Sunday, January 24, 2010

Sanctity of Life Sunday: Thoughts on "To Save A Life", the Movie

Yesterday afternoon I and some of our teens from REZ took time to go see the new movie, To Save A Life. It is a compelling and disturbing, if honest, look at the cultures within our high schools and the struggle with those cultures by those who minister in Christ's name to teens. Centering around the problem of Teen Suicide, the movie is set at a typical suburban high school with the identifiable groups of "jocks", "preps", "dopers" and the "loners." The story traces Jake's rise to fame in sports and the childhood friend he "left behind" in that rise. After that friend commits suicide at the school, Jake is in search mode because of the guilt. An encounter with the pastor who did the funeral leads to a growing relationship and discovery of a new way of living. In the process he reaches out to another "loner", Johnny, in an attempt to make some difference, where he hadn't in his best friend's life before. High School and family drama ensue in Jake's life, through which he comes with help from God and the pastor and other friends from church.

The movie is a close up look at the culture of exclusion that we see in high schools (and have from time immemorial) and the counter-culture of inclusion, unconditional love and right choices offered by the church and youth pastor. These come, not without struggle, to those who persevere in "doing the right thing."

On this Sunday, Sanctity of Life is being celebrated across the nation in churches of all denominations. We focus on the threat of abortion, as I think is called for, but a wider view will lead us to understand the sanctity of Living. Life is not simply about our "right" to exist once conceived in the womb, but it is our further need for belonging and meaning, fulfillment and purpose. So much of the later depends on how we treat one another day-to-day. How we choose to live is what constitutes our life. The message of the movie is that "life" does not consist in your achievements, success or things. It is in our relationships and connection with one another and God that "life" becomes abundant.

So I suggest that today and from here on out we live our lives with a view toward God and others around us. That was Jesus way of living and loving. It would serve us well to remember His model and ask Him to help us live His way.

Padre Phil+

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Remember: Faith, Family & Freedom

I watched a DVR presentation by Glenn Beck last night of the history of communist regimes in the 20th century. A very eye-opening account of political philosophy, totalitarianism and mass murder in graduated scale, from Hitler to Stalin to Mao.

In America we take so much for granted in our way of life these days, and are increasingly at risk of forgetting whence we came. Our American heritage is one of faith, family and freedom. Its time to remember where we have come from: the history of the faith, the value of the family and the price of the freedoms we enjoy so glibly.

Our history of faith is undeniable. The Judeo-Christian heritage we have in America is long and runs deeply through the writings of our founding fathers and mothers. The continuing attempts to re-write and to divorce us from our roots is heinous. In the name of a mis-guided intellectualism, we are being moved away from our historic roots in the Bible as a guide book for life and for government. Though Democracy is not Theocracy, there is a tap root in our history that goes down into the ethics and morality of Jesus Christ, as the foundation for all good government. Without this nourishment the vine dies and the fruit of goodness, perseverance and peace with it.

The value of family is inherent in the fabric of our country. And it has been under seige for decades on almost every front. As the basic buiding block of our society, the family stands alone among institutions in America. Nothing can ever replace the value of a mother and father in lifelong commitment, raising their children in the home so founded. And almost everything in our culture now militates against the home and family as we have understood them historically. Every time the family crumbles, the society crumbles. Take heed.

And finally, we must remember the price of freedom. As they say, freedom is not free. It has been purchased and held by the blood of those who have defended it against every enemy of America for the past 200+ years. No better reminder serves than the cost of the signatures on the Declaration of Independence. Had the endeavor failed, each of the signatories would have been hunted down and put to death. So we must understand that freedom is worth its price, and we must share in its processes and purposes for it to flourish. For most of us the price of freedom is no more costly than a few pennies of gas to go vote! And some are even unwilling to pay that.

Remember, Faith, Family & Freedom.
This is our task in 2010 and it has begun with the shot heard in Massachusetts this week. Let's not let this opportunity pass to remember and to act.

Padre Phil

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

A Political Earthquake - The People's Seat

How ironic last night that the news coverage was alternating between the tragedy in Haiti and the coverage of the senate race in Massachusetts. Both are seismic events on the landscape, one in Haiti and the other in America. Both must be addressed and tended too with speed and care. Both have long term ramifications for this hemisphere and the world.

I believe that Brown, in his campaign, captured the heart of the issue in American politics right now, when he dubbed this "the People's Seat." That is the missing piece in our experience of government, and it has been for some time. The system is broken because elected officials have forgotten a key component of its underpinnings: servanthood. They are public "servants", not masters, as has been seen of late. It is "We the People" who form the foundation of government in this country, and when the people are marginalized as a whole in the process, the process needs to come to a halt. It needs to be overhauled and redirected to the common good.

My prayer today is that that process can begin. No one disagrees that our health care system needs fixing, but how? Not by throwing it out and ushering in socialized medicine. Let's come back to the drawing board, work together and come up with a fix (or several) for the current system, that works for the majority of Americans now. We know what needs to be done, lets just do it. Let there be an end to cronyism, closed door meetings and quid-pro-quo in legislation that effects our lives and the lives of our children and grandchildren! Business as usual has got to stop. We need all the thinking heads coming and working together, not tearing each other apart.

Just remember the by-word: Servanthood. As a governing body, you sit in 'The People's seats" - every one of you. You are and must remain, firstly, public servants. All else will follow on from that and we can make a new start in rebuilding a government, "of the people, by the people and for the people."

Padre Phil+

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

R.I.P. Our Dear Mamie

Yesterday, I did 'last rites' for my friend, Mamie Todd. In their late years, she and her husband George, (R.I.P. April 2009) have been some of our faithful stalwarts at REZ. Through decades of health issues they have persevered to be one of the most faithful couples we've ever known.

It was with great surprise (and deep joy) that we greeted them on our first Sunday evening as RESURRECTION ANGLICAN FELLOWSHIP, as we met that evening at the chapel at Colorado Community Church's Englewood Campus, only a mile or two up the hill from our old home at St. George's. Old home! Boy was that true for George and Mamie, members of St. Georges for decades, thus our overjoyed surprise at their presence with us in this new church plant.

Both of them worked quietly, behind the scenes, doing little things like collecting food from farmer's markets and delivering it to food banks the same day. Gathering clothes, tools, anything useful actually, and seeing to it that it go to someone who needed it. This was George's passion and daily activity, and Mamie supported him until his passing last year. Now she has fought her final battle and joined him for a great square-dance on the golden streets. I'm wondering who the caller is!??? Bet that was quite a reunion.

Mamie (and George), we will miss you greatly in our lives at REZ. And that is the way it should be. People who are significant for us should leave a hole in our lives! We fill those holes, eventually, with the stuff of memory and thankfulness and praise to God for the gift He has given us. I got an email this morning asking how many of the last great trophy winners we can remember: Heiseman, Academy Awards, Pulitzer Prize, World Series MVP... you name it. Can you? But ask who has made an impact on your life? Who helped you with a difficult time in your life? Who reached out to you in a small but life-changing way? These are the people who COUNT!
Not the big names or the bright "stars."

Mamie and George, we love you. You have touched us and we have grown because of knowing you both. Go with God and be joyful together in the habitations of light.

Rest in Peace, indeed.
Padre Phil+

Thursday, January 14, 2010

A True Witness Saves Lives

As I look at the first line of the post from Tues morning, in the light of the Haitian disaster, it seems that we are presented with an opportunity to be the "true witness that saves lives." I read that this morning in my reading from Proverbs (14:25) and then ran across it again in a post from Somebody Cares International who is responding, along with the rest of the relief agencies in the US, to the earthquake losses and distruction in Haiti.

What can a single church or individual do? A great deal! Not the least of which is prayer! Join with me in your thoughts today and as this tragedy unfolds to support those effected and those working for their relief in prayer. On your knees type prayer.

And give. At this point the relief organizations are mobilizing and they need funds. From the Red Cross to church organizations like Somebody Cares, International, funds are needed for this massive effort. Millions of lives are at stake and my prayer is that the Church will step up and be the Church in this hour. Let's make a difference.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Deep Church

Got most of DEEP CHURCH read amidst a series of crises yesterday. Very timely book in the discussions of what 'church' should be and do in the times we find ourselves in. It seeks to find a 'via media' (Anglican words) - a middle way between the traditional views of 'church' and the emerging/emergent views of 'church.' And I think the author does a pretty good job. Using his own church as the model of this middle way, he illustrates a commitment to ancient tradition and the foundation of scripture while also maintaining an openness to unity across Christian expressions, to innovation in styles, to new experiences of what 'church' can be in our post-modern, post-christian era.

I see myself in this struggle as well, seeking to bridge between a valued ancient form and tradition of worship, to a younger, more experiential, less committed generation. We've just begun a renewed emphasis on building the younger generations at our church, with a fellowship group for 20 & 30 somethings. After just a couple of fun outings, there are already signs of movement, interest and dare I say it, growth. It is in taking the small steps in sequence that we journey together to the end. DEEP CHURCH has helped me to conceptualize some of the desires of my own heart - the desire for a community of depth in Christ and in His Word. Our transitions and growth are very rarely pretty, most often painful, through the stages of our life, from family and home, to college, to relationships and marriage, to children and family with our own home. Once through these initial transitions, we build a life together through the crashing waves of our culture, our economy, relational tumult and internal stress. DEEP CHURCH means that we are a community in this together, asking, seeking, knocking - keeping the main thing the main thing - Seek Ye First the Kingdom of God and His Righteousness, and all these "other" things will be added to you.

We can hardly overestimate the action of God in our lives, if we will observe this command from Matthew 6. His promise is sure and His willingness to act is sure. The lack comes in our knowledge and awareness of His acting in our behalf. We expect one thing and God does another; we try to squeeze God into our mold and he returns the favor! So let us turn our eyes on Jesus, the "author and finisher of faith" who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame and sat down at the right hand of his Father in heaven. Jesus is the Way! He's not our transporter beam, he is the path we walk - seek first His Kingdom (His effective rule in your own heart) and His righteousness (the outworking of His rule in daily action), and all else will be added ... by Him!

Padre Phil+

Monday, January 11, 2010

Hmmm, seems like this might become a Monday morning thing.

Great worship yesterday with Bishop Greene, our bishop in the Anglican Mission, now "theAM."
He shared a great word on the Revelation of Jesus and its foundational character for the work of God and our partnership in the adventure yesterday.

Schools are all back in session this week, and life seems to be returning to normal after the holidays, whatever that is. Hoping to get a handle on some exersize, or just some walking with the weather a little more tolerable. Holiday food seems to pile up and slow things down.

Reading list for this week:
DEEP CHURCH by Belcher: a middle way ( I like that as an Anglican) between the traditionalist and emerging church movements of evangelicalism. We are reading and discussing this as a part of our Anglican Mission pastors' group. Sure enjoy being a part of a group of men who are searching together for God's will and way, best practices and new ways to do things. It is very stimulating and a real refresher!

DO THE RIGHT THING by Mike Huckabee: Part of my 2010 is going to be a more active stance on the political and policy fronts. I like Gov. Huckabee as he doesn't seem quite as shrill as other TV commentators on FOX. I'm interested in his take and seeing if he can help me put all the political upheaval in a proper context. Hope so.

Glenn Beck's COMMON SENSE: Actually I'm reading the original version in the back first, by Thomas Paine. I think that might be the place to start here, rather than with Beck himself. Thankful for a new tack that Beck is taking currently, working for the recovery of our Christian heritage and the goverenment of We The People. REMEMBER? Faith, Family & Freedom!

Well, probably ought to get on with the reading and walking instead of just typing about it. HUH?

Padre Phil

Monday, January 4, 2010

New Year - New Decade: Resolution or Revolution?

New Year 2010 ... Light in the darkness.

Year after year we start off with great intention and end up with same ol' same ol'.  Ever experienced it?  To the extent that I've quit making 'resolutions.' 

My challenge yesterday to our congregation was to press on, to press up & to press in to the goal: Jesus Christ.  After a year of tumult that was the perfect end to a perfect decade (read 'perfect storm'), there is almost no way to go but up, personally, corporately, even nationally!  Saint Paul's prayer for his church plant in Ephesus was that their hearts might be enlightened (1:18).  He is clear that this enlightenment comes from the light of the Good News - the Gospel of Christ (2 Cor 4): that Jesus is the exact representation of God enfleshed among us, and that we see the light of God's glory in the face of Jesus Christ, his Son.

Out of our heart's enlightenment come three outcomes, as Paul prays for this parish:  that we come to know by experience the HOPE of our calling in Christ; that we come to know that the saints around us are GOD'S glorious INHERITANCE;  and that we experience and demonstrate the IMMEASURABLY GREAT POWER of God toward us who believe.  If there are three things that would demonstrate Light in the darkness of our culture they are HOPE IN GOD'S FUTURE FOR US  -  OUR LIVING AS  A COMMUNITY OF HONOR  -  OUR EXPERIENCE & EXPRESSION OF GOD'S REAL, EVERYDAY POWER FOR LIVING. 

Living in these realities is the action of lifting up our hearts and allowing the reflection of the light of God to be reflected in our lives.  This is where we meet the world in mission.  This is where we live out our call as the Body of Christ in the world.  May 2010 be the beginning of a new revolution of hope, of honor and of power for living the God-life in the world.  And may the Church come to such enlightenment that it is in actuality the 'salt and light' it is designed and purposed to be by God!

Padre Phil