Everyone but Jesus is Insane…

When I was a kid I don’t hink I ever could have imagined the world that has been given to me now that I am in my middle 40’s.

Just today there was a picture of two men holding hands on the front page of the St. Paul Pioneer Press with the usual gushing comments on the annual Gay Pride Parade. Further along in the paper there were the usual bits of rage and darkness and exploitation and fluff. In my weaker moments I can see why some folks are all worked up about the end of the world. It has been the end of the world I expected for some time now.

And just when you think it can’t get any lower someone take’s out a shovel and begins to dig. Why is Paris Hilton a celebrity and why is it important that I watch her every move on TV?
And I think that if I see one more ad for a medicine to cure erectile dysfunction I’ll vomit.

Some mornings I wake up and think that aliens have come and stolen by body and placed me in a weird world where nothing makes sense as some sort of sick experiment. Other times I pray that this is all a dream and I wake up back in Wausau and I’m still 12 years old. I’d almost be willing to redo adolescence just for that to be true.

But sadly none of it is. I’m here, this is real, and there’s no way to go around it, above it, or below it; only through it. And because of this I have come to the conclusion that on some level the world is insane and always has been and it seems worse now because the insanity has 24 hour television networks and PR guys, and marketing folks, and a desire to out its every nuance into everyone’s face all the time.

And I grown more convinced that Jesus was the only sane person who ever lived, the only one who could see through the BS, read between the lines, get the big picture, and not be touched by it all except once and then only because it was necessary to bring the whole thing crashing to the ground for the sake of love.

If I’m going to be even anywhere near sane I’m going to need to find a way to hold tight, stick close, become like, and hang around Christ. Period. End of sentence. Otherwise its just a matter of going from hell to hell and that’s a fate worse than death.

Bad news, time is on our side…

Time is on our side and that’s bad news in the sexual revolution.

Its not hard to surmise that we live in a culture where any urge becomes a need and then a civil right and an obligation on society to accomodate and promote the fulfilling of it. Perhaps no place has this mentality taken hold in a greater way then sexuality.

In some places the “shock troops” of this mentality have been the crusaders for gay marriage which isn’t about marriage at all but rather about the state intervening in the greater culture and making the sexuality that drives it the legal equivalent of all others with the potential for sanctioning in law those who in conscience disagree. But its bigger than that.

Nothing of gay marriage could have any kind of momentum at all if the larger culture had not already come to the conclusion that sexuality is a consumer product, a “thing” that as long as it involves another or more who consent is a thing like anything else. One can pick and choose among the sexualities one has a right to and under the guise of privacy the larger culture and especially those who may disagree with one’s choices have no right to interfere.

But the reality is that sexuality is more than a consumer choice, and act in a moment between people who agree to participate. Sexuality has repercussion for the greater whole and we are slowly beginning to face them.

Disease related to sexuality are skyrocketing. Relationships are collapsing. Families are dislocated. Hearts are broken. People are dying. All facts still under the media’s radar screen but soon too large even for the proponents of this new order to ignore.

Some day people will embrace a traditional Christian sexual morality not because they want to but because they have to or they will get sick and die. While some may shout “Yes!” that’s actually a sad thing because it will be a matter of desperation and not choice, an embrace built of pain and not love.

Along the way to that time there will be more pain, more suffering, more dislocation, more thinking that we exist above the laws of nature with the resulting death. No Christian should have joy in that, especially those of us who have been rescued from our own selves and know these things in a way the innocent (thank God) will never have to face.

In this all we discover that we don’t wrestle against flesh and blood, as the Apostle Paul says, but against the greater forces, the demonic ones, that trap people in an endless cycle of searching for a pleasure that never comes and robs its victims not only of their bodies but their souls as well.

Until sanity returns that is where we must stand and fight.

On the death of Zarqawi…

I have to say that when the news of the bombs falling on Zarqawi and his spiritual advisor and companions hits the news part of me immediately said “Alllllllright, couldn’t have happened to a more deserving guy!”

I’m a product of my culture and he and his compatriots represented evil acts of a kind that civilization simply can’t tolerate (It has been reported that he took more than five minutes to sever one victim’s head). It is true that his being gone will probably make the world a better place.

But then my second thought came, a kind of sorrow over the human condition in general that from among us such a person would spring and also the sense of what awaits him in the eternity to come.

Barring some kind of last minute transformation our Christian world view says that a perpetuity of time in complete brokenness from God awaits the unrepentant. We call it “hell” and the picture images of the Scriptures and Tradition paint a very bleak picture of it. It is not my task to assign final destinies but if such is the state of Zarqawi there is the double pain of betrayal by his belief and facing the consequences of that betrayal. Surely this would be a profoundly horrible thing.

So while his passing into death sadly makes a positive difference inthe world I still mourn, not him, not his terrible acts, but the deep broken state of a world that could produce, and still produces, such people. I pray to God, as well, that I never become such a man myself.

Posted on 6/06/06…

So today is 6/06/06, you know the day of the 666 of legend and lore and the book of Revelation and all that.

I grew up with the people who invented that most tiresome of heresies “dispensationalism” and although there were, and are, many admirable qualities of the Plymouth Brethren that was not one of them.

Utterly unhinged from anything like the historic faith of the Church “dispensationalism” has been the bane of modern Evangelical Protestant life, its proponents doing more damage to the life and faith of Christians than any secular conspiracy could have ever accomplished.

Some of it is bizarre like the obsession with 666 and the identity of the “beast” the “anti-christ” mentioned in a single verse of Revelation. Who is he? What is he? The theories abound and ranged from the reasonable, like Adolph Hitler, to the absolutely wierd like Ronald Wilson Reagan (notice the six letters in each of his names?).

But the worst damage is this.By getting Christians to focus so intently on eschatology (the study of the end of history) they fail to take care of the here and now and miss innumberable opportunities to make the world better and minister to humanity in the name of Christ. Suffering in the world? Hooray it must be the time of tribulations before the “rapture”! Stewardship of the earth? Who cares it’s all gonna burn anyway. The needs of souls? Not important because I’m going to hunker down and keep what I have for me and mine and you’re on your own. Besides come the “rapture” I’m out of here.

Dispensationalism doesn’t edify Christians, it panics them. It doesn’t make them mature but rather focuses them on endless speculations while they ignore the very real things outside their own front door. It makes Christians fearful of what should be the most glorious time of the world, the return of Christ, and worst of all it divides Christians from each other through quarrels started about things that even the Apostles did not know.

On this 6/06/06 day it needs to be restated loudly and clearly that the book of Revelation is about hope and triumph and the Lordship of Christ even in the darkest of times. It starts with admonitions to faithfulness and ends with the vision of the glorious city, the way the world will one day be when evil is vanquished and God once again dwells, like in Eden, with His people. As terrible as the beast or the antichrist or whatever or whoever he or it may be it will not stand in the light of the glory of the One who sits on the throne and in the end is as meaningless as the hysteria about this date and that number.

Recovering hypocrites…

A lot of cranky people say “The church is full of hypocrites…”

Mostly they’re just being juvenile but there is a kind of truth in what they say.

All Christians are hypocrites, that is we fall short in our real lives of the ideals we believe and express in our faith. The question is what we are doing about it.

In a certain way the journey of faith is a journey from hypocrisy to genuineness, that is we are always seeking to become the kind of people whose faith and life are in agreement.

So if you ask me “Are you a hypocrite?” my honest answer needs to be “Yes”. But the difference is that I should be a recovering hypocrite, that is I see my life as sometimes very far away from my faith and ideals but I’m doing what I can, God giving me the strength, to change that.

There’s a word for that in Orthodoxy. Repentance. Not just a one time thing but a continual way of life where we are challenged to move from brokenness to health, from the hypocritical to the genuine, from death to life.

If you understand that we can gather next Sunday at the Recovering Hypocrites meeting. In Orthodoxy we call it the Divine Liturgy and you can check in the Yellow Pages for time and place.

Give me gas in my Ford…

When I was young there was a song with words that went…

Give me oil in my lamp keep me burning, burning, burning,
Give me oil in my lamp I pray.

One of the funny verses we made up was…

Give me gas in my Ford as I travel for the Lord…

One week, three states, over 1100 miles.

I get it.

A Shared Vision of Sexuality…

An interesting post from the “Butally Honest” blog.

These are quotes from the Dalai Lama, arguably the most public presence of Buddhism in the world, regarding sexuality and they are
in remarkable agreement with traditional Christianity on these

There is a deep wisdom in what we claim about sexuality, a wisdom that we share with virtually all faith traditions, a wisdom rooted deeply in the human conciousness. Forms may differ but the basic concept is the same and it suggests something primeval, something pre-religious or prehistorical about our wisdom. That Muslims and Buddhists and Jews and Christians and Animists who differ on so many things agree on the sacred nature and normativity of heterosexual marriage speaks to this primal sensibility.

This is why we can approach these issues with pastoral care and confidence. We have no need to be afraid either of what we believe or those who would differ from us. Time, and the wisdom of humanity over the ages expressed in the precepts of faith, is on our side.

In Memoriam Fr. John Khoury

In a few days people from all over the country will gather at St. George Church in West St. Paul to say goodbye to the Very Rev. John Khoury.

His passing was a shock to us, although we knew his health was sometimes frail, and a double blow to his family and friends who had walked through the passing of his daughter just over two months ago.

It is the lot of Priests to work in obscurity, unless of course something goes wrong. So television will not cover the funeral and only an obituary will mark his life for the public. It is the way of things when a life is given to service. Had he been a mediocre movie star things would have been different but he was a great Priest and he, and we, understand this when we circle the altar.

Yet the parking lot of the church will certainly overflow on to the street for some blocks and the pages of the guest book will burst with names. People will arrive from all over the country and Bishops will preside. Arrive early to the service or you will have to walk a ways and then find yourself unable to sit within the nave.

You see, the true monuments of a faithful Priest are not structures but people. True enough Priests do help parishes build buildings but that is an ongoing thing, one Priest after another because Orthodox buildings are never completed. People are where the heart and soul of a Priest resides, their souls, their welfare, their hopes, their dreams, their moments of tragedy, their times of joy, and we build our lives in to and around them. Sometimes they hate us for it but more often they tolerate it only to see at some future time how precious the gift given was to them.

That is why there will be people at the funeral of Fr. John Khoury. People with stories. People with tears. People who are different now because somehow he touched their lives. Decades of his life poured into others and only now that he is gone do people see the full extent of the gift that was given, a gift made more precious by its new scarcity at his death.

One can only imagine what it must be like for this man who had given his aspirations and work for the cause of Christ to see Him in all His reality, His presence, and His glory. How quickly the thought of this transcends language! To hear our Lord’s “Well done..” and to know that all that vexed and harrassed is now passed never to return again. It tempers our pain and allows us to rejoice through the tears.

And now we, the people who in ways large or small have been blessed by Fr. John, are left behind for a little while with the memory of this Priest blessing us still after his passing. For the sake of it we are called to prayer for his family and for him as well. In a few days vested in the garments of his service and his resuurection we will carry him in procession around the parish one last time and release him, in hope, to the arms of his Redeemer.

Memory eternal Father John, and may angels guide you to your rest!

A Thought for Your Consideration…

A thought for your consideration from Mark Shea

Consider, in a *single year* 1998, the Dept of Justice listed 103,600 cases of sexual abuse in public schools. From 1950 to 2003, there were 10,667 reported cases of clergy sexual abuse. That’s 10 times as much in one year as there were in 53 years in the Church…

Now the article was about special laws directed only to the Catholic Church but it does give one some sense of perspective.There is never a good excuse for clergy sexually abusing the faithful but the bottom line is that your children and loved ones are very much safer from sexual predators in church then they are at school.

Sad, though, that we even have to play this kind of numbers game.

And now to Holy Week…

Holy Week is a few short hours away and the most glorious night of the world awaits.

For a week the hearts of the faithful and even of some of the faithless will be touched by the drama as it unfolds. We will walk in sign and symbol, liturgy and sacrament, with Jesus towards the cross and empty tomb; a global event, a movement of the hearts of people expressed in rituals that cross the centuries expressed in a chorus of human languages. And yet each one who observes this week is touched in their own unique way. The sights, the smells, the words, and the swirl of events express both the way this Jesus has touched the world and the souls of those who encounter him.

Into this sacred intensity the faithful now begin to draw in body and soul, heart and intellect. For a small moment we who can appreciate it see time in some sense suspended and the long ago made present. We are here but not here, there but present in the world we know. In a profound way the upper room, the garden, the betrayal, and the suffering reach out from their place in history and join our brief moments.

In the end there is Pascha, late into the evening, moving towards the dawn. We stand in sacred vigil and share in holy light. All that has come before is part of us now and the future is as well.
Because in the hope of that glorious night we see ourselves one day freed from death and everything becomes different, holy, and new.

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