Tag Archives: faith

You are my beloved

In baptism, God says: ‘Remember who you are. Remember what you’re here for. So, let’s go!’ –Rev. Andrew K. Barnett

This sermon by The Rev. Andrew K. Barnett of Washington National Cathedral stuck a chord with me. Probably because of me going through a similar experience with the death of my mother a little over a year ago. But also because what he says about God’s call to us in baptism speaks to my soul.

When we are naked and alone, newborn or on a deathbed, or anything in between with nothing but the body God gave us, we are still and especially a creature of God. Built for loving. Equipped for serving. Called to return to wholeness. That is who we are. –Rev. Andrew K. Barnett

At the very core of who we are, we are creatures of God, beautifully and wonderfully created in God’s image. In the waters of baptism, God’s covenant with us is sacramentally made known to us. We are bonded in an unbreakable relationship with God. And that is a beautiful thing to periodically remind ourselves of.

We are God’s beloved. Thanks be to God!

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Great is thy faithfulness

Great is thy faithfulness, O God my father,
There is no shadow of turning with thee.
Thou changest not, thy compassions they fail not,
as thou hast been thou for ever wilt be.

Refrain:
Great is thy faithfulness, Great is thy faithfulness
morning by morning new mercies I see
All I have needed thy hand hath provided
Great is thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me.

Summer and winter and springtime and harvest
sun, moon and stars in their courses above,
join with all nature in manifold witness
to thy great faithfulness mercy and love.

Refrain

Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth
thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide.
Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,
blessings abide with ten thousand beside.

Refrain

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In Memoriam: Marcus Borg

It was back in 2008 that I discovered a book that would forever restore my faith in God: Marcus Borg’s The Heart of Christianity: Rediscovering a Life of Faith. I had recently made a rediscovery of my own: church. I had been absent from church for many, many years. I had most recently been in attendance at an evangelical mega church, which I stopped attending when I moved out of my parents’ house. The experiences at that church had left a bad taste in my mouth for organized religion (though, surprisingly, the people at that church reject the term “religion” and any sort of organization, even though it is all the same thing).

I had rediscovered church via my neighborhood Episcopal Church. The new rector (priest in charge) of the church had distributed friendly welcome letters to the neighbors, inviting all who sought a deeper relationship with God to join them for worship in a beautiful historic jewel of a chapel with a magnificent pipe organ and a diverse congregation that welcomed all seekers. It sounded perfect. My life has changed for the better since I walked in to that church.

Soon after I began attending the Episcopal Church, my visits to the local book store started to focus more on the Religion & Spirituality section. I remember finding Marcus Borg’s book, The Heart of Christianity, on one of the feature tables. The subtitle (Rediscovering a Life of Faith) stood out to me. I knew nothing of Marcus Borg, but thought I’d give the book a try.

I am forever grateful for the words Marcus wrote in this book. In the book, Marcus makes it quite clear that you can, indeed, be Christian and not believe in many of the things that made me doubt my faith for years. Things like biblical infallibility, and homosexuality as a sin, and not including women in the ministry. Those things just scratched the surface of so many things that made me lose my faith in God. I didn’t want to claim a faith that taught it laid claim to the ultimate truth, and that one had to believe those things in order to be in right relationship with God and to be a true Christian.

In thumbing through my cherished copy of his book, there is one statement that I underlined and noted on the inside cover as particularly meaningful to me. A statement straight from Marcus’s heart. On page 149, Marcus says:

Though of course I would like you to agree with me, I am less concerned with soliciting agreement than I am with provoking thoughtfulness about the way our life together is, and could be, structured.

I think this one sentence really sums up how Marcus Borg did theology. He did theology in a heartfelt, meaningful, genuine way that was concerned more with the dialogue and the questions and the seeking than with answers and certainty and agreement.

It is my hope that the legacy and spirit of Marcus Borg lives on forever in the lives of those of us whom his writings touch. I, for one, will always be grateful to Borg’s witness to his walk with God, and his unabashedly honest understanding of faith, which was never a certainty, and always a journey. Too many conservative Christians have dismissed Borg because of his radical honesty in living out his faith, his rejection of orthodox theology, and his embrace of doubt as an essential part of a healthy faith.

For my and for others’ benefit, I wanted to share a few other meaningful excerpts from The Heart of Christianity that stood out to me, and that I think show just where Marcus’s heart was. I hope that his understanding of God in these words speaks to you like it did to me.

And if [your vision of Christianity] works for you–if it hasn’t become an obstacle and if it genuinely nourishes your life with God and produces growth and compassion within you—there’s no reason for you to change. Being Christian isn’t about getting our beliefs (or our paradigm) “right.” –p. 18

When [the literal versus metaphorical] debate breaks out in my classroom, I say to my students, “Believe whatever you want about whether it happened this way; now let’s talk about what the story means.” The statement applies to the Genesis stories of creation, the gospel birth stories, and the stories of the Bible generally: a preoccupation with facts can obscure the metaphorical meanings and the truth of the stories as metaphor. –p. 54

The Christian life is not about believing or doing what we need to believe or do so that we can saved. Rather, it’s about seeing what is already true—that God loves us already—and then beginning to live in this relationship. It is about becoming conscious of and intentional about a deepening relationship with God. –p. 77

When the Christian path is seen as utterly unique, it is suspect. But when Jesus is seen as the incarnation of a path universally spoken about elsewhere, the path we see in him has great credibility. –p. 119

Marcus Borg, thank you for your honest and radical witness to faith in Jesus Christ. Your witness to honest faith saved my faith in God, and showed me that one’s faith is enriched with doubt and uncertainty. Thank you for your bold words that others shunned, and for your showing me that God and ultimate truth cannot be placed inside of any one religion or definition. Your legacy will live on forever in those of us whose lives you touched and whose faith you helped form. May light perpetual shine upon you.

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Lord, for ever at thy side

Lord, for ever at thy side
let my place and portion be,
strip me of the robe of pride,
clothe me with humility.

When I come before thy Word,
quiet my anxiety;
teach me thou alone art Lord,
let my heart find rest in thee.

What thy Spirit doth reveal,
that may I in faith receive;
though my doubts I sorely feel,
thy sure promise I believe.

Israel, now and evermore
in the Lord Almighty trust;
him, in all his ways, adore,
wise and wonderful and just.

Words: Stanzas 1 & 4 – James Montgomery, 1819; stanzas 2 & 3, Charles P. Price (b. 1920)
Music: SONG 13, melody and bass Orlando Gibbons (1583-1625)

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St. Mary Magdelene

Mary of Magdala near Capernaum was one of several women who followed Jesus and ministered to him in Galilee. The Gospel according to Luke records that Jesus “went on through cities and villages, preaching and bringing the goods news of the kingdom of God. And the Twelve were with him, and also some women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out … ” (Luke 8:1-2). The Gospels tell us that Mary was healed by Jesus, followed him, and was one of those who stood near his cross at Calvary.

It is clear that Mary Magdelene’s life was radically changed by Jesus’s healing. Her ministry of service and steadfast companionship, even as a witness to the crucifixion, has, through the centuries, been an example of the faithful ministry of women to Christ. All four Gospels name Mary as one of the women who went to the tomb to mourn and care for Jesus’s body. Her weeping for the loss of her Lord strikes a common chord with the grief of all others over the death of loved ones. Jesus’s tender response to her grief—meeting her in the garden, revealing himself to her by calling her name—makes her the first witness to the risen Lord. She is given the command, “Go to my brethren and say to them, I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God” (John 20:17). As the first messenger of the resurrection, she tells the disciples, “I have seen the Lord” (John 20:18).

In the tradition of the Eastern Church, Mary is regarded as the equal of an apostle; and she is held in veneration as the patron saint of the great cluster of monasteries on Mount Athos.

Almighty God, whose blessed Son restored Mary Magdalene to health of body and of mind, and called her to be a witness of his resurrection: Mercifully grant that by your grace we may be healed from all our infirmities and know you in the power of his unending life; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

–Excerpted from Holy Women, Holy Men: Celebrating the Saints, copyright 2010 by the Church Pension Fund.

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Oklahoma City National Memorial – Reflection

This past Friday, I was privileged to visit the Oklahoma City National Memorial with a group of around 200 Episcopalians from across the country. The visit to the memorial was part of the concluding events of the 3-day Reclaiming the Gospel of Peace conference I had been attending (my reflection on the conference here). The visit was poignant and bone-chilling. To stand in the very spot thought to be where the bomb went off. To walk through the field of empty chairs. To imagine the pain those people felt while they were trapped in the crumbling building. To watch birds clean themselves in the pool of water along what used to be Fifth Street, along what used to be a street covered in ash and blood. This is sacred ground.

On this sacred ground, the City of Oklahoma has done a beautiful job of memorializing those people whose lives were lost, and in making the act of violence that caused so many deaths something that will never be forgotten. We cannot forget the lengths that people will go to in the name of evil. And while we cannot forget, we must remind ourselves that love always wins. The water in the pool in the center of the memorial along what used to be Fifth Street is in fact a symbol of life…I couldn’t help but think of the waters of baptism in that pool.

One of the most beautiful stories I heard while visiting the memorial was the story of the Dutch Elm tree that still stands to this day in the lot next to where the bomb went off. A 100-year-old tree, when it was planted, the surrounding neighborhood was residential. The tree survived to the day of the bombing, where it stood in a gravel parking lot directly next to the spot where the bomb exploded. After the bomb went off, the tree was surrounded by twisted, burning cars. In the aftermath, the tree suffered fire damage and was thought to be dead. They were planning to cut down the tree. But by the time they got around to cut it down, they noticed something…there were signs of new life. Instead of cutting it down, they decided to let it grow. To this day, it continues to stand, over 100 years old. What is even more amazing is that most Dutch Elm trees in North America have been killed out by Dutch Elm disease. This particular tree is a monument to life, resiliency, and to peace.

I am forever changed from the conversations and experiences I had in Oklahoma City. I pray that my life may forever be a conduit for sharing God’s love in the world, and that wherever I encounter violence or hatred that God work through me to shine light into the darkest places of people’s hearts.

Almighty and everliving God, in your tender love for the human race you sent your Son our Savior Jesus Christ to take upon him our nature, and to suffer death upon the cross, giving us the example of his great humility: Mercifully grant that we may walk in the way of his suffering, and also share in his resurrection; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
–Collect for Palm Sunday

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Lenten Reflection – Day 29

My faith looks up to thee,
thou Lamb of Calvary,
Savior divine!
Now hear me while I pray;
take all my guilt away;
O let me from this day
be wholly thine!

May thy rich grace impart
strength to my fainting heart,
my zeal inspire;
as thou hast died for me,
O may my love to thee
pure, warm, and changeless be,
a living fire!

While life’s dark maze I tread
and griefs around me spread,
be thou my guide;
bid darkness turn to day;
wipe sorrow’s tears away;
nor let me ever stray
from thee aside.

When ends life’s transient dream,
when death’s cold, sullen stream
shall o’er me roll;
blest Savior, then, in love,
fear and distrust remove;
O bear me safe above,
a ransomed soul!

–Words: Ray Palmer (1808-1887)
–Music: OLIVET, by Lowell Manson (1792-1872)

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