Thursday, September 27, 2012

The Christian Response To Blasphemy

Father Dale Matson

“Today the blaspheming continues at the Edward Tyler Nahem Gallery on 57th Street, where the state-sponsored “artwork” Piss Christ [by Andres Serrano] goes on display for a month. The work, in case you missed the controversy that swirled around its debut in 1987, consists of a photograph of a crucifix floating in the artist’s urine.”

As a Christian, I am of course, outraged by this public and blasphemous exhibit. As a U.S. citizen, Serrano is exercising his first amendment right to publicly denigrate the most important Christian symbol, the Cross of our Savior Jesus Christ. For me, however, there is a larger issue. It is not just about the need for tolerance in a democracy. How does a Christian respond to this wretched display? How would Jesus Himself respond to this scatological representation?  “And everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but the one who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven.” (Luke 12:10) A sinless and perfect Jesus, Who was innocent of the charges against Him did not utter one word in His own defense to Pilate. Christ even had the power at His disposal to prevent His own crucifixion. “Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels?” (Matthew 26:53) For Christ, It was never about Him and His reputation or glory. His power was used to heal others to reveal the heart of the Father. For Jesus, it was always about truth, forgiveness, love, the salvation of the lost and revealing His Father, the God and Father of all.

There is a certain irony presented here because to Christians, although the cross is so important and necessary, the cross is also an offense. The cross reminds us of the terrible cost of our sinfulness and the innocent suffering of Christ on our behalf. It was for each of us that He died and it was each of us who are responsible for His being on the cross. As St. Paul stated in 1st Corinthians, “The message of the cross is foolish to those who are headed for destruction! But we who are being saved know it is the very power of God.” (1:18). The cross is offensive to our civic selves because Christ did not condemn or curse those who conspired against Him. He did not call out for vengeance or retribution. He did not call out for justice. He called for mercy. He asked God the Father to forgive them. “And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And they cast lots to divide his garments.” (Luke 23:34)  “ A greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends”. (John 15:13)

Jesus Christ is God the Son. He revealed to us that God is a God of love and compassion.  For Christians, the cross is the central point in human history. Christ died and rose from the dead. He defeated Satan and opened the door to eternal life for those who died with and in Christ.

So, how does a Christian respond? “But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you” (Matthew 5:44).

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Prayers For The World

Fr. Dale Matson

I have been deeply grieved about recent events around the world. The anger and rage expressed have diminished our humanity and kindness toward each other. There is a loss of good will. On Wednesday, I offered mass for the deaths of our diplomats who were sent as peace makers. At times like this, it is easy to use these events for our own purposes. For me, it is a time to appeal to God. Only God is able to heal the hurts, support those who grieve and restore hearts filled with hatred. Only God can give us eyes to see others as part of the same family.    

For The Human Family

O God, you made us in your own image and redeemed us through Jesus your Son: Look with compassion on the whole human family; take away the arrogance and hatred which
Infect our hearts; break down the walls that separate us; unite us in bonds of love; and work through our struggle and confusion to accomplish your purposes on earth; that, in
your good time, all nations and races may serve you in harmony around your heavenly throne; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (Page 815 Book Of Common Prayer)

For Peace

Eternal God, in whose perfect kingdom no sword is drawn but the sword of righteousness, no strength known but the strength of love: So mightily spread abroad your Spirit, that all peoples may be gathered under the banner of the Prince of
Peace, as children of one Father; to whom be dominion and glory, now and forever. Amen. (Page 815 Book Of Common Prayer)

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Another Model Prayer From Our Lord Jesus

East Lake - Kings Canyon National Park
Fr. Dale Matson

In our Gospel reading for today, we are given the High Priestly Prayer of Our Lord.
“And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one. While I was with them, I kept them in your name, which you have given me. I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction, that the Scripture might be fulfilled.  But now I am coming to you, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves.  I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.  I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one.  They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.  Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.  As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth.
I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them that they may be one even as we are one.” (John 17:11-22)

I want to offer some thoughts as I read this prayer. I think of the very different structure Jesus uses in this prayer than in the prayer he gave us to pray. In the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6: 9-13), we have a vertical relationship with God the Father. In the Lord’s Prayer, we acknowledge God’s Glory and position. Our petitions are on bended knee. In the High Priestly Prayer of Jesus, I am struck by the sense of unity with God the Father that Jesus expresses in this prayer. It is a work already accomplished for the elect by Jesus and the Father. They have a partnership and a loving collaborative relationship that is revealed in this prayer. It is a prayer of supreme faith since Jesus has not even been arrested. Jesus as God is calling things that are not (yet) as though they were. (Romans 4:17) He even prays for you and me. “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word” In the Lord’s Prayer, we are praying to God for ourselves. In this prayer, we are prayed for by Jesus. In this prayer we are prayed into unity with God. This is also a prayer of salvation. This prayer is a model for us also. While the Lord’s Prayer is a prayer of praise, position and petition, The High Priestly Prayer is a model for us of intercession, faith and unity.  Our Epistle lesson from Jude states, “Keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life.” (Jude 21) What better verse to confirm the statement from Jesus that He is the way, the truth and the life. I especially like John Wesley’s explanation of this verse. “By these means, through his grace, keep yourselves in the love of God, and in the confident expectation of that eternal life which is purchased for you, and conferred upon you, through the mere mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ.” I believe if we reflect on this prayer with the help of God the Holy Spirit, we will not only see Jesus in a clearer light, we will understand our relationship with Him and the Father in a much deeper way. Amen

Feast Day of John Henry Hobart Bishop of New York 1830

Friday, September 7, 2012

A Pilgrim’s Progress And The John Muir Trail II

Book description

I have completed the John Muir Trail in sections over the last decade. During this time I have been changed by the events of life in general and specifically the JMT. The JMT has unrivaled beauty, requires considerable effort and is a type of spiritual pilgrimage whether one is particularly religious or not. This book is a photographic record of the 211 mile journey from Yosemite National Park in the North to the summit of Mount Whitney in the South. I have also included 10 essays related to specific reflections on experiences in the wilderness and the journey along the JMT as a kind of metaphor for life itself. We are sometimes exhausted and can go no further until we rest. While our vista is beyond description, our path is narrow and the footing uncertain. It is also a statement that to a point less is better. One learns about possessions that the larger the backpack, the larger the burden.
Available now on Amazon with color photographs for those that have a color Kindle. and available as a paperback with B&W photographs.
Fr. Dale Matson