Friday, April 30, 2010

the luminescent face

After the golden cafe debacle, Moses once again heads down the mountain with the covenant between God and the Israelites.  But something has changed...after such close communion with the Lord, Moses' countenance is one of brilliance and radiance.  He encounters God with an unveiled face and is forever changed.

I firmly believe that this is the archetype for the rending of the curtain in the Temple on the day of our Lord's crucifixion.  The veil which Moses wore to dim radiance of God has been forever torn asunder.  The Temple curtain that separated God from man turned to dust.  The Trinity is known, the Most High is accessible to all peoples, languages, tribes, and nations.  You and I are invited into the Holy of Holies, onto Mount Sinai, and to the Eucharistic table where we meet the risen Lord, and are given his brilliance and radiance.

The veil is no longer, the curtain is gone; God is accessible.  Our countenance can be changed into glory.  What a gift, what a blessing!  Let the light of Christ shine through your face, and remove the veil that has dampened this world's vision of its Creator.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

A little of this, some of that

Luby's Cafeteria is an amazing place.  You can just walk in on any given day and chose from a wide variety of options, making almost any conceivable combination of food that seems appetizing at that particular moment.  "Sure, I'll take some lasagna, fried okra, tortilla soup, cheesecake.  And why don't you throw some jello in, just for good measure!"

Religious life is becoming increasingly similar to Luby's.  You can find all sorts of people nowadays, from Buddhist-Episcopalians to Branch Davidians Muslims (no, seriously).  I sincerely believe that diversity is a good thing because it raises awareness of our global village.  But the goal is to live out our unique religious experiences in harmony with others, not to harmonize our religious experiences with those of others.

Paul reminds the Christians in Thessalonica how they had "turned to God" from their old ways of life.  They made the deliberate and dedicated choice to be Christians in a pluralistic world.  They were Christian-Christians.  They had one thing on their cafeteria trays, the true and living God.  Their meal of life was not a hodge-podge assortment, but the perfect combination of the Eucharistic bread and wine.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Homer's Odyssey - the gospel precursor?

I've just finished reading Richard Lattimore's beautiful English translation of Homer's epic poem, "The Odyssey."  There are some striking similarities between the content of this epic piece and the story at the root of Christianity, the gospels. 

For example, upon Odysseus' return to his homeland of Ithaka he judges between his servants who have tended his property well and those who have forgotten about their master (Parable of the Talents?).  Or, in another case, some men are castigated for not showing hospitality to the poor while others are extolled for this very virtue (the poor man Lazarus?).  It may be truly said that the gospels were rooted in this Greek world, and that some of their virtues and ideas were incorporated into the Christian heritage. 

Yet one idea stands apart from all that the Greeks said and thought.  In both the Illiad and the Odyssey, there is no hope for the dead; the lamentation in Hades is their final destination, not of rest but of anguish.  For Christians, this is not so.  We have a hope that exists through the cross and beyond the grave.  This is where our faith stands in stark contrast to the world Christianity inherited: nothing will separate us from God's radical and uncompromising love.

Monday, April 26, 2010

desperate times, desperate measures

That old adage befits what the Israelites were thinking at the bottom of Mount Sinai.  That band of ex-slaves who had fled Egypt stood at the base of the mountain while their leader ascended the peak to receive the commandments from God.  It must have seemed that Moses was gone for too long, and that their God had forgotten them in the midst of a vast wilderness.  In desperation they created their own god, a golden idol from their own wealth, thinking that this metallic statue could somehow spare their lives.

Yet times are never that desperate.  God did not depart from that mountain or from his people.  God chose to remain with that wandering tribe, personally leading and feeding them along the way to the promised land.  Although that golden calf had monetary value, it was not worth the time it took to cast.

Times are never that desperate, no matter how absent God may seem to be.  Our Lord has not abandoned us to wander in this wilderness of life alone.  Far be it from the Most High!  Rather, our Good Shepherd has chosen to feed us and lead us to the glorious place, the new heaven and the new earth.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

the holy life

Yesterday's Daily Office readings included a portion from I Thessalonians that speaks directly to the title of this blog: "the Holy Life." Paul exhorts the Christians in Thessalonica to love God and their fellow Christians "more and more;" "for this is the will of God, your sanctification."

Sanctification is a vital yet oft-skimmed over doctrine for Christians. Justification is the means by which we are made reconciled with God. This took place once and for all on the cross at Good Friday and at the emptying of the tomb on Easter. But sanctification is the process by which we come to live a holy life with God after Easter.

This is no easy process. It takes a concerted effort to love God and love neighbor. There are hiccups, speedbumps, and blessings along the way. But once you start off on this path of sanctification, life does become more beautiful and holier. The songbird in the morning hours is no longer an unwelcome alarm clock, but yet another small part of God's creation singing praises to the author of life. The stench of the homeless man becomes an incense offering to the Most High.

Sanctification is the means by which we see the world through God's lens. We become holy, even as our Father in heaven is holy.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Turning the page of life

As I write, I have exactly 25 days and 20 hours until I graduate from the Virginia Seminary. I've been going to school since kindergarten, and I plan to celebrate this well-deserved graduation in style.

But as I leave the academic world and this scholarly bubble that I inhabit, I leave the only way of life that I know. Maggie and I are setting off down a road that we have never trod before. We're supposed to go, but where?

"O God, whose Son Jesus is the good shepherd of thy people: Grant that when we hear his voice we may know him who calleth us each by name, and follow where he doth lead; who, with thee and the Holy Spirit, liveth and reignety, one God, for ever and ever. Amen."

When I have no words to describe my trepidation and joy with my new position in life, this handy little thing called the Book of Common Prayer does remarkably well. That voice of the shepherd brought me and Maggie together, it has carried us through this long three years apart, it has enlightened our path to Waco, and I trust that this same voice will never go mute...

Friday, April 2, 2010

Good Friday

We've all heard this question: "Why do bad things happen to good people? Doesn't this necessarily make God either impotent or evil, or both?"

In my experience, the people who ask most often ask these questions are not the ones who suffer the most. The guilt trip of the wealthy and well-educated in our society oozes out of every syllable in these vacuous questions.

And here's the rub: I cannot answer that question with words. Words are too limited, too powerless, to speak to those awful inquiries. My only response can be to pray. Pray on this Good Friday. Remember, Christians call this day of pain, agony, and crucifixion "Good," not "Bad." The pain and suffering that we encounter has been met by God, on the hard wood of the cross, and was answered once and for all at the empty tomb.

Lastly, remember that these questions are not theological questions. They are actually questions about the human condition. These questions assume that God is like us, that God has humanoid characteristics. Yet God is different, "my ways are not your ways, not my thoughts your thoughts." It is important to remember that in asking these questions we are struggling to find a way to justify God's existence in our own image.

How backwards can we be: we are in God's image, and it is on this day that we are justified before God.

D-U-N Done!

My thesis is now completed. "A Loud and Ungrounded Noise: The Antiwar Movement in the Episcopal Church During the Vietnam War." If you want a copy of it (perhaps to help you fall asleep?), please ask.