Train in Emmaus

Train in Emmaus
Life is moving like a . . .

Friday, August 26, 2011

Should have taken the chopper!

I sometimes wonder at the people that claim God is punishing us with natural disasters. Our planet is so complicated a place that something somewhere is bound to go wrong. Unfortunately, someone is usually there in destruction's path.

Most of us here in the northeast will go home and begin to put things away that can blow away, buy up food and generally prepare for the worst. I'm not saying that we shouldn't. In fact I'm reminded of the joke about God sending a car, boat and helicopter to save the person from the top of their house and the person meeting God in heaven and asking why. God often sends us the means to our salvation, but we overlook those events and wonder why.

So the message today is be prepared and look out for your neighbor that may need some help this weekend.

God bless.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Strange Days?

So over the weekend we had the possibility of tornadoes; we experienced an earthquake on Tuesday; hurricane Irene is on the way for this weekend; and Steve Jobs has resigned as CEO of Apple. The world is truly coming to an end.

But again I survived a tornado in 1982 (yes they do sound like freight trains); two earthquakes while in San Diego (an 8.3 and 8.9 about 5 hours apart); hurricane Fran in 1996 (category 1 when the eye passed less than a mile from my apartment in NC); and I survive the firing of Steve Jobs in '85.

So I guess I'm pretty well set.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Freedom or Arrogance?

So the US killed Usama bin Laden! I'm not sure how to feel about all that. The vast majority of people are celebrating. I overhear conversations in the lunch room at work and the joy in their voices can be heard. But what will the death of bin Laden actually accomplish? Time will only tell.

I read a lot of history. I have for years and I have always wondered if people living during historical events realize the impact of what is going on around them. Now I am living in what has to be a pivotal point in history and I can answer my own question. But now the real question is what happens after this?

Our country is heavily involved in three countries that could fall apart at the seams any moment. But the most dangerous is Pakistan. A country that claims to be our ally, but has done nothing but made things difficult for us. But that isn't really surprising. We are hated for our freedom to think for ourselves. Perhaps we are too arrogant for our own good and have elicited that hatred. But maybe we are just trying to spread a freedom that we won over 200 years ago and that appears as arrogance.

Monday, April 25, 2011


Taxes, where do we pay them at? Do we pay them at the Federal level to be distributed around the country or do we pay them at the local level where they should know where the needs are? That should be the real question here. Where do we pay our taxes?

The Bush administration lowered taxes as a so called stimulus. (Economists continue to argue about the implications of tax rates and economic stimulus.) But the local governments relied on grants from states that in turn received funds from the federal government. But once those funds were no longer available, state and local governments need to raise their rates.

Reduced taxes at the federal level will only mean increased taxes at the local. Maybe that is a good thing. I would hope that municipalities know what is needed in their own neighborhoods. I'm all for raising taxes, but at the local and not the federal level.

Just my thought.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Fides quaerens intellectum

God does not speak, at least not to me. I do not hear a voice or received messages from some Supreme Being telling me to ring him, or her, up. But that does not mean that God and I do not communicate.

I was ordained a Deacon 2 ½ years ago and I freely admitted that I did not claim that God had spoken to me, calling me by name. There was no Damascan Road experience for me.

So how do I know that I am following God’s plan. Well quite honestly, I don’t know. But this phrase really needs to be dissected. I don’t, but I am part of a faith community that helps me to know. It is communal work to discern what God is telling me to do.

It is no great process either. We gather for the weekly Eucharist, we worship together listening to the Word and the preacher’s meditation on the Text, we gather for coffee and pastries afterwards. We talk about our lives, what is going on in the world major and minor from natural disasters to children and grandchildren returning to school. All of this allows us to talk about God as if God were in the room with us – which is the case.

So what is God telling me? Well you tell me.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

My Sermon Today - Luke 12:49-56

Proper 15C

Fire Is Inspirational – Dn. Rodney Conn

Luke is telling us stories in a fast and furious sort of way. Luke just seems to be trying to get down everything that he can about Jesus and then we stumble across this passage. I paraphrased this passage to Sarabel and her response was, “Jesus said that?”

Wow, who would have imagined Jesus the pyromaniac? I’m not comfortable with this Jesus and never have been. I suspect that I’m not the only one. Don’t we all love the Jesus that sits with the little children and teaches us to love them? And who wouldn’t want to sit at Jesus’ table at the wedding when he gets around to turning water to wine? Or to have Jesus there when the doctor gives us bad news?

But this is the Jesus that I grew up with. The preacher would stand in the pulpit, bible in hand, and tell us with absolute certainty that Jesus was here to destroy the world. The end times were at hand with the world ending in fire, a fire that this Jesus is more than happy to start.

And the reading from Isaiah doesn’t give us any comfort. This Jesus, this God is the God of vengeance. This short passage alone is enough to give every fire and brimstone preacher the ammunition to condemn the world.

But before that even happens, there will be a time of great upheaval. Father against son, mother against daughter. Though it may not be much of a prophecy to predict in-law against in-law. And we won’t even see it coming. In fact, Jesus taunts us that we are more likely to predict the coming weather than the end that is to come.

Luke includes this darker Jesus for a reason and we’re left to explore that reason. As Christians, we should be ready for the end on one hand, but have hope for the future on the other. So what is the fire that Jesus is bringing? What could cause households to tear themselves apart?

If we look around, we can see division and arguments across the world, across our country and across our own church. It seems to me that these arguments are getting worse. Even within groups that are seemingly in agreement, any dissension is severely dealt with. Imagine being a Republican during the last presidential election and saying, “I’m voting for Mr. Obama.” Or being a Democrat and thinking the Mrs. Palin really could see Russia from her back door. Well, maybe not that.

But today there seems to be more contention than there has ever been. Perhaps that is because I pay more attention to the world than I ever have. But it could also be due to the stress of our times. Many have been kicked to the ground due to the greed of banks and from some very questionable practices on Wall Street. And now a double dip recession is very likely ahead of us. For those that have been through multiple extensions of unemployment benefits, how much more will there be?

It really does seem like the end of the world at times.

Or what about the controversy in our own church? The English asking our Presiding Bishop not to wear her miter as they didn’t have time to check the validity of her ordination. Or the departure of entire diocese with the expectation that they can take not only their toys, but the sandbox too. Or the real possibility of the American church being asked to separate themselves from the rest of the Anglican Communion. I suspect Elizabeth is turning in her grave. This churches strength has been that we don’t have to agree, we just have to worship together.

But let’s step back for a moment; what is Pyro-Jesus trying to tell us?

One thing we could explore is that it isn’t a literal fire, but rather something else that burns, The Truth.

But as we’ve already danced around, whose truth are we talking about? Ultimately, everyone has their own version of the truth. I certainly am guilty of seeing the world in a perspective that others disagree with. But since I’m always right . . .

Kidding aside, that is the root of the matter. Everyone has their own version of the truth. Speak to the people that pushed to pass Proposition 8, they had the truth. As did those that worked to repeal it. Or the people that don’t want a mosque at Ground Zero, they have the truth – just ask them. Or the people that want to forgive and try to learn, they have the truth.

Our society has split itself – left, right, red state, blue state, for, against – and our church has split itself apart. But this isn’t something new. We’ve had differences in the church since the beginning. Until Martin Luther, those differences were dealt with by the gathering of Councils, or directly by Papal Bull. And since Martin Luther nailed a piece of paper to the door of a German church, we’ve been dividing and subdividing.

Think about what Jesus threw in the text, “. . . why do you not know how to interpret the present time.” Two thousand years ago and they didn’t get it, and it seems neither do we. And that inability is the foundation of the dissension.

But I’m not suggesting that we just give in and all just get along. And to be honest, the side that would “win” here would be the one with the most weapons. And just because you have the power, it doesn’t make you right. History has proven that though many don’t seem to read history any more to stop repeating mistakes.

Some may shake their head, but it seems that liberal theology is here to stay. Pushing the limits of how we treat each other even if it means getting under the skin of those that don’t want to hear our message. And Jesus seems to be right along with us, causing problems, not making life easy.

While it doesn’t exactly fit, while reflecting on this I had the words of Jack Nicholson’s character, Col. Jessup from A Few Good Men running through my head, “You can’t handle the truth.” That, I think, is the root of the dissension. Many people can’t handle the truth. I’m not sure that I can handle the truth, even if I truly knew what it was.

But at the heart of striving for that truth are some fundamental commands. Feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the prisoner, love your neighbor and love your God. As Fr. Malloy mentioned last week, the Emerging Church is made up of those of us that have followed the baby boom generation. I am in that generation labeled Generation X. Though not much younger than Fr. Malloy, I barely get into that generation of those born between 1961 and 1981.

But we also have Generation Y, also called the Millenials, born between the late 70’s and early 2000’s. And then Generation Z or the Internet Generation. Each successive generation has grown up in an ever-expanding world.

Many Baby Boomers were appalled at the Civil Rights Movement. Gen X babies were born during or after that period and had no knowledge of those times and barely remember the race riots of the late 60’s. By the Internet Generation, there are many that are from mixed race families.

These generations have grown up in a more global community thanks to the internet. I was in high school the first time I saw a personal computer, a Wang if you must know, while children are practically born with wireless connections today. This has given them an appreciation of the differences between people and societies. This appreciation has had the effect that they do not see some things that are being argued about by older generations. They see beyond the differences in race, spirituality, sexuality and physical limitations.

But peeling away those old prejudices, they get more at the heart of the Gospel. But fear of those old prejudices is what keeps their parents away from a place like Grace. That’s because we are pyromaniacs along with Jesus, setting the world on fire and destroying the old. And along the way, we’ve ruffled some feathers, started a few arguments amongst family members or just generally made some so angry, that they have walked away.

But friends, we can’t stop. This is just the beginning of the end. An end that may not come today, but then again, it may. So turn up the heat in the work that Jesus has given us to do. If they hate us, love them, for it is fear of that fire that drives them and for that we must have pity. But never should we give up.

Fire serves many positive purposes. We’ve discovered that after forest fires, many sections of the forest have come back healthier. Now there are controlled burns to improve the environment. Burning to bring health. While it seems upside down, we should not be surprised by a God that gave us Jesus.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Mexican American War

California looked really good, so US President Polk decided to take it and the land in between. Texas gave him a good excuse to invade Mexico and take everything between the Louisiana Purchase and the Pacific ocean. So he sends in an army, where many of the general officers of the Civil War served, to take what he wants.

Flash forward 162 years and Arizona is trying to harass the people that got had half of their country taken away from them.

What would have happened if we either didn't take the land or had lost the war (not much chance, but go with me)? Would the Mexicans be passing laws to keep Americans from crossing the Mississippi to get jobs picking oranges in California. And all the Mexican gold we would be trying to buy. Would silicon valley have ended up in Washington - which was still part of Canada?

Just some thoughts.