Friday, April 27, 2012

The Reverend David Nard died yesterday. A long time ago it seems, David called me one day because he had seen a promotion announcement about me in the local paper. David sold insurance at the time and he was following up on leads. He asked if I would meet with him to discuss my insurance needs. Surprisingly - especially to me - I said yes.

When we met I noticed the Episcopal Church shield on his lapel. "I'm an Episcopalian," I said. "Where do you go to church?"  he asked. It ws pretty obvious that the answer was, "nowhere." David kept after me - not about insurance but about the church. I finally went one Sunday and never stopped. A few years later I entered the ordination process. David and family moved to western North Carolina, where he pursued Holy orders and was ordained deacon.  He spent a decade as the Archdeacon of his diocese. He was a hospital chaplain and a member of the Third Order of Saint Francis.
Sadly - we saw little of each other as the years went by. A great failing of mine - perhaps because I was an Army brat, moving all the time - is that I make friends slowly and don't keep up when I move or they do.

Leslie and I saw David by chance, outside the Cathedral of All Souls in Ashville a few years ago. It was brief and cordial with promises to get together. We never did.

Meeting David and being invited back to Church has a lot to do - a very lot to do - with me being a priest of the Church today. He persisted in welcoming me, and I finally came home. I do wish I could have told him how important he was in my journey. Archdeacons are called "venerable". That's a good description of David. I will miss him.

May his soul through the mercies of God rest in Peace, and may light Perpetual shine upon him.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Lent, perhaps my favorite season in the Church Kalendar, remains a mystery to me.  How can a season so stripped of adornment be so packed with spiritual content?  How can this five week long, minor key, penitential foray be the antecedent to the glory that is the Resurrection? How is it that finally beginning to move forward in my Christian journey is all wrapped up in turning myself around and walking on a new path in a different direction. How is it that a season steeped in the final judgment of God points ultimately to His Love and forgiveness?

            In the face of all this and if we take those questions seriously, How might we learn to live reconciling lives?  What might we do to assist God in His redemption of the world?  Can we begin to try to love as Christ loved us?  Might we recognize God’s forgiving nature by becoming more forgiving ourselves? Is it possible for us to become messengers of the Gospel by living Gospel lives, Holy and acceptable to God?

            I don’t intend to even begin to try and answers the questions I have posed to you.  More and more I am coming to believe that we do not first find God in the answers.  We discover Him in the questions of our lives.  It is in the struggle to know the seemingly unknowable that we begin to be transformed.  It is in conversing with God

that we are able to know God – and his will for us more clearly.

            Easy answers – especially given to us by others – rarely satisfy for long. How God speaks to your innermost heart is different from how he speaks to mine.  The questions about life and about God that I need to struggle with may not be the same as yours.  We want to find God in the answers.  It is easier that way.  We say that Scripture is God’s answer book.  I believe it is really God’s question book.  It is where we start our conversation with God, not where the conversation ends.  Most of us realize that what we learned in school – no matter what level of schooling – really had little to do with what we read in the textbooks, except in how those books called us to see life’s questions in a new way.  It was in the dialogue with our teachers and professors and with each other that our lives began to change and grow and mature.

            We will grow as Christians in the very same way.  As we engage God – through worship and prayer, meditation and conversation – and as we engage each other in love and charity, exploring our similarities and our differences, that we will more and more begin to live Christ-like lives.  God lives in the great questions we have about our lives;  about living and dying, about relationships, about sin and forgiveness, repentance and reconciliation, and finally about how we may learn to love one another even as Christ loves us.

            So Lent remains a happy mystery to me.  It fills me full of questions large and small that I can’t wait to speak with God about.  Questions that enrich my relationship with my Creator.  Questions that challenge me to understand more clearly and dearly God’s will for me. Questions that often lead to other questions in an unending conversation with the One who has known and loved me before I was in my mother’s womb.  I pray for each of you a Holy Lent and a Joyous Easter. 

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

He's Back

Well - I'm not the bionic man yet, but I'm getting there. Knees are fixed and working like knees should. Back is getting better - walking farther without much pain AND I had cataracts removed from both eyes and replaced with astigmatism correcting implants. No Glasses except to read (actually hardest adjustment, trying to keep up with where I laid them down lasdt). Dr Miller and her staff did a wonderful job - easiest and probably most succesful treatment I've ever been through.

Still having trouble riding a bike: My balance issues have me weaving all over the place with an occasional crash. But I persevere.

But enough about me
The world is a mess right now. I know it's always been a mess, but we didn't have the interconnectedness of commerce that we have right now. There are no good answers that I have heard. Partisanship and ideological bickering here and abroad have paralyzed governments.

Fear - generated by massive amounts of cable "news" coverage as well as the usual broadcast channels, further divides us. We fear everything these days- especially people who don't look like us or talk like us. When we begin calling other human beings "aliens" we are calling into question those foundational traditions that made us a great country.

Whatever we do we need to begin replacing fear with genuine charity of heart. Charity is the old English word for love; not romantic love, but the love of one another that calls us to trust one another with dignity and respect, no matter your state in life, where you come from or what faith you profess. We can also stop being obsessed with the fodder tossed at us by the 24 hour news cycle. Working in a soup kitchen, being a Citizen Advocate (more on this in a separate blog post); helping out at one of the senior centers - all of those things and more will rip you away from the paranoia that we call news these days.

Well - I'm back and I promise to be more regular in posting.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

What's the big deal about church?

Well - it's like this: If you take Christ seriously, living is a community of faith is a given.  In fact - if you take any religion seriously, a community of faith is essential.
I used to visit the Holy Cross monastery in Pineville SC (not there any longer). The monks - all except one - lived 24 hours a day in community - in relationship with each other. The lone exception was one monk who felt called - at least for a time - to live as a hermit.  The community wanted to honor his wishes, but also wanted him to be safe. They devised a number of ways for him to check in and for them to check on him. So even in his "solitude" the community shared his calling in their creative support.

The 10 commandments - if we pay attention to them-  speak to this living in relationship - in community. The first several commandments speak to our relationship with God.  The rest speak to how we live in relationship with one another. Far from being an abusive, tyrannical list of rules, they tell us with great precision how we might learn to live together more justly, and therefore live in relationship with God more closely.  They are not a bag full of clubs to beat up errant sinners (that begs the question, "aren't all sinners errant?")

Church can be exciting, frustrating, hypocritical, loving, merciless, merciful, forgiving, judgmental and many times simply boring.  Now change the word "Church" to "living." 

This blog is not exclusively about religion. But it doesn't exclude the topic either.  Practicing religion is about perfecting our relationships with God and with each other.  If we aren't working on those two things then religion, organized or other wise, is not worth the time and travail.


Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Customer Service Redux

Customer Service is not always an oxymoron (see my earlier post).  Took the new car back to Southern Motors Acura because the service light was blinking - along with the tire pressure light.  Mickey and Brian gave me a loaner vehicle, got everything fixed, noticed I had a screw in my tire (causing the pressure problem) and put on a new - yes new tire at no cost to me.. That's customer service. Comcast could learn more than a few things from folks like Brian and Mickey.

Latest telephone scam Alert!!! Companies now have automated messages that sound conversational, as if a real person was speaking to you live.  After about 30 seconds you begin to realize it's not so, but they are pretty clever in their execution and will only get better over time. Just say no!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Church Growth

Well the title of this piece seems to be an oxymoron. Latest studies (who does these studies and why are they always late) show the mainline churches in decline over the last 10 years and even the "new" movement personified by mega churches that are big on entertainment and self actualization and pretty thin on the theology are showing some fraying around the edges.

So why might that be? Most;y, I think, because we spend a huge amount of our energy on social justice issues and precious little on the Gospel. Heresy you say!   Actually not.  The Episcopal Church (my brand) in particular has always been incarnational in its work in the world. Believing in the dignity of every human being, we have been leaders in social justice issues even before people called them that.

Here is the problem in my view.  We have, over time, minimized the importance of making ministry come out of our understanding of theology. We should do ministry as a gospel imperative, but very often we approach ministry using a secular, social service agency approach.  Here's a news flash: bad as some might be, social service agencies are much more adept and equipped to do their jobs than we are.

Passing resolutions every three years bemoaning the state of the human condition, doesn't really change the human condition. Dabbling in one ministry or another - the "ministry du jour" one might say, leads to little accountability and even less effectiveness.

That is not to say that churches, the Episcopal Church in particular - don't do good work in the world - we do. But we could do better if that work came more often out of what we believe about God and his call to us, as opposed to what simply "feels right" in any given circumstance.

Our primary mission is to know Christ and to make Christ known. Very often in the outreach we engage in, Christ doesn't make much of an appearance.  This is not about conversion, it's about naming the reason and motivation for the ministries we engage in.

Ministry to the world needs to be for the long haul. "Feel Good" ministries last, mostly, until feeling good is replaced by boredom, feeling put upon or simply being ready to try the next "feel good" thing.

Ministry needs to be rooted in something more than good feelings or the current trend. Ministries need to be rooted in the Gospel. Ministries, must be accountable - to each other, to those we serve and ultimately to God in Christ.  It's time to re- incarnate the incarnational Church.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Customer Service?

Briefly. A few weeks ago I set up the new office computer. This included hooking up the internet/phone/copy machine connections.

All went well. I did need to have Ricoh come and set up the copy machine for scanning to the computer. Called/explained/tech arrived less than an hour later/set up the scanner/ said, "have a good day. No muss no fuss and no bill.

Comcast phone service goes out. Call the 800 number and wait several minutes. After half an hour of "diagnosing" the phone tech said you need a new line splitter. I said, "fine - when can you come and install it?"  I am told that once installed the splitter is "mine" thus it will cost lots of money for them to come and replace it. He suggested I go to store and buy one and put it in myself. I did. $4.00 part.

But please explain Comcast's abundance of advertising featuring their excellent customer service and satisfaction.  Ricoh? Comcast?  Wish Ricoh was the internet provider.