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

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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Cultural Epistemology

According to that wizard of the web, Google, epistemology is “the theory of knowledge, especially with regard to its methods, validity, and scope. Epistemology is the investigation of what distinguishes justified belief from opinion.”  Reading a National Geographic article about India recently, I reached a new understanding of how we come to know things – it is often culturally dictated.

Warning: This note contains references to human practices that are seldom mentioned in public.  While other countries were mentioned in the article, India was the most developed nation of the group.  So, we have the very odd situation of urban and rural residents of India who pay good money for cell phones with Internet service, defecating in open fields.  The global health term for this practice is “OD” and the first word is “Open.” 


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Hubris, Ignorance and just plain Foolishness

My uncle wrote his physics Ph.D. dissertation in 1939 at the University of Chicago on nuclear fusion.  Fusion is the nuclear reaction that powers the sun and nearly all suns in the cosmos.  Only a decade before did scientists realize that lighter elements such as hydrogen and helium could fuse together to form a heavier element and give off energy in the process.  There was great confidence in the 1920s and 30s that figuring out how to harness the energy of the sun was just around the corner.  Soon the world would be powered by abundant, inexpensive, non-polluting energy sources.  Today, 77 years later, the optimism has been tempered with the sobering and very challenging scientific and engineering realities along with massive amounts of investment.  We still have not achieved sustainable nuclear fusion in the laboratory.


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Fear of the Lord

Our Daily Office scripture today includes a passage from Isaiah that may be relevant to our national political process.

For the Lord spoke thus to me while his hand was strong upon me, and warned me not to walk in the way of this people, saying:  Do not call conspiracy all that this people calls conspiracy, and do not fear what it fears, or be in dread.  But the Lord of hosts, him you shall regard as holy; let him be your fear, and let him be your dread.          (Isaiah 8:11-13)

Wikipedia makes a useful distinction between “fear of the Lord” and “fear of God.”

“Fear of the Lord” generally refers to a specific sense of respect, awe, and submission to a deity, while Fear of God suggests apprehension of Divine punishment.


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