Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Connecting With Our Well-Heeled Neighbors

An Inkling
St. Giles has never connected very well with her own neighbors.  The most recent figures I saw showed that only 11% of our folks come from the two closest zip codes!  There are many factors involved in this, not the least of which is that our immediate neighborhood is wealthy, and there’s that little matter of the “needle’s eye.”  (See Mark 10:25.)
As best as I can tell, St. Giles is where she is by the providence of God, which means that we cannot ignore where we are.  How might we connect with our own neighborhoods for the sake of Jesus?
Something happens when well-heeled Christians venture out of their tidy communities into the chaotic communities of the poor.  There we meet Jesus in distressing disguises – a la Mother Teresa – and he begins to heal us of many blindnesses.  Thus the exhilaration of our student ministries in their regular encounters with the homeless.  We’re all called to such ministries in one form or another.
But that doesn’t replace the challenge of how we might minister for Jesus right around the block.  Our neighbors don’t need many of the things that give us an entree in our ministry with the poor – food, education, and medicine.  They have the best of all such things.  But our neighbors do need what money cannot buy:  friendship and purpose.  We have those in spades.  What is Christian fellowship, if not friendship in its truest forms?  And what is our high calling as disciples, if not a purpose substantial enough to garner all of life’s ambitions and energies?
It will take some creativity, but I believe that we can minister close to “home” as well as far away.  And I thank God for the privilege of your friendship as we pursue his high purposes for us.


Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Our Hope in Life and Death

An Inkling
In the space of a single week our family is gaining one and losing one.  Hilton Robert Sherrard was born last Thursday, our second grandson.  He’s healthy and happy – at least when he’s fed and rested!  We’re rejoicing at such a marvelous gift.
But this week we also heard that my Uncle Bill is dying.  He’s 87, and has a mass around his heart.  He was the Uncle who made us laugh with crazy ranching stories and hilarious wisecracks about his favorite team, the Dallas Cowboys.  The whole family is saddened to think of his departure.
A birth announcement and an obituary in a single week put me to thinking.  Such listings in the newspaper stand next to news that poses interesting questions, such as: 
Given that Hilton has been born into a world where AIDS is pandemic, terrorism is unleashed, the economy is unstable, and families are in chaos, why would we celebrate his birth?  Who knows what sorts of hideous realities young Hilton will face over the course of his life?  Would it not have been better never to have been born?
Given that Bill was an honored veteran of World War 2, married and fathered wonderfully, ran a fine oil leasing business, was a fine churchman, and contributed a lot to his community, but died anyway, why would we do anything but despair at his death?  If someone does everything right – or nearly everything – and still dies, does life or how we live it really matter?
Every generation has asked such questions about life and death.  Some answer such questions with despair or cynicism, but those who have met Jesus answer with hope.  He brings hope to both life and death. 
Jesus is Hilton’s hope for a life of meaning and peace in a world that makes for neither.  And he is Bill’s hope for life beyond the hard boundaries of mortality.  Thus we crazy Christians celebrate both births and deaths.  One celebration comes easily, and the other comes hard.  But both celebrations honor the one who is Hilton’s and Bill’s and our hope.


Tuesday, October 6, 2009


An Inkling
I’m not sure who first said it.  The earliest attribution I can find is the mid-90s.  Here’s the quote:  “We live in an age in which everything is permitted and nothing is forgiven.”  (Alan Jones, Dean of Grace Episcopal Cathedral in San Francisco)
That’s what came to mind this week as I read about Roman Polanski and David Letterman.  Polanski has been arrested for the sexual assault of a 13 year old many years ago, and Letterman was forced by a would-be extortionist to acknowledge his multiple trysts with women on his staff.  The resulting public conversation is instructive.
Both men have their defenders.  For Polanski: “He’s a great artist who has done so many good things.  Besides, that was forever ago.  Let it go.”  And for Letterman:  “He’s come clean and apologized.  Anyway, everyone has indiscretions.”  Polls indicate that public response on both men is all over the map.
Why the confusion?  Because “when everything is permitted, nothing is forgiven.”  If we have no real sense of right and wrong, then forgiveness is, by definition, impossible.  Indulgence is possible, but not forgiveness – indulgence being the affirmation that “we’ll just let it go this time,” and forgiveness being the gift of grace even though a sure enough wrong has been done.
Confused?  The culture is.  But think about how this plays out in parenting.  We see what happens when children have no boundaries, and are indulged rather than held accountable and forgiven.  Such children become insufferable.  Why would we imagine that it works differently with adults?
May God have mercy on Polanski and Letterman.  Not dumbed-down masquerade mercy, but the real mercy that is ours in Jesus Christ.  He doesn’t permit everything, but he can and does forgive anything.