Posts Tagged ‘spirituality’

Anger Issues

Monday, August 19th, 2019

A fine sermon yesterday from our Associate Rector reminded us that Jesus was angry a lot. He wasn’t content with injustice, and hypocrisy and avoidable suffering.

This fact reminds us, too, that anger can be a good thing when it prods us to act and try to correct wrongs and help people.

This kind of righteous indignation might be termed, “social anger.” But “personal anger” directed at people we know or encounter may not be so valuable. Indeed, it can be toxic. As Jesus observed, anger can be the equivalent of murder!

The Rev. Adrian Dannhauser mentioned in her sermon that studies indicate people get “mildly or moderately” angry as often as several times a day. Using social media with its likes and dislikes is no doubt a modern factor in encouraging people to get mad.

In any case–while we are right to fight for justice–on a personal level, it’s much better for our souls to stay cool. —J. Douglas Ousley


Summertime, Summertime

Monday, August 12th, 2019

Recently, I have been working on an upcoming sermon dealing with Christ’s views of the Sabbath.

Traditionally in Judaism, the seventh day of the week (Saturday) was a day of rest. There was some debate, however, about the rules governing how strictly the Sabbath was to be observed. Jesus bent these rules himself, healing the sick and disabled on the Sabbath. As he famously observed, “The Sabbath is made for man, not man for the Sabbath.”

But while that is certainly the right perspective, it’s worth noting that because the Sabbath was a gift of God to human beings, we can expect observance of the tradition to be valuable. This is especially true in our modern society, as Sundays become increasingly commercialized and they seem more and more like the other six days of the week.

Today, we need to make an effort to get moments of rest and re-creation. As summer winds down, now may be a good time to plan our own personal sabbaths. After all, the Sabbath was made for us. —J. Douglas Ousley

 


Irreplaceable

Monday, July 15th, 2019

One of the unhappy things about parish life is losing people–the worst, of course, being losing church members through death.

Church officers are interchangeable; a vestry member or a rector retires and their successors can end up being more effective leaders than the ones they replaced.

But church members are unique and therefore are, strictly speaking, irreplaceable. New members arrive and occupy the pews, but they will never bring exactly the same qualities as those held by the departed persons.

Each one of us is a child of God. God sees us as we are, warts and all. May we appreciate this profound truth about our faith, and may we appreciate the unique personhood of our fellow children of God. —J. Douglas Ousley


Expecting to Dance

Monday, June 10th, 2019

As I mentioned in my sermon yesterday, there are many churches, particularly in Africa, where Anglicans come to worship on Sunday expecting to dance.

This is not the case in most American Episcopal parishes. Yet that doesn’t mean that our faith has to be, in the old phrase, “high and dry.” We can still look for an emotional element in our religion; in fact, we need to find such an element. We need at least on some occasions to feel the Spirit within us.

These experiences can range from enjoyment of a favorite hymn to a walk on a sunny day to a dinner out with friends. In the season of Pentecost, we can be grateful that the Holy Spirit is always reaching out to us. In that Spirit, we can, as the Twelve Step movement says, let go and let God. —J. Douglas Ousley


The Bell Tolls

Monday, June 3rd, 2019

Yesterday, I officiated at a memorial service at Yale as part of my class’s 50th reunion.

During the service, I read the name of every classmate who had died in the past five years. After the name was read, a bell was sounded and people present could offer remarks and remembrances of the deceased.

While it was a somber occasion, the mood was uplifted by humorous reminiscences of our college years. Yet the service couldn’t help being serious. As our class secretary remarked to me, eventually the bell will toll for each of us.

And that reminder of our mortality is also a reminder that religion is still needed by people–however secular they think they can be. Church bells are a sign that this life is not the end. Jesus Christ is risen from the dead and become the first fruits of them that slept.–J. Douglas Ousley


The Great Fifty Days

Monday, April 15th, 2019

The Church season provides for 50 days of celebration of the feast of Christ’s Resurrection from the dead–known as “the Great Fifty Days.”

Unfortunately, the Easter flowers don’t last that long, and people begin to head for the parks or the country on Sundays, and Easter is soon forgotten. Ironically, the 40 days of Lent seem more likely to be observed faithfully!

And yet the tradition is a good one. We need to be reminded that Christ always gives us new life, and we need that reminder as much as we need to acknowledge our sins during Lent.

We have no trouble remembering to celebrate Christmas time. Let’s celebrate Easter time as well. —J. Douglas Ousley


Miserable Offenders

Wednesday, April 3rd, 2019

Lent has 16 more days to run and, as usual, I find this penitential season to be a worse experience than I expected it to be. I always feel the same. I just can’t wait for Easter.

I suppose that’s the way penitential seasons are supposed to go; otherwise, they wouldn’t be penitential. They wouldn’t make us feel sorry for our manifold sins and offenses and negligences. Or, as the old Prayer Book put it, we wouldn’t feel like the “miserable offenders” we are.

Of course, that’s not all we are, thank God. We are saved by the Cross of Christ. Baptized in Christ, we are marked as Christ’s own forever.

With that promise in store, perhaps I am kvetching just a little too much about Lent. —J. Douglas Ousley


Balm for the Soul

Monday, February 11th, 2019

One of the winners interviewed last night following the Grammy Awards was a young woman who was given an award for best Christian rock album.

This reminded me of the vast world of contemporary church music–a world that we at Incarnation touch in our Candlelight Communion service on Sunday evenings. Though we don’t have a rock band, we do have guitar and keyboard music and various forms of modern music.

As for the Grammy Awards show itself, there was little resembling Christian rock and nothing resembling classical church choral and organ music–on which our morning services depend.

I’m not too bothered by this; anything trendy one day is out of fashion the next. Church music has roots that are thousands of years old, and it’s not likely to vanish soon. People often tell me that they like a church that looks and sounds like a church.

Still, we need to be aware of what is going on in the secular world around us. Otherwise, it will rock us. —J. Douglas Ousley


The Shattering of Loneliness

Tuesday, February 5th, 2019

In his brilliant new book, The Shattering of Loneliness, the British monk Erik Varden tells of a moment when, listening to Mahler’s Second Symphony, when he discovered that he wasn’t alone. “With a certainty born neither of overwrought emotion nor of cool analysis, I knew I carried something within me that reached beyond the limits of me.”

Thus was Varden’s loneliness shattered forever. His testimony is causing something of a sensation in England–no doubt because it addresses the primal human need to believe that there is a divine out there, somewhere.

And Varden not only shows how loneliness is shattered by belief that there is a God–but also by experience of God. Through faith, we “carry something within” us. That divine something is always with us, whatever is happening in our lives. Thanks be to God.–J. Douglas Ousley


Weather Related

Tuesday, January 29th, 2019

A recent article in the Wall Street Journal gave advice for traveling business people as to what to wear in offices in various sections of the country. The conservative suit expected in the Northeast was wholly unnecessary on the West Coast, and so on.

The article got me wondering how much one’s spiritual mood is affected by what we wear–which mood is in turn affected, of course, by the climate of the places we live in. Are people more optimistic when the weather is sunny? If they are more optimistic, are they less likely to feel the need for religion?

I don’t know if there has been any research on these issues. I know that both sunny California and rainy Washington State have a low rate of religious practice, while the temperate South has the highest rate of religious attendance.

Perhaps we can be content with Christ’s observation that God sends rain upon the just and unjust alike…–J. Douglas Ousley