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Showing posts from October, 2014

Maybe You Hadn't Thought About Giving This Way Before...

In a letter going out in the mail next week to all those who contribute financially to The Falls Church Episcopal, we'll be asking folks to step up their financial support. But first, there's an important question for any church-goer to ask him or herself: Do you know what proportion, or percentage, of your income you give back to God in thanksgiving?   Many people do not know: they simply put cash in the offertory plate or write checks Sunday by Sunday without ever figuring out how much they actually end up giving to the church over the course of a year. Take a minute and do the math: how much do you give back over a year? And what percentage of your annual income is that number ? If that number - that percentage - is not already a tithe (giving ten percent of whatever comes into your pocket back to God in thanksgiving), do yourself, your family, your church, and the wider community a great service and commit to doing so for the remainder of

"Elf on the Shelf" is HORRIBLE Theology

(I'm re-posting something I wrote last year about "Elf on the Shelf," the theological obscenity that doesn't seem to be going away.) Here's what I want to repeat: Besides being psychologically creepy ("taking in all the daily activities around the house," we're told, "the elf makes his daily report to Santa,") (YOU. ARE. BEING. WATCHED.), "elf-on-the-shelf" is about as bad an idea, about as horrible a theology around Christmastime as you can get. If there is one thing Christmas is NOT about, it's NOT about who is on who's "nice" or "naughty" list. People talk about "a war on Christmas." Well, there is one. Except it's not the the perceived hostility to the celebration of Christmas that some hyper-ventilating news commentators and others get all worked up about - the way Christians are supposedly being persecuted because people say "happy holidays" instead of "Merry Christ

Broken Record

In this Sunday's Gospel reading, we'll hear of the time a lawyer challenging, or testing, Jesus by asking him "which of the commandments is the greatest?" There are, after all, not just the Ten Commandments in the Torah, but as many as 613 commandments... 248 positive ones ("you shall...") and 365 negative commandments ("you shall not...")   So, among all these commandments, how to sort, to prioritize: which is the greatest? Jesus said in response, "'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.' This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: `You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets." Love God with all you've got, and love your neighbor as yourself. It's as simple as that.  As Michael Moynahan, S.J. has written in his poem/prayer "Broken Record,

Kingdom-of-Heaven Life -- RSVP

The gospel appointed for this Sunday starts out reminding us that the life which God intends for us is Kingdom-of-Heaven life, a "God-love life." Living a Kingdom-of-Heaven life does NOT mean having faith, while we live, in some future thing or place or experience called "heaven" that awaits us only after we die. It does NOT mean doing the best job we can while "down here," and only experiencing the qualities of heaven after our years here on earth are over. Rather, living a Kingdom-of-Heaven life means having faith that the thing or place or experience called the Kingdom of Heaven is coming , God's will is being done , on earth (in our lives, here and now) as it is in heaven . Modern-day puritans always seem to want to make God less over-the-top generous and joyful than God really is. But again, if we read the Bible ourselves and not just rely on what other people tell us about it, we'd find, as in Sunday'

Ever Notice that the Ten Commandments Begin with a Self-Introduction?

I ended my last message by saying there are two ways we can avoid religious hypocrisy, two ways to be our truest selves: First, we need to come to an understanding of ourselves as having been created in the image of an  "over-the-top gestures-of-love" God who is forever-forgiving, abundant, joy-filled, and creative.  If that is not God you believe in, then start by repenting -- changing your mind -- about the false god you've been believing in.  If you perceive yourself as being made in the image of the god you believe in,  then you  must pay very careful attention to the characteristics of that god you believe in.  Because it all starts there.  So let me ask you again: is the god you believe in the "over-the-top-gestures-of- love" God who is forever-forgiving, abundant, joy-filled, and creative? If not, start re-reading (or reading for the first time) the Bible on a daily basis, because that's the God who is revealed in those books.    If you don't kn