25 April 2008

Inspiring Words from Christians in Palestine

Recently, while searching for a totally unrelated item, I came across the website the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Hope in Ramallah, Palestine (or, if you insist, Israel). In it they were discussing their worship services... and I find it interesting to read what they wrote (added emphases are my own):

Worship services are held each Sunday morning at 10:30 am, and Sunday School is held at 9:30 am in the parish hall. Even during occasional times of curfew imposed by the Israeli military, the Lutheran church bells ring announcing worship and people come to pray. A curfew is the total closure of a town, a time when people are forbidden by the Israeli soldiers to leave their homes. Pastor Ansara and the Lutheran church members have decided to hold worship services regardless of a curfew. People leave their homes to sing, pray, hear God’s Word and partake of the Sacraments in the church.

One Date for Pascha/Easter

This weekend, Orthodox Christians will celebrate Pascha... over a month after their Western counterparts have done so. This continued division between East and West is a grave sin against the witness of the Christian faith in the world today. I share the belief, as do many others, that we need a better way to calculate Pascha (Easter).

Some ideas:

  1. Celebrate Pascha in the Sunday immediately following the Jewish Passover

  2. Celebrate Pascha on the last Sunday in April

  3. Celebrate Pascha on the first Sunday in April

Celebrating on the Sunday after the Jewish Passover helps maintain a continuity with the foreshadowing of the Paschal Mystery. Celebrating on the last Sunday in April allows for warmer (somewhat) weather in order to celebrate baptism outdoors in a natural setting (stream, creek, river, etc...). Celebrating on the first Sunday in April is probably the ecumenically-sensitive option, since that is what most folks would seem to prefer.

You can register your support for a single day to observe Pascha by visiting onedate.org.


Evangelist, Bishop, and Martyr

Prayer of the Day
you have enriched your Church with Mark’s proclamation of the Gospel.
Give us grace to believe firmly in the good news of salvation
and to walk daily in accord with it.
We make our prayer through Jesus Christ our Lord,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God,
now and ever,
and unto ages of ages.

Psalm of the Day
Psalm 57
Response: I will confess you among the peoples, O Lord!

Isaiah 52: 7-10
2 Timothy 4: 6-11, 18
Mark 1: 1-15

Liturgical Color

23 April 2008

Organ and Tissue Donation II

In response to my post yesterday concerning Organ and Tissue Donation, I received an interesting comment. I posted it, somewhat reluctantly, but wish to actually expound upon why I don't believe that the suggestion made in the comment is appropriate.

Dave Undis is the Executive Director of LifeSharers, a Nashville, Tennessee based organization that promotes an idea of prioritized donation on the basis of the recipient's donation status (i.e., if they are or are not a donor). His comments follow, with my comments interspersed:

Over half of the 98,000 Americans on the national transplant waiting list will die before they get a transplant. Most of these deaths are needless. Americans bury or cremate about 20,000 transplantable organs every year. Over 6,000 of our neighbors suffer and die needlessly every year as a result.

I agree with Dave; as a proponent of Organ and Tissue donation, I definately am not thrilled that so many people do not elect to give the gift of life. That being said, why do people choose not to donate? In fact, how many people have truly rejected donation? Simply asking "Do you want to be an organ donor" at the license branch isn't sufficient. We need education. We cannot blame those who do not know about donation for going to their graves with their organs.

There is a simple way to put a big dent in the organ shortage -- give organs first to people who have agreed to donate their own organs when they die. Giving organs first to organ donors will convince more people to register as organ donors.

I doubt it. People use the same justifiction to support captial punishment. The United States executes, per capita, the largest number of criminals in the western world, yet we have one of the highest violent crime rates on the planet. People won't have a clue about this idea - just as many have no real clue what donation is all about. Then, they will find out about it and it will be too late.

It will also make the organ allocation system fairer. People who aren't willing to share the gift of life should go to the back of the waiting list as long as there is a shortage of organs.

Again, what about a lack of education and knowledge? You are going to have to do better, Dave, in convincing me that this is a good idea. Until there is effective, universal education on this issue, your plan makes no sense. It excludes people who have bought into the lies about donation (i.e., they take organs from black folks and kill them and give them to white folks... or... if they know I am a donor, they won't try to save my life). Look at the country we live in, Dave... do you REALLY think we have the knowledge in this nation to make your dream a reality? I don't. Also, I am not willing to write off those who are ignorant of donation, just as I am not willing to write off God's gift of eternal life among those who have never heard of Christ. To do so would be, in my mind, a betrayal of my Christian principles.

So, in short, Mr. Undis, thanks... but no thanks. Our Organ Donation system is flawed, needs help, and could stand to use a massive infusion of people... but it works far better than singling people out because of a lack of knowledge or because they have been taught all their lives that Donation is one group's way of being a modern-day succubus off of another group.

When and if (and I do mean if) the United States passes a presumtive consent law concerning donation (you are a donor unless you opt out) then it will make sense to classify people based on their conscious decision to opt out of participating in the system. Until then, I am absolutely uncomfortable with any move to restrict donation in the fashion that LifeSharers suggests.

22 April 2008

The Liturgy of the notices - from the Naked Liturgist

My friend, Fr. Bosco, an Anglican priest from New Zealand, has posted the first episode of his new web-series "The Naked Liturgist", and it is worth a look-see.

Organ and Tissue Donation

April is Organ and Tissue Donation Awareness Month in the United States. In my local health-care facility, we are celebrating this week with programs intended to raise awareness among our staff. I wanted to take a moment, though, to share the donation message here on the blog today.

Organ and Tissue Donation is an imperative in our society today. Thousands of people are on the waiting list for hearts, lungs, livers, kidneys, skin, cornea, valves, bone, and other donations that they need to either improve the quality of their lives or to simply survive.

Each of us can make a difference by signing up to be an organ or tissue donor, and by making your choice known to your family and friends. In many states, you can make your wishes known -as I did - by designating your donation decision on your driver's license. You can also register on the Internet with the donation registry for your home state. A listing of these registries can be found at http://www.organdonor.gov/

For those outside the United States, consult your local health department or medical facility for full information on how to become an organ donor.

Please join me in making a commitment to Organ and Tissue Donation in this month, and share in putting out the message about the urgency of donation!

13 April 2008

Homily for the the Third Sunday after Easter (RCL)

Today I preached in a parish that uses the Revised Common Lectionary. The prayers, scripture introductions, and homily notes can be found below.
Prayer of the Day
Lord God, you never cease to call even those far away, for it is your will that all be drawn into one fold. Attune our ears to the voice of the Good Shepherd, who leads us always to you, that we may find under your tender protection life in all its fullness. We make our prayer through Jesus Christ, the resurrection and the life, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and ever, and unto ages of ages. Amen.
Psalm 23
Acts 2: 14, 36-41
In our first reading we find ourselves in Jersualem on the first Pentecost, listening as Peter calls the crowd to repentance and renewal in Christ. Peter, having explained the prophecies of the Old Testament to the people, now tells them that they must repent of their sins and follow Christ. His calling to the crowd nearly two thousand years ago still resonates today among us as we gather and seek to follow the Lord more completely in every aspect of our lives. Give your attention to the Reading from the Acts of the Apostles.
1 Peter : 20-25
We may suffer for many reasons. While most often, our suffering and sorrows are our own fault, today we hear a call from God to be faithful and strong when suffering enters our lives because of our commitment to live new lives in Christ. Give your attention to the Reading from the First Letter of Peter.

John 10: 1-10
The Good Shepherd


He never sinned, nor ever deceived anyone.
How often do we sin?
Do we stop to consider our sins on a regular basis?
What sins do we find ourselves most often entangled in?
What do we do to overcome our sins?
Do we resign ourselves to our sinful state and live in it?
Do we ‘sin boldly’ and excuse our sins because of Christ?

He did not retaliate when he was insulted, nor threaten revenge when he suffered.
The teaching of Christ in this regard is nearly impossible for us to imagine.
Is our first though in the midst of being insulted “I’m gonna get you, suckah?”
Are we prepared to suffer pain, torture, suppression, and persecution for Christ?
To live out Christ’s example perfectly, we would have to be absolute pacifists.
Are we prepared for this, or are we still on our journey?

He left his case in the hands of God, who always judges fairly.
Are we prepared to allow God to be our defense, our fortress, our shield?
Do we argue endlessly with people trying to convince them our the truth?
When we do so, what effect does it have on us?
Are we ready to trust that God is fair?
Are we ready to abandon ourselves to God?

He personally carried our sins in his body on the cross so that we can be dead to sin and live for what is right. By his wounds you are healed.
Have we allowed this incomprehensible fact to transform our lives yet?
Can we find within ourselves the courage to abandon ourselves to God and let him have his way with us?

Once you were like sheep who wandered away.
We hear the gospel message week by week, day by day (I hope!)
We spout words like grace, peace, mercy, love, and forgiveness.
We are quick to ask for all of those gifts to be poured into our lives.
Are we prepared, however, to follow in the path that leads to these gifts?
Are we prepared to admit to our own self-deceptions about sin, confess the sins we find ourselves entangled in, and firmly resolve to abandon them?
Are we prepared to let God be our defender, or are we going to insist that we can defend ourselves?
Are we so headstrong that we are simply determined to wander where we darned well please?
Each of us must answer that question for ourselves.

I pray that we might all answer by saying: “I turn to my Shepherd, the Guardian of my soul.”

PRAYER: O God our shepherd, you know your sheep by name and lead us to safety through the valleys of death. Guide us by your voice, that we may walk in certainty and security to the joyous feast prepared in your house, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, to whom with you and the Spirit be worship and praise, now, always, and forever. Amen.

11 April 2008

Because We Can All Use A Laugh...

09 April 2008

Paschaltide Greetings or, Why I am Incensed at the Christian Church Today

Well, April has sprung up with some wonderful days here in Central Indiana. Over the past two days my wife and I have managed to get in some good exercise, walking all around our neighborhood (and nearby shops), having a snack outdoors at Starbucks, and just getting some good fresh air in our lungs (though the freshness level is probably debatable by EPA standards).

While all this is wonderful in and of itself, this has been a very frustrating week for me, as I have been mulling over my thoughts and concerns about life, ministry, and the faith. So tonight, I want to share a little bit of what I am feeling.

I think the alternate title of this entry, "Why I am Incensed at the Christian Church Today" says a lot about what I am feeling. Incensed is probably the best way to phrase it. At least it has the scent of sanctity about it. (Pun absolutely intended.)

First, let me differentiate between the Body of Christ and the worldy Church (with whom I have my gripe). While my commentary will, by necessity, irritate the body of Christ, my comments are directed to the institutional (for lack of a better term) Church. I have no issue with Jesus, and if anything the past few weeks have managed to deepen my relationship with Christ while, at the same time, leaving me very angry.

The Church is a twenty-first century train wreck of monumental proportions. People continue to lay exclusive claims to the faith that they cannot support, excluding people who adhere to other traditions from genuine consideration as true brothers and sisters in Christ. For all the talk of the ecumenical movement of the latter half of the twentieth century, Christianity is a fractured house that shows no sign or real desire of restoration to anything remotely resembling her ancient purity.

Now, while those who have read my writings or have spoken to me personally know that I tend to view the primitive Church with great admiration, I don't labor with rose colored glasses on the topic. They had their own issues - even the apostles themselves did! - and I don't expect that just 'getting back to the most ancient form' is the perfect answer.

So why isn't anything else working?

I am sick to death of watching ecclesiastical politics drag on and on and on. I am sick of seeing the earnest hearted attempts of Christian clergy dismissed as illicit or invalid based on the rulings of people who have no clue what is actually going on in Anytown USA (or anywhere else). I am tired of seeing the Christian faith cave in to government or social pressure to comprimise the Gospel's message of peace. I am tired of seeing widows and single mothers duped out of their rent money each month because a man with a LearJet needs to buy gas for his private flight to some major arena where he will dupe more people out of their money... all in the name of Jesus.

It frankly makes me want to puke.

I am thankful that I don't trust in popes or televangelists for my salvation. I'd be doomed. I am thankful that I don't believe that the label on my nametag will ensure my place in heaven. I am sure I would probably be doomed then too.

My place in heaven is assured because Jesus Christ died to make me at-one with my Creator, the Father, Son, and Spirit. His atonment reconciles me to God, and though I am not perfect, I try to do better every day. My trust is in him and the means of grace he gives to me... and in those alone.

Right now, I don't know where my future leads on my path of faith. I am a Primitive Catholic. That is the only way I can identify myself. I am absolutely linked to liturgical worship, sacramental interaction with God, and the ongoing sanctification of the mundane and ordinary moments of my life that only a Catholic/Orthodox tradition can bring. I admire the Restoration Movement (even if it didn't quite live up to the ideal of restoring the ancient Church), I admire the Oriental Churches and the Celtic Churches of the ancient era... and I admire all those with the bravery and tenacity to engage in Christian ministry today (genuine ministry, not leeching people!) in an increasingly hostile world.

Where to go. What to do. We shall see.

Please pray for me.


All original material (C) 2007-2010 by Father Robert Lyons.

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