Weekly Grace General Blog
This blog contains lead articles in the Weekly Grace columns.

Twin Devils (part 1) – In the Hopeful Season of Advent

The question posed (for now) is hypothetical, but poignant, nonetheless.  I imagine my teenaged grandchild asking me this question, “Grandpa, you’re a scientist and a priest, what did you do to prevent all those Christians who wanted the world to end soon from carrying out their plans?”   Some people advise that we tolerate other Christians’ beliefs, but what should we do when those beliefs cause real harm to generations of people?  Beliefs like vaccinations cause autism or because some Christians want to be part of God’s chosen elect who get taken up in a cloud after the end of the earth, they desire the destruction of governments and the planet for their own self-interests.  Do we tolerate murderers coming at us with a weapon?  Do we tolerate people who want to see the planet burn up?

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History

I hated history in high school and college.  Maybe it was the monotone, no-nonsense droning lectures.  Maybe the classes were during my most-of-the-day sleepy period.  For whatever reason, I grudgingly studied the subjects and made B grades.  Fast-forward to age 40 in seminary, and history began to make sense.  I don’t know what happened.  Having lived through civil rights, the Vietnam war, the sexual revolution, Ronald Reagan, Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and more, history was at once, entertaining and frightening.


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Reconciliation

Reconciliation   noun

  1. the restoration of friendly relations.
synonyms: reuniting, reunion, bringing together (again), conciliation, reconcilement, rapprochement, fence-mending;

We come together as a community out of mutual love, respect, caring for one another and compassion.  In open, honest conversations, mistakes are made.  The challenge lands in our lap immediately.  When we are the recipient of a remark or action that we interpret as rude, thoughtless, careless or even hostile, what action do we take?  Do we go to the offending party later in private to work things out?  Or do we hang onto the ugly feelings and let it out by counter-attacking, gossip or leaving the church?


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Rend your hearts

Scarcely a week goes by lately without one person telling me that they are full of hope and optimism for the future … that their world has never been better.  And often, in the same week of hearing such cheerful perspective from one person, I hear the exact opposite – that others are full of dread and gloom.  For them, the world appears to be headed downhill, fast.  I am proud of our parish that we can embrace a wide latitude of perspectives, but when our collective sense of hope seems to be bipolar, what should our spiritual response be?


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Not my people

Then His mother and His brothers arrived and standing outside they sent word to Him and called Him.  A crowd was sitting around Him, and they said to Him, “Behold, your mother and Your brothers are outside looking for You.”  Answering them, He said, “Who are My mother and My brothers?”  Looking about at those who were sitting around Him, He said, “Behold My mother and My brothers!  “For whoever does the will of God, he is My brother and sister and mother.” Mark 3:31-35

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Kicking the Dog

In last week’s Theology Pub, we discussed how the Romans viewed Christians in the first and second centuries.  After the mad Emperor Nero blamed the Roman Christians for setting the fire that burned most of Rome in AD 64, he began a series of persecutions such as letting wild animals attack and eat groups of Christians in the arena as public entertainment.  He also had them burned alive as illumination for the circus maximus.  I won’t go into any more detail, but the depravity and sheer inhumanity staggers the mind and depresses the heart.


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Burning Questions

It was a very busy twenty years.  First you had the Great Fire of Rome in 64 AD.  Somewhere in the Roman Empire at that time, the Gospel of Mark was being written while, elsewhere, Paul was founding churches and writing letters to them.  The blaze began on the 19th of July (our modern calendar) in 64 AD.  It burned for six days until it was brought under control.  Emperor Nero blamed the fire on the Roman Christians which led to the first of many imperial persecutions of that growing religious body.


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Dogma, Doctrine, Faith (an encounter with the monkey-people)

I was thinking about what to write for this column as I made my rounds through the usual tests and appointments at a cancer hospital.  I have melanoma, very early stage 1.  This year is five years down the road from the first surgery and if I am still cancer-free, that is considered a “cure.”  I graduate from patient to survivor.   It is, at least, progress.  
 
We had some extra time and we visited the Museum of Science and Natural History in downtown Houston.  One of the main exhibits was a tour of all the geolgoical and biological epochs of our planet’s history going from the earliest prokaryotic (without a defined nucleus) cells three billion years ago, all the way to modern homo sapiens.  I especially appreciated the displays showing how the continents were arrayed on the planet (they have moved around a lot over 3 billion years), with atmospheric changes, with the biological record and the geological record.  Perhaps ironically, the exhibit was funded by Exxon Mobil Oil Company. 

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Ecclesiastical Opportunity

For decades, I have noted that the evangelical churches today are in theological error as much or more than the Roman Catholic church that they started out protesting almost five hundred years ago.  They have come full circle replacing the pope and clerical hierarchy with a doctrine of biblical inerrancy and the authority of the local pastor to interpret.  In many ways, the evangelicals and the Roman Catholic churches are polar opposites, and neither may be capable of leading Christianity beyond the devastating abuses we read in the news every day.


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Rights

I have followed the latest culture wars over the appointment of Sarah Jeong to the New York Times editorial board.  When I first heard about the appointment, I was upset about the apparent double standard and Ms. Jeong’s tweets about white people that would be judged racist or worse if any other race group were to be substituted for “white.”  But then I read what she said and realized that, very often, her writings were in response to even uglier words hurled by her detractors.  Not a great strategy for a response to ugliness, but understandable if you are not a member of the dominant power group in North America that is white.


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