Dancing on the Head of a Pin

There is a legend of St Thomas Aquinas asking "How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?" At this blog we ask all questions dealing with our faith and spirituality. Some are down to earth, rubber meets the road questions, while others are more lofty...like, how many angels can dance on the head of a pin?

Monday, October 31, 2005

Today's Psalm from Morning Prayer

Have mercy on me, O God, for they trample over me; *
all day long they assault and oppress me.
My adversaries trample over me all the day long; *
many are they that make proud war against me.
In the day of my fear I put my trust in you, *
in God whose word I praise.
In God I trust, and will not fear, *
for what can flesh do to me?
All day long they wound me with words; *
their every thought is to do me evil.
They stir up trouble; they lie in wait; *
marking my steps, they seek my life.
Shall they escape for all their wickedness? *
In anger, O God, cast the peoples down.
You have counted up my groaning;
put my tears into your bottle; *
are they not written in your book?
Then shall my enemies turn back
on the day when I call upon you; *
this I know, for God is on my side.
In God whose word I praise,
in the Lord whose word I praise, *
in God I trust and will not fear:
what can flesh do to me?
To you, O God, will I fulfil my vows; *
to you will I present my offerings of thanks,
For you will deliver my soul from death
and my feet from falling, *
that I may walk before God in the light of the living.

PS: yesterday's sermon is now online

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Caption Contest

The Church Times newspaper has (or used to have) a caption contest each week. The above picture was taken at our Blessing of the Animals. The winner of this contest will win nothing except the satisfaction of being recognized as clever! I'll be in NYC all next week, so please keep reading the fantastic blogs linked to the right. Please pray for safe travel (I'm a nervous flyer!)

Steve +

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

What is Communion?

Yesterday I spent the day at the Bishop's home in Savannah. I am new to the Diocese but I understand the Bishop holds several "priest days" at his home during the year. It was a wonderful time to be able to sit in the Bishop's living room and chat for five hours. I'm not sure how many priests in other dioceses have the same opportunity. It was a very gracious invitation and I appreciated it. The main question that was discussed was the perhaps cerebral and theologically profound question, "What is communion?" By communion, the Bishop didn't mean the Eucharist, but communion in the sense that we are "in communion" with one another. Obviously this is referring to the conversation involving the Episcopal Church's status in the eyes of others in the Anglican Communion. The Windsor Report talks about how we might be able to live in communion when we disagree. Bishop Keyser talked about communion at the last clergy conference and what this means. When the Bishop asked us "What is Communion?" my first instinct was, "It doesn't matter what I think, I'm not making the decisions." And in one sense, I'm right. I'm not making the decision for the Episcopal Church. I am not a delegate to General Convention and I have no vote. But as we started talking about communion and what this means, I realized something. We are expecting, or at least hoping, that the Episcopal Church and our sister churches will continue in "conversation" despite our differences and will learn to live together in the midst of severe disagreement. The problem is, I think, we don't do this in the local parish. When we have disagreement in the parish, what typically happens? Someone leaves. In my experience (limited as that might be - 5 1/2 years as a Methodist minister and going on two months as a priest) when there is disagreement, rarely do we continue living together despite or even in spite of our division. Maybe the difficulty I had in the discussion on communion and maybe the problems many people are having understanding the healing and decision making process at the national level is that it is foreign to the local parish. If this is the case, then how can we remedy our relunctance to address this locally? Do we as priests prefer our "problems" go to the Methodist church or the Lutheran church? Does the laity prefer that "problems" ultimately get tired and quit coming to church? Perhaps the question of communion need to be addressed globally and locally. What is communion. What does it mean to be "in" communion?

Steve +

Monday, October 10, 2005

It's Thessalonica, not Thessalonia, Pat

Yesterday in the Adult Sunday School class, a question was raised about the recent hurricanes and earthquakes and God's role in it all. This morning there is a news article quoting Pat Robertson's assertion that the recent events could mean that we are living in the end times. While I never like to take the road of arrogance and say that Pat is absolutely wrong, I would ask Pat and others to think about the history of our planet. We've had an Ice Age. Since we no longer live in an Ice Age, there must have been some significant global warming. South America looks like it could fit right next to Africa, leading most scientists to say that a long time ago there was one land mass over all the earth and that the shifting of plate techtonics caused the land masses to split. The shift of plates causes earthquakes. Furthermore, when two plates collide, one plate must go up and one must go down. The plate that is forced up forms mountains. The point being - when you look at the history of our planet and force a perspective that is much larger than 100 years, one will discover that earthquakes and hurricanes, as horrible and damaging as they are, have been active for a very long time. Pat may be right, we may be living in the end times. But if we are faithful, does it matter?

Steve +

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

God and Job (not the person...occupation)

Dancing on the Head of Pin is not a political blog. There are many political blogs on the net and there are many religious/political and many Episcopal/poliltical blogs out here. If you want to take a look at some, just hit the "Random" link on the "Blogging Episcopalians" box to the right, and you're bound to find some in two or three clicks. This is not a political blog for many reasons. Among them being the fact that the aim of this blog is to provide daily (or sometimes daily) thoughts and news for the people of St Michael's and all the internet world. Also, politics is a messy arena. Most of us have political views without knowing the details of any given political situation; myself included. So we will not pontificate on what the President or anyone else is doing right or wrong based on a soundbite on the evening news or some other blog. That is not fair. That being said, Judge Roberts made an interesting statement during his confirmation hearings. He said "My faith and my religious beliefs do not play a role in judging. When it comes to judging, I look to the law books and always have. I don't look to the Bible or any other religious source." This is not a partisan commentary, but a broad political one. Politicians on both sides have been accused of bringing their religion into politics. JFK concerned many Protestants because he was Catholic. Joe Lieberman, a Jew, said he would try not to work on the Sabbath as president. George W. Bush has made many comments about faith and prayer. But when asked how their religious views would influence their decision making, all politicians (to my knowledge) make some reference to governing for all people and not letting one aspect of faith dictate or determine their positions. Essentially what Judge Roberts said earlier in this post. You may remember John Kerry saying emphatically that personally he is not a fan of abortion, but that is the law. And we know of many Roman Catholic Dioceses that have refused communion to those who publically support abortion. In 215, the Bishop of Rome - Hippolytus - composed the Apostolic Tradition in which we see the liturgies of baptism and the Eucharist from the early Church. What is interesting is how Hippolytus (and by extension the church) prohibited certain occupations to be included in the Christian life.
They will inquire concerning the works and occupations of those are who are brought forward for instruction. 2If someone is a pimp who supports prostitutes, he shall cease or shall be rejected. 3If someone is a sculptor or a painter, let them be taught not to make idols. Either let them cease or let them be rejected. 4If someone is an actor or does shows in the theater, either he shall cease or he shall be rejected. 5If someone teaches children (worldly knowledge), it is good that he cease. But if he has no (other) trade, let him be permitted. 6A charioteer, likewise, or one who takes part in the games, or one who goes to the games, he shall cease or he shall be rejected. 7If someone is a gladiator, or one who teaches those among the gladiators how to fight, or a hunter who is in the wild beast shows in the arena, or a public official who is concerned with gladiator shows, either he shall cease, or he shall be rejected. 8If someone is a priest of idols, or an attendant of idols, he shall cease or he shall be rejected. 9A military man in authority must not execute men. If he is ordered, he must not carry it out. Nor must he take military oath. If he refuses, he shall be rejected. 10If someone is a military governor, or the ruler of a city who wears the purple, he shall cease or he shall be rejected. 11The catechumen or faithful who wants to become a soldier is to be rejected, for he has despised God. 12The prostitute, the wanton man, the one who castrates himself, or one who does that which may not be mentioned, are to be rejected, for they are impure. 13A magus shall not even be brought forward for consideration. 14An enchanter, or astrologer, or diviner, or interpreter of dreamsb, or a charlatanc, or one who makes amulets, either they shall cease or they shall be rejected.
Now certainly there are historical and cultural reasons as to why many of these occupations are listed. The point of this post is to ask the question: The early church did not see Christianity as divisible between public and private arenas. Has it not become that and if so, what is the result? Of course it is easy for me to post this, I'm a priest. My job is my faith, or my faith is my job. If someone asks me if my religious views influence my decision making in my job, I or course say, YES.

Steve +

Monday, October 03, 2005

Do we really want change?

In today's daily office Gospel reading, Jesus casts demons out of two men into a herd of swine and (you know the story) the swine went down a cliff and into the sea. What's interesting is that the townspeople all came out to meet Jesus (we would expect this) and they asked him to leave (we wouldn't expect this). Certainly we are on the outside looking in, knowing who Jesus is and judging the situation with a perspective 2000 years old, but I starting thinking as we had Morning Prayer, is the church in some ways like the townspeople? Most, if not all, churches have missions statements of written goals identifying what they as a church want to accomplish for the Kingdom. Most of the time, these goals involve growth.
"We want to grow." "We want to bring people in." "We want to be what God is calling us to be."
But when change actually starts occuring and the swine start running down the hill, do we as the church regret our mission statements or goals? Growth is painful. Change is difficult. Becoming whom and that which God has called us is a process. Jesus met two demoniacs "who were so fierce that no one could pass that way." The neighborhood was held hostage. Jesus cast the evil out and freed the town from being held hostage.
"The swineherds ran off, and on going into the town, they told the whole story about what had happened to the demoniacs. Then the whole town came out to meet Jesus; and when they saw him, they begged him to leave their neighborhood."
Losing the demoniacs meant also losing their herds. Was that worth it for the swineherds. Obviously not. Is it worth it for the church to lose a herd to gain freedom?
What do you think? If we were to make this story an allegory, who would play what role?

Steve +