Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Confrontation in love

This week, a friend wrote me a caring and confrontive electronic message.

First, some background: for nearly 16 years as rector of Christ Episcopal Church, I've urged people to address me directly when something's troubling them, something that might even be criticial of me.

Some do.

Yes, it's painful to hear directly from people I've angered, offended, or hurt, but the alternative--people withdrawing from me in silence--is more painful. And that withdrawal is damaging to the relationship.

Jesus says that when something is troubling us, we should take it to our brother or sister, presenting it in love and working for reconciliation in the relationship.

When this friend wrote me, she was doing just that.

Here's what troubled her:

During the announcements on Sunday, I had announced that Christ Episcopal Church this Saturday would host Dr. Peter Browning of Drury University for a Hardie Lecture Series on sexual orientation. (Dr. Browning will look at the topic from a sociological, not a theological, perspective.)

I spoke about differences in sexual orientation and the imporance of understanding and caring for people.

My friend was troubled by my emphasis on difference and reminded me that all people are children of God and loved by God.

I sent her a reply, thanking her for expressing herself to me and telling her I was sorry that I had offended her. I pledged greater sensitivity in future.

As a priest and pastor, I seek to be a loving, caring, and compassionate presence to all people, communicating that God loves all of us, and that we're to love all people.

I'm grateful to this friend for her honesty and for reminding me of the nature of Christian community, which is grounded in the love of God made known in Christ Jesus.

As two hymns put it, "We are one in the Spirit; we are one in the Lord." And "In Christ, there is no East or West, no North or South."

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Singing our alleluias

In responding to the question, “What interests you most about the spiritual life?” Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams says, “I find myself coming back again and again to the meaning of ‘alleluia’.” (“The Christian Century,” April 6, 2010)

The Latin, “Alleluia,” via Greek, derives from the Hebrew, “Hallelujah,” which means, “Praise Ye Yahweh” or “Praise God.”

After the penitential season of Lent, we again use alleluia in our liturgy, starting with the Great Alleluia at the Easter Vigil; we then use alleluia all year long in worship until Ash Wednesday and the start of another Lenten season.

Alleluia. Praise God.

We praise God because of who God is: the God of infinite and unconditional love; what God has done: created and saved us from evil, sin, and death in the life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ; and for what God promises us: to be with us always through Christ in this world and in the world to come.

This Easter Season, then, let us shout out our alleluias, for that simple but soaring word, as the Archbishop of Canterbury hints in his response to the question, sums up the Good News of God's unfailing love of all his children.

Alleluia. Christ is risen. And with him, we are risen. We are his alleluia people.

Friday, April 2, 2010

What makes this day Good Friday?

Today, Christians worldwide remember Jesus' passion and death in the Good Friday Liturgy. Our Lord's last day will be a dark and terrible one--one that will move us to tears.

In our churches, God's Spirit will draw us into Jesus' suffering and death through the readings, prayers, somber hymnody and music, and silence. We experience for ourselves--in our heads and hearts--Jesus' journey to the depths of human estrangement from God and his consecrating of that hellish nothingness with God's loving, life-giving presence.

In doing so, Jesus reconciles us in our farthest place from God with him. Now, the devil, sin, suffering, and death itself no longer have power over us--not after Jesus' passion and death. And not after the third day and his resurrection from the grave.

Therefore,Good Friday is good, because God, in Jesus, makes it good with his identification with us, even at our worst and in the worst of our circumstances.

Good Friday reminds us of how great God's love for us is in Jesus Christ, that the Son of God would suffer and die for us to save us from an eternity without the loving companionship of God.

Today in prayer, I will thank Jesus for all he did for me. And I will do something else, inspired by a friend's email to me: I will do something for Jesus in gratitude for what he did for me on the cross. I will appreciate his grace and will express his grace in action.

May God bless this Friday with his goodness.