.?” 

Let's unpack: 

"What is our country coming to..." 
Does that lament sound familiar? Ask yourself: who often says it, where do you hear it from the most? Is it a positive, hopeful line of thinking? I wil…

"So-called" Judge Robart?

This clip is of the United States Senate voting, on June 17, 2004, on President George W. Bush's nomination of James L. Robart to be the U.S. District Judge for the Western District at Washington. Judge Robart is the one who issued a ruling yesterday that temporarily blocks one of the Executive Orders on immigration and refugees.
As an exercise in democracy, watch the clip. It's only 51 seconds long. Wait for it -- notice whose vote was the last affirmative vote.
Note what the final vote count was.

After watching, ask yourself: are there any other steps in our democracy that necessary to confirming a District judge?
After answering those questions, ask yourself:
Why would the person currently holding the office of President of the United States refer to Robart as a "so-called" judge?
“The opinion of this so-called judge, which essentially takes law-enforcement away from our country, is ridiculous and will be overturned!” Trump wrote.
Donald J. Trump

Salt and Light: "Accountability is not about watching what you are doing. It is about being on fire."

There's a definition of "accountability" I heard some time ago, one I shared last Sunday during our Adult Forum's exploration of the Sermon on the Mount.
"Accountability is not about watching what you are doing. It is about being on fire."

That seems to be the point Jesus is making when he tells his followers that they - we - are "the salt of the earth" and "the light of the world."

There is a great scene a in the movie Walk the Line, the movie about Johnny Cash, that makes this same point:

It's where Johnny Cash is first auditioning, when he and two of his buddies are singing a gospel song to the famous producer Sam Phillips.

Sam interrupts them and tells them he can't sell gospel, not the way they were singing it, because when he was singing it, he didn't believe him.Johnny Cash is offended and says, "are you saying I don't believe in God?"

Sam Phillips says, "You know exactly what I'm telling you. We'v…

The Beatitudes, Lady Liberty, and Refugees

A sermon preached January 29, 2017
The Rev. John Ohmer, Rector
The Falls Church Episcopal

When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

“Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.

“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

“Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the p…