Saturday, February 28, 2015

A thoughtful description of Lent

This is a thoughtful reflection on the season of Lent from The Rev. David Marshall
Reflection- Hey, Lent, is that you?
Did Lent sneak up on you? It did on me. Preparation for the convention, and the other daily duties around the church and school, helped me lose sight of Lent. Or maybe it’s because Lent can be like running into a Debbie-downer acquaintance at the grocery store who left a message on your phone and you forgot to call back. After all, if Lent were a person, would anyone want to hang out with her? I doubt Lent would get many phone calls answered unlike her sister, Easter. Everyone wants to hang out with Easter – she’s fun, sparkling, has candy, and is literally full of life. But alas, in many ways, to get to Easter, we have to go through Lent.
So what is Lent anyway? It is a forty day season between Ash Wednesday and the great celebration of Easter. During the first 100 years of the Church, the early Christians fasted before Easter but only for a couple of days before Easter morning. By the year 325, at the Council of Nicaea (from which we got the Nicene Creed), someone had suggested that Christians fast for 40 days. That practice has ebbed and flowed throughout the centuries. In England, by the mid 1500’s, Lent was a time for intentional thinking or meditating on God and God’s word, for almsgiving, reconciliation and the occasional fast. In our current Ash Wednesday service, all Episcopalians are called to a holy Lent by “self-examination and repentance; by prayer, fasting, and self-denial; and by reading and meditating on God’s holy Word.” Perhaps because of this lengthy list of things to do, a kind of ecclesiastical Honey-Do list, I was trying to avoid running into Lent.
Nevertheless, this Lent, I will do five daily actions: pause, listen, think, pray, go. Pause – to take a moment to breathe; Listen – for the voice and rhythm of God in my life; Think; Pray; and then Go – which means to act on what it is that I feel called to do.
If you’d like to participate in Lent, there are some helpful resources. Every Wednesday in Lent, we will have the opportunity to pause, listen, think, pray and go at the Stations of the Cross. Fr. Stott will provide a space to do all five actions. If you would like a daily action, try this website, which will give you time to pause, to listen and think about God’s Word, read a short reflection on the Bible passage, a short prayer for the day, and then an invite to go practice the prayer and reflection in your day.
Another idea is a free resource that sends you a daily email called “Love Life,” from the Brothers of The Society of Saint John the Evangelist. The series runs from Ash Wednesday to Palm Sunday. Subscribers will be emailed each morning with a mobile-friendly video and evocative question. The daily email subscription is free, as are all the supporting materials. To subscribe, go to
Like running into Lent at the grocery store, we are obligated to do something during the season before Easter. If you hang out with Lent this season, your life with Christ will grow and you will experience a greater, sparkling Easter because of it.

-Fr. Marshall, St. John's Episcopal Church, Chula Vista CA

Thursday, February 26, 2015

You are not the only one who overlooks things.

Having a bad day where you think that you can't keep track of things?
Here is a reply to an order for a Register of Church Services that we shipped yesterday. (Edited to hide the identities.)

Thank you ever so much. Per usual five Graduate level educated persons (beginning with me) were unable to see the Register was running out :) --signed by the Dean of a cathedral.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Violence and religions

In the news this week is the argument over President Obama’s presentation at the 2015 National Prayer Breakfast where he stated that all religions, including Christianity, have a history of violence.
The new book by renown scholar Karen Armstrong, Fields of Blood: Religion and the History of Violence, speaks to this issue. Here is a description of Armstrong’s book.

For the first time, religious self-identification is on the decline in American. Some analysts have cited as cause a post-9/11perception: that faith in general is a source of aggression, intolerance, and divisiveness, something bad for society. But how accurate is that view? With deep learning and sympathetic understanding, Karen Armstrong sets out to discover the truth about religion and violence in each of the world’s great traditions, taking us on an astonishing journey from prehistoric times to the present.
While many historians have looked at violence in connection with particular religious manifestations (jihad in Islam or Christianity’s Crusades), Armstrong looks at each faith, not only Christianity and Islam, but also Buddhism, Hinduism, Confucianism, Daoism, and Judaism, in its totality over time. As she describes, each arose in an agrarian society with powerful landowners brutalizing peasants while also warring among themselves over land, then the only real source of wealth. In this world, religion was not the discrete and personal matter it would become for us but rather something that permeated all aspects of society. And so it was that agrarian aggression, and the warrior ethos it begot, became bound up with observances of the sacred.

In each tradition, however, a counterbalance to the warrior code also developed. Around sages, prophets, and mystics there grew up communities protesting the injustice and bloodshed endemic to agrarian society, the violence to which religion had become heir. And so by the time the great confessional faiths came of age, all understood themselves as ultimately devoted to peace, equality, and reconciliation, whatever the acts of violence perpetrated in their name.

Industrialization and modernity have ushered in an epoch of spectacular and unexampled violence, although, as Armstrong explains, relatively little of it can be ascribed directly to religion. Nevertheless, she shows us how and in what measure religions, in their relative maturity, came to absorb modern belligerence and what hope there might be for peace among believers of different creeds in our time.

At a moment of rising geopolitical chaos, the imperative of mutual understanding between nations and faith communities has never been more urgent, the dangers of action based on misunderstanding never greater. Informed by Armstrong’s sweeping erudition and personal commitment to the promotion of compassion, Fields of Blood makes vividly clear that religion is not the problem.