Thursday, January 31, 2013

The Virtue of Silence


If you know me you know that I am extraverted and have no lack of ability to talk. I may even talk your ear off. I’ve been accused on more than one occasion of talking too much. What you may not know about me, however, is that I love silence. People who know me very well, know this about me. I love silence.

When I drive I usually drive in silence. I do not listen to the radio. Ever. I will occasionally listen to music from a CD or talk while driving but I enjoy driving in silence.

Every year I tend to visit a monastery for a private retreat and spend most of my time in silence. Aside from some occasional small conversations or ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ I tend to spend the time in silence. Most often while working in my office I tend to keep it pretty silent. I will occasionally play music, but I do not do this very often.

While I am on my Sabbatical I am going to spend a great deal of the time in silence. I am visiting three Benedictine monasteries and will be silent most of the time I am at these places. One of the locales, Christ in the Desert in New Mexico, is located in a canyon where no one else lives. It is 13 miles away from the highway and very secluded. The monks claim it is so quiet there they can hear the birds fly. I am looking forward to being there.

We live in an incredibly noisy world. If you sit at home one day and turn the radio off and the television off you’ll find there is still a lot of noise. Dogs are barking in the neighborhood. Appliances make noise. Dogs are barking in the neighborhood. The heating or air conditioning makes noise. There is neighborhood noise. Dogs are barking in the neighborhood. There are cars driving by. Dogs are barking in the neighborhood. You may have guessed, we have some incredibly not courteous neighbors around us who leave their dogs out to bark incessantly.

We live in a world where information literally blasts away at us. We watch television and we are bombarded with images. We watch insipid ‘comedies’ where we never laugh. In reviewing the bulk of my television watching, virtually every show I see begins with a killing or some dreadful crime. Watching the news is often painful. It is most typically ‘opinion’ with some current events thrown in.

I will not listen to the radio. There are exceptions of course, but most of what I hear on the radio is a blasting away of opinions which may or may not be based on any particular factual foundation. There is music I’m not interested in listening to, and religious programming which often offends me more than it edifies me. I have eliminated the radio from my life. I know there is some good material on the radio but I will not even bother.

We receive information overloads constantly and we rarely have the opportunity to be still and be quiet and allow anything to penetrate our hearts, our minds, and our souls.

Often when I pray I like to be in a quiet place, pray Psalms so I’m not using my own words, and just sit still and be. Psalm 46 says, “Be still and know that I am God.” Often we cannot ‘hear’ God unless we stop, sit still, and be silent. Silence is an amazing virtue and one I am enjoying exploring.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Audio Sermon January 27, 2013


The Spirit of the Lord is in Our Midst

Text:  Luke 4:14-21

Rev. Dr. John E. Manzo

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Jesus and Guns



I have virtually nothing to say on the gun debate. Personally, I have no interest in guns and while I understand the Second Amendment, I have little understanding as to why people are so incredibly interested in guns. Having said that, however, as I have little understanding of this mindset, I’m not going to pass any judgment on it. People have a right to determine what is best for them and I’m going to absent myself from this debate, right or wrong in doing so.

There is one exception to this and it is in reference to Jesus and God. Often Jesus and guns or more generically, God and guns get lumped together. It seems to infer that godly people like guns and people who don’t like guns are ungodly. Or, it infers that God is a big fan of guns. We’ve seen signs abound which indicate that Jesus would carry a gun if he was in our midst right now.

All of this I find offensive.

Would Jesus have carried a gun? The definitely answer is we do not know. No one really knows who invented the first gun but we do know that the Chinese invented gun powder in the 9th Century after Christ. When Jesus walked the earth and when the Bible was written and compiled, there were no guns. If you read about guns in your Bible at home, purchase a new Bible as the one you are reading is inaccurate.

There is no mention of Jesus ever carrying a sword or any other weapon. We know that Peter carried a sword and used it on one occasion to cut off a servant’s ear when Jesus was arrested. Jesus strongly condemned Peter for the action, however.

Biblically there appears to be strong evidence in the Gospels that Jesus was, himself, a pacifist. He spoke of peace and love and his civil disobedience was distinctly non-violent. In the very early church there was a practice of pacifism, but after the time of Constantine Christians joined the Roman Army and only some branches of Christianity practice pacifism today.

Having said this, Christians have benefited from wars, sometimes in increasing the faith (which does not seem to be something Jesus would have approved of) or in protecting people of faith. In the United States we cherish a freedom of religion that is precious. No person of faith, however, can claim that this freedom did not come without the shedding of blood. It is part of our history.

All of this comes to one thought. If you want to own weapons that is your legal right. But don’t lump your weapons with Jesus. He never advocated for guns and there is nothing in the bible to indicate he did. When we do this, we are in the process of becoming offensive. Frankly, saying Jesus is opposed to guns can also become offensive. I can make a strong argument that Jesus was a pacifist and that his main teaching was pacifism. I cannot make an argument that Jesus would have never carried a gun, however for the same reason we cannot make an argument that he would. They didn’t exist.

Think of all the things we can ponder about Jesus if we allow ourselves to do so?

What newspaper would Jesus subscribe to?

Would Jesus watch Fox, CNN, or MSNBC?

Would Jesus wear Speedos?

What kind of car would Jesus drive?

Would Jesus wear a tie that said Jesus on it and it was decorated with dozens of little crosses?

Who would Jesus have voted for in the last election?

Who is Jesus rooting for in the Super Bowl?

Would Jesus like fries with that?

Take note of all these questions. They are all absurd to ask in reference to Jesus but people can actually insert whatever answer they want. They do already.

Thus it is with guns. I do not believe that Jesus would ever have killed anyone. He demonstrated a willingness to die for others and expressed no willingness to kill for others. That is what I believe. My only request is this. Don’t put something in Jesus’ hands that would never have been in his hands in the first place. It is unseemly and frankly, offensive. If you want to own a gun, it is your right. Please do not credit your desire for a gun to Jesus. When we do so, we are putting words or objects in Jesus’ mouthj or hands that were never there.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Audio Sermon January 20, 2013


A God of Abundance

Text: John 2:1-11
January 20, 2013

Rev. Dr. John E. Manzo



Saturday, January 12, 2013

Journey Beginnings

If you are reading this on a Facebook link that happens to be as my Facebook and blog are linked.  I think.   In any case, if you are reading this on Facebook I have not broken my ‘Facebook fast,’ I’m merely blogging.

I am at a point of journey beginnings.  I am beginning my Sabbatical in March and it will be 12 weeks plus two weeks vacation.  During the Sabbatical a significant portion of the time will be pondering, reading about, experiencing, and living hospitality and spirituality.  I am not doing this in the abstract, either.  I’m actually going to be immersing myself in Benedictine traditions.  Benedictine monks are some of the most famous or common monks in existence.  They live and work in monasteries and in some affiliated ministries associated with their monasteries.

Different Roman Catholic religious orders are noted for different things.  Jesuits and Dominicans are often scholars. Franciscans are amazing at pastoral caring and preaching the good in Good News.  Benedictines are very much noted for spirituality and Worship.  They Worship multiple times every time with the Liturgy of the Hours.  It is not so much about theological teachings or positions, or anything like that.  They have developed amazing chants and experiencing these Worship moments is very moving.

They also practice hospitality.  Benedictine monasteries (and Trappist monasteries which also follow the rule of St. Benedict) all generally have guest houses and guest rooms for people to stay in.  You are housed and fed and it’s usually very comfortable.  It is not staying at the Ritz, but it’s very comfortable and one is well taken care of.

One thing I appreciate about their charism of hospitality is they leave you alone.  One is invited to participate in everything, but required nothing.  No matter who you are or where you are on life’s journey, you are welcome into their monasteries.  Amazing people.

I feel I have much to learn from them.  I have been working on praying the Liturgy of the Hours myself every day and re-immersing myself in praying Psalms.

For now I will remain on Facebook from Sunday – Thursday, but take Fridays and Saturdays off.  I will be completely off when I am on Sabbatical.  To be honest, I love Facebook and with withdrawal has been difficult.  I found myself clicking the app on my phone and the link on my computer a lot yesterday.  Thankfully, I had logged out so I couldn’t get back in without logging in.  I’m realizing first steps on a journey are always the most difficult steps to take.  But they generally lead to better things.

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Wondering About Rodney King’s Words

Rodney King will be remembered for two things.  First was getting the tar beat out of him, on video, by Los Angeles Police officers.  The second was his immortal question, “Can’t we all just get along?”

Rodney’s words are words we probably have all used at some point.  They became famous as King’s words because he had become famous by being on the receiving end of a savage beating caught on camera.  The subsequent trials, riots, etc., made him a household name.  He ended up having a short, troubled life and was famous simply for being famous.  But his words live on.  He asked a critical question.

I’ve been wondering about that of late.  Seriously.

Every day I read the news or watch the news and there is a new fight.  Congress is fighting with the President and among themselves.  The President is fighting with this person or that person.  Conflicts, personal and professional, run rampant.  The betterment of the country seems to be on the back burner.  Can’t we all just get along?

In states it is much the same.  Governors right with legislatures and the legislatures fight among themselves. Can’t we all just get along?

I am struck on Facebook on how many mean posts there are.  And yes, I find myself cringing at my mean and sarcastic posts as well.  Can’t we all just get along?

That’s all.  Can’t we all just get along?

Sunday, January 06, 2013

Audio Sermon 1/6/13

The Search for the Messiah

Text:  Matthew 2:1-12

Rev. Dr. John E. Manzo

Audio Sermon 12/30/12

Faciem Dei

Luke 2:22-39

Rev. Dr. John E. Manzo