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Showing posts from July, 2010

Guest Column--Memorial Day Thoughts

In 2006, for Memorial Day’s e-Pistle, I shared an essay from the Rev. William Shand, Rector of St. Francis Episcopal Church in Potomac, Maryland. I got to know Billy, as he is called, when I was served there two years as a seminarian.

The essay is, I promise, worth reading in its entirety, but if you’re not able right now to do so, I hope you’ll at least scroll down to the bolded paragraph, and take those words to heart this weekend.

His essay:

“In the body politic, one occasionally hears a specific criticism of the Iraq war that argues that the American people have not been asked to make any sacrifice in this conflict.

“Without weighing the merits of the nation’s policy on Iraq, I wonder if this criticism is not misguided, probably aimed at the administration for political gain. For is it not so that the casualty rate in this war now numbers in the thousands? I wonder, too, if the brave souls in rehabilitation over at Walter Reed believe no sacrifice has been made by the American people.

Flabby With Small Passions

I don’t know what got me thinking about it, but lately I’ve been wrestling with a tension in our call as Christians.

On the one hand, we’re called to be passionate, to engage all of our heart, mind, soul and strength in our faith.

On the other hand, we’re called to live counter-culturally: to rise above all the bickering and infighting and ugliness that characterizes too much of our political and church culture.

Maybe what first got me thinking about this tension is the fact that this Sunday is St. James’ Day, and Jesus gave James (along with his brother John) the nickname “Boanerges,” which means “sons of thunder.”

One doesn’t earn a nickname like that by being a milquetoast.

God created us with strong desires. But too often we lose touch with those passions. In a passage called “Flabby with Small Passions,” the author John Eldredge reminds us that the devil’s ploy is to first make us humans flabby, with small passions and desires, and then we offer small satisfactions to those diminished…

Mission on the Bay

I’m writing this from the “Mission on the Bay” near Gulfport, Mississippi, where I’ve been as one of two adult sponsors of youth on a St. James’ youth mission trip.

We arrived here on Sunday night, and jumped right into the week’s rhythm: “lights on” in the barracks at 6:15, breakfast from 6:30 to 7:30, followed by cleanup duty in the dining and bathroom/shower areas. (There are about 45 teenagers here, so staying a few steps ahead of the mess wave is important!)

We then leave for our assigned worksites. Our group of six has been assigned “Miss Georgia’s” home in Pass Christian, about a fifteen minute drive along the shoreline. We unload our tools and equipment from the Mission on the Bay truck and trailer, and start working.

Miss Georgia has been living in a FEMA-issued trailer in the backyard of her property ever since that day in August 2005 -- just about five years ago -- when Hurricane Katrina hit.

This Bay St. Louis area of Mississippi -- not New Orleans, as many imagine -- had the …

Are We Following Jesus, or Christianity?

I was recently reading a book by the teacher and writer Mike Erre, who was sharing an experience he had at a conference.

“The focus [of the conference] was Jesus -- not Christianity, but Jesus, and the speaker talked about how Jesus loved people and how Jesus engaged the culture around him.

“He talked about how Jesus hated empty religion and loved to see expressions of simple faith in him… Jesus was much more interesting than I had been led to believe.

I realized I had not been following Jesus; I had been a follower of Christianity -- an organized set of rules and beliefs substituted in his place.

“That [realization] changed everything: it changed how I taught, how I pastored, how I loved my wife, how I saw my job, and how I viewed people who [did not go to church.]”

How about you?

Have you ever had a realization that you are not so much following Jesus, but Christianity?

Or let’s back up a bit and ask, have you ever had a spiritual realization of any sort that “changed everything”?

Is there…

The Good Samaritan

The Gospel for this upcoming Sunday is one of Jesus' most famous parables -- the parable of the Good Samaritan.

To remind you of the major movements in the story:

A religious expert (lawyer) asks Jesus what he must do to "inherit eternal life."

Jesus asks him, "what's the Bible say?"

The religious expert says, "love God and love your neighbor."

Jesus says, "that's correct; do that, and you'll experience eternal life."

But "wanting to justify himself," the legal expert asks, "and who is my neighbor?"

"Say a man is severely beaten by robbers and left for half dead," Jesus says. "Later on, a religious person sees him lying there but crosses to the other side of the road in order to avoid him. A little later, another religious person shows up on the scene, but he, too, avoids the injured man."

Then - think quickly about a group you would never associate yourself with...think quickly of some person whos…

Fireworks of Independence

Three dates to share with you as you think about Independence this weekend:

The first date is July 4, 1776.

The second date is more than a year earlier: April 19, 1775.

And the third date is September 3, 1783.

We all know the first date -- July 4th, 1776 -- as the date the Continental Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence.

What we need to remember, though, is that the Declaration of Independence didn’t start the American Revolutionary War.

That’s why the second date (April 19, 1775) is important -- it’s the day, fifteen months earlier, that the war did start, as the first shots were fired in the Battles of Lexington and Concord.

By the time the Continental Congress declared our independence from Great Britain, we’d already been in armed conflict for over a year.

Which brings us to the third date -- September 3, 1783 -- a date even less familiar, but equally important to remember this Independence Day weekend.

It’s the date, eight years and five months after the bloodshed at Lexingto…