Archive | July 2016

“EVERYONE is Our Neighbor

There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, (Galatians 3:28)

This teaching of Jesus that was central to his life and work, was not only revolutionary in His day, but continues to form the core of the work for social justice by Christians and non-Christians today.

The idea that we are all created equal children of God, and must treat each other as friends and neighbors, regardless of their personal endowments or social situation lies at the heart of what we ‘say’ we stand for as followers of Jesus. Just as the New Testament teaches us that God created all of us as his children, so did the Old Testament teach us that God created us to be stewards (Genesis 2:15) of His Kingdom – not only the land, but all resources AND all living things that live upon the earth.

This means all people of the earth! It means all of us: ourselves, our families, our friends, those we do not yet know, those who we will meet in the future, and those who are our enemies or want to do us harm.


Yet now, we seem to be, increasingly, a nation and a world divided. After 75 years of working to build one world through peaceful liaisons, disarmament, and sharing of resources, once again we see a rapid push towards nationalism and regional sectarianism. Many people are turning their backs on their neighbors and wishing to build a ‘cocoon’ to ensure that those who are ‘different’ are shut out, demonized, marginalized, and in some cases, criminalized.

Regardless for the reasons for this drift to isolationism – be they religious beliefs, geographical separation, social mores, elitism, racism, or prejudice, they all stem from fear. There is a tendency to define some people as ‘others’, ones to be avoided, excluded, demonized and denigrated. Whether because of personal fear or cultural upbringing, each group feels the right to protect their world and their future by doing everything in their power to ensure that no one who is ‘not one of them’ thrives in their world. In some cases, laws are written to exclude ‘those people’ from the basic rights all people should enjoy.

But God did not put us on this earth to build societies that segregate and alienate. Scripture tells us

let us love one another, for love comes from God. (1 John 4:7)

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” (John 13:34)

The topic of this edition of Connection centers on ‘neighbors’. But what is a ‘neighbor’? Does it mean only those that live on the block we do, or go to our church, or are members of our social clubs, or as in the Old Testament, all Israelites, no matter where they lived. In the New Testament, in the Parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus expanded ‘neighbor’ to be those who were enemies or considered ‘unclean’. This is made clear in Matthew 5:44-45:

“But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.”

There was no distinction between the righteous (Hebrews) and anyone else (unrighteous) living on the earth. The second Commandment

‘Love your neighbor as yourself. (Matthew 22:39)

expanded the definition of ‘neighbor’ to the whole world.

Our planet is shrinking. With 24-hour news service and the internet we can immediately see the needs of other people around the world as if they were right next door. With faster modes of travel, we can reach far off places in hours, not days. Whether we like it or not everyone is our ‘neighbor’.

If we are to follow Jesus’ teaching about our neighbors, it is incumbent upon us to expand our vocabulary from ‘us and them’ to ‘we’. We are all in this together; whatever affects someone in Somalia, Afghanistan or Orlando, affects each one of us. If there is injustice anywhere in the world, sooner or later we are all affected by it. We have been given a Biblical imperative to

to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God (Micah 6:8)

Notice that it says ‘your God’, not ‘our God’. One of the great dividers is the concept that Christianity is the only true religion, all others are false. We must remember that we all worship the same God, no matter what name we give him, . . . and that we are ALL children of that same Creator. Therefore, it is commanded that we ‘do justice’ for all people.

The real and imagined walls we seek to build to keep ‘the other’ out must be dismantled – brick-by-brick, lie-by-lie, prejudice-by-prejudice. And when injustice exists, we must speak out in love, not in violence, we must be persistent and unflagging in working for justice for all, or there can be justice for none. To remain silent, to say “this is not my business”, is to aid and support forces of evil in our neighborhoods and our world. We have become so accustomed to daily shootings and violence that we hardly take note of it, or simply say ‘another one’. We hide in our living rooms watching 24-hour news and observe ‘what a shame’ or at least ‘we don’t have that here’, or have no reaction at all. To quote a recent protest poster: ‘Silence = Violence ‘.

If we are willing to accept God’s mercy, we must show that mercy to others. We must welcome the stranger, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the suffering, and defend the weak (Matthew 25:42-46). All of these people are our ‘neighbors’.

It is time for us to come out of our safe, secure homes and go into the world, living into the commandments and teaching of Jesus to live among and care for our neighbors. They are not so different from us, and when we get to know them, and eat with them, we will be able to build a better world for everyone. But first, like the Good Samaritan, we must cross the road.

To quote Henri Nouwen:

“We become neighbours when we are willing to cross the road for one another. There is so much separation and segregation: between black people and white people, between gay people and straight people, between young people and old people, between sick people and healthy people, between prisoners and free people, between Jews and Gentiles, Muslims and Christians, Protestants and Catholics, Greek Catholics and Latin Catholics.

There is a lot of road crossing to do. We are all very busy in our own circles. We have our own people to go to and our own affairs to take care of. But if we could cross the street once in a while and pay attention to what is happening on the other side, we might become neighbours.”[1]


[1]      Henri Nouwen Society, “Crossing the Road for One Another”,
written for Connections, Diocese of Southern Ohio, 28 July 2016

Acknowledging ‘White Privilege’

privilege and racismThe words ‘white privilege’ have been bandied around by pundits, the media and in general conversation, and while many of us accept that it exists, we are not sure what it means. The best definition of ‘white privilege’ that I have found came from a class in women’s studies at the University of Massachusetts:

a set of advantages and/or immunities that white people benefit from on a daily basis beyond those common to all others. White privilege can exist without white people’s conscious knowledge of its presence and it helps to maintain the racial hierarchy in this country.

The biggest problem with white privilege is the invisibility it maintains to those who benefit from it most. The inability to recognize that many of the advantages whites hold are a direct result of the disadvantages of other people, contributes to the unwillingness of white people, even those who are not overtly racist, to recognize their part in maintaining and benefiting from white supremacy.

White privilege is about not having to worry about being followed in a department store while shopping. It’s about thinking that your clothes, manner of speech, and behavior in general, are racially neutral, when, in fact, they are white. It’s seeing your image on television daily and knowing that you’re being represented. It’s people assuming that you lead a constructive life free from crime and off welfare. It’s about not having to assume your daily interactions with people have racial overtones.

White privilege is having the freedom and luxury to fight racism one day and ignore it the next. White privilege exists on an individual, cultural, and institutional level”.[1]

To quote African -American author, James Baldwin, “Being white means never having to think about it.

Many of us at Saint John’s benefit every day from our ‘white privilege’. We don’t even acknowledge that we have it, and indeed, enjoy a life that people of color can only dream of, but do not often attain. Life’s path is smoothed for us; the entire world is set up to give us every advantage, allow us to come out on the top. Moreover, we don’t want to talk about the fact that we are privileged, or even think that our privilege directly affects the lives of millions of people of color. We do not have to worry about whether our children will return safely as they walk home from school, or if they are driving, will they be stopped for the most minor of offenses and jailed. I have an African-American friend who does not drive in Bexley because the police consider ‘driving while black’ a reason to stop him. We don’t have that worry. And even if we are stopped by the police, we don’t fear that we will be assaulted or shot. We don’t have to teach our sons how to avoid harassment when they are doing nothing wrong. People don’t cross to the other side when we walk down the street, or hold tight to their purses when we pass by.

Racism is about much more than our feelings toward one another, or about differences that we can fix with talk of tolerance or color blindness. The story of race is an ideology of difference that shapes our understanding of ourselves, the world we inhabit, and the communities in which we live. Racial thinking assigns value to human beings who are grouped within artificial categories. We do not need to embrace contrived notions of racial differences, in the name of inclusion, but to examine to the depth of our hearts how we really feel about people of color. Tolerance is not acceptable; we must search until we can truly look at any other person as equal to ourselves. By minimalizing another person, we are dehumanizing not only them but ourselves.

In light of the murders and shootings of people of all colors in the past few months and most recently, we, may be appalled or anguished, but may not see these events are directly related to the long-standing racism in our nation stemming from slavery. Progress for people of color has been slow, and halting; cultural attitudes and habits have changed at a glacial pace. We think we have made progress, but we have become so used to the ‘racial divide’ in our nation, that in many cases, we do not even realize it is there! The sad and shocking thing is, these killings will continue. Too much of white America doesn’t see the problem. Many subconsciously believe that the shooting victim(s) “deserved it”!

None of this means the situation can’t change. However, until the white people in America can see clearly this injustice occurring, and realize the freedoms and values that we as Americans believe in are not available to everyone, it will continue. Until it tugs at our own sense of fairness and justice, a lot of white people in America will remain unmoved to act. Denying the impact of white privilege on this country’s judicial system creates more injustice, more inflamed rhetoric, more grief, more rage. . . and more deaths!

I saw a sign held by protester at a rally that said: ‘White Silence is Violence’.

Truly, if you do not listen to others who are not like you, keep silent when disparaging words are spoken, don’t hold people accountable for their discriminatory conduct, you are just as complicit in racism as those who hold a gun or burn a cross or lynch a man.

White people are in a position of power in this country because of a long-standing power structure that they control. In the opinion of many, much of the political unrest that we are now experiencing stems from the fact that we fear we are losing that control. Are we brave enough to use our ‘white privilege’ to correct that system or power structure? Are we, as white people, willing to do what it takes to stop the systemic murder of young black men, the institutionalized school-to-prison pipeline, the deep, bleeding wound that is racism in America. It is a hard pill to swallow that, in many ways, white people are the source of the problem and only we can change it! People of color may yell, scream, cry, plead or demand justice, but until we are willing to get really uncomfortable with our own participation in a racist society, nothing will change.

Don’t delude yourself that you do not have the power. You may say ‘I’m not racist — I have black friends! I’m a good person!” You may not be rich and you may truly struggle with daily aspects of your life. You probably are a good person, and you may have black friends. BUT, you still benefit from institutionalized racism.

Andrew Rosenthal, a writer for The New York Times, stated:

“The point of the “Black Lives Matter” movement is not that the lives of African Americans matter more than those of White Americans, but that they matter equally, and that historically they have been treated as if they do not.[2]

Speak with people of color, listen, to learn — or perhaps more appropriately, unlearn the racism that has been instilled in us by our country. . . and our churches.

It’s time for white people in America — especially the white American church — to start putting action behind our prayerful social media memes. The unfortunate reality is that America has a really big race problem, and it is white people must take the leadership to fix it. We, who call ourselves followers of Jesus, should be leading the charge, not arguing about the semantics of whose lives’ matter’.

I call on ALL congregations, but especially white congregations, to unite in protest, to refuse to stand in silence, to speak out against racial injustice, to examine our individual lives and attitudes until we understand our participation in racism, and wipe it from our lives!

We must build a society where we no longer see people of color bloodied and broken. . . or dead, due to racial violence.

We must ensure that our children do not take on the racial attitudes and habits that we were so subtly taught.

Join me in acknowledging, understanding and shedding the mantle of our ‘white privilege’.
[1]      The Social Construction of Whiteness and Women, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, MA

[2]      Andrew Rosenthal, “The Real Story of Race and Police Killings“, The New York Times; September 4, 2015

Written for the Crossroads, Saint John’s Episcopal Church and Parts Adjacent, Worthington, OH; 18 July 2016

Martha, . . Martha, . . Martha . . .

Christ in the House of Martha and Mary (Diego Velázquez)

Christ in the House of Martha and Mary (Diego Velázquez)

“Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:38-42)

Today’s gospel is probably one of the shortest stories in the Bible. . . but even though it is short, it still has a LOT to say.

Jesus was on His way to Jerusalem for what he knew would be a difficult week. We know now that he would be tried, crucified and later be resurrected. As he travelled, he stopped to visit with his friends, Lazarus, Martha and Mary.

Martha’s opened her home to offer hospitality to this traveling rabbi and his entourage. She did it as a public sign of her religious commitment. In welcoming Jesus and his followers, she was following the time-honored Middle-Eastern ritual of hospitality.

While she was busy in the kitchen, Mary, her sister, chose to remain with Jesus in the living room, listening to his words of wisdom. Martha wanted everything in the kitchen to turn out just right. She wondered whether her sister appreciated the pressure she was under in the kitchen. In fact, she thought that if her sister had the sense to come and help, much of the burden could be eased. But, her sister Mary was sitting at Jesus’ feet, hanging on his every word. Not helping with a thing!

So, let’s talk about Martha; I think Martha gets a little bit of a bum rap.

But I am prejudiced; you see,


I see myself in Martha, intent on getting everything right and pleasing those around me. I grew up being taught that I should be a ‘good girl’ and only do things that would please anyone in authority. It made me a very good Martha.

And even today, I look at my calendar and see thirty-eight monthly meetings. . . how could it be that many?? I serve on committees and commissions that concentrate on social justice and advocacy. I tell myself that I need to do this because a lot of other people don’t or won’t . . . it is my diaconal ministry. I work for justice for immigrants, for LGBTQ+ people, for prisoners, for those in need of food and shelter, and a myriad of other people and causes. Surely, this hyperliving world needs all of that ‘Martha’ activity. How can I have time to sit still and really listen well enough to be able to make real changes?

And . . . when can I take time to listen?

Martha was preparing for Jesus to come to her house; she, too, didn’t have time to listen.

The way the story goes is that Martha is bad, and Mary is good. We are told again and again,

“Be like Mary, don’t be like Martha. The world is too full of Marthas; there are not enough Marys!”

As I was researching for this sermon, I ran across a new word: ‘hyperliving’. It was new to me and I found out that, not only are most of us hyperliving, but the University of Houston actually offers a master’s degree in Studies of the Future, centering around the phenomena of ‘hyperliving’.

So what is ‘hyperliving’?

  • We want to do more and more things in less and less time.
  • Some of us carry around planners with lots of scraps of paper attached and rubber bands holding it all together.
  • We buy time-saving gadgets and don’t have the time to read the instructions to figure out how to use them.
  • We do the ‘multi-tasking’ thing, especially in the car. We drive, eat, drink coffee, listen to the radio, talk on the cell phone, and make gestures – all at the same time!
  • Before we come to a stop light, if there are two lanes and each contains one car, we find ourselves trying to guess which one will pull away first so we can get in that lane.
  • At a grocery store, if we have a choice between two checkout lines, we find ourselves counting how many people are in each line, multiplying this number by the number of items per cart. After we get in line, we keep track of the other person who would have been us in the other line. If we finish checking out and the person who would have been us is still waiting you feel like we’ve won! But if the person who would have been us is walking out of the store and we’re still in line, we feel depressed.
  • When we are driving, especially long distances, we push the posted speed limit by six miles an hour. We just HAVE to get there sooner.[1]

(Do I see heads nodding out there in agreement?)

Well, my friends, that is ‘hyperliving’.

And hyperliving is a very good word to describe living in a ‘Martha’ world. A world in which one is so busy planning, organizing, perfecting, controlling and maximizing our time that we never have time to ‘stop and smell the roses’, or take a deep breath, or listen to the words of Jesus.

Martha, Martha,” he says, “you are anxious and troubled about many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, from her” (Luke 10:41-42).

“” (Luke 10:41)

Mary had chosen that ‘one thing’.

Martha had been scurrying to see that everything was ‘perfect’, yet all she was doing was transient; very soon all the food would be eaten, the guests would have left, the dishes done, and the house restored to order. It would be as if no one had ever been there.


Jesus’ visit would only be a faint memory. . . and Martha had missed it!

But for her sister Mary, His words and being near Jesus would have a lasting impact. In fact, it is thought that this Mary is the Mary who anointed Jesus’ feet with precious oil within a few days of His death (Mathew 26:12). Whatever she heard at His feet caused her to follow Jesus, to be one of the women at his crucifixion. Something touched her faith down to the core of her being.

So, should we become more like Mary and less like Martha?

Is there no place for the busy service of Martha?

What we need to do is find ourselves in an environment that nurtures and encourages us. We do not live “by bread alone.” Here was Jesus, ‘the bread of life’, present and available, but Martha had her mind on other bread. So Martha missed out hearing the stimulating words of Jesus.

Whenever we sit with the Lord, He brings us insight and understanding, not only about his own suffering and struggle, but about our own as well. When you and I feel nervous and agitated, worked up and wound up because of what’s going on in our lives, we need an understanding partner with whom to sit, so that we can sort things out, gain an understanding of our situation, and receive encouraging words from the person listening.

God’s plan for each of us is made up of a lifetime of small opportunities. No matter what our career or calling may be, we should each seek ways to serve the Lord daily. We do this by ministering wherever we are – to family, friends, neighbors, and co-workers.

God has intended this world to be Mary first, then Martha. God built this world to be a Mary world with Martha moments.

So, how can we live like Mary in a Martha world?

Perhaps we need both Marys and Marthas; we need is Marys who can learn from Marthas and Marthas who can learn from the Marys of the world. We need a delicate balance between work and prayer, between service and the spiritual, between busyness and attentiveness. We need the Marthas to keep the world running and the Marys to remind us to sit at Jesus’ feet and listen.

But how can we take time to be Mary in our hyperliving world?

All the recent shooting and protests are, in part, caused by reactions of people who have for far too long not been listened to.

Why are we surprised that they feel their only recourse is to protest so that they cannot be ignored?

Why are we surprised because they feel hopeless about their futures when they have substandard education, no jobs and seem the target of any person who doesn’t like ‘the other’?

Now is the time to sit and listen, just as Mary sat at Jesus’ feet and listened to Him.

Listen to the pain of our neighbors; their demands for justice.

Listen so that we can move beyond our own fears and prejudices.

Listen for the words that will convince us to act with more mercy than judgement.

Mary knew who to listen to.

Surely, we can do the same.

Since the Civil Rights Movement ended, there have been many opportunities for people of faith to be merciful and demand justice for all our neighbors. Shamefully, we have mostly remained silent. We cannot be silent anymore and remain faithful to a God who commands us to

love our neighbors as ourselves. (Luke 10:27)

So sit quietly and listen.

Do you hear God’s call to speak truth to the powerful and privileged in the silence?

Do you hear God calling you away from the distractions of everyday tasks and blatant excuses for not doing anything into acts of mercy, love, and justice?

It’s all well and good to welcome all to God’s table, but if we aren’t living out the meaning of that bread and cup with those who hunger and thirst for justice, we are ignoring completely the core of Jesus’ message.

So we need to listen, reflect, and listen for that still small voice and then get very HYPER about making things happen! We need to first calm down, center, discern, pray and then get up and GO TO WORK! For, if we lose one part of ourselves, the other has no meaning.

In closing, let me read you a poem by a pastor friend of mine:

My dear, my dear, you are distracted by any things.
One thing is needed.
Every moment, you are sitting at your teacher’s feet.
Everything that happens is an entrance.
Each moment can be a falling, a falling in love.
The mouth that speaks this into being is right here.
Listen for the voice of the Beloved in every breath.
Every breath.
Everything else can rot or be stolen; this can’t be taken from you.
Nothing else matters.
Listen. [2]

We all need to listen if we are to come through this current environment of hostility, vitriolic speech, mass murders to build a world where everyone is equal, everyone is wanted, and everyone is our brother and sister.


It is up to each one of us, not someone else.

We must listen and then ACT.



[1]      Futurist David Zach, master’s in Studies of the Future from the University of Houston
[2]       Pastor Steve Garnaas-Holmes, Unfolding Light
Delivered at Saint John’s Episcopal Church, Worthington, OH; 17 July 2016

We MUST Love Ourselves!

One day an expert in religious law stood up to test Jesus by asking him this question: “Teacher, what must I do to receive eternal life?” Jesus replied, “What does the law of Moses say? How do you read it?” The man answered, ” `You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind.’ And, `Love your neighbor as yourself.’ ” Right!” Jesus told him. “Do this and you will live!” (Luke 10:25-28)

In the church, we talk a lot about love. We teach it, we preach it, we sing about it, we try to live it. We SHOULD because love is the message of the church, the primary theme of the scriptures, and the


‘Love’ is our religious faith summed up in one word. Jesus called us to love everyone… not just our friends and family, those we know and want to be around, but also those who are not nice to us, those we don’t even know, and even those who are our sworn enemies. Pretty tall order. And I would hazard a guess that most of us here try very hard to follow this commandment.

But, how many of us concentrate, or even think about the rest of His commandment:

‘as thyself’? (Luke 10:27)

I would guess that most of us don’t give it a second thought.

Let me restate the scripture:

`You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind.’ and love your neighbor

 As. You. Love. Yourself. (Luke 10:27)

There are three kinds of loves mentioned…

love for God…,

love for neighbor…,

and then the third kind of love… love for self.

We live in a society that thinks of love for self as selfishness, something that only people not concerned with the welfare of other possess. But didn’t we just hear that Jesus said

“as you love yourself”? (Luke 10:27)

The big question is: how do we love yourself without being selfish or arrogant or getting caught up in the epidemic of “Me, Me, Me”?

It is not only OK to love yourself, but that it is extremely important… to love yourself in the right way.

We know that proper self-love or positive self-esteem is essential to health and happiness and wholeness. Too often, our disappointments in life are not the real issue, but only symptoms of a bigger problems. Our real problem is we don’t like ourselves. And when we try to live looking through those dark, destructive glasses, everything we do is tainted.

Let me give you an example:

Most of the time I tell myself that I am overweight, dumpy and unattractive, an old lady kind of like Pig Pen in Charlie Brown, constantly followed by a dark cloud. When someone gives me a compliment, I discount it – telling myself they are just being ‘kind’ to some pitiful soul. So when I do something that I should feel good about, it is always accompanied by that black cloud of gloom and doom.

Even though I know that when you don’t like yourself, when you don’t feel good about yourself, it affects everything you do.

Dr. John Sutherland Bonnell, pastor of the Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church in New York City said this:

“Whenever you find an individual who has become a constant source of bitterness… taunting and criticizing people… saying cruel things that wound the hearts of friends… you may be sure that he someone who hates himself, who loathes and despises himself… and the bitterness is but the projection of his own contempt for himself.”

Think of the alcoholic who despises himself and what he is becoming, who loathes his inability to cope with his problem, who wrestles constantly with guilt and as a result is mean to his wife and children.

Think of the college student who doesn’t study, flunks her exam and then disgusted with herself, lashes out at her roommate with hostile, critical words.

Think of the business executive who misses out on the big deal, “blows it,” loses it… and then aggravated with himself comes home and berates his family with a temper tantrum and kicks the dog. [1]

Let’s be honest now. Think about your own life for a moment. Isn’t it true that usually when we fuss at someone else, it’s because we are really upset with ourselves!

Isn’t that the way it works?

  • When we are unhappy with ourselves we project that aggravation toward other people.
  • On the other hand, when we feel good about ourselves, we are more loving, patient, kind and gracious toward everyone we see.

Many of our deep personal problems arise from a lack of proper self-love. Many of the sins we commit, wrongs we do, crutches we lean on, irritations we experience… come from not feeling good about ourselves. Self-hatred is destructive and dangerous. Low self-esteem is crippling.

Self-respect is so important. A healthy self-love is essential for a productive, creative and meaningful life. Here are some things that result for not loving ourselves:

  1. DISLIKING OURSELVES CAN LEAD TO INSECURITY… and this insecurity can cause persons to be critical of everything and hostile toward everyone; can cause us to be worried all the time, fretful, running scared, anxiety-ridden and suspicious of everyone and everything.

Some people are so insecure that they even turn genuine compliments into defeats and insults. One time I said to a lady, “My, My! Don’t you look nice today! Quick as a flash she retorted: “You said ‘today’! I guess that means you think I usually don’t look nice!”

(Sound familiar???)

That insecurity is destructive and depleting. It robs us of the joy of life… and makes us and everybody around us uncomfortable.

  1. DISLIKING OURSELVES CAN LEAD TO JEALOUSY and this jealousy can cause us to be envious, resentful and sometimes cruel.

When you don’t like yourself, then you see every person as a rival, as the enemy, as someone who has it better than you, as someone you have to put down or undercut. Self-hate is so dangerous; it can lead to a volatile jealousy and cause us to hurt other people, even those closest to us.

  1. AND FINALLY, DISLIKING OURSELVES CAN LEAD TO SELF-PITY. Remember how Charley Brown put it: “I know the world is filled with hatred because the whole world hates me!”

This kind of self-pity causes us to look for crutches… temporary attempts at “pick-me-ups” like drugs or alcohol… that only add to the problem. They don’t pick us up; they let us down. They don’t make us stronger; they make us weaker.

So, I ask you:

  • Do you want to feel good about yourself?
  • Do you want to like yourself more?

Then… Remember this…

You are special to God!

You are valuable to Him!

You are the child of God and nothing can cut you off from Him and His love.

You are a unique beloved child of God. You and I are unique people in the world. You and I are new and different from anything this world has ever seen. You and I have something unique to do, something unique to offer and give and be.

You are special to God, you are valuable to Him.

If we are loved by God, then we should love ourselves. We should love ourselves as God and others love us.

A poet put it like this:

I have to live with myself and so,
I want to be fit for myself to know.
I want to be able as the days go by
Always to look myself square in the eye.

I don’t want to keep on a closed shelf
A lot of secrets about myself
And fool myself as I come and go
Into thinking that nobody else will ever know…

I don’t want to stand at the setting sun
And hate myself for the things I’ve done.
Whatever happens I want to be
Self-respecting and conscience free.

I have to live with myself and so
I want to be fit for myself to know.”[2]

So, I ask you:

“Are you fit for yourself to know”?

Let us pray:

Dear Lord, sometimes it is hard for us to see things about ourselves that are worthy of love from you and other people. Please reassure us of your eternal love; help us to accept it without ‘yes, but’ and believe that we are worthy of that love. Help us to view each day and every person through the eyes of love that allowed you to give up your Son Jesus for our promise of eternal life. Thank you for reminding us that we are your beloved children. Amen.

[1]       John Sutherland Bonnell, Do You Want To Be Healed?, page 97
[2]       Edgar Guest, “Myself”

Delivered at In The Garden, Trinity Episcopal Church on Capitol Square, Columbus, OH; 10 July 2016

Never A Slave Again

Next Sunday people in the United States celebrate Independence Day, the time the little colony of the thirteen states threw off the English yoke of domination and established a new country. It is the time that we remember those forefathers who were brave enough to take a stand and risk war to say ‘We want to be free’. They established the freedom of the soon-to-be United States to govern themselves without external interference. To be able to make their own mistakes and move forward.

Freedom is a very precious thing. And I would say that there is no human being on earth that doesn’t want freedom. And our forefathers fought long and hard for us to have the freedoms we have today. We have the freedom to vote for our favorite candidate, care or not care for the people who live in the United States, and even the freedom to make mistakes and be unkind to others. All these things come with the freedom to live in the United States.

But there is another kind of freedom that is even more important than the ones we celebrate on the Fourth of July.

Today’s scripture is a relatively short one (only three sentences), where Paul reassures us that we are set free by Jesus, saying:

Christ has set us free to live a free life. So take your stand! Never again let anyone put a harness of slavery on you. (Galatians 5:1)

We are no longer shackled with “must do’s” and “should do’s” and “can’t do’s” of the Old Testament laws. This means freedom from the law and freedom from anything and everything that might limit someone’s following of Christ. But this freedom came at a high price from Jesus, through his death and resurrection. Just like soldier who pay the ultimate sacrifice, so did Jesus so that we would have freedom to never be enslaved by religious rules, or other’s definition of who we can be or what we can do. We are free to be ourselves.

But it’s an interesting kind of freedom: a freedom that is not just, “Okay we can do anything we please,” because we have been forgiven through the grace of God. It is not a license to do whatever we want, regardless of what the impact of those actions may have on other people. It is freedom to act according to Jesus’ teachings:

  • We are to love our neighbor as ourselves.
  • We are to help our neighbor.
  • We are to take care of the ‘least of these’.
  • We are to love our enemies as much as we love our friends and family.
  • We are to forgive others who may have harmed us
  • We are to forgive ourselves when we make mistakes.

We all know that we sometimes stumble and fall, but we need to remember that God is patient. We are human beings, and will make mistakes – but we are assured by the grace of God that we are forgiven. Nothing will be taken away from us because we do something that isn’t quite right. We still have God’s love and the reassurance

that we are loved,

that we have eternal life.

This freedom and grace is given to us, we don’t have to earn it. If we had to earn it, we would never make it. It is a gift from God. And we need to cherish it, and try to live up to Jesus’ example.

This freedom is granted with no strings attached. But if you remember, Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. said:

‘No one is free until everyone is free’.

So it is our duty,

our responsibility,

our privilege

to take the freedom that we have been given and strive to ensure that everyone else has that same freedom,

freedom to be who they are

freedom to be what they are

freedom to live as they wish

freedom to love who they wish

Let us pray:

God of freedom and grace, please give me your Spirit of wisdom to understand more fully all the ways that you have blessed me. Please help me use those blessings to share your grace with my family, friends, and enemies. May I never take for granted your gifts or abuse my freedoms won at such great cost. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.


Delivered at In The Garden, Trinity Episcopal Church on Capitol Square, Columbus, OH; 26 June 2016


The Diaconate: A Call to Leadership

diaconal crossWhen one looks at the clergy structure of the Episcopal Church, it appears that there is an inherent chain of command: bishop >> presbyter >> deacon. This could give the perception that Vocational Deacons are ‘ecclesiastical followers’, who carry out the instructions of the clergy ‘above them’. In reality, however, Vocational Deacons can be and must be leaders. They lead within their congregations, within the communities they live and serve, and they lead in representing the laity to the other clergy.

According to the Episcopal diaconate ordination vows,

    You are to make Christ and his redemptive love known, by your word and example, to those among whom you live, and work, and worship. You are to interpret to the Church the needs, concerns, and hopes of the world.

    At all times, your life and teaching are to show Christ’s people that in serving the helpless they are serving Christ himself [1]

This part of the diaconal vows comes first; deacons are to go out into the world, ministering to all they meet.

Letting deacons find their own ministry, based on their own interests and inclinations, helps to create successful leaders. They go out into the world as disciples of Jesus where they can do the most good. They are less constrained by parish politics; they can be imaginative and energized people who inspire and motivate, based on vision and call.

A good leader concentrates on people and solving the issues and problems of the day. Their passion drives them to the forefront of an issue or project, and the strength of their conviction continually encourages others to take up the cause. A leader has a purpose that goes beyond the present, and pushes for a better future. Strong leadership springs from a caring and concern for other people and a clear vision of better solutions.

By nature of the diaconate ordination, deacons tend to ‘think out of the box’; they function in the community at large, where there may be no distinct lines of standard behavior or function. They have a vision of what the future can be, and they work diligently, both within the church and out in the world, to move toward that vision. Deacons read the Scriptures, pray, study, worship, and maintain fellowship with others[2] to help provide guidance and awareness as they pursue a project or goal. These are all attributes of a committed leader.

Deacons also assist in liturgy and other functions within the local congregation and diocesan-wide. This, too, is a part of their vows. Deacons may be counselors, mediators, and often walk through the end of life with parishioners with whom they have established a relationship.

But, ultimately, if left to answer the call from God and fully live out their intricate role in the church, a deacon must provide valuable leadership, not only to the church, but also to the world about them.
[1] Book of Common Prayer, page 543
[2] Ordination vow:As a deacon in the Church, you are to study the Holy Scriptures, to seek nourishment from them and to model your life upon them
Connections, Diocese of Southern Ohio, June 2016