my miscellany

A Priestly Word for 30 Sep 16 — 30 Sep 16

A Priestly Word for 30 Sep 16

At the vestry meeting on Sunday I complimented the people of Good Shepherd for your functioning during and after the summer storms and the water damage to the parish house. We did not assess any blame for the damage. Nor did we seek help from inappropriate sources. These are two very common failings when troubles befall parishes. And we did neither one. We stayed on schedule. Nothing was postponed or canceled. Essentially, we took responsibility for the things about which we have responsibility. That really is all we can do, and that includes the renovations required to bring the parish house back to its condition at the time the water damage began. And plans are underway for those renovations.

And at the vestry meeting we learned that we shall again have Family Sundays during the Sunday School year. Normally, Family Sunday will be the fourth Sunday of the month. But in October it will be on the third Sunday, reserving the fourth Sunday for a special event in the Sunday School. I am very grateful to Laura Hopkins for her leadership in the important ministry of the Sunday School.

Lastly, on Holy Cross Day (September 14) I launched a new website, Catechesis Topics (www.catechesistopics.com). I invite you to have a look at it and to let me know what you think about it. The website I intend to be a basic setting forth of the Christian faith as the Anglican Communion and the Episcopal Church have received it. It is based on The Book of Common Prayer (1979) and particularly the Catechism in it. Check out the “About” and “Table of Contents” pages for the general idea and a bird’s eye view of the whole. All of the photographs in the website are of Good Shepherd and were taken with an out-of-date telephone and edited with the Photos app on my laptop.

This comes with every good wish for you as together we worship and serve, asking the Lord to “bring forth in us the fruit of good works” (BCP, page 233).

Pentecost 19, 2016 — 25 Sep 16

Pentecost 19, 2016

RCL C Proper 21 Complementary
Amos 6:1a and 4-7, Psalm 146, I Timothy 6:5-19, Saint Luke 16:19-31

If you want to see clearly the perspective of Saint Luke the Evangelist, you have to look no further than today’s parable, the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus. But I do not want to start there.

Let us look elsewhere. Let us look at the Song of Mary, the Magnificat, that is a kind of thematic statement for the entire Gospel. If you will, open your Prayer Books to page 119.

And there you see the Song of Mary, Saint Luke 1:46-55. It is the song that Mary exclaims when she visits Elizabeth just after Elizabeth tells her that the baby in Elizabeth’s womb, which is John the Baptist, leaped for joy at the presence of Mary and the baby in Mary’s womb, Jesus Christ. The song is Mary’s exclamation upon hearing Elizabeth say to her, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.”[1]

Look down a little more than halfway, and you will see, “He has cast down the mighty from their thrones, * and has lifted up the lowly.”[2] That in a nutshell is the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus.

You remember that the Rich Man dressed in purple and feasted sumptuously every day while Lazarus lay at his gate covered with sores. But in a reversal like that of the Magnificat, Lazarus dies and is carried by angels to the bosom of Abraham while the Rich Man dies and is tormented in Hades.

The moral of the parable is that it is a blessing to be rich in the things that are God’s—the very things that Lazarus had: poverty, humility, and forbearance. Forbearance is the ability to endure a difficult situation without becoming angry. And Jesus through this parable teaches us that if we are blessed to forbear the difficulties of this life, we shall likewise be blessed in the life of the world to come. And I find that to be good news.

But also I put it to you that our circumstances are more like those of the Rich Man than they are of Lazarus. We do not sleep on anyone’s doorstep. But there are those who rely on us just as Lazarus longed to satisfy his hunger with what fell from the Rich Man’s table. We have the freedom to belong to God and to be rich in the things that are God’s. That is our mission, and the sacrament of that mission is the Seasons of Love Dinners that we host twice a month. The more we give to those dinners, the richer we become—not like the Rich Man but rich toward God.

[1] Saint Luke 1:42. NRSV.

[2] BCP, page 119.

A Priestly Word for 23 Sep 16 — 23 Sep 16

A Priestly Word for 23 Sep 16

Again this year I am continuing to study Bowen Theory at the Princeton Family Center in Princeton, New Jersey. The group I am in is for clergy who wish to step up their functioning as leaders in their parishes or congregations. In the group are clergy from the Episcopal Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, and the United Methodist Church.

We meet eight times a year, and each day-long meeting includes presentations of theory by the faculty and case studies by members of the group presented to the faculty. The overall purpose is to become more effective leaders through the management of oneself and lowering reactivity and anxiety.

Bowen Theory is named for Murray Bowen, MD, (1913-1990) who was a psychiatrist at the National Institute of Mental Health and a faculty member in the Department of Psychiatry at Georgetown University Medical Center.

Bowen Theory is a theory of human behavior that views the family (or organization, parish, or system) as an emotional unit and uses systems thinking to describe the complex interactions in the unit. The theory extends from the fact that human beings are social beings who are formed in their family of origin.

We tend to behave or function in our adult systems (workplace, parish, or volunteer organization) the way we function or behave in our families of origin. It is in the family of origin that we learn our functioning or behaviors that we bring to our adult systems.

It is in the nature of a family that its members are intensely connected emotionally. Often people feel distant or disconnected from their families, but this is more feeling than fact. Family members so profoundly affect each other’s thoughts, feelings, and actions that it often seems as if people are living under the same “emotional skin.” People solicit each other’s attention, approval, and support and react to each other’s needs, expectations, and distress. The connectedness and reactivity make the functioning of family members interdependent. A change in one person’s functioning is predictably followed by reciprocal changes in the functioning of others. Families differ somewhat in the degree of interdependence, but it is always present to some degree.

The Theory is drawn from eight core concepts: Triangles, Differentiation of Self, Nuclear Family Emotional System, Family Projection Process, Multigenerational Transmission Process, Emotional Cutoff, Sibling Position, and Societal Emotional Process. More information is available from the Bowen Center.

The assignment for our first meeting next week is an essay by Anna Moss, “Looking Back To Look Forward.” She is a Presbyterian minister in Sydney, Australia. In the essay she writes, “I’ve also come to understand better how I have found it difficult to sit with other people’s distress. As the good child, I always hated to see my mum get upset or my dad get frustrated and angry. I’ve jumped in and rescued or over-functioned out of this, rather than allowing people to be responsible for themselves and their decisions.”

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