Showing posts with label Ethics. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Ethics. Show all posts

Saturday, October 5, 2019

The Dance




Thank you for welcoming me back into your home
Thank you for watching my kiddos 
I really appreciate your thoughtfulness

Thank you for raising the best daughter imaginable
Thank you for being a shining example of hospitality
I really appreciate your thoughtfulness 

Thank you for modeling to her what it is to be a godly and virtuous mother
Thank for modeling to me the kind of motherhood I never knew and wish I always had
I really appreciate your thoughtfulness

Thank you for being patient with me these past few years
Thank you for allowing time for redemption and healing
I really appreciate your thoughtfulness

Thank you for considering others more than yourself
Thank you for your empathy toward the weak and vulnerable
I really appreciate your thoughtfulness 

Thank you for inviting my mother into your home
Thank you for spending time with her
I really appreciate your thoughtfulness

Thank you for sharing part of your day with her
Thank you for introducing my children to her
I really appreciate your thoughtfulness

Thank you for telling her your story
Thank you for allowing me to share mine
I really appreciate your thoughtfulness

Thank you for listening to her sincerely
Thank you for leading her to my door, a half-mile away
I really appreciate your thoughtfulness

Thank you for not letting me know
Thank you for telling my wife about it after it had passed
I really appreciate your thoughtfulness

Please allow me to express my own appreciation
Please allow me to make one request
I really appreciate your thoughtfulness

Since you appreciate redemption so much
Since I no longer have a mother who will ever be seen again
Please consider another mother whom we both love

This mother cries openly and inconsolably at every wedding 
As I do at the thought of never seeing my mother again
Waiting nearly twenty years with no opportunity for redemption

Hoping and praying for just one chance
This mother loves greatly because she had a lovely model for motherhood
This mother wants nothing more than to have that dance she was robbed of by a mother

It can be any day
In any room
At any time

Blue Moon
Standing alone
With the love of my own

Just one dance
That first dance
Between us all

I really appreciate your thoughtfulness









Friday, October 4, 2019

Between the liens



I wear my emotions on my sleeves
I'm as transparent as it gets
What you see is what you get
Correct me if i'm wrong

Whence did I receive rationalizations galore of righteous indignation?
I got my foolish zeal from you
There I inherited my infatuation for justice

And my great pride?
My boldness in the face of evil?

My extraordinary self-confidence?

All from your example
My phobias come from her 
My pushiness from her
All empathy from her 
My pity from her
My cunning—all hers

Nobody knows as much as you though
She was severely mentally ill
You were completely and stubbornly sane
Her illness would manifest a complete manipulative two-faced bitch at calculated times
You were just a self-aggrandized asshole caring more about the prized stallion more than tony the pony

She received treatments for a time, and then adamantly refused because she was fucking crazy
You never received correction or ever accepted therapy though
Your excuse? 
You didn’t want to lose your kids

Your excuse?
There were no counselors Christian enough for you
Your excuse? 

Secular psychologists couldn’t or wouldn’t empathize with you
Her excuse? 

Does she even need one? 

She was sick
Her natural personality was triune
The frenzied wrath of a father, the fleeting wind-likeness of spirit, and passibility of the son all wound together in one flesh

She was fucked up
She was literally insane most of my life

But you? 

You’re a prized stallion
You’re a former athlete 
You’re a soldier and patriot
You’re sovereign and national
You’re a prophet, priest, and king
You’re a martyr, shepherd, preacher
You’re now a doctor, too

A man after God’s own heart
Look at what you built
Look at what you defended 
Behold what you have sustained 
Your career of presuppositionalist herem had much success
Like the late great Mr. Pink

Sipping communion at home until his dying day because no one was as prized as he was
No one sustained what he had
Not one soul on earth fought tyranny and built walls of estrangement as high as him
Praise Obama 
Remember that letter of her excommunication that my brother and I wrote? 

Me neither
I remember you writing the whole thing and telling us to lie for you to the session 
Remember how good at chemistry, and math, and history I was? 
Me neither

I didn’t have to be
You either left the answer key lying around or you were too busy building God's kingdom to follow through with love and attention
You left all that for an insane woman to take care of—absolutely brilliant

Why did I become an addict at age fifteen? 
She bought me cartons of cigarettes

Bribing me to steal from you

You modeled resentment and bitterness
You sculpted an image of war propheteering
You recited the grace of God's Law
You delivered the real goods nobody else would
You denounced all cowards for their pablum

Whose habits do you think contributed most?
Perhaps that's a false dichotomy?
The great irony of puritans is that they can’t r/e/a/d
The great tragedy: they insist they can

Because they know they’re clever
And they truly are
They wave their God-in-paperback around in ways that would still make John Knox proud

Upon the first blast of the trumpet
Against the monstrous regiment of women

She received the capital punishment you thought she deserved

To which is added
The contents of the second blast

You became sovereign and she became homeless

Death is right here—Be sober o soul, and read between the liens










Monday, March 25, 2019

Anger Without Cause: A Prophetic Motif of Destroying the Law











For those interested, I recently completed a paper on the subject of anger and murder in Matthew 5:21-22, and its relationship with the Decalogue (among other things). The title of that paper is, Anger Without Cause: A Prophetic Motif of Destroying the Law

That paper can be viewed in the link on the side bar called "Theological Essays." The direct link to the paper can be found here.












Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Pathways to Immaturity






One man writes a story
The surrounding tribe rises to the occasion
To drill into
To warn others about
They must save the world
As guardians of the galaxy
Prophets commissioned to bear the good news
That their story is the only true story
And they aren’t alone
They have a whole tradition that reaches way, way back
A whole five hundred years
Or slightly more
Even more important 
Is their book
God is there
God is everywhere
But especially there
As guardians of the good news
They protect God from all opposition
Tearing down every stronghold
And every philosophy
And empty deceit
As guardians of God
One word says one thing
But they know their great scary book has more words than one
To pick out and shove into the conversation
Or better yet
To shove in front of the conversation
So as to protect all the innocents
From all unapproved conversation
Misleading them into darkness
Sliding them down the backward path of human tradition
They know the one in whom the fulness of deity dwells bodily
They know the circumcision of Christ
As guardians of the head of all rule and authority
They must bind their nobles with fetters of iron
To freely instruct the blind
To graciously feed the hungry
The whole clan must not become divided 
Or else one mans story will prevail






Friday, November 16, 2018

Penitent & Priest, Confession & Absolution





As I recently reviewed some of the poetry I had written within the past year, I reflected upon the state of Christianity I observe all around me today and the way in which I expressed aspects of it poetically. After stumbling upon a poem about Christian contrition and confession, it dawned on me that confession is an important—indeed essential—sacrament needing reconsideration and retrieval. 

Growing up as a Protestant I was only familiar with the pop-culture view of Catholicism and confession within that Church (you know, the kind that is either still at war with “unbiblical” medieval views, or the kind that treats everything outside their own non-catholic tribe as “superstitious”, "fictitious",  "magical", or "blasphemous"). Today I recalled some conversations I have had with both kinds of protestant diatribalists, about the so-called “unbiblical sacraments”, and none strikes me as being more misunderstood than the sacrament of Confession. 

There are numerous obstacles in the way of maintaining an edifying conversation about that. I would like to cut through the messiness of how such conversations typically begin. Deflecting attention away from the first obstacle, which is even considering Confession as a sacrament, I think that the most important way of helping Protestants recognize the legitimacy and helpfulness of private confession and absolution to a priest or pastor is to see what Catholic confession can and does actually look like today. I mention this because the most common criticism I have come across has to do with the Roman rite of confession. (You know, the kind that sort of, in a crass way, is portrayed as quick and painless: “Bless me Father for I have sinned…yada, yada, yada. Okay, now go out and say five hail Mary’s and two Our Father’s, and you’re good to go.”)

That might be the way Roman (Western) rite confession is practiced. I seriously doubt that it represents the majority. I have not personally been to confession in a Roman Catholic parish, but I have asked a lot of Roman Catholic friends what they’re experiences were like, and have received a lot of positive, detailed feedback that the kind of priests and parishes which tolerate such pathetic, and somewhat comical confessional practices are not popular, and are not common in the northern midwest regions of America (around where we live). But even if the majority of Catholic parishes practiced confession in such a fashion today (and again, admittedly, I don't actually know how the majority of Roman priests practice it), that is not how Catholic confession operates in Eastern rite parishes. And this, I do have experience in practicing. As a Byzantine Greek Catholic who has celebrated with a handful of parishes across the USA, I can actually dispel some of the “superstitious magic” which Protestants imagine the sacrament of Confession to be instilling.

How might I attempt to dispel such prevailing protestant myths of our era?  

The answer: By illustrating the actual rite of confession within Eastern Orthodox and Catholic parishes. 

My hope, again, is to dispel some of the worrisome and comical “fictions” which Protestants imagine are occurring at every confession within the Catholic Church, and to show plainly through the rite itself how “Biblical” it actually is (and should be considered to remain). That should help provide a framework for Protestants to consider, if not rethink altogether, the possibility of private confession to an ordained minister of Jesus Christ as a healthy practice to retrieve (as even the mighty Protestant icon, John Calvin, begrudgingly implied as a theoretical possibility, long ago1). 

Assuming that a man was to receive the sacrament of Confession, here is how it might look in an Eastern parish: 

First, the penitent Christian approaches the iconostasis located in the front of the Church, beyond all the pews, and stands before an icon of Jesus Christ. The priest draws near and says: 
My brother, inasmuch as you have come to God, and to me, do not be ashamed; for you do not speak to me, but to God, before Whom you stand. If you are able, please kneel before Christ our God 

Facing Jesus and looking attentively to Him, the penitent Christian might then begin with a formal and general declaration, such as: “I have sinned, O Lord, forgive me. O God, be merciful to me a sinner”, followed by more specific details.  

*** 

Or the penitent might just speak to Christ, confess sins generally, followed by the priest questioning him to draw out more specific details about specific sins. (It is especially helpful that priests of the Eastern Catholic rite carry on a conversation in a very practical manner, questioning, encouraging, seeking understanding, and challenging the penitent toward serious consideration of the graveness involved, consequently or actually, by the sins committed and confessed.) 

***

When the confession to Jesus is complete, the priest places his stole over the head of the penitent and speaks to the penitent: 

My spiritual child, who have confessed before your humble servant, I, an unworthy sinner, do not have the power on earth to forgive sins. God alone has that power; yet through that divinely spoken word which came to the apostles after the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, saying: “If you forgive the sins of anyone, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of anyone, they are retained,” we too are given boldness to say: Whatever you have said to me, and whatever you have not succeeded in saying, either through ignorance or through forgetfulness, whatever it may be, God alone forgives you in this present world and in that which is to come.  

Or the priest says instead:

O God our Savior, who by Your prophet Nathan granted the repentant David pardon of his transgressions, and accepted Manasseh’s prayers of repentance: In Your customary love toward mankind, accept also this Your servant, who is here before You to repent of the sins which he has committed. Overlook all that he has done, pardon his offenses, and pass by his iniquities. For You have said, O Lord: “I do not desire the death of a sinner, but rather that he should turn from his wickedness and live,” and that “sins should be forgiven seventy times seven.” For Your majesty is beyond compare, and Your mercy is without measure, and if You should mark iniquity, who could stand?  For You are the God of the penitent, and unto You we ascribe glory, to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever, and unto ages of ages. Amen.  

Then the priest makes the sign of the Cross over the penitent, touching his head, saying: 

May God, Who pardoned David through Nathan the prophet when he confessed his sins, and Peter weeping bitterly for his denial, and the sinful woman weeping at His feet, and the publican and the prodigal son, may that same God forgive you all things, through me a sinner, both in this world and in the world to come, and set you uncondemned before His terrible judgment seat. 

And now, having no further anxiety for the sins which you have confessed, go in peace. 

*** 

Also, if time and circumstances allow, it is proper for the penitent to learn the customary prayers of the Church, formulated by the Scriptures, and to respond, facing Jesus, with such prayers as: 

O almighty and merciful God, I truly thank You for the forgiveness of my sins; bless me, O Lord, and help me always, that I may ever do that which is pleasing to You, and sin no more. Amen.  

Or this might be prayed instead: 

O Lord God of my salvation, the Savior and Benefactor of my soul, I am truly sorry for my every transgression, and I firmly resolve never again to offend You by such sins, and sincerely promise to amend my way of life. Implant in me the fear of Your blessed commandments, that I may trample down all carnal appetites and may lead a godly life, both thinking and doing always such things as are pleasing to You. Grant me the strength of Your Holy Spirit, that I may avoid all evil deeds, works, words, and thoughts, and may avoid all snares of the evil one. Shine in my heart with the true Sun of Your righteousness; enlighten my mind and guard all my senses, that walking uprightly in the way of Your statutes, I may attain life eternal. Amen.  

Or the penitent might pray instead: 

O sovereign Master, Who love mankind, lead me in Your way, that I may walk in Your truth. Make glad my heart, that I may fear Your holy name. O Lord, mighty in mercy, gracious in strength, aid and comfort and save me, as I put my trust in Your holy name. Do not rebuke me, O Lord, in Your displeasure, nor punish me in Your wrath, but show me Your great mercy and compassion, O Physician and Healer of my soul. O merciful Savior, blot out all my transgressions, for I am truly sorry for having offended You. Grant me Your grace that I may avoid my previous evil ways. Strengthen me, O mighty One, to withstand those temptations before which I am weak, that I may avoid all future sin. Keep me under Your protection and in the shadow of Your wings, that I may serve You, praise You, and glorify You all the days of my life. Amen. 








1. In his Institutes of the Christian Religion (Book IV, chapters 14 through 17), Calvin presents a scandalous case against the Roman (Western) practice of Confession in his own day, which transitioned from public confessions and absolutions to private ones. In doing so, Calvin was, of course, attempting to distinguish the domineering Roman expression of faith from Christianity altogether. In those three brief chapters (14-17) Calvin attempts to dissuade his audience from believing the long standing doctrine about Confession as a Sacrament (which he, of course, considered to be Divine requirements, and not merely things indifferent). In chapter 14 Calvin admits that he wholeheartedly approves of the ancient practice that required public confession and absolution, but his rationale against the sacrament of private confession to a priest or Bishop is very brief and seems almost entirely anecdotal, overlooking many pertinent counter-rationales from Scripture and history, and all pertaining merely to the Roman rite illustrated within his own era. In other words, even if Calvin was accurate in his reasoning against private confession as a sacrament of Christ's Church, he strangely leaves plenty of room for disagreement, introducing it and dismissing it rather quickly.











Monday, September 3, 2018

Living Epistle (A poem for Wilma Sedlak)







As I write these things my Grandmother, Wilma, is dying. She has reached the point of no return. There is no hope in her being miraculously preserved to live a handful of more years in her mortal body. She has already lived past ninety years. Now she is hospitalized, and unresponsive, yet still alive as of right now. She will die.

I love Wilma. She radiated God's generosity, thoughtfulness, and loyal love. As the only Grandmother I ever knew (my birth mother's side being entirely unknown to me), proverbial Wisdom echoed in every room she resided, in every phone call, in every note and hand-written card. God's handwriting was written large through her life. A "Living Epistle" read by all, is an apt description of all memories I have of her.

I spoke with her last week on the phone. I'm so very glad I answered the phone that day. She lives very far away from me, but very soon she will be nearer than most Christians realize, being with Eternal Life, Who is much nearer than most realize. 

I am at peace with her impending death. Death actually isn't her end. It is for many of us, but certainly not hers. She will continue to live beyond the moment her frail, mortal body "gives up" its life. She will continue to live beyond mortal death because, in Christ, there is no mortality, no eternal death. There is only eternal life, because Christ is God, and only in God is life-eternal, and only through Jesus Christ our God has eternal death been defeated and eternal life secured. Outside of Christ, there is just this mortal life, and just this mortal death. I'm not the judge of those outside of Christ. I'm not even the judge of those inside of Christ. I'm merely expressing, with absolute certainty, that Wilma's life has testified, and continues witnessing to participation in Eternal Life, here and now, and not in eternal death. 

"In dying, you shall die" was the warning given to human life. In Jesus, the resurrected Christ, there is no more warning--only blessing--saying, "In dying, you shall be raised with Me to life."

So then, what else could I say, given my convictions about the life and death of my grandmother? 

Well, I actually have a poem I wrote recently, inspired by a Byzantine hymn that is sung during Saturday morning lenten prayer services in the Byzantine Catholic Church, that I'd like to share, too. Consider it a meditation on what I have noted above, and a pattern of thoughts woven through many of my convictions, hopes, and dreams, all keeping my thoughts in balance in the midst of life's real turmoils:



In dying you will die
Do good
In dying you will die

Don't ask why
Do good
Don't ask why

Don't question who
Do good
Don't question who

There are no but's
Do good
There are no but's

Don't pretend to know better
Do good
Don't pretend to know better

Don't deflect
Don't ignore
Just do good

How, you ask? 

Imagine God
Becoming human
So that you can become divine

Participating
Sharing
Communing 

In the Divine Life
For ever
And ever

Who fashioned you 
Out of nothingness
With the work of His hands

Who honored you 
With the Divine Image 
The likeness of Unutterable Glory.

Whose loyal love cleanses you
Whose homeland of your heart’s desire 
Is bestowed on you






Saturday, August 18, 2018

Loving to Know






What does it take?
...
To reach the point of no return
To say, I can't anymore
I don't even want to anymore
I need You
I want You
For ever more than now
Don't fix things for me—Fix me
Fix all of me or none of me
In Your mercy exact justice
I trust Your judgment—I don't trust mine
I deserve it
What ever that is 

I'm more than a fool
Lost without You
Leading others astray from the Holy
Feet running swiftly toward the void
None of my paths are peace
I only know how to survive
And not very well
When You serve me justice I will need more 

That stream which I poisoned
How can it be purified?
I don't trust my passions
I don't trust in flesh anymore
I used You as my crutch 
I polluted wells
For fun or out of spite
You were elevator music to me
I never had to learn Your rhythm
You were just there in the background
For my listening pleasure
Or to annoy me
As evil as that sounds
It's true 

Now I don't want to live without You
Have mercy on me
According to the multitude of Your tender mercies
Heal my soul
For I have sinned against You
Give me life or give me death
I know what I deserve
Whatever You choose
Do so for the sake of Your name alone
My name isn't worthy
Uproot and plant anew
Kill and make alive

As You wish
Thy will be done
Not mine
I just want what You want
Happy is he that findeth
Happy is he that getteth
Happy is he that retaineth
Happy is he
...
What must I do now?