Archive for August, 2014


IMG_1448 We joke a lot about the bats at John’s.  Like the day we found bat, well, “excrement” on the rector’s chair.  Lots of comments there.  Or the time that a bat attended the 8:00 service and perched on the ramp to the side of the chapel.  Keely noticed it and had the sexton escorted the fellow outside via broom and dustpan.

Most big, old churches have bats.  At St John’s Minneapolis where I used to be deacon, we had a bath swoop down over the altar during a marriage service.  Not exactly a great omen – or romantic visual.  I think we told people it was a sparrow.  The rector was terrified of bats and even ducked his head under the altar cloth once when one flew down for Communion.  Yes, it was embarrassing.

On a recent drive to Pepin, we stopped at the tiny Episcopal church in Old Frontenac, a gem of a little village of picturesque cottages originally built for wealthy people wanting a summer respite from the Twin Cities.

Christ Church Frontenac was built in 1868.  I’ve been there before – preached there once—and remember the lack of bathrooms as well as the hospitality of the community and the holiness of the sanctuary. Weekdays, the door is always open and you can go in anytime and walk around.  The wood smells old and the altar is simple and bright with sunlight coming through a stained glass window.  The grounds are utterly peaceful, quiet as the village itself.  You don’t want to leave.

On last summer’s visit, I was noticed a large wooden cross on the grounds behind the church; it was covered with birdhouses!  I remember thinking, “Now there’s a sermon!”

This summer, after doing a little research, however, I realized that these are not birdhouses but houses for bats!  Well, that changes the imagery!

But not really—it’s still a lovely visualization of the love that is the Cross.  Open to all creatures.

We meet that love again in this Sunday’s lessons where love knows no limits, as Moses’ mother, amidst threats of death for male babies, sets her  infant afloat in a basket and shoves it down river.  A parent daring to send their child into the unknown to save his life.

Or… today, across a country’s border… alone.  Desperately hoping that Love will find the child, as it found Moses.

See you in church.  There’s lots to talk about.





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Some of you may remember the famed Christmas Letters, usually sent with a Christmas card, which highlighted events from the past year in the life of a family or individual.

I loved Christmas letters because it was the only way I learned about what was going on with people I seldom connected with otherwise. In fact, I still send one out every December but I try to “keep it real.”

However, many detested these epistles, viewing them as “brag sheets” and nothing more. And they had a point. Most people only included the happy stuff: graduations, weddings, vacations, job promotions, notes about kids who were “doing really well.”

Well, of course that’s what they wrote about! The Christmas Letter was never intended to be an expose of the totality of your life – or at least most people didn’t have the courage to use them that way. As a result, they often annoyed people: “”Well, didn’t the Dunbar’s have another super-duper special year.”

However, the Christmas Letter was tame stuff next to the media blitz that is a daily occurrence, attacking our self-esteem with a full-frontal assault.

“Reality” TV, news from every part of the world 24/7, the celebrity culture invading so many parts of our lives. It makes Christmas Letters – or looking out the window to see the neighbor’s new couch being delivered — seem pretty tame.

Sometimes the comparisons make us humble, grateful. Shootings in other parts of town (at least not in my neighborhood —yet), earthquakes in China, the horror that is the Middle East. Thank heaven, we pray, I have the life I have.

But it this was completely true, we’d all be walking around feeling dandy about ourselves, and we all know this is not the case. We feel insecure about some thing or other, inadequate by some standard or other, and self-critical much of the time. At least, I do.

One of the contributors to this avalanche of information that falls on us each day is social media. Actually, I enjoy Facebook some of the time. It pulls me like a magnet to check it a couple of times a day at least. Curiosity is a part of it. Maybe loneliness, I don’t know. However, this statement from a recent New York Times, gave me pause:

“Today, each of us can build a personal little fan base, thanks to Facebook, UTube, Twitter and the like. We can broadcast the details of our lives to friends and strangers in an astoundingly- efficient way. That’s good for staying in touch with friends, but it also puts a form of fame-seeking within each person’s reach. And several studies show that it can make us unhappy

It makes sense. What do you post to Facebook? Pictures of yourself yelling at your kids, or having a hard time at work? No, you post smiling photos of a hiking trip with friends. You build a fake life–or at least an incomplete one—and share it. Furthermore, you consume almost exclusively the fake lives of your social media ‘friends.” Unless you are extraordinarily self-aware, how could it not make you feel worse to spend part of your time pretending to be happier than you are and the other part of our time seeing how much happier others seem to be than you?”

(“Love People, Not Pleasure,” by Arthur C. Brooks, New York Times, July 20, 2014)

There’s a Commandment against “coveting.” I can see why, because the spiritual damage it inflicts can be considerable. An important balance are these words from a Greek philosopher which have now become encased in pop culture:

“Be kind because everyone you meet is fighting a great battle.”

Remember that next time you log in. It will help.

See you in church.


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