Tuesday, April 10, 2012

MORE than a possibility.....

The season of Spring reminds us that there is a possibility of NEW LIFE.  We plant seeds in the ground and if they receive enough water, not too much and not too little,  and,  receive proper sunlight, not too much or too little, they will grow into a wonderous bloom of beauty.  The colors and varieties of the springtime gardens remind us that a small seed can take on new life under the right circumstances.

Easter for Christians speaks to more than a possibility of new life.  The Gospel message of new life is a PROMISE!

As we proclaimed the Easter Gospel:  the stone is removed and HE IS RAISED FROM THE DEAD.  The continuation of that reality is a promise of new life to all who are willing to surrender the ego, the addiction, the self-centeredness, the wrong relationship, and walk into the Paschal Candle light of Easter.  We often create our own walls and construct our own tomb out of habit, out of fear.  But the "stone" that keeps us within has been removed once and for all time.  We can leave the tomb, walk out, let the walls crumble at our feet.....painful as it may be.....and accept a new life knowing that we are worthy, deserving and loved.

And the hope of this new life is more than a possibility.  It indeed is a promise!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Lent AGAIN??

It is that time of year, LENT, and the call to movement from within.  The liturgical year puts a focus on the "Jesus journey" as one colored by suffering, passion, death.  And yet we know that the end is new life.

A religious speaker once said that our lives can be seen as movement from: 

Bondage
to
Liberation
to
Abundance
to
Complacency
to
Bondage

We see it in the life of Israel and the Hebrew nation throughout it's Old Testament journey.  We can see it in our own lives:  that new job that isn't "new" anymore; that relationship that has fallen into a routine complacency, etc. 

To move between liberation and abundance and NOT slip back into bondage is the work of prayer and of community or church.  To keep the spirit of liberation alive is to say YES to today, to take that risk of moving into the unknown and the uncomfortable.  To journey through Lent in prayer, fasting, almsgiving is a walk in the footsteps of Jesus of Nazereth - with hope and a vision of new life.  Why suffering and why death?  Because there is no resurrection without it!

May this Lent be a time to break the bonds that hold us back from truly being free.  May it be the time to renew an appreciation of the abundance we have rather than a focus on what we don't have.  May it be a journey into a more complete expression of who we are as a divine creation.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Planned Giving

As the new year begins and the preparation for our tax filings also begin, our  minds turn towards the reality of money in  our personal lives.

We have seen more churches disappear from the spiritual map last year and we have cause to ask, "Will my church be next?"  The answer depends on each individual congregation and each individual in that congregation.  It has been said, "If you want to know where your priorities are, just review your checkbook!"  How true it is.  Do we spend more on cable TV and internet service than we do on our church?  We will spend our money in areas that we decide are most important to us.  It is the human thing to do.

In the present economy, our priorities become even more visible and we are cautious on where we choose to release our personal funds.  PLANNED GIVING is an easy way to determine the value we place on the church we love.  It is simple.....we review our income and determine an ANNUAL DOLLAR AMOUNT that we believe represents the place our church has in our lives.  Then we divide that by 12 months and send that amount to our church on a regular basis.  Some may attend church once a month, others every week.  The annual or monthly donation remains the same.  It is planned, consistent and regular, as any other important living or household expenditure.

If you believe in the ministries of Good Shepherd Church, if you are nourished by our liturgy,  if you enjoy the preaching by our clergy, if you have connected on Facebook, please consider a PLAN to give so that the arms of the Good Shepherd can continue to "gather all safely home."

Sunday, January 8, 2012

SOME ASSEMBLY REQUIRED

How many times have we heard, or even said, "I don't need to go to church; I can pray at home."

Of course you can.  Prayer is prayer anywhere.  What is the value of church then? 

The Christmas season celebrates LIGHT in the experience of the Christ, the "light to the nations."  As we begin the year 2012, many of us may feel "dark", burdened, overly challenged, in a rut, watching friends suffer physically, emotionally, financially.  These are not easy times.  So, where is the light??

As social beings we are interdependent upon each other to "lighten" and enlighten our life.  To experience the light of hope, of strength to endure, of confidence to proceed, and the light that helps us SEE beyond the material and mundane to a reality of the sacred....this light comes to us from others!  The group experience of prayer, the fellowship of acceptance and the community of faith that strengthens us is the gift of a prayerful church.

We have probably opened gifts this Christmas.  And we are grateful for those who have thought of us and gifted us.  The greatest gift of all is one that allows or calls us to be our best. 

Church itself is a wonderful gift of the Spirit......but SOME ASSEMBLY IS REQUIRED!

Friday, December 23, 2011

A GOD-MAN IS BORN

Christmas is time for simple recognitions:  family, friends, giving and receiving cards, meals, renewing friendships and enjoying chidren enjoying themselves.  Amidst the simple experiences is a deeper and sacred reality:  Humanity and Divinity are joined and we can never be the same again!

I think that if pushed, most Christians would ultimately say that Jesus was really more God than man.  However, the person of Jesus is truly as much man as he is God and vice versa.  This co-equality leads us to a place of mystery and reverance for our own nature and the nature of all humankind around us.

Let us not hesitate to rejoice, accept and celebrate the sacred humanity and the secular divinity that we are.  We touch the divine through the human and become more human through the celebration of the divine.  This is the ultimate Christmas gift.....and as we open this gift in our own space and time may we become more and more aware of who we truly are, today and through the New Year.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Dare to hope!!

Hope can be a misunderstood virtue.  A common understanding of  "hope" is a wish for future resolution or a positive conclusion.  We 'hope' to win the lottery, to pass a test, to be employed, to meet the right person, to have a long and satisfying relationship.  So many hopes and expectations are part of our lives each day.  All of these look to a future conclusion or resolution.

SPIRITUAL HOPE is a grace, a gift, that calls us to inner peace WITHOUT the desired resolution.  While we feel the hunger for resolution and experience the resulting emotional discomfort, we are able to live peacefully in the present and look to the future with confidence.   This hope is not a gamble, crossing our fingers and "hoping" for the best outcome.  Rather it is the willingness to rejoice and be glad (Isaiah and Paul) in spite of current disappointments and frustrations. 

Tension within our families and our relationships, disappointment with the economy both nationally and personally, children and grandchildren facing physical and emotional challenges, present us with two options:  bemoan the circumstance and sink into despair OR accept the unresolved present for what it is and continue our journey in true HOPE, accepting the deep inner peace promised to us through Christ Jesus.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

A Priest and a Rabbi walk into a ......................................

Wedding venue.  Yes, a priest and a rabbi walk into a wedding venue.....not to compete, nor to compare, but to celebrate the love and unity of a bride and groom.

I had the honor of celebrating the marriage of an interfaith couple.  The bride was Jewish and the groom was Catholic.  The setting was at the St. Regis in Dana Point overlooking a beautiful golf course and the Pacific Ocean.

As a priest with Good Shepherd Church, we are allowed by our Bishop to celebrate a wedding ceremony not only at the venue of the couple's choosing, but we can also co-officiate with clergy of other denominations.

This unique celebration places the focus on the commonality between Judaism and Catholocism; and the various symbolic rituals of each faith add a wonderful richness to the experience of everyone present.  Symbols of fire (Unity Candle), wine sharing, and even the Benediction all have elements found in both religious expressions. 

Many people are unaware of the common elements of these two faiths.  As Catholics, we KNOW that our roots are founded in Judaism, as Jesus was a Jew desiring reform in order to focus on love over the law.  While we know this and accept it, many times we do not have the opportunity to EXPERIENCE it. 

As a priest, I was able to have that experience myself and watch not only the bride and groom find unity in their love and faith expression, but also to sense their wedding guests find a common ground of love brought to them by a very special couple.  The witness or sign of marital love can truly unite two people, two families and beyond that unite a group of over one hundred guests. 

If this can happen in Dana Point, California, it can happen world wide.  Religion was never meant to disconnect and discriminate but we have seen wars fought throughout the centuries fueled by relgious differences.  All present at this wedding celebration were fueled by the love present.....and we left that experience connected and called to reach out to our brothers and sisters of all walks of life, and of all expressions of faith. 

Thank you ,Tom and Lauren, for your loving example and for sharing your day with Rabbi Stan and myself.