April 9th, 2019

It’s just a game, right? I mean, to be truthful, games are meant for our enjoyment and entertainment; we watch, we eat, we fellowship, we partake in letting the referees know when they make mistakes. It’s not like we take these things seriously. It doesn’t really matter, does it? It’s just a game…

Or is it?

What begins as spectating quickly turns into reckless passion. People at sporting events boo one another for the color of their shirts. Fans in parking lots across America have been known to start fights, vandalize opponent’s property, and disparage their fellow human’s allegiance to a certain team within the sport. And that’s not even the worst part. No, the worst part of all of these actions (when thinking of collegiate athletes in particular) is the amount of strain and expectation we place upon our young people. Boos and slurs are thrown at these kids; Monday morning talking-heads break down every mistake for the world to see; campus’ become places of utter ruin for ‘losers’ of the previous match, game, or meet. And we’re ‘ok’ with it. It’s just the way things are…

But should we be; and am I still talking about just a game? 

The truth of the matter is this: sports, art, literature, music…CHURCH… All these are simply microcosms of life. We choose something we love, invest in it fully, and then set the world on fire if it disagrees with us. We go so far in our fandom of whatever it is that we love (again, not just sports, but think of your favorite hobby/pastime) that we turn on one another in the name of a human construct.

Church can be like this. I like to think ours isn’t, but I am biased. What starts as faith in Christ turns into, “WE do it the ‘right’ way; those other people (insert denomination or religion) are (insert negative) and I’m glad I’m an Episcopalian. Think about the analogy. We come together, we watch (the procession, the sermon), we fellowship (coffee or class before service), we eat (communion and coffee hour), and we partake in letting the leadership know when they make mistakes (a reader, an altar guilder, a youth rep, a music minister/choir member, clergy, or other people sitting next to us in worship). But that’s not the even the worst part. No, the worst part of all of this is the lessons we’re teaching our kids. We’re basically saying, “It’s alright to belittle others in the name of the Lord”, or, “It’s alright to point out the faults in others to make our own losses feel lighter.”

I wonder what message that sends to the next generation. We complain about the way of the world and yet it is us, all of us, that set the standard for the future. Will our kids see places of worship as another ‘game’ in which they’re supposed to pick a ‘team’ and begin their reckless passion? Or will we stop here, now, and turn our attention back to why we started coming together in the first place: The love of sports for the first analogy, the love of God for the point. Teams matter. But not to divide us. Teams make people come together with a common goal; teams work together to achieve greatness—true greatness, not just ‘winning’. And we definitely don’t want our houses of worship to become unsafe havens for those who will sometimes, inevitably, ‘lose’ in life. What I’m trying to say (while also holding onto an analogy that lessens my own disappointment from a loss) is that we can learn from our behaviors. We can set up the people that follow us for success, teaching them to love in loss, speak kindly to opposition, and playfully compete while all moving toward the same goal: Eternal life. I want our community to be one for the ages; that ‘team’ that shocked the world, the Cinderella story that shouldn’t have been able to achieve greatness but refused to be cast aside in the name of current popularity. Because no matter how big we get, how many people we have here, the true metric of our success isn’t measured in these things. Just like sports, it isn’t whether we ‘win’ or ‘lose’, but how we live our community life together. The only thing that matters in this life is love. The rest?

 

Well, it’s just a game…

 

Faithfully,

Fr. Sean+

March 21st, 2019

Perhaps one of the hardest moments in life is losing a loved one. Regardless of age—and the knowledge that no one escapes death—mortality still sneaks up and steals our breath; its strike leaves puncture-wounds on us, collateral damage caused by the taking of someone dear. As our grief pours out, we seem to diminish—becoming changed by death and removal, physical proximity no longer being our companion. But that lessening isn’t permanent. That lessening is really lessoning; a teaching of our nature, one final instruction of the heart that never ceases, continuing to mold us into the next version of ourselves.

Many of you are experiencing loss, right now. Your family members, friends and/or loved ones have died, leaving you behind to sort out what your life will be like without their presence. There are few words, if any, that can aid in these first steps of healing. Anger, denial and betrayal run can rampant at the onset, seemingly forming an unbreakable wall between you and your past, you and your ‘normal’ and you and your God. This is a possibility, not an inevitability, and yet many of us struggle with it nonetheless. The first stage of grief is—for most people—unconsciously set and traveled with little regard for hope of the future. Food turns to ash, sights lose their color, sounds become muffled and numbness diminishes our extremities in these first months.

But hope remains.  

In what seems like a distant cell, locked away for safekeeping, hope burns like a candle with a skinny wick—hope for understanding, hope for pain relief, hope for the presence of God. But hope remains for us to seek it out, to unlock its prison and set it free in our hearts. The trick? We can’t do it alone. Just like no one makes it out of life alive, no one makes it out of grief, alone. Companionship may seem counter-intuitive to some of you during grief. If anything, the thought of having a conversation about a lost loved-one with a present loved-one is daunting and formidable. Do it, anyway. Allow yourselves to be loved. Spending too much time in the confines of your own head disables your heart to break and mend effectively. You can’t think your way through grief—not solely—just as you can’t emote your way through grief, either. And neither of those actions will aid you if you don’t pray through grief.

Your church community is so much more than a building, a space for occasional worship. Within this family you have people who genuinely care for you, who desire your wholeness, who seek your joy to be returned. I am one of them, but one of many. If you find yourself locked away or feeling disconnected, please reach out. Church isn’t a static place for complacency; church is a vehicle within which we can congregate and take the finite physical journey through life together, arriving at the infinite gates of beloved immortality given to us by God. God gave us one another to see the spark of divinity created within, a small flecking that can be urged to a roaring flame when fed by support, love and the freeing knowledge that we are dust and to dust we shall return. Let not your hearts be troubled for too long; the grief within which you dwell is not a permanent dwelling place. Your loved ones no longer seen are still with you; they have joined the great cloud of witnesses that create the rain of joyful tears upon being reunited at last. When your own tears of loss restrict you to the dark corners of your mind, remember that they loved you and that you were made better because of that love.

So live. Live for yourself, live for them, and live a life committed to continuing that love to others still present. Together, we can overcome grief. Together we can grow. And with God’s help, together we can rise in glory.

Faithfully,

Fr. Sean+  

Ash Wednesday, March 6th, 2019

I remember giving up smoking for Lent in 2012. I had this plan, I was going to be a better steward of the temple bestowed upon me (my body) and take better care of myself. I was going to be kinder to people, as well. With my new-found faithful heart set on success, I ventured out into the world.

I was not kind. I was not happy. I was not even near holy.

Giving up cigarettes for Lent (for me) was perhaps the one of the greatest mistakes I’ve ever made. Have you ever tried to quit smoking? If not, good for you—seriously—cigarettes are almost impossible to divorce; they call to you in moments of despair, moments of triumph, and in the waking and waning hours of the day. An unintentional life-partner, cigarettes accompany you wherever you go, selfishly stealing you away at parties, during movies, and in the middle of meetings… And yet, something so small held great sway over me; cigarettes determined my actions, my mood and my sanity most days. I remember Nicole looking at me that first day and sweetly sayin, “Hey babe, you want me to go get you a pack of smokes?”

Yep. It was THAT bad.  

I was an awful human. I snapped at the dog, threw things at the television, cursed in traffic (well, let’s be honest, I still do that sometimes) and all because I had set my sights on ‘better living’. If this was better living, then I wanted to live in the worst way…it didn’t seem worth it. But then something amazing happened sometime around that third or fourth day. Nicole hadn’t suffocated me while I slept, thankfully, so I lived to tell this tale. 

I woke up feeling…better. I succinctly remember praying that morning, asking God for grace and comfort and also thanking God for trials set in my path. Trials conducted by me, the judge, plaintiff, defendant, and jury. I realized that I was being too hard on everyone around me, especially myself. From then on, quitting smoking became a little easier everyday. Of course, eventually I chose to start chewing nicotine gum—I believe whole-heartedly that the Holy Spirit heard the plea of my wife and instilled in my the knowledge that I needed a bit more edge taken away, but not by smoking. Anyhow, I began to think about God when I would think about cigarettes. I began to pray instead of smoke. It’s weird, I know, but it’s true. Time spent smoking turned into time with Christ, in thoughtful prayer (most of the time, albeit I did gnash teeth and wail, too) and time spent committed to the activities of which I was part. The transference of time spent smoking to time spent in spiritual practice literally changed my life. My prayer life blossomed; I couldn’t go an hour without at least thinking about God, or talking to God about some inane thing occurring around me.

It still affects me to this day.

If you smoke, this isn’t a diatribe against you or your habit. Instead, I hope to trigger something inside of all of you that whispers, “…hey, you know that thing we do…maybe we should turn that off and make room for God in its place…” Choosing something to quit for Lent just for the sake of doing so is like taking a shower before working out—it makes zero sense. Rather than giving up or taking something on for Lent, just for the sake of doing so, perhaps my story will help you to discover possible areas in your life where God is knocking but you are otherwise occupied. Whatever you choose, know that by attempting to please God, you will please God. I wish you all a Holy Lenten season, filled with new experiences and deeper understanding of your relationship with Christ. I pray that the Holy Spirit guide all of us with patience and strength, so that we may know the love set aside strictly for us—and that that love has no cost.

So if you’re struggling, despairing, hopeless or afraid; if you’re joyful, hopeful, excited and determined; or if, like many, you’re going to half-heartedly approach Lent or watch it whisk-by untouched by any new practice; I urge you to consider what it is that can bring you closer to God and what it is that may be taking you away.

Bless you during Lent, and remember that you are beloved by God the Father, guided by God the Holy Spirit, and marked and sealed as Christ’s own, forever.

Faithfully,

 Fr. Sean+

February 27th, 2019

I used to hate it when people were sore winners. You know what I mean? People that would soundly beat you at something and then rub it in, almost making the loss hurt less than the trash talk. Ugh. But sore winners aren’t the people that drive me to crazy town the most; nope, that award goes to the folks who sat on the sidelines, simply watching the contest with smug looks on their faces. These people make my blood boil. You know the ones: The people that have already played the game before, been there and done that, and think of themselves as beyond the current contest. It’s like these bystanders are there for the sport of pain; they only came to watch the bloodbath and congratulate each other on their past victories. “We’ve already done that…and man were we better,” their looks seem to say. “I’m so glad our team has already won and doesn’t have to worry about this hard work anymore…”

Yesterday, the United Methodist Church met in St. Louis for their final deliberations concerning many church-related topics. And yet, the main point of contention held homosexuality as its hostage, each side placing a well-loaded spiritual gun to the victim’s head. As the world held its breath waiting on the outcome, multiple denominations remained silent; some standing on the sidelines thinking, “I’m so glad our team has already won…”, while others stood in horror, silently judging the UMC for even THINKING about making a theological change on their stance.

We HAVE been there. In 2003, the Episcopal Church fractured after its decision to consecrate Gene Robinson as Bishop. A gay man, Bishop Robinson would come to represent a new way of thinking within the polity of the Episcopal Church of the United States. Not everyone agreed. They still don’t. But we’ve learned, as our Bishop so eloquently stated in the Oklahoman, “to live together with one another in the midst of our disagreements and our tensions — on the foundations of loving our God, loving one another and respecting the dignity of every human being.” And now we have millions of Christians—United Methodists—who need to learn how to do the same thing, to move forward. But it won’t be easy, especially given that a specific group was told they were not ‘pure’ enough to serve God at his table, or that they didn’t ‘love rightly’ enough to have the sacrament of marriage opened up to them. One difference between the UMC and the Episcopal Church is—among many—that we’ve had almost two decades to begin healing and practice reconciliation with each other, regardless of our theological beliefs. They’ve just started.

So, before we begin putting on our smug faces, proclaiming that we’ve ‘already fought that fight’ I urge caution. People are hurting within the UMC. Not everyone is so tied into their beliefs that they’re left unscathed by the events and decisions of yesterday’s meeting. How will we react? Will we, due to our National Church’s stance and our local stance, simply stand with one side and disengage with the other? Or will we talk to our Methodist friends on both sides of the aisle, offering comfort to the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable? Will we choose to re-engage into the fray, knowing that this disagreement isn’t one for a single denomination but one for the ages—one that involves people just trying to be loved because of who they are and what they believe, on both sides. It won’t be easy to sit with someone with whom we disagree and patiently hear their opposing views; it never is. But if we idly sit back and don’t offer support to those who have been left out, AND offer ourselves in LOVING WAYS to the conversation with those with whom we disagree, then we’re no better than the people smugly sitting on the sidelines. We weren’t called to watch, to wait, to be insular. We are one church. We are one body. And right now, we’re wounded. We must respond with love to those who are hurting. We must remain Christian in our response to those with whom we disagree. We will get nowhere by slinging accusations and labeling people as hate-mongers. But we will also get nowhere by halting the conversation, stamping it as ‘over’ and parting ways.

Love will win. Grace will overcome. Hope has to remain.

Faithfully,

Fr. Sean+

 

 

 

February 12th, 2019

That which is, that which was, and that which has not yet come to pass…

 These lines from the theological masterpiece, “The Lord of the Rings”, echo in my ears quite frequently. I remember a seventeen year-old young man who desired to become a priest, but quickly gave that dream away for some cheap booze and temporary comfort. Unknowing, uncomfortable, and unable to feel worthy enough, he ran away from the Church into the arms of a cruel world and a harsh reality…always trying to get back to the way it ‘used to be’.

 Being a teenager is quite possibly one of the most difficult times in our lives but we don’t remember it; we’re so plagued by our current context that when a young person bemoans the goings-on of their lives, we gloss over it and say something flippant like, “I’d trade places with you in a second.” Really? WOULD you? Because I wouldn’t go back to being a teenager for all the ‘howdies’ in Texas. But that’s our nature—to yearn for that which is past because it’s been shaded in our memory as ‘the good ol’ days’. But those days were full of change, too.

 The difference?

 We weren’t old enough to lament days past. We didn’t know any better. But most importantly, we still held wonder in our hearts for the possibilities that lie before us.

The saying, “You can’t ever go home,” really is irritating because of its misplaced truth. In reality, it should say, “You can try to go ‘back’ there but it’ll be different and you’ll be disappointed. Just sit tight and make the best of where you are and who you can be. You’re already home.” I imagine at some point, people cease looking ahead or living in the present, preferring to glance behind; the summation of memories’ earned paint a vibrant picture more pleasing to view than the daunting inevitability of looming advanced age. And yet I wonder as my thoughts wander into hope rather than lamentation. Are the best days behind us, ever? Or, accompanied by faith, hope and love, are we in store for more grace, deeper knowledge, and new experiences?

There’s a point to the past: It tells us where we’ve been and allows us to remember our mistakes, our successes and all the ‘stuff’ in between. But it’s the past. Our duty to the past is only to venerate those who came before us while simultaneously attempting to improve upon the work they conducted. SO much has changed within our community, and it will keep changing. I don’t know that we’ll ever get to a place where we long to cease growth and stop searching for opportunities. But I do know that we will never be the same as we are, today. We will have to reconcile our desire to make time stand still with the ongoing call to keep stretching ourselves to do the work we’ve been given. The ‘glory days’ are still ahead, these are but just some of them. The beginnings of whispers that will turn to shouts of joy, great AMENS to God because of where we’re being led by the Spirit.

 

So, whether it’s a piece of property being renewed, a piece of the church being replaced, or a piece of ourselves that has to fade in order to make way for a new normal, we would do well to celebrate ‘the way it used to be’ while also joyfully exclaiming the prospect of that which has yet to pass. This is our home, God’s kingdom on earth. Where you are, so I also shall be. We will live together, learn together, cry together, and change the world together. We’ll change each other together. Some things may look different, the building and worship may seem ‘new’; but really, they’re simply old bones being brought back to life and traditional worship being placed in contemporary context—past joys relived, with a sprinkle of future hope on top. Don’t worry about tomorrow or fret about what used to be. This is your home. These are your people. This is our time.

 We can’t ever go back ‘home’…

…because in truth, we never really left.

Faithfully,

Fr. Sean+

January 30th, 2019

You’ve heard Nicole talk about Cursillo in the past year; well, the 2019 Cursillo weekend is rapidly approaching. Are you interested? Do you KNOW what Cursillo IS?

Cursillo is a movement that seeks to deepen existing faith and strengthen the knowledge of spiritual ‘self’ and the bond between you and God—and you and your neighbor. As it is shrouded in mystery, I can’t give too much away; however, I CAN tell you that it’s well worth the time spent. I won’t lie to you: when Nicole and I were sponsored to attend Cursillo, I was more than a little skeptical. I had just arrived in Bartlesville as a recent graduate from seminary. Basically, I’d just been through a three-year spiritual/academic boot-camp. I wasn’t interested in turning around and attending a microcosm of another, shorter, and lay-led version…

I was wrong.

 The weekend, while not what I expected, was far from lacking. From arrival to departure, Nic and I were enveloped into a community of people serious about their faith. This wasn’t some one-off type of ministry retreat; it was/is the real deal. And, in the vein of honesty, Nicole appreciated it much more than I did, even though I thoroughly enjoyed myself. It’s become part of her ministry, part of her spiritual practice; for that, I’m eternally grateful. Within Cursillo, she’s found a piece of herself that was previously lying dormant: A spiritual leader passionate about Christ and dedicated to leading others to Him. As for me, it was a different kind of encounter with God. I’d spent so much time ‘doing’ and ‘learning’ that I’d set my own spirituality on the back-burner, set on low-heat—a fact I hadn’t realized until a week or two AFTER we got back home. Turns out, I NEEDED the weekend. I needed a time in which I could ‘Be still and know that God was God’(Psalm 46), to ask God to ‘Open my lips so that my mouth could proclaim His praise,”(Psalm 51) and to acknowledge openly without being all ‘priesty’ that I had fallen away from the sense of joy that faith can provide, instead relying solely on study and the knowledge that I was to lead and not follow.

 In short, Cursillo was graciously humbling—I walked away with a sense of calming joy, a feeling with which I hadn’t entered.

So if you’ve become a little stagnant in your faith-life, if you’ve found yourself searching for a way to engage on a deeper level, or if you’re seeking a way to serve Christ by virtue of being with others, then this weekend is for you. And…those ‘ifs’ should encompass just about everyone. I will tell you that it is a time-regimented weekend—there won’t be much ‘down-time’—so if you decide to attend, know that you’ll be swept away and engaged in some activity or another for two and a half days.

 But it’s worth it. Trust me.

 If you’d like to attend the upcoming weekend, March 29-31 at St. Crispin’s Conference Center+Camp, please contact Nicole Ekberg at: Nicole.ekberg@resurrectionokc.org

I hope you consider this opportunity to renew, reinvigorate, and refresh. Take care of yourselves, and I’ll see you soon.

Faithfully,

Fr. Sean+

January 23rd, 2019

People of the Resurrection,

Greetings! Last Sunday’s annual meeting seemed to be a rousing success—all forty-two minutes of it. J If you missed the meeting and are curious about the reports submitted, please reach out to the office and we’ll get you a book of reports.

I’d like to welcome/congratulate our new vestry members, convention delegates, and wardens: Lance Straughn, Debbie Horton, (both vestry members); Ann Zuk, Eric Hileman, June Howard, Nicole Ekberg (alternate)—our delegates; and Ann Zuk and Tom Ruder, our new Senior and Junior Wardens! Thank you all for your willingness to serve. I know that you’ll do very well in supporting the life and ministry of Episcopal Church of the Resurrection.

This church has been and continues to be blessed by its members. Thirty years ago at the end of January, the first Episcopal liturgy was held in this building. As such, we’ve dedicated this upcoming Sunday as ‘Heritage Sunday’, so to honor the tridecinnial occasion. We’ll be singing some old(er) hymns, hearing from three parishioners representing the past, present, and future settings of our congregation, and also seeing some pictures of the building as it was being built alongside the present-day state of it. I’m looking forward to seeing all of you, then.

 Lastly, ACH contribution sheets are still available for those of you desiring to take part in that type of giving. We’ve had quite a few folks switch to this system since the announcement a few weeks ago. Again, ACH is a way to automatically draft your pledge from your bank to ours; this helps in ensuring the budget needs of the church by virtue of your gracious giving being consistent regardless of absence. If you’re like Nicole and me and appreciate being able to place something in the plate, the ‘dollar-a-Sunday’ offering might be the answer! Since I mentioned this, we’ve been receiving almost double the plate offering (cash) than normal. So, by signing up for ACH and giving a dollar on Sundays, we’re not only ensuring the stability of our stewardship, but we’re ALSO adding to it! If things continue as they have over the last three weeks, we’ll have funded not one but TWO programs this year with just a dollar a Sunday! AWESOME!

If you have any questions about anything listed above, don’t hesitate to reach out. I love hearing from you. J

Faithfully,

Fr. Sean+ 

January 16th, 2019

Why have an annual meeting?

I’m SO glad you asked! Annual meeting, at the mention, seems like one of those meetings that should’ve been an e-mail, instead. However, with regard to this coming Sunday’s gathering, that isn’t the case.

Sunday will mark the 51st annual meeting of Episcopal Church of the Resurrection. As Episcopalians, we love our traditions—sure, but this time allows us to come together and talk about:

o   the state of our church

o   the goings-on of the previous year

o   the financial aspect of last year and the budget for 2019

o   giving thanks for members’ roles in ministry

o   selecting new members for vestry by vote

o   selecting delegates for Diocesan Convention (Meta-annual meeting with all churches around the state)

o   possibilities for improvement/growth during the upcoming year

While we’re a faithful group of rag-tag counter-culturists, we still have a duty to see to the ‘business of the church’. 

In my life I’ve seen some pretty long annual meetings—some going for more than two and a half hours. That isn’t the case, here. Typically (after having done one meeting J) our meeting should last around an hour…or less.

What to expect:

We’ll gather in the Parish Hall shortly after service for food and fellowship—as always. This Sunday, bring a dish to share for a potluck! After we finish eating, we’ll settle in and get started. We’ll say a few prayers, then jump into reports from the Sr. and Jr. Wardens. “What do THOSE people do?” you ask? The Sr. Warden is—best described—the Rector’s confidant, counselor, and ally. As Sr. Warden, that person is expected to conduct the business of vestry meetings in the absence of the Rector; be available for discussion about multiple issues within the church concerning the building, programs, upkeep, financial decisions, and overall vision of the Rector; and, most importantly, to ‘steer the ship’ in the prolonged absence of a Rector. Basically, if I were to get very sick or otherwise have need to be away for a long period of time, the Sr. Warden would act as leader of the Vestry and ensure that the business aspect of the church and its integrity are maintained. The Sr. Warden is selected at the discretion of the Rector, but with much input from both the out-going Sr. and the current vestry. I’m beyond pleased with Ann Zuk as the incoming Sr. Warden, as I know that she brings with her invaluable insight, a faithful heart, and a keen mind. The transition from Ed Sanchez to Ann Zuk is, in my mind, a natural evolution. Ed has been, and shall continue to be, my friend (thanks, Spock). He has proven to be an invaluable asset in terms of ‘steering the ship’ for many years without a full-time Rector, and has also been a close ally and confidant for which this Rector is unfathomably grateful. Thanks, Ed. For everything.

The Jr. Warden acts in many of the capacities of the Sr. Warden, and, in the absence of both the Rector and the Sr., acts with the authority listed above. However, the main focus of the Jr. Warden is to concentrate on physical plant needs (the building, both inside and out) and to maintain the upkeep and continuous improvement of the facility. This position is elected by popular vote at the annual meeting. This year, I’ve asked Tom Ruder to allow himself to be nominated for our next Jr. Warden. Tom brings with him handy-man-esque experience with the added bonus of a level-head. Tom will also be part of ‘the meeting of three’ prior to any vestry meeting; this is to plan the meetings, discuss sensitive issues (if there are any) and lend insight to upcoming needs/projects of the church. Accepting this position is a great responsibility and takes a lot of time to maintain. I appreciate Tom’s willingness to step into the large shoes of Pete Woodward (our out-going Jr. Warden and confidant of mine). Tom will undoubtedly serve with dignity and passion. As for Pete, he will be missed. You’ll hear in his report about the massive undertaking that he…undertook…upon accepting his role as Jr. In the last years, Pete has overseen MULTIPLE projects to perfection, all while maintaining a sense of grace and patience. Thank you Pete, I’ll miss you in the meetings, but I promise to continue to plague you over OU football.

Both of these positions will serve for two years.

 After those reports, we’ll review last year’s income/expense report (the treasurer’s report) and view the vestry approved budget for 2019.

 Then we’ll begin the elections of Jr. Warden and vestry. This is the governing body of the church, with me as its chair. We discuss multiple different issues during our meetings and decide the best way to enable this church to continue to grow and thrive. This year’s nominees are Debbie Horton and Lance Straughn. I have faith that these two individuals will serve well and will be valuable to the proceedings of ECOTR over the next three years.

 We’ll close with some shenanigans and then with prayer. That’s it! I hope this answers any questions you might have had prior to the meeting and I look forward to spending this time with each of you. Thank you for making this place such a welcome and warm environment within which we worship and bring others to Christ.

Faithfully,

Fr. Sean+

 

January 9th, 2018

A few of you have asked for ‘more’ concerning the wise men and their journey. I will tell you what I know…

The name wise men or ‘magi’ seems to be the ubiquitous moniker for the group of men who traveled “from afar” and presented the “baby” Jesus with gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

First, let’s talk about the word magi. Transliterated directly from the Greek “μάγος”, the word becomes magos. Magos is how the English language transliterates, but the word translates from magos to magus in our understanding rather than just our way of speaking (comprehension vs. phonetics). Magus, as defined by good ol’ Webster (okay, not really, but defined by lexicons), is defined as:

a.     the name given by the Babylonians (Chaldeans), Medes, Persians, and others, to the wise men, teachers, priests, physicians, astrologers, seers, interpreters of dreams, augers, soothsayers, sorcerers etc.

b.     the oriental wise men (astrologers) who, having discovered by the rising of a remarkable star that the Messiah had just been born, came to Jerusalem to worship him

c.     a false prophet and sorcerer

Let’s set aside the notion of these men being sorcerers and false prophets and concentrate on their capabilities as scientists and astronomers (not to be confused with astrology—no horoscopes were harmed in the writing of this article). These men were likely held in high esteem as educators and thus became emissaries of the Kings in their region. This is why they’re sometimes referred to as “The Three Kings”; they were ambassadors of their monarchs. It is important to note that nowhere within scripture are these men named outright—the names Caspar/Gaspar, Balthasar/Balthazar, and Melchior are those attributed to the men, but without reference. Being of Eastern descent, they would travel great lengths teaching and showing people of other nations their science—alchemy, their understanding of the stars, etc…

Next, location, location, location. It is widely held in current cultural nuance that these men were present at the birth of Jesus. That is not accurate. If we take a closer look at scripture, Matthew 2:11 states, “And going into the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.” Notice that, in reference, Jesus is a ‘child’ not an infant. Weird. Most likely these men had departed their homeland—that of Persia (common-day Iran and Iraq)—as they saw the ‘new star’ in the sky which heralded the coming of the Christ-child. (Note: These men were also likely to be of the Zoroastrianism religion, of which one of the tenets was to pursue and discover the champion, or destroyer of evil. This is an ancient and obscure monotheistic religion that helped shape some of the Abrahamic religions). As the star appeared, they departed their lands. Traversing such a great distance would’ve most likely been impossible with only three people; dangers such as robbery, injury, or sickness loomed heavily, making it necessary for multiple people, or a caravan, to make the journey rather than a few dudes on camels. Just sayin’. This trip was well over nine thousand miles and would’ve taken, at minimum, a little under two years’ time to complete. Thus, upon arrival, Herod does the math quickly—after asking them when they left—and orders the murders of every infant in the region aged two years and under.

As you are aware, modern nativity scenes show three wise men present at the time of Jesus’ birth. This is an impossibility, but one that—given the amount of time between the nativity narrative and present day—has been widely accepted and left unquestioned. I hope this answers the curiosity some of you had regarding my momentary mention of the magi. What else have we not questioned? What else is there that you’d like to know? Would a bible study be beneficial for you—one that concentrates on reading for spiritual growth AND for better understanding of the written Word?

Feel free to email me with any questions or comments, I’m always happy to nerd out a little on Bible talk! Take care and have a great week.

Faithfully,

Fr. Sean+

 

 

 

 

January 2nd, 2019

Happy New Year!

The holidays can be a joyful time, full of wonderful moments and encompassing love. However, they can also be exhausting. We run the race, go to the parties, make the drives, cook the turkeys, … it can get overwhelming! January is a great time to sit back and relax, to throttle down and allow the busy nature of the past season to wash away. I urge you to take the time to do just that: Take time to sit back and be thankful for all the blessings in your life.

It’s easy to forget how much God impacts our lives amidst all the ‘stuff’ we do. It’s not intentional but it still happens. How did Advent affect you, this year? Did the services help? The reflections? Did you feel closer to God this year than in the last, further away, or the same? The answers matter, yet the questions matter more. Because faith is the one thing that we don’t ‘throttle down’. Faith should be a burning desire, a sense of seeking and wonder that fuels us through life’s seasons. We should be able to rely upon faith when things seem impossible and rejoice in faith when all is well. But to be able to understand our faith, we have to question where our faith IS. Constantly. It may seem exhausting, but really, it doesn’t have to be. If done well, this process turns into a constant conversation with God—an open-ended dialogue that never ceases. Sometimes the conversation is difficult, sometimes it’s mysterious and confusing, but most of the time it’s a sense of beautiful revelation. Revelation of things known, revelation of faith not yet encountered, revelation of grace unearned yet joyfully received.

This year, try to start that conversation if you haven’t already. And if you have, think about what the next level of dialogue with God sounds like. In a few short months, we’ll be on our way into Lent and Easter; my hope for all of us is that this current conversation leads us into those seasons filled with hope and desire for the constant companionship of God. And of course, with one another.

God bless you all. I look forward to another joy-filled year with you; and I eagerly anticipate the growth we’ll undoubtedly experience together.

Faithfully,

 

Fr. Sean+