Friday, September 29, 2006

Are you ready to take "No" for an answer?

This past Wednesday at the Healing Mass at St. Alban's, there was no saint commemorated on the kalendar for that day (what we call a feria), so we had a votive Mass for the Sick. I was intrigued by the first reading, as follows:

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
2 Kings 20:1-5
In those days Hezekiah became sick and was at the point of death. And Isaiah the prophet the son of Amoz came to him and said to him, "Thus says the LORD, 'Set your house in order, for you shall die; you shall not recover.'" Then Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the LORD, saying, "Now, O LORD, please remember how I have walked before you in faithfulness and with a whole heart, and have done what is good in your sight." And Hezekiah wept bitterly. And before Isaiah had gone out of the middle court, the word of the LORD came to him: "Turn back, and say to Hezekiah the leader of my people, Thus says the LORD, the God of David your father: I have heard your prayer; I have seen your tears. Behold, I will heal you."

It is a moving story, and it caused me to relfect about the way we talk about God "answering prayer." Often, when someone asks, "Did God answer your prayer?" what we really mean is "Did God grant your request?" or "Did God say 'Yes'?" What if God did answer your prayer . . . and the answer is "No"?

We might say that this is what happened when Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, "If it be possible, let this cup pass from me." But we know that Jesus was willing to take "No" for an answer because he goes on to say, "Nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will."

In 2 Kings 20, it seems that Hezekiah's willingness to take "No" for an answer is the key to his own healing. The resignation to God's will comes first; it is the first step in the healing process. That is why we tell people to pray for healing "according to thy will." God waited until Hezekiah would be content with a "No" before he responded with a "Yes."

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Tasty meat

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
Mmmmmm. It's steak night at the Matkin's.

The tie that binds

Here's two more items for my priestly ordination anniversary. One of the ceremonies that is customary after the ordination is that the priest is vested according to his order, his hands anointed, and the instuments of his office are given to him. After his hands are anointed, they are brought together and a cloth may be used to tie them together. A similiar cloth is customarily used in some places to bind the hands of the bride and groom together at a wedding (remember the movie Bravehart?). The cloth is often decorated with embroidery, and below is a picture of the Agnus Dei which my wife Melisa lovingly embroidered onto the binding cloth used at my ordination.
Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
The other item is that ordinations are often performed on feast days. And usually if that is a saint's day, that particular saint is considered the patron of your ministry. There is no commemoration for 23 September on the kalendar of the Episcopal Church, but of course every day is the feast of a saint who is commemorated somewhere. This is the story (which seemed a bit amusing) of a saint who is commemorated in Italy on 23 September.

According to St Gregory the Great, St Constantius, a layman, was sacristan of the famous Cathedral of St Stephen at Ancona, Italy. In monastic garb, he attended to his duties with a great spirit of perfection which belied his slight stature. He was known as a wonderwork­er, and one of his deeds consisted in keeping the lamps of the church lighted even with water or oil in them. Word of his holiness and extra­ordinary powers spread far and wide, prompting many to ask spiritual favors of him.

The character of the saint is best illustrated by a story told about him. One day a rude fellow happened into the church and at the sight of the saint on a ladder attending to the lamps refused to believe in his sanctity. Instead, he began to insult and ridicule the man of God, calling him a liar and a man full of pride; St Constantius, hearing this tirade, ran to the man and embraced and kissed him in gratitude for having seen him as he was and telling him so. As St Gregory remarked, he thus gave conclusive proof that he was as great in humility as in miracles.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

4th ordination anniversary

Today I celebrate the 4th anniversary of my ordination to the priesthood. I was priveledged to offer Mass this morning on the occasion. I used the chalice that was given to me by my wife and presented to me at the ordination. Doing so today, I noticed something that I had not seen before. Looking directly into the cup, I saw the image of the cross which hangs above the altar.
Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
Can you see it now? I thought that was pretty neat.
Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
Here's a closer view of one of the reliefs from the side of this beautiful chalice depicting events in the life of Christ--this one is the resurrection.
Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Society of the Holy Cross

This year, the annual synod of Province of the Americas of the Society of the Holy Cross was held in Bedford, TX. A rich series of meditations was given by Fr. Richard C. Martin ssc, and we were treated to two fabulous dinners--one barbeque dinner at St Vincent's Cathedral and one Italian dinner at a local restraunt. It was great to see old friends again and to make new ones. Here are some pictures from the event last week.
Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Friday, September 22, 2006

My dogs hard at work

Molly and Lil' Joe doing what they do best.
Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Going for a record

It just occurred to me that I haven't thrown up since October of 1993. That means I'm nearly 13 years vomit-free (not counting the occasional "burp that went too far").

Monday, September 18, 2006

Taking up your cross

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
Sermon for 17 September 2006 (Yr B, Proper 19)

The cross is certainly unlike any other symbol in the world. The irony is that an instrument of suffering, fear, and death has become for so many a sign of strength, peace, and inspiration.

There is no substitute for experience, and it’s the same way with suffering. We have a great deal of respect for those who have suffered, particularly for those who have come out of suffering and can offer us hope and inspiration. Think of the situation of a cancer survivor visiting with someone just diagnosed. Experience doesn’t give us all the answers, but it does share insights. And so someone facing suffering wants to know, How did you do it? How did you deal with the fear? How did you cope with the pain?

It is part of our outlook as Christian people that life not only involves suffering, but that suffering has a value and meaning before God. It has dignity. This is part of the reason why the late Pope John Paul II touched so many lives even as this man who was once remembered as the youthful, vigorous, athletic pope began to age and fade away. Rather than hiding away in the Vatican during his final years, he chose to stay out there in front of the world, to embrace his own suffering and to let others see it’s dignity.

In the last visit to his homeland, he said, “My pilgrimage to Poland cannot go without a word to the sick, who are so close to my heart. . . . Every time I recite the morning, midday, and evening Angelus, I feel, dear fellow-countrymen, your special closeness to me. I unite myself spiritually with all of you. In a particular way I renew the spiritual unity that binds me to every person who is suffering, to everyone who is sick, to everyone confined to a hospital bed, to every invalid tied to a wheel-chair, to every person who in one way or another is meeting his cross.

"On his cross the Son of God accomplished the redemption of the world. It is through this mystery that every cross placed on someone’s shoulders acquires a dignity that is humanly inconceivable and becomes a sign of salvation for the person who carries it and also for others. 'In my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ’s affliction' (Col 1:24), wrote St. Paul.
Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
"Therefore, uniting myself with all of you who are suffering throughout the land of Poland, I beg you to make use of the cross that has become part of each one of you for salvation. I pray for you to have light and spiritual strength in your suffering, that you may not lose courage but may discover for yourselves the meaning of suffering and may be able to relieve others by prayer and sacrifice."

We see that suffering is a part of life; we know that is has redemptive value. And yet which one of us wants to hear painful news? (e.g., I’m sorry, but . . . You have cancer, Your husband is dead, I want a divorce, You will not be able to walk again, Your sight will not return, This is the end of our relationship; you’re no longer family.) Even Jesus prayed in the garden “Father if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” (Mt 29:39).

Before his public ministry began, Jesus had a sure sense of his mission in life and that the Father’s will for him was to suffer. Just as he wants his disciples to understand who he is, Jesus wants to share that insight with them as well. And so, as Jesus continued his ministry with them through the Gentile territory of Caesarea Philippi, he stopped to ask them what they might have heard what impression he was making. “Who do people say that I am?” This episode is a key point in Mark’s telling of the gospel story. When Jesus asks them what their own view is, Peter speaks for the group and says, “You are the Messiah.”

Strangely, even though they apparently have the right answer, Jesus asks them to keep it quite (at least for the present time) for it might confuse people. We must understand that in the mindset of the time, “Messiah” and “suffering” simply did not go together. He must first lead them to a deeper understanding. Then Jesus began to teach his disciples “that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. He said all this quite openly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him."

We can already see how this conflicting concept of a suffering Messiah was going to confuse people. In Mark’s gospel, it is only understood after the cross. Peter would not hear it—he took Jesus aside and told him, Lord, you don’t know what you’re talking about! Truth be known, how often have you and I reacted like Peter? We have all heard that the first stage of grief is denial, but it still surprises us. “Not when it comes to me,” we think. The bad news is not for me. “You don’t know what you’re talking about.” “What gives you the right?”

Priests encounter this type of thing regularly in the course of our ministries. Sometimes we have the hard job of bringing the reality of suffering before people in our flocks both as a congregation and as individuals—and it is painful each and every time. “No, I don’t believe you have a vocation.” “No, you have to forgive others before your own soul can start to heal.” “No, you cannot marry in the church.” “No, your situation will get worse before it gets better.” “No, you cannot just live together.” “No, you must follow through with this thing to the bitter end.” “No, what you’re doing is wrong, and you need to go to confession.” I’ve never come across anybody who wanted to hear any of that bad news. Perhaps we can understand why Peter pulled Jesus aside and started to rebuke him.

Like a faithful parish priest called upon to share with someone the hard facts, Jesus knows that he is showing the disciples something they do not want to see—the price of faithfulness, the cost of discipleship. The Messiah reigning on the throne with his elders, yes . . . that comes later, but Son of Man must first suffer greatly and be killed. "And when their done with me," he might as well have said, "they will be coming after you."
Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
"If any of you want to be my disciples, take up your cross and follow me." In today’s language, he might as well have said, "There’s going to be an empty electric chair right up there next to mine, so if you really want to be close to me and if you want to be like me, why don’t you just come on up and have a seat beside me? Remember that Jesus was a carpenter; he did not work in sales.

He was a carpenter, who lovingly crafted the instrument of our salvation. He placed it on his back and carried it up to build his own altar. And there he laid himself down as the lamb of God, the one atoning sacrifice that makes peace with the Father and takes away the sin of the world—which is his own broken body and shed blood.

“If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and lose their own soul?”

Have you denied yourself? Or have you denied your cross. As human beings, we each have our own crosses to bear—our sufferings. To be Christian disciples means to embrace these gifts and to bring them up with him before God the Father to offer in sacrifice.

The starting point is to deny ourselves. You want a deeper relationship with Jesus? Do not embrace your vanity. Start by saying “No” to your own self-love. Say “Yes” to Jesus by first saying “No” to the idol of the ego.

Peter had objected to the bad news of Jesus dying--and thus of their own dashed hopes of reigning over a newly independent kingdom of Israel. Jesus responded that Peter and each of the disciples must embrace the cross as well. That is, they must be willing to die to themselves in every—even physically. The most of the apostles and many early Christians did just that—by torture, fire, by lions. Are we willing to suffer humiliation for witnessing for Jesus--to die to our reputations? Are we willing to deny ourselves the pleasures of gossiping, lying, sexual immorality, and greedily pursuing wealth--to put them to death for the love of Jesus? Or will we be one of those Jesus says he will be ashamed of when he returns?

“Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation,” Jesus said, “of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels." We are to take up our crosses. We are to show our faith by our works. We are to embrace our struggles, our pains, our sufferings, and join them to the cross of Christ—the one offering before God that makes all of them acceptable. We are to do without, in order to be with him.
Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
“Those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it.” It is our cross. Each of us must decide for ourselves. "We will glory in the cross of our Lord Christ, for he is our salvation, our life and our resurrection. Through him we are saved and made free" (Introit for Holy Cross Day).

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

On whom the towers fell . . .

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
I shall never again be able to read through the following passage without thinking back to that September day in New York City.

Luke 13:1-9
"Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. Jesus answered, "Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish."

Then he told this parable: "A man had a fig tree, planted in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it, but did not find any. So he said to the man who took care of the vineyard, 'For three years now I've been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and haven't found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?'

" 'Sir,' the man replied, 'leave it alone for one more year, and I'll dig around it and fertilize it. If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.' "

Friday, September 08, 2006

Beyond Rangoon

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
I watched one of my old favorites, John Boorman's Beyond Rangoon, last night on IFC. Patricia Arquette plays a doctor (Laura Bowman) who is suffering through grief from the murder of her husband and young son. Laura is on vacation with her sister in southeast Asia when she looses her passport and has to stay behind. Laura gets caught up in the 8888 student uprising for democracy in Burma and the resulting massacre. She flees to the Thailand border with her tour guide and several students. In her inner suffering and personal search for peace, Laura finds strength in the outer suffering and political struggle for peace that is going on around her. She finds the will to live again when she ends up volunteering as a doctor at a Red Cross medical camp for refugees on the Thai border.

The movie was notable for showing the true story of the struggle of the people of Burma (also called Myanmar) for democracy and the bravery of Aung San Suu Kyi who was freely elected as the Prime Minister, but never permitted to take office by the military. She was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991, and remains under (illegal) house arrest to this day.
Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
Daw Aung San Suu Kyi

Am I the only one who liked Vance and Coy too?

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
BTW, that's Bo and Luke Duke on the right, and their season 5 replacements, cousins Vance and Coy Duke on the left.

What he did say

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
You can read, listen to, or watch the Khatami lecture here.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

What he should say

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
As you may be aware, as a part of his US trip, former Iranian president Mohammad Khatami will be speaking tonight at National Cathedral on the topic of the role the three Abrahamic faiths--Judaism, Christianity, and Islam--can play in shaping peace throughout the world. He served as Iran’s president from 1997 to 2005 and was the first reformist president following the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Elected with the broad support of women and young adults, Khatami is credited with the promotion of the rule of law, democracy, and the inclusion of all Iranians in the political decision-making process. In a press release, Dean Samuel Lloyd commended President Khatami as a man of peace and moderation. “[His] commitment to a dialogue between civilizations and cultures is an important component in the peace process. This is much needed in the world today.”

His visit is not without protest. Some Episcopal bishops have issued a statement of protest. There will be a picketers at the entrance to the cathedral grounds to be sure, as well as a press conference this morning which will include torture victims of the Islamic regime, former political prisoners, and opposition figures. The panel at the National Press Club will publicize crimes of the regime that occurred during Khatami’s presidency as well as the time that he was a cabinet member of Rafsanjani as the minister of Islamic guidance.

Some are cringing at the thought of what he might say (and where he would be saying it).
Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
I have a brief outline of the speech that I think he should make:

1. Three faiths have sprung from the family of Abraham--Judaism, Christianity, and Islam--each of which have a right to exist and continue in peace.

2. I retract statements that I have made in the past calling for a confrontation with the Zionist regime, and I call upon others to do the same.

3. Israel has a right to exist as a homeland for the Jewish people. The Jewish people should not be exterminated. My successor must retract his calls for a new Holocost.

4. I call for an immediate end to all abuses of human rights in Iran and other states.

5. Let the three faiths that have sprung from Abraham's family work together to create a dialogue of civilizations rather than a clash of civilizations.

Monday, September 04, 2006

A new addition

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
We have a new addition to the Matkin household. This is Molly, a small female Chihuahua. We picked her up at the animal shelter in Fort Worth today. We found her on Friday and she was fixed over the weekend. She joins our other dog--a male Chihuahua named Lil' Joe. Here's another photo of Molly, relaxing after her surgery.
Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Sunday, September 03, 2006

In appreciation of true religion

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
Homily for 3 September 2006--Yr B, Proper 17

“Graft in our hearts the love of your Name; increase in us true religion; nourish us with all goodness; and bring forth in us the fruit of good works.” I came across on online discussion hearkening back to this week’s collect and lessons in which the priest suggested the nickname “True Religion Sunday.”

You might think that in a church, true religion would be second nature. But true religion doesn’t come naturally; the collect suggests our religion is in danger of becoming untrue, perhaps even false. All of us who hold the faith dear need to refresh ourselves on such basic concepts from time to time. Even within Christian churches, “religion” goes unappreciated. There is an increasing hostility towards religion, especially fundamentalism—of the Muslim, but also of the Christian variety. The idea of "religion" has become tainted with connotations of rigorism, intolerance, legalism, and even terrorism. All of which lead toward an increasing sense in the public sphere that there may be such a thing as “too much" religion. Religion can be good—just don’t take it too far.

On the other side, are those evangelical Christian circles that cultivate an open antagonism toward the idea of “religion”—all religion is false. The mantra is: “Christianity is not a religion; it’s a relationship.” “Religion” is dismissed as man’s poor attempt to create a substitute for what only God can provide—a personal relationship. While we sympathize with the underlying idea, we must also acknowledge that such a distinction is overly simplistic. Certainly, Jesus Christ is not anti-religious.

When I was serving as a chaplain at a VA Hospital one summer, the man driving the shuttle van once asked me, “Chaplain, isn’t it true that the Bible never uses the word religion?” I said, “No.” He asked, “Are you sure; that’s what my pastor says.” I suggested he tell his pastor read the first chapter of James. There we find the apostle, in correcting those who saw no need for their inner faith to manifest itself in outer works, admonished them with these words: “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.”

James understood that living faith must be practiced, and carefully stated this in his letter. But he also understood that “true religion” is constantly endangered. It is in danger of being lost, forgotten, blurred, tainted, defiled. This is a danger that comes both from without and from within. Even Jesus once said, “When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” (Luke 18:8).

What appreciation might we find in Scripture on the subject of true religion?

In the Book of Deuteronomy, Moses is giving his farewell address to the Israelites. It is time for them to cross over into the Promised Land on their own. They must remember all the lessons they have learned and be careful to keep their faith and practice pure and undefiled. As we heard today, Moses tells the people, “You shall not add to the word that I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the LORD your God” in this new land . . . “Keep them and do them, for that will be your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the people” you encounter.

Moses knew that soon God’s people would be surrounded by others who knew neither the Lord, nor his divine will revealed in the Torah. The people would be tempted to compromise their faith and practice—to drop some things that might seem strange to the locals, and to add others that they saw and fancied among them. When Christianity began to spread, and the gospel entered different cultures, it became quickly evident that the Church would face the same problems.

In St. Paul’s letter to the Church in Galatia, he makes note of it at the beginning. He wrote, “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel (not that there really is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ). But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be anathema” (that is, “accursed”).

Whenever the faith entered a new cultural context, it naturally adapts. That process is legitimate, but along with it comes the danger of distortion—the temptation to change the faith or to drop some elements and add others. The Christian experience in Europe, Africa, China, etc. should be different, but the substance of the faith has to remain the same everywhere. That’s not my own opinion—it’s the command of the Lord as we see in these statements of the Prophet Moses and the Apostle Paul. And so Paul says, in today’s epistle, “Be on guard, stand firm! Take up the shield of faith, the sword of the Spirit, the belt of truth, and the helmet of salvation.”

In all this, invoke the Lord’s protection, for there are spiritual forces at work. The devil and his cohorts would be more than delighted to see you loose your faith, or to see your religion become distorted, corrupted. St. Paul even asks for special prayers for himself—that when it’s time for him to stand up and preach the Word, that he may do it with boldness, without compromise or distorting the truth of the Lord’s message.

True religion is under outside pressure from each culture that surrounds it. We must also understand that true religion comes under pressure from the changing fads of that society’s evolving values and standards, from what German philosophers Herder and Hegel called the Zeitgeist—the “spirit of the age.”

In extreme cases, in which the church becomes captive to the Zeitgeist, Christian faith becomes reshaped by the culture—even identified by it. The most complete example of this is probably the movement called “Positive Christianity” in the German state church of the 1930s. This version of the faith (culturally captive to National Socialism) sought to uncover the historical Jesus who was argued to be a heroic Nordic Aryan figure, very outspoken in his criticisms of Judaism, who was eventually killed by the evil Jews, but who defeated them by his resurrection and triumphed over their evil schemes. (Talk about a distorted gospel!)

True religion is endangered by the outside culture in times and places. But in our gospel lesson today, Jesus reminds us that true religion is also endangered by forces within—within ourselves, within our hearts. In today’s gospel, personal preference had become the measure of both faith’s expression and the substance of faith itself.

The issue in question is that Jesus’ disciples didn’t wash their hands before eating. Therefore, the critics argued, Jesus’ disciples were eating with defiled hands and intentionally revolting against the “tradition of the elders.” We should understand that this purification ritual was an accepted part of Jewish life, taught by venerable Rabbis, but not actually a matter of divine Law or Torah.

Jesus uses the occasion to point out to them that their priorities are askew. While solidly within the bounds of Jewish tradition, they had not been faithful to Torah in that they had allowed the observance of human tradition to become more important than God’s Law. They had ignored Moses’ warning in our first lesson. They had added something to God’s commandments.

Consider a possible parallel to our own day. We have many church traditions. On of the most prominent is the church kalendar, in which we follow the events of our Lord’s life through the year, celebrating the works of our salvation with feasts and fasts. In their proper role, these traditions help us embrace and live out the holy Tradition—the substance of the faith given to the apostles.

But what if things were to get out of balance? What if in our vanity, keeping feast days and fast days became more important than the great works in the life of Jesus which they commemorate? What if salvation were not seen to be something found in Christ, but something that comes from fasting and feasting?

We would end up with the same problem Jesus addresses in today’s gospel. It is the hypocrisy Isaiah describes with the words: “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.”

As he often did, Jesus turned his listeners back to the interior life, to look at the question again as a matter of the heart—as a matter of faithfulness. Does eating with dirty hands really defile someone in God’s eyes? Can anything they put in their bodies defile them? Or is faithfulness and purity perhaps better measured by what comes out of a man than what goes in?

Jesus said, “It is from within, from the human heart, that evil intentions come: fornication, theft, murder, adultery, avarice, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, folly. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”

True religion is a genuine love of God and an acceptance of God’s love by an acceptance of God himself and Savior and Lord. It is to be intimately joined to Christ himself in his death and life. True religion is to live abundantly, to let Christ live within you.

True religion is a precious thing, and a wonderful gift from God. Yet we have so many things around us and within us that would steal away or destroy that amazing gift of our heavenly Father. And so, as St. Paul admonishes his flock, “Be on guard, stand firm!”

True religion is to be requested from the Lord and joyfully received. True religion is a precious gift to be cherished, protected, defended, and nurtured. True religion is a loving relationship with the living God, who saves us and makes us partakers of his own divine nature. True religion is a way of life, to be acted out in the world.

And so let us continue to come before the Lord with this prayer: “Graft in our hearts the love of your Name; increase in us true religion; nourish us with all goodness; and bring forth in us the fruit of good works;” in the Name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

"Pastor's 2 Cents" is about $0.02 short

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
Fr. Jim DeBruycker, the Pastor of St. Joan of Arc Catholic Church in Minneapolis has long gotten a hefty share of attention for being on the cutting edge. This time it's advertising an annual LBGT retreat and a local Eucharist celebrated by one of the recently ordained Catholic womanpriests (of which the local archbishop is fully aware, but silent). But I say what deserves attention is Fr. Jim's recent lame-brained column in the Sunday parish bulletin.

. . . The answer to the question, “Whose brain fart was it to put communion ministers in the middle of the church?” is me. I have had a whole diaper full of brain farts in my life. This is just the latest. Of course manure is the best fertilizer.

Here's the orphrey material

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
I found where I put the ophrey material for my planned Roman purple and Rose sets of vestments. It's not that great of a picture, but I think you get the idea. The background color is dark red/claret and the foreground is gold. Now if I can just get it all put together before Christmas.

By the way, if any of you are looking for material for projects, see my set of recommended links on the right side under "Vestment Stuff."

Friday, September 01, 2006

Hard to believe

(Glasgow, Scotland) Nine Glasgow firefighters have been handed reprimands ranging from a demotion to written warnings and all have been ordered to attend a diversity training course after they refused a departmental order to attend gay pride celebrations.

The Glasgow Fire Department had organized a public relations show at the June 24 event where firefighters would hand out leaflets on fire safety. The nine refused a direct order from their captain to take part in the safety program. The group said they were refusing on "moral grounds".

The men were accused of dereliction of duty and refusing an order from a superior officer. After nearly a week of deliberations, district fire chiefs announced their verdict. A watch manager was demoted to crew manager with a salary cut of nearly $10,000. The remaining eight were given written warnings which will be placed on their employment files. All nine were ordered to attend a diversity training program.

You can read the whole story here.

This is a tough one. I say good for them. While the immediate duty they were assigned was a routine dissemination of safety information, their presence in that context likely would have been taken by others as an endorsement of the festivities and its principles. It seems they were willing to pay the cost of faithfulness. Like Peter and the Apostles, they had to draw the line, saying, "We must obey God rather than men" (Acts 5:29).

Update: Archbishop steps into gay pride row
LONDON (Reuters) - The Catholic Archbishop of Glasgow said on Friday he had given his backing to nine firefighters who were disciplined for refusing to hand out leaflets during a gay pride rally.

Strathclyde fire service said it had taken action against the firefighters who refused to give out "community fire safety advice" at the Pride Scotia festival in June. "All nine will undergo a further intensive course of diversity training," the force said in a statement. "Their refusal was a fundamental breach of one of their core responsibilities."

However, Archbishop Mario Conti said he was concerned about what had happened and expressed solidarity with their actions, adding neither the officers' competency and commitment had not been questioned. He said the officers had "legitimate concerns about being the subject of taunts and jokes, and in which, in come cases, their religious sensibilities were being grossly offended by people dressed as priests and nuns lampooning the church."

"The duty to obey one's conscience is a higher duty than that of obeying orders," Conti said. The Strathclyde fire service said it had a duty to protect all the 2.3 million people it served, irrespective of their race, religion or sexuality. "Firefighters cannot, and will not, pick and choose to whom they offer fire safety advice," their statement said.

One person leaving a comment on the above story on Angelqueen digest noted: The Scotsman artice, though current, has been overtaken by events. Latest news (this morning) is that all nine have been dismissed. Eight of them have been offered reinstatement provided they undergo "diversity training". The ninth (the lead firefighter) has not been offered the option.