Saturday, January 24, 2015

Gotta Play by the Rules

We have heard a lot this past week about deflated footballs as we near the big game, the Super Bowl.  Regardless of opinion to the culpability or even the consequences of alleged cheating,  rules are rules.  If your going to play, you accept the rules.  If your going to be a Christian, you also accept the rules.  Football will bring millions of dollars to some, Christianity will bring eternal life to all who commit.  Like the call to the disciples in the gospel,  we too have been called. The question is have we truly answered our call?  Have we committed to play by the rules?  The rules given to us by no less than Jesus Christ himself?  The rules to love and care for each and every one as neighbor? Of course we have not. All is not lost though as Jesus knew we would fail from time to time. As in the gospel. We are constantly called to repent and to recommit…commit to following His gospel.  Following it means living it to the best of our ability.

I had the privilege to visit our middle school kids from our two parishes this past Wednesday.  They have been learning about evangelization.  For most of them as it is even to me the word itself is a mouthful. The root goes back to the ancient Greek meaning to bring the good news. Even the word angel, in the word evANGELlization is the one who brings the message itself. And as we know angels are God’s messengers.  So evangelization in a Christian sense is to bring the good news of Jesus Christ. The “Good News” is proclaimed each and every time we live His teaching. The gospel is lived when we commit to living our calling. And we must live our calling while we are here on this earth.

Paul was warning the people of Corinth that life on earth has limits.  We are all going to die so why not at least live this limited time in the vocation one has chosen….  He was inviting people to Christ and also challenging those who claimed to be following Christ that the time to follow was now. BTW, he is not saying that married life is somehow less God-pleasing than unmarried life; he is challenged those who are married to live their married life as we all are to live our lives; in total union with Christ!  Remember where he was, Corinth and he saw lots of debauchery and since most folks were partnered up, at times looking like marriage, and at other times living in total sin, he was only calling them back to what Christ had already said about marriage.  An inseparable union. Committed first to Christ and through Christ then to the other, our universal calling that is modeled in much of the union of husband and wife. A union with the Lord that is lived each and every day, and here on earth now.

This week we are reminded of the importance of human life, especially the lives of the unborn. We can gather together once a year to proclaim our commitment to life, or we can actually commit to life each and every day as the kingdom of heaven has already begun and is to be lived  each and everyday. Those are the rules of being a Christian. Not to try to change the rules but a total and not-too-easy commitment to following them. The kingdom begins with the cross on earth and we all share in the cross. But the cross also leads to new life through mercy, and conversion of heart.

Like Peter, Andrew, James, the Marys, Martha and all the women and men who committed to following Jesus' call; as baptized Christians we have all been called to live the gospel.  That means we accept Jesus teachings as He has taught us himself.   Even the most celebrated saint and evangelist also had to repent and begin again.  They too had to be reminded that to follow Christ, one has to play by his rules.  Can we?

Sunday, January 4, 2015

What Light do I Follow?

Guide us to the perfect light, we sing in the traditional Epiphany song, “We Three Kings” A little story of me being led to a not-so-perfect light due to my own pride….A few months ago I was driving in the dark through rural Wisconsin looking for the entrance to the interstate that would lead me back to Milwaukee.  My GPS said to turn R at the light about 700ft.  There were two lights just a block apart and while the GPS said to turn right I thought is must be wrong as my visual calculation seemed to point me to the second light.  Well’’ long story short after tuning right at the second light I found myself out in the country nowhere any entrance to the interstate.  Luckily I just turned back and took the route that the GPS was suggesting.  Now I do not say GPS technology does not have some mistakes, but this science has been tested and proven to be for the most part accurate.  However rather than trust in something true, I decided to make my own personal decision based on a personal opinion rather than a fact.  I followed the wrong light,  but the light that true and tested technology first led me to via that GPS was the correct route.

Celebrating the Feast of the Epiphany, the showing forth of God’s glory manifested in Christ through the light that came from the east via a star, is a concrete reminder to us that Christ is now the true light, as we say in our creed each week, that wishes to lead us in the right path towards our eternal home. And this true light has illuminated us so to know His teachings and especially to lead us to His truth when our own personal opinions, or feelings want to lead us elsewhere.  There are conflicting and even competing “lights” out there tempting us to follow erroneous and false paths. Most of the time it is due to us following feelings rather than truth, fiction over fact.  And for a people of faith who are called to make moral choices and act upon them, moral relativism can create false lights that can mislead us way from Christ and his teaching.

This is unfortunately true in our respect for human life, from conception to natural death. Our church does have some objective truths, and even today can be supported by good science as to when life begins.  It begins at conception.  After conception a new person has been created with her or his unique possibilities. Again this is science, the same science that taught us; and even us as a church that the earth is not flat, nor 6K years old.  Confusing facts  with opinions based on emotions or fear, I call them the false “lights” can still be found in our world today.  To many people want to use fear and fallacies to validate their own fears.  In a recent discussion about the senseless murder of two policemen, as well as the racial discord we have seen by some, I heard someone say that people of a certain race were prone to crime due to their race.  This is absolutely false.  There are other and scientifically proven factors that cause crime; poverty, abandonment by fathers, lack of proper nutrition and quality education during the formative years, despair that lead to drugs, which in turn lead to crime.  Being born to one race or another does not ensure a genetic trait of criminality, or lack of the ability to know the difference between right and wrong. Again, good science debunks the many deceptive “lights” out there that lead many into fear.   But the light of Christ articulated through our shared faith can lead us out of darkness into the place where we need to be.  Not afraid to confront our fears, but to tirelessly work to end them.

So as we venture into this new year may we allow ourselves to follow the true light, given to us through the true faith, that we worship in the undivided and life-creating Trinity week after week. Christ is that light,  May we learn from him and allow his truth to lead us in all that we say and do, to guide us all to that “perfect light.”