Friday, August 31, 2012

Be Doers of The Word

Walk the Walk

Talk is cheap. To talk the talk is one thing. To walk the walk is entirely something else. The sacrifice of living the life is one built on the notion of compassion and love. Living that way will cost you. It is what Dietrich Bonhoeffer called "The Cost of Discipleship". 

This way of life, while it will cost you, is the way of God. It is the way that leads to eternal life. Such a life is built on our care and concern for the poor and the vulnerable. It is built on truth within and a fearless inventory within ourselves.

There is goodness within. There is also much that needs our attention. Without a constant "weeding" of the soul, things "rank and gross in nature possess it merely". (Hamlet Act 1 Scene II line 136)

A Biblically ordered life is a life that builds itself on an awareness of the kingdom of God within.

These words from this coming Sunday's Letter of James speak volumes. They come at an especially helpful moment. There is lots of talk coming from Tampa. More to come in a few more days from North Carolina. Lets hold these words up to the Truth.

That's the acid test.

Here are the words without comment.

James 1:17-27

Every generous act of giving, with every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. In fulfillment of his own purpose he gave us birth by the word of truth, so that we would become a kind of first fruits of his creatures.
You must understand this, my beloved: let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger; for your anger does not produce God's righteousness. Therefore rid yourselves of all sordidness and rank growth of wickedness, and welcome with meekness the implanted word that has the power to save your souls.
But be doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves. For if any are hearers of the word and not doers, they are like those who look at themselves in a mirror; for they look at themselves and, on going away, immediately forget what they were like. But those who look into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and persevere, being not hearers who forget but doers who act-they will be blessed in their doing.
If any think they are religious, and do not bridle their tongues but deceive their hearts, their religion is worthless. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.

May I live the words.
May we all live the words.
May truth dwell within us.
May we too dare to "care for the orphans and widows in their distress and keep ourselves unstained by the world". There are so many others to care for too! And to keep ourselves unstained in the process! How in the world can we do such a thing without the help of God.

Perhaps we're onto something there.
God help us!

Fr. Paul

Tuesday, August 28, 2012


Found by God

Facebook friends and others frequently ask me questions about God. Yesterday Dave from the Philippines told me that he's been looking for God all his life. And now that he needs God the most, God seems the furthest away. Dave's beloved uncle died and so in his desolation, Dave reached out half way across the globe in search of the Love that surpasses understanding.

I told Dave the following; 

God is much closer to you than you can possibly imagine. God is closer to you than the very next breath you take. Be still before God and allow your spirit to be absolutely still. There will be a very long silence. If you listen closely to your heart and notice your breathing , you will discover that the silence will become a Presence. That Presence will become your Companion for the rest of your life if you wish it to be so. Your Companion is God. Practice God's Presence in the Silence as often as you can and eventually you will notice that Jesus is within you as God's Love is made flesh and blood within your own heart. I suspect you may be looking too hard. God is there in every feeling you have. Remember "Feelings" are God's Angels sent to invite you into growth toward God. Share your questions with me or a Special Companion, a Spiritual Guide or Director...Someone you can trust with your very heart. We call these people our "heart-others", because we can tell them of our hearts and souls and trust ourselves with them

God is to be discovered not in clouds or in the heavens above. God is to be discovered within our own hearts. The deeper we journey within toward the truth of who we are, the deeper will will come to the Truth of who God is.

Remember too that your heart may ache especially in the aftermath of tragedy. There may be a desolation for you. You may feel utterly alone of even bereft. God seems distant as if there were no God. Whatever you feel, God is there within the midst of every feeling that is yours in your loneliness because you are not alone. God is there with you. God is there within you. 

It is as you delve into the Silence and listen that the Presence becomes God for you. 

There are several passages of Scripture that may be helpful. 

"Be still, and know that I am God!" ~Psalm 46:10

The story of Moses at the Burning Bush is the story of a deeply troubled man who had killed an Egyptian soldier. His life wan't worth two cents. It was a matter of time before he would be cut down and return to his ancestors. His people were slaves driven by hard taskmasters.

Then, in his desperate loneliness he came to an amazing sight. It was the famous incident of the Burning Bush. In the pursuing encounter, God reveals that God is the very nature of Being itself, and thus God's Name becomes; "I AM"

Moses at the Burning Bush

Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian; he led his flock beyond the wilderness, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of a bush; he looked, and the bush was blazing, yet it was not consumed. Then Moses said, ‘I must turn aside and look at this great sight, and see why the bush is not burned up.’ When the Lord saw that he had turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, ‘Moses, Moses!’ And he said, ‘Here I am.’ Then he said, ‘Come no closer! Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.’ He said further, ‘I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’ And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.
 Then the Lord said, ‘I have observed the misery of my people who are in Egypt; I have heard their cry on account of their taskmasters. Indeed, I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them from the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey. The cry of the Israelites has now come to me; I have also seen how the Egyptians oppress them. So come, I will send you to Pharaoh to bring my people, the Israelites, out of Egypt.’ But Moses said to God, ‘Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?’ He said, ‘I will be with you; and this shall be the sign for you that it is I who sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall worship God on this mountain.’

The Divine Name Revealed

 But Moses said to God, ‘If I come to the Israelites and say to them, “The God of your ancestors has sent me to you”, and they ask me, “What is his name?” what shall I say to them?’ God said to Moses, ‘I am who I am.’He said further, ‘Thus you shall say to the Israelites, “I am has sent me to you.” ’ God also said to Moses, ‘Thus you shall say to the Israelites, “TheLord, the God of your ancestors, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you”:
This is my name for ever,
and this my title for all generations. 
~Exodus 3

Here again is an amazing story of an Epiphany before God; one is which the "sheer silence" becomes the primary experience of God.

Elijah Meets God at Horeb
 He said, ‘Go out and stand on the mountain before the Lord, for theLord is about to pass by.’ Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but theLord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but theLord was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence.
~1 Kings 19

And then there is this proclamation of Jesus, one in which a place apart becomes instrumental to prayer. Jesus liked to go to quiet and deserted places to pray;

Concerning Prayer

 ‘And whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, so that they may be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward.But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
~Matthew 5

Remember if you are looking for God, the best way to do so is to be found by God! 

At St. Gabriel's, Douglassville, PA, where I currently serve as the interim Priest-in-Charge every business meeting of the congregation begins with a sharing of "Godfinds". These are moments in which the word "God" is more than a three letter word. It is a reality and an experience of Grace that fills our lives. For those attuned to this Reality, the sharing of it becomes essential to life and vitality.

As we move forward to the rediscovery of the "Emerging Church" one of the central functions of such a church will be "finding God", or more exactly "being found by God".

Finally, rest in this assurance; God's love and Blessing are primarily with the poor, the meek, those who mourn and those who are persecuted for the sake of God's Justice.

The Beatitudes

When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying:
 ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
 ‘Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
 ‘Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
 ‘Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
 ‘Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.
 ‘Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
 ‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
 ‘Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
 ‘Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
~Matthew 5

A blessing on you all,
"Fr. Paul"

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Save the Children!

Save the Children

This is a precocious child who likes to ham it up in front of a camera. I am a priest!
She loves a good story. So did my children when they were younger. Thankfully in the Episcopal Church clergy can marry and have children, love them, bring them up and tell them stories so that laughter and joy can be a normative and healthy way of life.

And even now, after 40 years of ordination, I can tell stories to children. They love to hear them as much as I love to tell them. 

When the disciples of Jesus tried to keep the children away from him, he would say; "Suffer the little children to come unto me!" Meaning "allow the children to come to me"..."suffer" is a nice old English word meaning "allow".

Then Jesus would say "Suffer the little children to come unto me for of such is the kingdom of heaven."  (Matthew 19:14). Look into the child's eyes and and you can see heaven as plain as day.

So now, here's the thing. How do we safeguard them? Especially in the church? When I do story time with our children, one of the little ones insists on calling me "God". I do try to correct the little fella. But such is his absolute trust in me, such is his sense of awe in the church, such is his sense that "This is God's House" just like mom and dad tell him each week when they come to church, that he reasons, with some justification, that the man up front with all the vestments, and who presides as the altar of God must himself be God.

How can any priest betray such a trust?
How can any priest exploit such a one for unspeakable horrible purposes?
I like most will shudder to think of such a thing.

In fact Jesus himself said this of his precious little ones;

‘If any of you put a stumbling-block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were fastened around your neck and you were drowned in the depth of the sea.' (Matthew 18:6"

These are very strong words for a Gentle and Compassionate Savior. The matter of clergy sexual abuse of children is perhaps the worst scandal to hit the church in many centuries. It has undermined much of the church's moral authority.

The Roman Catholic Church needs to learn what we learned years ago.
  1. Do background checks on all clergy often and at the very least when they go from one church to another. This should be done by a professional outside agency to protect the church, the clergy and most of all the children.
  2. Every single staff person and every single person who works with children must be required to take a course in safeguarding and protecting children
We have not solved all of our problem by a long shot. But we have come a very long way. AND I must say that allowing clergy to marry has some obvious benefits. It is plain healthy and wholesome for clergy as well as any other person on the planet to have an outlet for that love which is, at least in my case, irrepressible. If I did not have my wife and children to love honor and cherish, I shudder to think what might become of me.

There is something else that needs to be said. If Rome expects to have any moral authority when it comes to its teachings on birth control and abortion, it needs to begin with the children we have on the planet now!

For the life of me, I cannot understand why we don't hear an outcry every single week from the pulpit of every church in America for the way in which our children have been abused and exploited, often from within the church itself!

Where is the moral indignation? 
Where is the outrage?

If find it hard to take the rhetoric around birth control and abortion when I do not hear a commensurate  sense of outrage against the neglect and abuse of the living breathing children we have with us now.

Jesus said to us; "Suffer the little ones to come unto me, for of such is the kingdom of heaven".

He told them stories, he probably laughed and played with them just like a child. After all, Jesus also said; 

‘Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me. ~Matthew 18

Blessings on all children of God. And please God, and all the people; keep them safe!

Almighty God, heavenly Father, you have blessed us with the joy and care of children: Give us calm strength and patient wisdom that we may work to assure their safety as they grow into a sometimes dangerous world, for the sake of the One who taught us that of such is the kingdom of heaven. Amen.

Fr. Paul

Monday, August 20, 2012

Meditating on God's Word for August 26, 2012

Meditating Upon God's Word
Sunday August 26, 2013
The Appointed Readings for this
Coming Sunday 
Read, Mark, and Inwardly Digest Them

(Allow me to share with you some of the thinking and planing I do as I prepare for next Sunday and for Bible Study tomorrow. Even though I am not scheduled to preach next week, I still like to meditate on God's Holy Word as I prepare to gather with God's people wherever I am. This next week Cindy and I plan to be with family in New Hampshire at a family wedding. Cindy's niece Kelly and her fiancé. A blessing upon them as they begin their new life together.)

Collect of the Day
Grant, O merciful God, that your Church, being gathered together in unity by your Holy Spirit, may show forth your power among all peoples, to the glory of your Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Joshua 24:1-2a,14-18
Joshua gathered all the tribes of Israel to Shechem, and summoned the elders, the heads, the judges, and the officers of Israel; and they presented themselves before God. And Joshua said to all the people, "Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel:
"Now therefore revere the LORD, and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness; put away the gods that your ancestors served beyond the River, and in Egypt, and serve the LORD. Now if you are unwilling to serve the LORD, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD."
Then the people answered, "Far be it from us that we should forsake the LORD to serve other gods; for it is the LORD our God who brought us and our ancestors up from the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery, and who did those great signs in our sight. He protected us along all the way that we went, and among all the peoples through whom we passed; and the LORD drove out before us all the peoples, the Amorites who lived in the land. Therefore we also will serve the LORD, for he is our God."


The Narrow pass into Shechem

Psalm 34:15-22 Page 628, BCP
The eyes of the LORD are upon the righteous, *
and his ears are open to their cry.
The face of the LORD is against those who do evil, *
to root out the remembrance of them from the earth.
The righteous cry, and the LORD hears them *
and delivers them from all their troubles.
The LORD is near to the brokenhearted *
and will save those whose spirits are crushed.
Many are the troubles of the righteous, *
but the LORD will deliver him out of them all.
He will keep safe all his bones; *
not one of them shall be broken.
Evil shall slay the wicked, *
and those who hate the righteous will be punished.
The LORD ransoms the life of his servants, *
and none will be punished who trust in him.

Ephesians 6:10-20

(Please note, the Whole Armor of God is an image of PEACE, NOT OF WAR! The imagery is so often mistaken for belligerence. It is a way of imaging our interior struggles against the demons that haunt human personality. Geesh! Please let's get that part right!)
Be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power. Put on the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to withstand on that evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand therefore, and fasten the belt of truth around your waist, and put on the breastplate of righteousness. As shoes for your feet put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace. With all of these, take the shield of faith, with which you will be able to quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
Pray in the Spirit at all times in every prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert and always persevere in supplication for all the saints. Pray also for me, so that when I speak, a message may be given to me to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it boldly, as I must speak.

John 6:56-69

Jesus said, “Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them. Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like that which your ancestors ate, and they died. But the one who eats this bread will live forever." He said these things while he was teaching in the synagogue at Capernaum.

 When many of his disciples heard it, they said, "This teaching is difficult; who can accept it?" But Jesus, being aware that his disciples were complaining about it, said to them, "Does this offend you? Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? It is the spirit that gives life; the flesh is useless. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But among you there are some who do not believe." For Jesus knew from the first who were the ones that did not believe, and who was the one that would betray him. And he said, "For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted by the Father."
 Because of this many of his disciples turned back and no longer went about with him. So Jesus asked the twelve, "Do you also wish to go away?" Simon Peter answered him, "Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God."

The Synagogue at Capernaum

An Aerial View

Architectural Rendering

Another View

Proud Liberal!

Proud Liberal

The word "Liberal" is used by many as if it were a dirty word. A social slam. A matter of shame. I take the word to describe intelligence and social concern for my brother and sister human beings. The shame of it is that those who don't seem to care for those less fortunate than ourselves, are so politically popular now.

Not me, I'm a proud liberal

Every single social advance has been a struggle. In just my lifetime, our struggle has been for folks who have been at the margins of society.

We have marched for Racial Equality and Civil Rights.

We have fought for gender equality.

Now we are struggling for marriage equality for LGBTQ folk in the nation. 

The working people and the middle class of this country have taken a major hit because of the banking scandals that set up the crash of 2008 and now the even more devastating Barclays Bank/Libor debacle that threatens even the viability of nations like Greece, Spain and Italy. How long will we let these barbarians lay siege to our lives without a fight?

Is money really god?

What is wrong with struggles like this?

If this is what it means to be Liberal. 

Go ahead. Call me a Liberal!

Fr Paul

Sunday, August 19, 2012

The Emerging Church

The Emerging Church

One of the more significant initiatives that came out of General Convention, the triennial gathering of the Bishops and Deputies of the Episcopal Church, is of the re-imagining of the structures of the church. One of the options the church is entertaining, for instance, is the relocation of our National Headquarters from New York City (see below) to a more central location in the Mid-West, perhaps St. Luis. There is in fact some conversation with the American Evangelical Lutheran Church, not to be confused with the Missouri or Wisconsin Synods, about whether we might consider sharing a National Office, staff and so on. This makes some sense on the surface of things because we; the Lutheran and Episcopal Churches have already established full communion with one another. I remember like it was yesterday when Cindy and I attended the Service at the National Cathedral where we celebrated this Eucharistic Union.

The Church will probably need to do some significant re-imaging at all levels of its existence. At National, Diocesan, and at Parish Levels, we are in need of a profound re-imagining of our life together.

I began reading he biography of Steve Jobs a few days ago. Talk about re imagining! Here was a man that understood that it would take the combination of Humanitarian concern and technology to provide every human being on the planet with the ability to learn, communicate, and relate to one another from a desk top computer. We’re still learning what this “Digital Age” will do for us or may do to us. But now because of Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard and other specialists in innovation, we live in a very different world than we lived in just twenty years ago. We live in a world of computers, cell phones and iPads. 

When I retired the second time, I went to the Apple Store to get my iPad, one of the kids there said; “You’ve got the trifecta now!” 

“Trifecta?” said I.

“Yes, you have a MacBook Pro, and iPhone and and iPad. We call that the trifecta”. When my dad took me to the race track as a boy, the word had a very different meaning.

I began to wonder what it would be to re imagine the church. I wondered if there were a way to put humanitarian ideal, liturgical joy, and technological innovation together as we breathe badly needed life back into The Church, which is the biblical name for the Body of Christ.

When Jesus said that he is the “Living bread that came down from heaven” as he did in today’s Gospel, I know exactly what he meant. I know how he lived his life. He  lived by feeding the multitudes with the Bread of Heaven. He fed his disciples with that same Sacred Bread at the Last Supper and his disciples recognized Jesus in the Breaking of Bread and in the Drinking of Wine. 

But the recognition of Jesus in Bread and Wine is not an end in itself. Rather he recruited to him those who hungered for something deeply in the heart and soul of life. They tended to be poor and struggling working people mending their nets. They were the sin sick prostitutes and tax collectors. They were physically and mentally sick; lame, blind, deaf, paralyzed, and demon possessed, a biblical expression for then current understandings of mental illness. 

Jesus organized his life around the needs of these people. He then said something extraordinary; “Whoever eats this of this bread will live forever”.

What is this bread? Remember how Jesus put it to Peter? 

“Peter do you love me?” 
Yes Lord, you know that I love you.”
“Then feed my sheep.”

Jesus had to repeat the question three times and Peter was hurt when Jesus asked him that third time. But Jesus had to drive home the point.

You may remember that near the end of his ministry Jesus said that he would divide the nations as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. (You may read this amazing passage of scripture here.) The sheep he put at his right hand and the King will say; “Come you that are Blessed by my father, inherit the kingdom that has been prepared for you for from the beginning of time. For when I was hungry you gave me food, when I was thirsty you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me”.

“Lord when did we do these things for you?”

And the King will answer; “Insofar as you did it to one of the least of these, you did it to me”

Is the lesson not clear, then? It is as we organize our life around the needs of human beings that we discover the pathway to heaven. Our Bread becomes the doing of the will of God. This way of being and doing and living is indeed the way of living forever. And it is clear that as we live our lives that way, we build a pathway into the love of God, because we are building a pathway into the love of one another. The two are congruent with one another.

Celtic Christianity has become very popular among people because of its keen awareness of the practice of the Presence of God. It is the spirituality of the Celts that has caught the imagination of millions.

That spirituality, however, is built on a very practical basis. St. Aidan, who evangelized almost all of the north of Britain more than a thousand years ago, did so as he organized his monasteries around real human need. Lindisfarne or Holy Island is the most notable. (see below)

We will feed you if you are hungry. We will give you something good to drink. Those Irish monks were especially good with that. We will give you something to wear if you are ill equipped to bear the cold of winter’s winds. We will welcome you here as if it were your home. We will tend you when you are sick. We will visit you in prison. We will educate your children and we will share knowledge and the state of learning as it is in the world today. We will teach you about the state of the art in farming techniques. We will take care of you when you are sick. We will tend to your dying loved ones.

Is it any wonder they built such amazing centers of worship and service, because what they understood was that the raison d'ĂȘtre of the church was to be the Body of Christ for the sake of the world. That meant pure and simple that they were to tend to the needs of human beings. This is how they organized their life.

You see, I do not think it matters so much where we put our headquarters or who we share our national staff with. This is all well and good as far as it goes.

But not until be really begin to re imagine the church as organized not around denominational structure or doctrine but around the real needs of human beings. 

"Going" to church is not an end in itself. "Being" the church for the sake of the world is what will spell the difference if we are to have a future. It will be as we organize our lives around real human need; jobs, health care, education, the care and protection of the poor, the young and the is as we live out our lives like Jesus...this will spell out our viability as we live into the future. Yes, this is my prayer...that we "become" the Body of Christ aka The Church.

There is an emerging church, don't you think, one that is not tied to denominational boundary or even to doctrine or dogma. It is tied to being organized not around its structures but around human need. Once we learn this lesson, all our sad divisions can go to the back burner where they belong. Then we can become one in Christ as we extend ourselves to the needs of the Beloved of Christ...those he came to die for...for you and for me. 

And you, my friends, deserve a pat on the back. (St Gabriel's Church, Douglassville, PA) You're doing it! You saw a need for housing for the elderly, something that dignified the human being, and you built the Keystone Villa. You had the vision, the land and the joy to build it. You saw the need to care for children and you built the Learning Center and developed the Atria. You saw the need for young people growing up in a confusing world, and you built a marvelous youth program. You saw hungry people, you made meals for them at the Community Center in Birdsboro, you got practical, downright practical, and you made soup for the pantry at St. Paul's....60-100 quarts of it every month year round. You folks get it. You've built a good foundation from which we can continue to build the body of Christ from this point on.

As we do this, as we become the Body of Christ for the sake of the world, then the task that lies before us now is how do we commend the faith of Jesus to the world around us? We're going to figure that out too, mark my words.

This is what it means to be filled with the Holy Spirit, as St Paul puts it: (also in today's lesson) "to sing psalms, and hymns and spiritual songs". It is as our lesson from Proverbs puts it: to walk in “the way to walk in wisdom and insight”. May we always walk in the way of Wisdom. It is the way to eternal life~

Peace be upon you all, in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

Fr. Paul 

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Showdown on Wall Street: God vs Greed

Speaking out Against the Baals

The prophet Elijah had Moxie. Moxie is a soft drink that was popular in the Boston area for a time especially in the 40's when Ted Williams endorsed the tonic tasting soft drink. Hence the generic word for Soda and Pop is the Boston area is Tonic to old timers like me. Ted Williams had Moxie when it came to the Boston Press.

Elijah had plenty of Moxie. He took on Ahab and Jezabel and in one unforgettable scene at Mount Carmel. There was a confrontation between the lone prophet and all the powers and principalities of his time. They had turned their back on God and had turned to the Baals for worship and service. The corruption and violence in the land was disquieting to God and to his servant Elijah, and Elijah alone was left. He against the 450 prophets of Baal were no match until that one day. 

Elijah went among the people and asked them to make a choice; if God is God then follow God. If the Baals are gods then follow them. The people were afraid to answer. So then Elijah gathered the people to him and promised that God would indeed reveal God’s power on the mountain. So the people gathered as did all the prophets of Baal. And then Elijah put it to them all this way. You folks, take a bull and cut it into pieces and put it up on a bed of wood but lay no fire to it and I will do the same. You then call upon the Baals and ask them if they can set the sacrifice to fire or not and I will do the same. We then will know whether God is God or whether Baal is god.

The prophets of Baal called on their gods all morning long until the noon day sun but there was only silence. So Elijah mocked the prophets of Baal by saying that perhaps he is musing, or that he has gone on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and must be awakened. The prophets then went on raving all day long but alas no one answered. 

Come near to me now Elijah said to the people, and when they did he repaired the altar and set twelve stones about the altar each according to the number of the tribes of Israel. He placed the wood in order and the cut up the bull into pieces and laid it on the wood and then he told the people; “Take four jars of water and drench the bull”. They did so. Then he called on them to do so a second time and so they did. Yet again, he called upon the people to drench the bull yet again the third time and this they did. 

So then Elijah prayed to God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel and to show to the people that God is indeed God. You know what happened then. The fire indeed did rain down upon the offering. And then the prophets of Baal met an unpleasant end.

The moment did not resolve much with the Powers and Principalities, mind you. When Ahab told Jezabel what had happened, she swore that the next day would not come and go before the same unpleasantness would come upon our friend Elijah. Thus we meet him in today’s lesson, afraid under a broom tree and asking God that he might be allowed to die. 

An angel touched him and told him to arise and eat of the bread of those very angels. They told him to drink because the journey ahead was a long one. And so on the strength of that bread and that jar of water, he went on we’re told for 40 days until he came to Mount Horeb, the mountain of God, the same place that God revealed the Law to Moses. The Law and the Prophets thus came together under the authority of God.

We may think of these as fanciful stories unless we think through the metaphors. The Baals of today are not a bunch of Bedouin nomads, but are more likely the sort of banking and finance traders that would make the hucksters in all the annals of chicanery blush. 

What were once the most trusted names in banking and finance; Citigroup, Bank of America, Morgan Stanley, AIG, Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae and so on, so contorted the mortgage industry that when the housing bubble burst, so many Americans found themselves upside down on their mortgages, and these very bankers then went on to foreclose on those very same mortgages leaving millions of our countrymen without their most basic of American Dreams. That was in 2008. 

The markets took a dive and our Pension Funds and our life time savings took a hard hit. And we sit by as does our government, like a deer in the headlamps. The Baals of our time pocket their billions since they bet their options on the losses. They continue to bet on the worst for Greece, Spain and Italy. And as nations fall to their economic distress, they make money hand over fist.  It was the Bankers that played it fast and loose such that they really were at the heart of the S&L Scandals of the 80's, the Market Crash of 2008 and most recently the Libor scandal in London.

Interestingly enough, whether the markets go up or down, whether national economies prosper or collapse the traders and bankers are somehow always making money. And Greed knows no bounds. Who said we have no Baals to worship today?

As if that weren’t bad enough, this year the banking scandals merely got worse, now in London as the greed migrates across the pond to the World Capital of Greed. Now enter Barclays Bank and the LIBOR scandal; The London Interbank Offered Rate, or that interest rate that is set around noonday Greenwich Mean Time, by a tiny group of manipulative and shady characters. There are scores of books now to read to help us understand these amazingly creative and sophisticated financial strategies and techniques. But the long and short of it, is that they are robbing us blind. Bloomberg News recently observed; “The scandal over the manipulation of Libor has the potential to become on the most costly and consequential in the history of banking”.

To add insult to injury, the TARP funds that we took from our tax dollars to save their skins were merely a transfer of wealth from the Middle Class the the Super Rich. They refused to invest or loan out to American Businesses. Instead they kept the money so that they could steal more!

Let the word go out from this place: We're on to you!

No one has been prosecuted. No one has been convicted. No one has gone to jail. Billions and billions and billions of dollars, our dollars, have gone missing. No one is prosecuted. All the CEO’s are shocked that their underlings would do such things. They feign sorrow, and crocodile like they shed their tears at all too polite Congressional Hearing and it all makes me want to scream. 

Any kid that takes a few bucks from a Wawa or a 7/11 has to serve time. These folks count their billions and get off Scott free. Of all the books that go on to describe the looting of the S&L Industry and analyze the crash of 2008 and now the Libor scandal, my favorite title so far is; "The Best Way to Rob a Bank is to Own One". The last ones we ended up jailing were the folks from Enron and Bernie Madoff. This crop of Robber Barons make Bernie look like a petty crook.

Showdown on Wall Street

If I had the power to do so, I’d call on America to make a choice between the way of honesty integrity and accountability (aka the Way of God) or the way of Greed, unregulated, unhampered, unbridled Greed. 

I may not have the power to do so, but I sure have the Moxie! Any President; Democrat or Republican may have that power but not so likely to have the Moxie!

If it were up to me I’d summon all the CEO’s of these Banks and Financial institutions and force them to OCCUPY WALL STREET. I'd give them the whole day long to call on the Bronze Bull they pray to, the Billions and Billions they worship and see if that Bull or those Billions can waken from sleep long enough to explain why these modern prophets of Baal should not spend the rest of their natural days in prison for Grand Larceny, Fraud and Theft. I suspect the Bull would remain silent.

At the end of the day, if they were unable to make the Bull talk, I’d lock them up and throw away the key. 

Mind you the Powers and Principalities are still very much alive. They are unlikely to lie down and play dead. They will unleash their fury with new corruption and new violence. They will unleash their power many fold more upon those of us who insist on what we thought the Banks stood for in the first place; Honesty, Integrity, and Accountability.

Alas, we sit under our broom trees, perhaps cowering before their power. I might ask God to just let me alone and die. But the Angels will have none of that. They will waken me from slumber. Oh God, how I'd like to see us waken from slumber! The Angles will point to the Altar of God. They will tell me to eat and drink from the Body and the Blood of Jesus, because the journey ahead is a long one. And so since I find, oh well, I’m still alive, and since that loaf of bread is a savory one, one of the favorites of the Bedoin nomads for millennia, by the way, I too will journey on with God. 

The Baals and the Billions are not like the Bread of Heaven spoken of in today's Gospel lesson. Their bread they keep to themselves. The Bread of Jesus feeds the multitudes. It will not satisfy me if I amass all the wealth in the world and my neighbor starves. Not at all. Jesus is the Bread of Heaven and whoever feeds on the life he gives us will live forever. "Feed my sheep", the savior said. Even if there’s only five loaves and two fish, I will not feast until all the others are fed first. Notice that the Apostle Paul got it exactly right in today's lesson"Thieves must give up stealing; rather let them labor and work honestly with their own hands, so as to have something to share with the needy." 

What a novel idea! Work honestly with your own hands so you have something to share with the needy. Whatever happened to this kind and compassionate ethic?

The Baals have much to learn about Jesus. The Nation must choose between God and the Baals. I’m hankering for our showdown on Wall Street.

A blessing on all!

Fr. Paul