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?

Friday, January 27, 2006

Love to Distraction

Today, the feast of St John Chrysostom, I celebrated the Eucharist at the Convent of St Helena. During the homily I brought up the subject of modern preaching - because Chrysostom (goldenmouth) is known as perhaps the greatest preacher in all of Christendom. St John did not pull punches in his sermons. I recalled a first line of a sermon of St John's, "Recently I serverly upbraided you..." Later in that sermon he compared preaching to putting medicine on a wound; it may hurt at first, but give it time and healing will occur. One of my favorite sermons is of St John criticizing his congregation for skipping worship in the summer and complaining it's too hot, etc (not much has changed in 1600 years). Certainly zingers and criticism is abundant in modern preaching. Preaching is power and preachers are given an incredible amount of power. All of us are given the charge at our baptism to preach and build up. Unfortunately preaching is many times perverted as an ecclesial power move with one person speaking with authority (see this week's gospel) manipulating the eager ears in the pews. Did St John Chrysostom do this? I don't think so. In a letter to one of his priests, St John was critical of him for only preaching five times over a long period and for not attending to the responsibilities of worship and pastoral care, but he underlined all of his disappointments by telling the lapsed priest, "I love you to distraction." God knows we are not perfect and most of the time we know we are not perfect. Preaching needs to inform, inspire, and build up. Sometimes it must be a mirror; but it should never be a power play or a soap box for personal agendas. Preaching should be the result of love to distraction.

Steve +

Thursday, January 26, 2006

It's Up!

The new website is up! Check it out. It may not be great, but it's better.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

What do you look for in a church web site?

We are about 10 days or so from re-launching our church website; www.episcopalians.info. As I am adjusting the design and contents I'd like to know: what things do you really like to see in a church site and what things turn you off.

Steve +

Monday, January 16, 2006

The Book of Daniel

from my column this Wednesday in the local paper (I wonder if this one will get Letters to the Editor?)

Many people have asked what I thought about NBC’s “The Book of Daniel,” a dark comedy about an Episcopal priest and his family. The plot consists of the priest hooked on pain killers who happens to chat with a physical Jesus in the car and in any other place Jesus happens to pop up, an alcoholic wife, three children who are, respectively, dealing drugs, having sex, and one son is gay, power struggles in the church, trying to build a school in which the money raised for its construction was embezzled by a brother-in-law who was found dead in the first episode and his widow is now having a lesbian love affair with her deceased’s secretary, the priest’s father is, presumably, the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church who has a wife suffering from Alzheimer’s and is sleeping with the priest’s diocesan bishop who is, by the way, female, and a partridge in a pear tree! As one might imagine, there is a lot of hoopla over the portrayal of this clerical family and groups such as the American Family Association have pushed to have it pulled from NBC’s schedule and even some affiliates have refused to broadcast it because it, according to the AFA website, “mocks Christianity”. Now I consider myself a person who is sensitive to mocking. There are some things I cannot handle and refuse to watch. Many find Comedy Central’s “South Park” wildly entertaining but episodes of Jesus fighting Santa Claus and the Blessed Virgin Mary menstruating are a little much for my sensibilities, so I don’t watch the show. I also cringe at bad theology in television and movies. Theology, certainly, varies upon your religious tradition and what makes me cringe may cause others to celebrate. But for example, I grew up on “Highway to Heaven,” starring Michael Landon. But I don’t think any Christian tradition teaches that humans, upon death, become angels helping others. I enjoyed the Meg Ryan movie, “City of Angel’s” but I don’t think it’s good theology to portray an angel who preferred a few moments of human experience to an eternity of celestial existence. The point is - it appears that certain topics involving faith set groups of people off more than others. If I had to guess the hot button issue in “The Book of Daniel,” it would be homosexuality and drug abuse. It certainly isn’t an ideal portrayal of a priest, but my favorite portrayal of a priest is also the most far-fetched. Remember Bing Crosby as Father O’Malley in “The Bells of St Mary’s” and “Going my Way?” I still want to be Father O’Malley, wearing a straw boater’s hat, playfully arguing with a nun like Ingrid Bergman, and solving everyone’s problems by sitting at a piano and singing a song. But that’s not how life is. Life is also not like “The Book of Daniel,” but in my experience, the truth is somewhere in between. Life involves struggling with substance abuse, issues concerning sexuality, parenting, money, and power – things that can’t be solved by sitting at a piano and singing a song. And yes, even priests, pastors, preachers, ministers, rabbis, and sheiks struggle with these issues. I don’t think “The Book of Daniel” should be the poster movie for the Episcopal Church or Christianity. But I don’t think “The Bells of St Mary’s,” “It’s a Wonderful Life,” or “Highway to Heaven” should be either. Personally I find a lot of good things in the new NBC show, but you don’t have to watch it and you shouldn’t if you don’t want to. But watch the show or not, we should not ignore the important issues tastefully or distastefully raised, and we should not ignore them in the Church or wherever you happen to worship.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

This Week's Attempt at Humor

Here is today's column from the True Citizen. I was running out of "nothings" to write so I solicited some problems for an advice column:

We have a sprayer who comes in the office. His spittle output does not seem affected by certain words -- it's just constant. To make matters worse, a co-worker always offers him mixed nuts -- then we're hit with brown stuff that resembles the gook babies make on teething cookies. We try backing up, but are always eventually pinned to the wall. Yuck ... what can we do?
- Sprayed and Nuttered

Dear Sprayed,

To find true happiness you must look at each event as an opportunity and not as a problem. What you perceive as a plethora of Planters pounding your personal space (say that five times fast) is really an opportunity to make enough money to quit your current job and be rich enough that you can ban sprayers from ever coming near you. Let’s look at the facts; you have one sprayer, add nuts, and the result is mashed peanuts that a baby would like. Bingo! Do you realize that the Gerber Company makes $712 million per year from baby food alone? But one thing the Gerber Company does not have is an entry-level product designed to introduce babies to peanuts. Pediatricians advise parents not to give their children peanuts due to possible allergies, but if they had something soft and mushy, like what your sprayer is so willing to give, they might be able to safely introduce peanuts to a younger audience! Every morning before you go to work, apply an herbal face mask. When your co-worker comes in, invite him into your personal space and keep feeding him the nuts, the nuttier, the better. As he returns them your way, the “gook” as you so condescendingly called it, will be securely caught by the mask without raising your ick factor because it won’t actually touch your skin. When your sprayer leaves, carefully remove the mask and preserve the new goldmine baby food product. See how quickly a worrisome problem and become a financial opportunity? This will not only benefit you, but think how you will help the larger economy. How many more millions will Georgia peanut farmers make because of your innovation? You may single handedly make the Georgia economy the largest in the United States. This income could bring theme parks and professional sports teams to Burke County. The General Assembly might even move the Capital from Atlanta to Waynesboro, all because you thought positive and took the words of Chinese military strategist Sun Tzu to heart: keeping your nuts close, but your sprayers closer.

PS: A new and improved website will be coming to stmichaelsparish.net in the future. What sort of items do you look for in a church website? What do you want to see and what features do you think are helpful?