Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Matthew Fox's Book, "The Pope's War"

I recently read the book, The Pope's War: Why Ratzinger's Secret Crusade Has Imperiled the Church and How It Can Be Saved , by the theologian Matthew Fox.

Fox was a Roman Catholic priest and a member of the Dominicans and a prolific author and theologian who mostly covered the topic of spirituality. He was widely read and widely admired and was one of the favorites of many of us while attending the seminary.

When John Paul II was the Pope he revived a critical view of theological teachings and appointed Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the current Pope, to be in charge. In the mid 1980's seminary faculties were purged of professors and dozens of theologians had their work condemned and many of them were silenced. Fox ended up being one of them. Ratzinger ordered the Dominicans to review Fox’s work and they cleared the theologian. Ratzinger dismissed their work and ordered a new review and then, instead of allowing the new review to take place, banned Fox’s writings and eventually forced the Dominicans to oust Fox.

Matthew Fox was invited to join the Episcopal Church where he serves as a priest and continues his theological writing.

Fox’s book is essentially a chronicle of what happened to him and many others and how the traditional scholarly religious orders of the Jesuits and Dominicans were largely marginalized, and groups such as Opus Dei and the Legion of Christ, were thrust into prominence. Fox makes the argument, and I believe validates the argument, that John Paul and Ratzinger, in tandem, narrowed the diversity of Roman Catholicism, silenced talk of real ecumenism, and, with their leadership selections, assured that such Popes as John XXIII and Paul VI never appear again.

Fox, in my mind, makes some very compelling points. The Roman Catholic Church has lost a great deal of theological credibility by silencing, in many cases, its most brilliant theological minds, and has very much lost its moral credibility in terms of sexuality. Their silence, John Paul’s and Ratzinger’s ignoring of the many sexual abuses coming to them for a very long time, and ‘rescue’ of Bernard Law from Boston authorities when it was becoming painfully obvious that Law would be justifiably charged with a criminal cover up, are, in and of themselves criminal. Additionally, groups like Opus Dei and the Legion of Christ, raising money for the ‘poor’ and using it for political influence is obscene.

I had several thoughts.

One, while Matthew Fox is an Episcopal priest right now, and is grateful for the freedom he has now, in his heart, one has a sense he is still a Dominican friar who laments the loss of a lover who dumped him. I have seen this in a number of estranged Roman Catholic clergy who long to be clergy in Roman Catholic churches and no longer can be because they committed the unforgivable crimes of falling in love with women or men and chose to be honest about it.

Secondly, it is sad, tragic really, how these theologians have been silenced. While God is perfect, people are not, and our views of God are not. It really does not matter if we are a learned theologian, a member of the clergy, a random person, or the Pope, we all have imperfect views of God. It strikes me as impossible to condemn people for their points of view. Difference is not deficience, it is more about creativity and learning. Thomas Aquinas opened his mind to EVERYTHING that was written in his era. We should be able to do the same.

Thirdly, it reminds me that when I left the Roman Catholic Church, I left it. There are things about it I still love and cherish, but I am, at heart, a United Church of Christ minister. It was reminded, reading Matthew Fox’s book, how appreciative I am of m own denomination.

Ultimately, having said all this, there are many Roman Catholic people who are very happy with their denominational family and tradition. While many view the prospect of early sainthood for John Paul II as a travesty, others view it as wonderful. The Roman Catholic Church and Roman Catholic people have a right to who they are and what they choose to believe. Some of us are long gone. Matthew Fox reminds us that there are many people, standing on the outside looking in, and wishing it could be very different. While my heart ultimately breaks for Fox in reading this, down deep, I would invite him to embrace the people who have embraced him and not look back.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

The Songs of Israel---Longing for God Sermon 7-26-11

The Songs of Israel---Longing for God
Text: Psalm 42
Rev. Dr. John E. Manzo
June 26, 2011

One of my favorite parts of the Bible are the Psalms. The Psalms are usually called the Songs of Israel because they were, at their heart, songs or hymns about people’s relationship with God.

Psalms are not, like so much of the Bible, stories or things happening to people or explicit teachings about God. Psalms are more a reflection of where people were at in their journeys in their relationships with God. Years ago they were all attributed to David, but in reality they were songs that evolved over a period of time.

What they are, at best, is a reflection of the journey of God’s people in relationship to God. Sometimes they reflect thoughts about God, most often they reflect feelings about God. Often they refer to feelings of joy or sorrow, or total frustration. They can be songs of joy or songs of comfort, or songs of despair----and this is what makes the Psalms so real. They reflect the real thoughts and real feelings of God’s people.

I knew a minister colleague years ago who, whenever you asked him how he was, would say, “Wonderful! This is the day the Lord has made!” He was either the most upbeat person of all time, or he, somehow refused to admit how he felt or was unwilling to admit how he felt. So I stopped asking him how he felt. The same goes for people who, when you ask them how they are, give you a 30 minute lecture on how miserable their life is. For some people, perhaps this is true, but most of the time when the response is a 30 minute lecture on how miserable life is most of it is just whining. I stop asking them how they are as well.

The Psalms reflect real thoughts and real feelings of real people. Today I’m starting a sermon series on several Psalms.

We begin with Psalm 42. It begins very poetically with the image of a dear longing for flowing water as the writer’s soul longs for God. Behind the poetry, however, there is the Psalm composer who feels very remote and isolated from God. Three times the writer asks the question, “Why are you cast down my soul?” Within the heart of the Psalmist there is pain and the pain is a sense of bewilderment asking the question: Where is God?

The author of the Psalm was probably in exile and he was recalling the days of life when life was good in Jerusalem. Now, he is far from the good life in Jerusalem and surrounded by people who hold him captive and mock him about his God. “If your God is so good, how did you end up as our captive?” The question would be asked mockingly, and the writer of the Psalm himself wonders, where is God?
There are several things to be observed in this Psalm.

The first is this. God allows us, even invites us, to be real.

First, this Psalms is a Psalm of lament. It is bemoaning what seems to be the absence of God in the Psalmist’s life. He laments and asks over and over again, where is God. He even says that the people who are tormenting him are asking him the same question. Where is your God? If your God is so great, how come we, with our allegedly inferior gods, have defeated you and that you are our captive???

Of all the things the Bible tells us one of the things the Bible never once tells us is that life is fair. In the Book of Ecclesiastes the writer tells us that the rain falls on the just and the unjustice; on the righteous and the sinners.

We live in a world where God’s will does not always prevail. We all pray for God’s will, but so often God’s will does not take place. The wrong people get jobs, some people do not get better, and injustice triumphs over justice.

In World War II, Arthur Harris, often known by his nickname, “Bomber” Harris, was the head of the Royal Air Force’s Bomber Command. He hated Hitler and Nazi Germany with a passion and was determined to bomb, and fire bomb, Germany into a pile of rubble. In 1945 he ordered what most historians would one day call a ‘raid too far,’ when he ordered the fire bombing of the German city of Dresden. Dresden had no military value. Germany was defeated and the city of Dresden was clogged with refugees attempting to flee the oncoming Russian Army. The city was destroyed and over 50,000 German civilians were burned to death in the bombing.

During this one man asked the question, “Why is God doing this to us?” Another man responded, “God is not doing this to us. People make wars.”

God allows us to lament because there are times when it is all we can do. We are allowed to be real with God.

Secondly, there are times when long for God because God seems to have been taken away from us by others. Often, there is injustice in the world and that injustice is blamed on God.

Most people are very aware that in the years leading up to the American Civil War there was a great deal of political tension within the United States. The country was being torn apart over the ethical issue of slavery. Was it legal for human beings to actually own other human beings? Did people of color have less rights than white people?

That debate took place in churches. Tragically people used the Bible as a battering stick against people of color. They found several passages and narrowly defined them to argue that slavery was God’s will, while overlooking the rest of the Bible that spoke of equality and justice for all people. It was tragic. Christians argued for inequality. Churches were split over it and many people abandoned churches where equality and justice were preached.

In the early part of the 20th century the debate lined up in exactly the same way. This time it was over the issue of the rights of women.

They found several passages and narrowly defined them to argue that misogyny was God’s will, while overlooking the rest of the Bible that spoke of equality and justice for all people. It was tragic. Christians argued for inequality. Churches were split over it and many people abandoned churches where equality and justice were preached.

And now, the debated has lined up in exactly the same way over the rights of all people to marry and have civil rights as couples. The legalization of marriage for all people that was passed in New York on Friday night was preached against, again, by many churches.

They found several passages and narrowly defined them to argue that being anti gay was God’s will, while overlooking the rest of the Bible that spoke of equality and justice for all people. It is tragic. Christians argue for inequality. Churches have split over it and many people abandoned churches where equality and justice were preached.

So there is a longing for God by people who are oppressed because, like the writer of the Psalm, they believe they have been abandoned by God.

The reality is that they are not abandoned by God; they have been abandoned by many of God’s people and it is tragic.

The last thing is this. When we lament, at its core, a lament is a cry of hope.

The Psalm is a calling out for God. It is a longing for God. It is a yearning for God. It is based on the premise and the heart felt belief that God is there, listening and caring. It is a recognition that there is a God who longs for us just as much as we long for God.
The last verse of the Psalm is this:

Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you disquieted within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
my help and my God.

It is a song, a reminder that our hope is always in God; and God will be our help.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

God Bless Craig (Sermon for Father's Day!)

God Bless Craig
Text: Ephesians 6:1-4
Rev. Dr. John E. Manzo
June 19, 2011

In the Manzo family lore, there is a story, a true story, that has been passed on and it’s about my Dad.

My brother was born in August of 1957. Several weeks after his birth, my brother was Baptized and people were coming to our home for a party after the Baptism was held at church. My Dad went to the bakery and ordered a special cake in honor of the day. On the cake, he had the baker put the words, “God Bless Craig.” The baker wasn’t really sure how to spell ‘Craig’ so my Dad spelled it out for him.

The day of the Baptism came and the cake was taken out, and there, perfectly written on the cake were the words, “God Bless Craig.” Everything was great except for one tiny little detail. My brother’s name is Mark. I do have a cousin named Craig and evidently my Dad, who was legendary at messing up names, was thinking of ‘Craig’ and not Mark.

We never really knew how far this piece of family lore had gone until many years later when my Grandmother died in 1993. At the funeral home my sister’s childhood friend, Kelly, came to the funeral home and my sister was introducing her to family members. When she introduced Kelly to Craig, Kelly’s eyes lit up and she said, “Oh wow. God bless Craig!!!”

Dad died in 1997 and at the funeral home we were standing around talking and laughing, and thinking about his immortal blunder that lives on in the life of the Manzo family.

Sometimes, in life, the role of being a Dad is to bring comic relief to a family. The story of my Dad and the cake, however, is a story with humor, but underlies something much bigger. My Dad was a really good Dad. He cared for and loved every member of his family and took care of everyone with everything he had. That is why we found the story so much fun and endearing. It brings back great memories.

Sadly, fatherhood is a tough subject. If there is a parent who bails on a family, most of the time it’s the father. If there is a parent who fails to take responsibility for the care, raising, and loving children, it’s usually the father. I read a statistic the other day that 47% of families with children at home are single parent families, with the largest percentage of the single parents being mothers. Often fathers make themselves the people out of the family picture.

And society doesn’t always treat fathers seriously.

In the early 1980's there was a movie made entitled Mr. Mom, and it was about the unemployed Dad staying home as the homemaker while Mom went to work every day. Mom, despite some starts and stops did just fine in the world of business, but Dad was seen as a total moron at home who could do nothing right. Dad was not taken seriously.

Recently AT&T has had a commercial that really drives me crazy. The Dad, in the commercial does not understand the wireless Internet service in his home and spends most of the commercial being lecture by his wife and daughter like he’s a total moron. Dad is not taken seriously.

St. Paul, in some interesting ways, helps redefine fathers, and in doing so helps redefine families.

Ephesians is, for many, a troubling letter when St. Paul begins speaking about family life. He precedes his words today with the famous passage on women submitting to their husbands----but it is, in many ways, a stunning passage.

When the letter hit the Ephesians they must have been shell-shocked. They wouldn’t have been shell shocked by women submitting to their husbands. Women were, at that time, property of their husbands. They had as many rights as a goat or a cow. Life for women in that era was, in a word, grim. Submission and often even abuse were part of their lives. It was a dreadful time for so many women.

But when the words of Paul came and read, “husbands, love your wives,” and later, “do not provoke your children to anger,” St. Paul was walking on new ground. People did not tell men, in that day and age, to live in a family in such a manner. Men were in charge. Real men didn’t eat quiche, didn’t love their wives, didn’t have to respect their children, or even have any emotional bond with their families at all.

But Paul is saying the opposite. Real men, do all these things. Real men do love their families and have emotional bonds with their family members. And quiche is optional.

But this day reminds us of things beyond Dads. It is a reminder to us about how we adults interact with children in our society.

This whole concept of ‘bringing them up,’ is not a passive process. It’s an active, every day kind of thing. Children do not raise themselves.

Here is one of the great myths of society. I have heard, many, many times, people make the statement that they were not going to raise their children in a church tradition; they want the child to grow up and make the decision for himself or herself.

It sounds good in theory but, in essence, when we raise children in nothing, they will choose nothing. If a child has never gone to church before then there is no reason to believe they will start going later. Increasingly, the younger generation is not only unchurched, but not even close to having a comprehension of a life of faith.

Every time we Worship and we pray, we end the Morning Prayer with the Lord’s Prayer. It is not printed in the bulletin and people do not ordinarily go looking in their hymnals for the prayer. We know it. We have been raised with it. The words are used in church so often that we pray the prayer by heart.

After Funeral Services, most Committal Services at the grave side end with the Lord’s Prayer. Most of the time, for these services, I have the words printed in the program because many people in younger generations do not know the words.

The Lord’s Prayer, the Prayer of Our Savior, the prayer Jesus taught us, is becoming less and less known. Increasingly, in our society, more people know what is on a Big Mac than they know the words of this prayer from Jesus.

The problem is at home and in church because we have forgotten to direct children to God as Paul reminds us. And part of the way we assure children are here is to be here ourselves.
A church in Florida had been having monthly family events for the whole community in an effort to reach new people. They were having a problem, however, with some parents dropping off children but not coming themselves.

To combat this problem, they issued the following announcement: "The Magic of Lassie, a film for the whole family, will be shown Sunday at 5 P.M. in the fellowship hall. Free puppies will be given to all children not accompanied by parents."

For the past several days I have been pondering being a Dad.

On my Facebook page I posted a picture back from 1977 when I graduated from college. My sister, who was just finishing the 8th grade was there along with my parents who, at the time, were both 46. At age 46 they were 10 years younger than I am now.

It was a big day for me but, I suspect, an even bigger day for them. Their oldest child had graduated from college, something neither of them or anyone in their families had done before. I had an opportunity they did not have and they supported me through it, as they did my brother and sister after me. It was a big deal.

My parents are both gone now. Dad died in 1997 and Mom died 5 1/2 years ago. It's hard to believe. You never really ponder life without your parents until they are no longer with you.

The biggest lesson I learned from them is this. Love your children. My daughters are now adults and neither one lives at home with us now. One lives in town and one lives 7 hours away. But they are still, in so many ways, at the core of my being, deep in my heart. I love them dearly and profoundly. And I learned to love them from my Mom and Dad.

In many ways, days like Mother’s Day and Father’s Day are universal days that remind us of love. Sometimes, for many people, the love of their parents was lacking or deficient or even gone. For others, it was profound. For each of us, no matter what our circumstances in life, we are challenged to love others. I learned about love, the love of God, the love of other people, the love of my wife and children, from my parents. And on this day, I celebrate and remember their love, as I attempt to love as well as they did.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Pondering Being a Dad

For the past several days I have been pondering being a Dad.

On my Facebook page I posted a picture back from 1977 when I graduated from college. My sister, who was just finishing the 8th grade was there along with my parents who, at the time, were both 46. At age 46 they were 10 years younger than I am now.

It was a big day for me but, I suspect, an even bigger day for them. Their oldest child had graduated from college, something neither of them or anyone in their families had done before. I had an opportunity they did not have and they supported me through it, as they did my brother and sister after me. It was a big deal.

My parents are both gone now. Dad died in 1997 and Mom died 5 1/2 years ago. It's hard to believe. You never really ponder life without your parents until they are no longer with you.

The biggest lesson I learned from them is this. Love your children. My daughters are now adults and neither one lives at home with us now. One lives in town and one lives 7 hours away. But they are still, in so many ways, at the core of my being, deep in my heart. I love them dearly and profoundly. And I learned to love them from my Mom and Dad.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Be Careful Sermon for June 12, 2011

Be Careful
Acts 2:1-8, 11-13
Rev. Dr. John E. Manzo
June 12, 2011

The Gospel writer Luke, in his sequel to his Gospel, Acts of the Apostles, recounts for us a wonderful story of the coming of the Holy Spirit. On the day of Pentecost, they were all gathered and the Holy Spirit moved through their midst. People were filled with energy, enthusiasm, and great understanding. People could actually understand other's speaking on foreign tongues.

Luke says that they were ‘amazed' and ‘perplexed' by all of these remarkable happenings.

We, in Christianity, have something of a dilemma with the Holy Spirit..

We officially like and approve of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the third person of the Trinity, of God, and we officially like and approve of God.

We read such things of the fruits of the Holy Spirit, such as charity, joy, peace, etc., and they all sound good to us and we approve of them.

We read about gifts of the Holy Spirit, such as wisdom, knowledge, understanding, etc., and we approve of them.

So, Christianity officially approves of the Holy Spirit. Obviously. Easiest thing ever said from this pulpit.


Here’s the thing. Unofficially Christianity has worked hard to keep the Holy Spirit from running loose. Churches organize themselves so that the Holy Spirit doesn’t run amuck in them.

Popes surround themselves with people who will protect the Pope from people saying crazy, Holy Spirit inspired things, and the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church is established in a way that they don’t have to worry too much that the Holy Spirit is going to run amuck.

The United Church of Christ often seems to be the opposite of this because we are so loosely structured. But down deep, in churches, we work hard to structure and organize ourselves in such a way that the Holy Spirit doesn’t get loose. After all, when the Holy Spirit gets loose, strange things begin to happen. And churches don’t like strange things to happen. In all honesty, pastors don’t like strange things to happen at church.

For one, when the Holy Spirit gets loose, the Holy Spirit proves to be disruptive.

We don’t often like disruption in the church. I found a collection some time back of things to do during boring sermons. Listen to these for a moment:

See if a yawn really is contagious.

Slap your neighbor. See if they turn the other cheek. If not, raise your hand and tell the preacher.

Sit in the back row and roll a handful of marbles under the pews ahead of you. After the service, credit yourself with 10 points for every marble that made it to the front.

Using church bulletins or visitor cards for raw materials, design, test and modify a collection of paper airplanes.

Start from the back of the church and try to crawl all the way to the front, under the pews, without being noticed.

When you sing a hymn, sing the wrong verses and see if you can confuse everyone around you. Or, make up new words for hymns. Being in a Roman Catholic seminary we were not allowed to date or get married. There was a psalm response that went, “Arise, come to your God, singing your songs of rejoicing.” A few of us got creative and changed it to “Surprise, there is no God, you left your girlfriend for nothing.”

They stopped using that song.

Most of us wouldn’t do any of that stuff because we’d be afraid of disrupting the Worship Service.

The thing with the Holy Spirit is that the Holy Spirit is disruptive, and not always predictably so. Sometimes the Holy Spirit messes with long held beliefs and such.

In the latter part of the 1940's a Christian ethicist named Bernard Haring began writing about Christian ethics in a way many people found troubling. Haring has been a Roman Catholic priest who was drafted into the German Army to serve as a chaplain. He spent most of the war in Poland as a chaplain to soldiers, but also serving several small churches as their Pastor.
Haring began to write after the war. He began to write that morality was not based on obedience but on personal responsibility and conscience. His observations of what happened in Nazi Germany, where people followed with blind obedience, was that blind obedience was never good. People had to develop their own consciences.

Since much of Christian ethics, both Roman Catholic and Protestant, was based on some sort of concept of obedience, his words fell like a bomb. As time went on, people began to realize the Holy Spirit was at work and individual responsibility and learning about conscience began to pervade teachings. Of course, Haring was loudly condemned by many because he was seen as disruptive. The Holy Spirit disrupts.

Today, two young women have made a decision. They allowed the Holy Spirit to disrupt their lives and they join with us, in celebrating the disruptive presence of the Holy Spirit.

So my words to them are simple. Be careful. When the Holy Spirit lets loose, things happens. Chaos reigns and the world is disrupted.

But God is served!

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Is There One True Church? If So, Which One?

There has been a great deal of effort made, over the centuries, to define ‘the one true church.’ Many groups have, at times, defined themselves as being the ‘true church’ because of various doctrinal items, historic precedence, and biblical interpretation. One of the things I appreciate about being a minister within the United Church of Christ is that it’s not a road we choose to venture.

I don’t believe there is such a thing as ‘one true church.’ I think every church, in some way, illuminates the truth of God; and every church, in some ways, falls way short of God’s glory. The Roman Catholic Church often sees itself as the ‘one true’ or, at least, original church. Early church history, however, is way too nebulous to make that claim with a straight face. Christianity morphed, in time, into what we now call the Roman Catholic Church, but there are many incredibly valid arguments which demonstrate a massive straying from the early church. But, in fairness, they are not the only ones.

The Orthodox Churches, however, not unlike the Roman Catholic Church make the claim they were ‘founded’ on the day of the coming of the Holy Spirit, Pentecost. Others point to 1054 when there was a split between East and West, both claiming to be the ‘true’ church.

Both the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Churches practice exclusive Holy Communion; only if you are part of that denomination may you come to the Table of the Lord. Within Protestantism, it varies. Most Lutheran Churches welcome everyone, but some do not. Several Protestant denominations have, throughout history, deemed themselves as being founded, also at Pentecost, and are the ‘true’ representation of Christianity.

I don’t believe there is any ‘true’ church and I think trying to demonstrate one truth at the expense of another. There are, however, certain aspects of Christianity that I believe to be important.

First is faithfulness. Often in our desire to be ‘true’ Christians, we forget, first, to be faithful Christians. Years ago the New York Giants drafted a running back who was not working very hard. He was very talented but was a great underachiever. The coach sneered at him one day that the road to the Hall of Fame started by playing well on the field.

Faith is a great deal like that. Often the desire to be ‘true’ means we take it for granted that we are right, that we are correct, to the point that we no longer reflect what Jesus taught.

Secondly, we are driven by real biblical values. Often what passes for biblical values are our opinions with scripture verses attached. Instead, perhaps we need to read the gospels and see where the Bible actually drives us. The gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John speak often of a radical inclusion of all people and a caring for those in need. Until we live those callings, we are not really living biblical values.

Lastly, there needs to be a great sense of humility. There are two eternal truths that are real to Christians. There is a God, and we are not God. Presuming any of us are the real vessels of TRUTH is a foolhardy presumption. Only God is the Truth and we need to be humble enough to accept that.

Sunday, June 05, 2011

Sermon for Sunday June 5, 2011

The Presence of Christ
Text: Acts 1:6-11
Rev. Dr. John E. Manzo
June 5, 2011

Up in the sky;

It’s a bird;

It’s a plane,

No, it’s------the Son of God being lifted up into Heaven, ascending into the clouds.

The apostles are standing there, mouths hanging open, gawking, looking at the sky and we have to cut them a break. It was the first time they had ever seen a person just float up into the sky. They stood, absolutely transfixed and bewildered until they are told by that Jesus was taken into heaven, but will come back some day. Of course, earlier in the passage, Luke, the write of Acts of the Apostles contradicts good old Harold Camper when Jesus tells us that no one knows when all will be restored. I’m guessing our rapture friend is missing this chapter from his Bible, but that’s a whole other story.

But they are asked, “Why do you stand there looking up toward Heaven?”

It’s really an amazing question that is pretty much a timeless question. Why are you looking for Jesus up there?

A little boy named Billy, who was quite a handful, by his parents, to a Christian school in the hope that they would be helpful in discipline. After the first day of school the boy came home in deep distress and went to his room, closed the door, and was hiding under his bed.

His Mom went and asked him what had happened. Billy said, “Well, in religion class the teacher began asking where Jesus was. I guess he’s missing. But then she asked me, ‘Billy, where is Jesus? Mom, she thinks I took Jesus!!!!”

It’s a silly story with many variations. One thing, however, is always a constant. People are always searching for Jesus. People try a variety of churches, read books, and take on spiritual practices in search of Jesus. And often we miss the fact that while we are searching the clouds for Jesus, Jesus is always in our midst.

There are two places we fail to look.

The first place we fail to look is around us. Every person here is a child of God and has the presence of Christ within them. Every person here.

If you go out to lunch, look around the restaurant. Every person in the restaurant is a child of God with the presence of Christ within them. As you drive your car and pass by people and have them pass you, take note every person you encounter on the road is a child of God with the presence of Christ within them. Even the one driving below the speed limit in front of you.

One of the great plights of civilization has been the plight of racism. If we had the ability to view every person, no matter what color, what nationality, as God views them, we’d see children of God with the presence of Christ within them.

If you are a Democrat, all the Republicans are children of God with the presence of Christ within them. If you are a Republican, all the Democrats are children of God with the presence of Christ within them.

When we look around us, everyone is a child of God with the presence of Christ within them. It does not matter if we are old or young, gay or straight, male or female, short or tall, bald or hairy, funny or serious, right handed or left handed. Everyone is a child of God with the presence of Christ within them.

Every year, when we have our faith statements, I’m very much reminded of this. Our young people get such a grasp on the presence of Christ in our midst that it inspires me. Today was no exception listening to these two remarkable young women share their journeys with us.

So don’t look at the sky. Look around you and you’ll encounter the presence of Christ.

The second place we look for Christ is when we serve others in Jesus’ name. The presence of Christ is so strong when people are served.

Jesus said that whenever we do something for the least of God’s people, we do it for Christ.

This corresponds with the first point of seeing everyone as children of God. When we see others as truly being children of God, we recognize that no one should go hungry; no one should be without clothing, no one should be without loving care. Every time we have Soup Kitchen, Christ is in our midst in a special way. Every time we have Clothes Closet, Christ is in our midst in a special way. The Health Fair, the trip to Kentucky, Repair affair, Operation Santa Claus, Thanksgiving Baskets, etc., etc., etc.

The presence of Christ is in our midst, in one another, and in our service to others. So don’t look in the sky! Look around you! The presence of Christ is here among us.

Saturday, June 04, 2011

Journalistic Integrity?

I often wonder what has happened to journalistic integrity.

During the past week there were major issues in the news, but they were largely overlooked by other things.

Mitt Romney announced that he was going to run for President. Whether you agree with Romney or like him, or not, Romney is a serious man with serious credentials and serious money behind him. His announcement is a big deal and his opinions on things are a big deal.

But, his announcement was overshadowed by Sarah Palin. We know that she ‘tweeted’ about the Statute of Liberty, ate pizza with Donald Trump (who used a knife and fork), and she did whatever one calls it with Paul Revere’s ride.

Sarah Palin did not announce where she was going on her special bus family vacation. She wanted to keep the news media in the dark. The news media, in their infinite wisdom, instead of NOT following her, followed her like a pack of lemmings. Of course, she ended up in New Hampshire on the day Romney was there and completely overshadowed him. So the journalists covered nonsense instead of the news.

Of course, this was overshadowed by Anthony Weiner’s alleged or hacked ‘tweet’ of a bodily appendage to a college student. Over the week, the news media covered Weiner’s appendage like it was the biggest story of the week; and Weiner’s incredibly bizarre responses helped keep a nonsensical story on the front pages. Of course, journalists covered all of this with vim, vigor, and glee.

Of course, we had side trips with the indictment of John Edwards and more stories into his sleazy affair and inept and potentially illegal cover ups. Despite all efforts of the people covering this story, this may actually be a big story.

Tim Pawlenty is trying to run a serious campaign from Minnesota, his home state. He is a thoughtful, serious guy. Again, whether one agrees with him or not, he brings some stature to the table. Michele Bachmann is also from Minnesota and she is the Bizarro World version of George Washington. She cannot tell the truth. She is an amazing dispenser of silliness. Pawlenty, of course, gets no media coverage whereas she gets a great deal.

Meanwhile, American soldiers are still in an active war, in an occupational action, and participating with NATO forces in Libya. The job reports was disappointing. The debt ceiling has been fodder for mostly ridiculous commentary by politicians on both sides of the aisle who never get called out for their ridiculous commentary because everyone is following Sarah’s bus and lamenting Trump’s eating of pizza with silverware.

It makes me wonder of journalistic integrity has become an oxymoron.

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Amazing Heroes

I just finished reading Jonathan Jordan’s amazing book, “Brothers, Rivals, Victors: Eisenhower, Patton, Bradley and the Partnership that Drove the Allied Conquest in Europe.” The book is even longer than the title. I am a big admirer of Omar Bradley and his book, “A General’s Life,” is a classic on my bookshelf. I have read it numerous times.

First off, all three are amazing heroes. Ike and Bradley with classmates at West Point and Patton and Ike were old friends and former next door neighbors. The two of them were ardent supporters of armor and Bradley had a background in the infantry. They were all really amazing people who were very human and all made their share of mistakes.

Eisenhower had one of the most difficult jobs of the war. He was the Supreme Allied Commander in Europe. He had some amazing bosses. Winston Churchill was, well, Winston Churchill. President Roosevelt was more patient than Churchill, but there was General George Marshall, who, in my opinion is the truly great American of the 20th Century and if you don’t know who he is, shame on you! Marshall was the brains behind the American military operations in both theaters and his confidence in Eisenhower was well placed.

But part of Ike’s problem wasn’t his bosses but his subordinates. Bradley was, in so many ways, the perfect general. He was quiet and unassuming and was, in so many ways, the finest American general on the ground in Europe in terms of combat operations. Patton was brilliant but often reckless. Eisenhower, Bradley, and Patton could irritate each others and often did. They never lost focus, however, of their two great enemies: the Germans and Bernard Montgomery. Monty’s ego, portrayed in this book and many other places, was amazing. He made Patton look humble----and that’s saying a lot.

I learned some interesting things. Despite his gruffness, of the three, Patton had the most tender heart and was deeply sensitive. He was prone to fits of rage and tears. When the three visited a concentration camp, Patton was so overwhelmed with grief, he was the one who sobbed and vomited. He had a very big heart----something not always seen in portraits of him.

Bradley was a lot tougher than often portrayed. Unlike the others, of his subordinates failed, he sacked them. He felt war was truly a dreadful event and failure had to be addressed and soldiers had to be led by experience, capable leaders and not those learning on the job. And Bradley was the planner of Cobra which was one of the most devastating attacks on the Germans in the war.

Ike was the guy who held everyone together. He lived on coffee and cigarettes, and very little sleep. When he was President he had terrible health and, wow, you can really tell why. The poor guy was physically almost destroyed by the war and the stress. Interesting to note, that Bradley, in his book, dismissed Eisenhower’s planning ability militarily, but, in this book, we see his ideas very much come to light. Ike was quite a man.

It was awe inspiring reading about these three amazing heroes. They truly were brothers, rivals, and ultimately victors!