Showing posts from January, 2018

Hearing God's call

In a certain monastery, the monks took turns preaching. This rotation greatly worried a new novice. When his first turn to preach came, he looked out at the assembled monks, looked down at the lectern, and eventually, in a very nervous voice, asked who knew what he was going to say. Nobody raised a hand. “Well,” he said, “I also don’t know what I am going to say.” And with that, he sat down. Needless to say, an irritated Abbot assigned the novice to preach the next sermon. Again, standing at the lectern, shifting his weight from foot to foot, after a seemingly interminable silence, the obviously uncomfortable novice asked his listeners who knew what he was going to say. This time, every monk raised a hand. “Good,” said the novice, “I don’t need to preach since you already know what I am going to say.” The novice again met with the Abbot, who again assigned the novice to preach. When the novice stepped to the lectern, the monks could feel his nervousness. He looked at the ass

Learning to hear God

It was the noon-hour rush on a steamy July day and two men were pushing their way through the crowds in New York City's Times Square. They practically shouted at each other as they tried to hear above the din. One man was a native New Yorker; the other was a Native American from Oklahoma. The Indian stopped suddenly and said to his friend, "Listen! Do you hear the cricket?" His friend was incredulous. "Are you kidding?" he laughed. "How could anyone hear a cricket in this bedlam? You just think you heard it." The Indian didn't argue. He just said, "Come over here and look." He walked over to a planter that was holding a large shrub, and pointed at the dead leaves in the bottom. To his amazement, the New Yorker saw a cricket. "You must have an extraordinary pair of ears," he exclaimed. "No better than yours. It just depends on what you are listening for. Watch this." The Indian reached into his poc

Why bother with church?

Some years ago, two signs were posted on the gates of the Anglican cathedral: in Winnipeg, Canada, "The Anglican Church Welcomes You" and "The Premises are Protected by Guard Dogs." [1] Churches easily send mixed messages about welcoming people. But mixed messages cannot explain the dramatic decline in church attendance since the 1960s. Illustratively, Sunday attendance at Holy Nativity over the last sixty years has declined from 2000 to about 100. Dire prognostications even suggest that US church attendance this century will approach zero. Nostalgically yearning for the good old days of full pews is a common reaction to declining attendance. Feeling depressed about the state of the church is another understandable response. Instead of nostalgia or depression, ponder why people, including yourself, attend church. Whether you came voluntarily or were dragged here by a family member or friend, what benefit can you expect to gain? To answer that question, co

Gifts from Foreigners

The gospel reading for Epiphany, celebrated by Christians on January 6th of each year, tells the story of the wise men visiting the infant Jesus. Wise men is a convenient euphemism; these magi who traveled without passports were actually foreign astrologers. For a contemporary analogue, imagine a handful of illegal immigrants from Central or South America who establish a palmistry or tarot business in New York or Washington. Although imperfect, like any analogy, that image may help us to move beyond romantic idealizations that distort the gospel’s power and message. Tradition asserts that the wise men brought three gifts: gold, myrrh, and frankincense. Illegal immigrants from Central and South America bring gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh as well. The gold – a gift for the newborn king, Jesus – these immigrants bring is their willingness to work long hours at low paying, labor-intensive, tedious jobs most U.S. citizens disdain. This labor translates into a gift of afford

Ethical Musings is changing

Change is endemic and pervades the cosmos. Ethical Musings, part of the cosmos, is not exempt from change. First, Ethical Musings posts will generally appear only once a week. Second, your best assurance of not missing any Ethical Musings posts is to either subscribe to Ethical Musings by email or as a feed to your reader. Doing either is easy. Furthermore, the distribution lists for Ethical Musings are never sold or used for any purpose other than to send you Ethical Musings posts. Consequently, subscribing by email or feed is safe and will not expose you to unwanted material or identity theft. Third, my Facebook page, previously used to alert people to Ethical Musings posts is now the Ethical Musings page. I will continue to highlight new posts on the Ethical Musings Facebook page. My personal page will disappear from sight. One constant is that Ethical Musings will continue to focus on progressive Christian theology and ethics. Another constant is that reader sugg