ImageToday Pope Francis has released his first Apostolic Exhortation – on the proclamation of the Gospel in today’s world. Near the beginning he lays down a challenge, “I invite all Christians, everywhere, at this very moment, to a renewed personal encounter with Jesus Christ, or at least an openness to letting him encounter them; I ask all of you to do this unfailingly each day. No one should think that this invitation is not meant for him or her, since “no one is excluded from the joy brought by the Lord”. The Lord does not disappoint those who take this risk; whenever we take a step towards Jesus, we come to realize that he is already there, waiting for us with open arms.”


Practice-Oriented Religion

“I want to suggest that the idea of practice holds the key to thinking about how people

Robert Wuthrow

Robert Wuthrow

with multiphrenic*  selves may be able to participate effectively and in a morally responsible way in the civic and economic arenas.  The critical issue is not whether people change their minds, even if they do so frequently, and it is not whether they draw inspiration from many different sources, rather than one; It is whether or not they take their spirituality and their moral concerns seriously enough to spend time reflecting on them, deliberating over them, and connecting them with their behavior.

Put simply, practice should not be conceived in opposition to theory, but in contrast with flakiness.  Practice is the effort that goes into having good reasons for what one believes and that demonstrates the seriousness of these beliefs by thinking about them and incorporating them into everyday life…”       Robert Wuthnow

How do we make disciples?  Clearly, Jesus did not say:  affirm these facts; do as little harm as you comfortably can;  when harm is unavoidable without change take up denial as method so that ignorance is mistaken as innocence; and having all you could reasonably do,  you will inherit eternal life. What Jesus did say was, “Follow me.” 

Richard Rohr

Richard Rohr (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The truth is that people are not abandoning the church of their fathers in the face of the demands of Jesus.  They are leaving the Church (all of it) because we are not Christian enough!  As Richard Rohr puts it, “we don’t need more orthodoxy (right belief) but orthopraxy (right practice).  He is right.

That is why at Saint John’s we have taken up the method of Renewal Works.  The recommendation of the Renewal Team from their work with the survey data was that as a congregation we engage the Bible as we are not conversant with the sacred text.  In response to this recommendation we launched the Saint John’s Reads and Bible challenge.  200 adults pledged to read the scripture every day this year; 80 of that number pledged (signed a card even) to read the entire Bible in a year.

Crossed Red and Green Laser BeamsA laser is not different light than your garden variety defused illumination; a laser is light that intensely focused. That focus is geometrically more powerful than dispersed light.  What is happening among us is not something novel and new, the Holy Spirit is moving us with subtle elegant nudges: a quickening here, an ah-ha there, a bit of insight tucked just so  as the view finder is adjusted a slowly, almost imperceptibility the but in real time with real power.  The outward sign and the inward spiritual grace is joy!   JWS

*Having multiple identities pieced together from the multiplicity of mediated messages in our environments.


This is the Night

This Is the Night – Suffering, Salvation, and the Liturgies of Holy Week – James Farwell

Light the New FIre on Easter Eve

Light the New Fire on Easter Eve

[3] …the ecclesiological sea change signified by their contemporary retrieval in the western churches. They (the Triduum liturgies)* signify the emrgence of a church “after Christendom,” a church that understands itself as a discipline practice of values and beliefs that arguably diverge from the prevailing values of western modernity. They signify a renewed commitment to transformation – to a life that emerges from death, to a life that involves death to the old order as the doorway to life in a new reality.

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[4] Treating liturgical practice as the site of theology involves the recognition that liturgy is not merely a reflection of what Christians already believe but rather a privileged site where belief arises. In the liturgical action, the assembly, as Gail Ramshaw observes, is “pried open by prayer”: liturgical practices enlarge the sense of self, drawing the members of the assembly into a story larger than their own. Bringing to the liturgy their pain and their joy, their longing for redemption and resistance to it, their desires half-formed and a sense – however dim – of a world in right order, Christians deepen their hope and sharpen their perception of the reign of God for which they hope. More precisely, that hope itself arises through the bodily, gestural, verbal, and symbolic ritual practices of the church.”

999q christmas eve 2007

Note: When we read the Sacred text of our faith the liturgies of the faith take on their inherent power. Each year we come to the cycle of the Church year with new eyes. We encounter the resurrected Jesus in our incipient gradual rising from death to sin!  The ancient practices of which the Church Year is one is a matrix where we encounter God in real and immediate time. There clock time is subsumed by eternity. JWS

The cycle begins again this coming Sunday. Come join us.

*Maundy Thursday. Good Friday & Easter Eve

Father Hunger

Note:  I cannot find the citation for this text.  It speaks to the issues that I see everywhere I turn. Good fathers are hard come by.  It doesn’t take a very long conversation for me to suspect that a man had a good father.  There is a subtle solid confidence in him that those who had no dad just do not.  A lot of the problems we deplore in Memphis or the US grow from boys who need a dad.

Life for most boys and for many grown men then is a frustrating search for the lost father who has not yet offered protection, provision, nurturing, modeling, or, especially, anointment. All those tough guys who want to scare the world into seeing them as men and who fill up the jails; all whose men who don’t know how to be a man with a woman and who fill up the divorce courts; all those corporate raiders who want more in hopes that more will make them feel better; and all those masculopathic philanderers, contenders, and controllers–all of them are suffering from Father Hunger.
God the Father with angel - Giovan Francesco Barbieri

God the Father with angel – Giovan Francesco Barbieri

They go through their adolescent rituals day after day for a lifetime, waiting for a father to anoint them and treat them as good enough to be considered a man. They call attention to their pain, getting into trouble, getting hurt, doing things that are bad for them, as if they are calling for a father to come take them in hand and straighten them out or at least tell them how a grown man would handle the pain.
They compete with other boys who don’t get close enough to let them see their shame over not feeling like men, over not having been anointed, and so they don’t know that the other boys feel the same way.
In a scant 200 years–in some families in a scant two generations–we’ve gone from a toxic overdose of fathering to a fatal deficiency. It’s not that we have too much mother but too little father.

So many males in this society lack a father.  In many cases, mothers are doing the best they can to get their boy the fathering he needs.  Gangs are groups of young men trying to rear each other and you may have noticed they are not doing a very good job.  Others have a father in the house but they rarely see him as he works hard to give them the life he wants for them.

There is a lot of work to be done.  Every man who reaches maturity with some success has a responsibility to mentor younger men.  It is rewarding and it is desperately needed.