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Showing posts from 2011

Resolution Joy

Tis’ the season for making resolutions. At least for those of us who welcome (and need!) a reason for making a fresh start, the beginning of a new year is the High Holy Day of Resolution-Making. Again this year, like previous years, I’ve thought about making all the normal, predictable resolutions: ·          Lose ten pounds.   Well, actually more like fifteen pounds, since I’ve been conducting an experiment on myself since Christmas Day: to never say “no” to a Christmas cookie, chocolate, or glass of egg-nog, on the theory that I will get so sick and tired of sweets that I will be ready for and actually welcome salads, skim milk, and raw vegetables in 2012.   (This “binge” theory, by the way, has, as far as I know, absolutely no basis in any scientific research. And it probably horrifies ever y nutritionist, psychologist, or dietician out there.   And come to think of it, it doesn’t really even work: I just end up missing all that stuff even more. But it has made the pas

It's Personal

If you live in or near Leesburg, you've probably noticed posters of downtown merchants.  The posters are giant blown-up photos of the shop's business owner. In most of the photos, the business owner is hamming it up for the camera, posing, in a lighthearted way, with some prop appropriate to his or her business. The posters are part of a "Holiday Ad" campaign by the Leesburg Downtown Business Association . The posters themselves, and the whole campaign for that matter, strike me as a fun, truly creative way to promote downtown businesses. And oddly enough, they got me thinking about Christmas. Not in the way the ad campaign intended (shop downtown this holiday season), but in a deeper sense. The posters got me thinking about the true meaning of Christmas.  Here's why: the effectiveness of this campaign is that they personalize the downtown businesses participating in the campaign. You can drive by Mom's Apple Pie five times a day and n

Courthouse Nativity

I've resisted commenting, up until now, about the latest tempest in a teapot in our community: the controversy over what, if any, kind of displays should be allowed on the Loudoun County Courthouse lawn. When we first moved to Leesburg in 1999, I was stunned to see a nativity set erected on the courthouse lawn. The reason I say that is, we'd lived in Washington D.C., Alexandria, and Arlington prior to moving here. In those places, such a display on public land, even if allowed by government authorities, would likely be challenged by the ACLU within minutes. So seeing Joseph and Mary bowing down before baby Jesus on the courthouse lawn was a kind of culture shock. Not an entirely unpleasant one...just a shock, that an overtly religious display would first be allowed, and then go unchallenged. But each year since, I've been kind of holding my breath, wondering when this controversy would come to Leesburg. Well, here it is. First, (several years ago) there wa

An "attitude of gratitude" -- part of the reason Jesus is poor, for us.

Several people mentioned how the end of my sermon this past Sunday has helped “set the tone” for their Thanksgiving, so I thought I would re-cap it here, as a bit of a Thanksgiving message. The passage from Sunday was Jesus separating humanity, as a shepherd separates sheep from goats, into two groups: those who are blessed and those who are accursed. The blessed are blessed because they, during their lives, fed Jesus when he was hungry, gave him something to drink when he was thirsty, visited him when he was a stranger, took care of him when he was sick, and visited him when he was in prison. The accursed are those who did not do any of those things for him. The first point I was making is how this passage changes the way we think of outreach, or serving the poor: It’s not that we transform the lives of the poor by being Christ-like to them, it’s that Christ transforms our lives by being poor-like to us. I spoke personally about this dynamic, and that is what many pe

Loving God, Loving Neighbors, Transforming Lives: but HOW, con't...

Last week, I began a series taking a stab at answering the question, “How?” It started out with, “How do we avail ourselves of the power that God wants to give us?” In light of last week’s Gospel, it moved to, “How do we love God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength, and love our neighbor as our self?” The answer is the same: follow Jesus. Jesus availed himself of God’s power, completely (or more accurately, we believe he WAS (and is) God’s power, enfleshed. And Jesus, as the “pioneer and perfecter” of our faith, modeled for us (and stands ready to make possible for us) the way to love God and love our neighbor as our self. But again, that only begs the question: HOW do we follow Jesus? As Episcopalians living in North America in 2011, how are we to follow Jesus, practically speaking?   Well, as I said last week, in answering that question, context is important: We live in an age where denominations -- and “religion” in general -- are less and less relevant to most people’s l

Loving God, Loving Neighbors, Transforming Lives: but HOW?

Today I’d like to begin answering a question someone asked me regarding something I said in a recent [post] entry and sermon. First, what I said: I was talking about the fact that too many of us “work too hard at life,” because we do not avail ourselves of the power that God offers to us. The question one of you had was simple, and important: How? How do we avail ourselves of the power that God offers to us? The short answer to the question is this: “Follow.” Follow Jesus. If we follow Jesus, we receive what he promises. The transformation of life he promises. The Joy and Peace and Power he promises. But that only begs the same question: How? How do we follow Jesus? How, as Episcopalians living in Northern Virginia in 2011, do we follow Jesus? The answer to that question is also simple, but -- like the moves of the chess pieces are simple but take a lifetime to master, if we ever do -- the answer takes a lifetime to accomplish, if we ever do. And so I’m going to do something I have

What the ancient spiritual gurus did when they were stressed or overtired

Today, I’d like to share a passage from a book I recently read. The book is Tattoos on the Heart by Gregory Boyle, S.J., which happens to be one of the most moving and powerful books I’ve ever read. Boyle is Jesuit priest working with gang members in Los Angeles, where, despite working in desperate conditions (he’s had to bury over 150 young people, for example), he works with a contagious joy, compassion, and light humor. At one point in the book, Boyle is reflecting on stress and over-tiredness largely brought on by chasing success -- or what most people believe success to be. When I read what Boyle wrote, something just kind of shifted, internally, for me, for the better. So, in the hope that it does the same for you, here’s what Boyle writes: “It’s an essential tenet of Buddhism that we can begin to change the world by first changing how we look at the world. … Thich Nhat Hahn writes that ‘our true home is the present moment; the miracle is not to walk on water, the

We work too hard

We work too hard. Spiritually speaking, I mean. Maybe we work too hard at specific things, too -- our jobs, being a good spouse, raising our kids, dieting, exercising, and so on, but that's symptomatic. Symptomatic of working too hard at life ... The reason we work too hard -- the reason we find life so damn difficult sometimes -- is that we are trying to do it on our own...through our own doubled, and redoubled, efforts. Too many of us are like people on those old mopeds, pedaling furiously through life using the pedals, sweating and churning and groaning at how hard things are, never realizing or taking advantage of the fact that the moped has enormous power ready to be unleashed -- power that would propel us at faster, better speeds with 1/100 th of the personal energy we'd been expending -- if we only avail ourselves of it. Believe it or not, that's not the way God intends us to live, or faith to be. One of the great Lies tol

Ten Freedoms, or Ten Blessings

It's only about every three years that one of the readings assigned to be read in church is the Ten Commandments, and this Sunday is one of those Sundays. The Ten Commandments (Exodus chapter 20, verses 1-14) are among the most famous and important not only in the Old Testament, but in all religious literature. If you're like most people, you probably can't recite them in order...or even remember all ten. Even if you can recite all ten, and in order, I'll bet your impression of them is that you think they are "old" or stodgy requirements...restrictions placed on our freedom. There's something in us all that bristles at the idea of being told "what not to do," even if, at some level, we agree. But -- as I hope to point out in my sermon on Sunday -- I think we can take a fresh look at the Ten Commandments, and see them as the Ten Blessings, or Ten Promises, or Ten Freedoms. Think of a four-way stop near your home. Pi