Tag Archives: Advent

A Christian Voice In A Changing Culture

Silent Word, Shining

‘Shine like lights in the universe, as you hold out the Word of life’ (Phil. 2: 15, 16).

A season of silence ends: now back to airports, bills, staff management, and decisions, big and small. 2020 marks our 40th year as a ministry. I shall covet quiet around the edges to reflect on where we’ve been, where next.

It helps to trust the Word has been sown deeply in our hearts and will bring forth fruit—His will deepening, growing, breaking forth as He sees fit. We position ourselves before Him as to reflect something glorious, His very Presence fanning into flame what pleases Him, be it at full volume or in quiet encounters.

I caught a glimpse of this last week as my son Nick preached an excellent sermon on the ‘holy family.’ (After much therapy, he wisely made no allusions to ours.) Afterwards, a young woman unknown to me but a big fan of Nick asked me who I was. When she discovered I was the preacher’s dad, she kind of fawned over me and I demurred: ‘Reflected glory.’

So it is with each of us. The Light has dawned in our darkness—the Word has found good ground in the broken soil of our lives and pleads to unfurl. God’s glory goads us, His silence begs to be broken by the Word declared!

Here we see the genius of this Church season. Advent begins with the promise of Light, with Christmas the Light dawns in Jesus, and now Epiphany—the showing of Christ through the witness of our lives. Epiphany calls us out of what can become an ingrown culture of missals, beads, postcard saints and swoony devotion. Yes, the chaos outside and within demands quiet. But the Word demands a hearing through the story of our messy radiant lives.

Show Christ! Use words! Break the silence between you and a host of delightful creatures in darkness who listen only to their own soundtracks and meandering, fractured narratives. I want everyone to know that Jesus can heal ‘LGBT+’ anything. He surpasses our tendency to settle on misbegotten ‘feeling’ states.

In saying nothing, we stoke deceived powerbrokers who criminalize our good news. Every new presidential candidate wants to outlaw ‘reparative therapy.’ Remember, this is not about a type of counseling. This is about silencing anyone with the courage to say: ‘I’m not sure LGBT+ identification is the best expression of your true self. Let’s walk together in Jesus; He will show you who you are…’

Our transformed lives say it best. Let us heed God’s word to Jeremiah: ‘If you utter worthy, not worthless words, you will be my spokesperson’ (Jer. 15:19). To be sure, silence helps us to separate the wheat from the chaff, what to say and what not. St. John Paul ll counsels us wisely: ‘We need to learn a silence that allows the Other to speak when and how He wishes.’

Sensitized by silence, the Word commands a hearing—treasures from darkness ready to flair into fireworks. This is our season to shine: God revealing Himself through our witness of His transforming love.

I won’t soon forget Jesus’ invitation last November to declare that love before the Kansas City Council. Sandwiched between the darkened minds of that Council and several rows of disgruntled LGBT+ers, I declared several truths that provoked satanic rage. A roar went up as the Spirit directed me to declare that persons like me deserve choice, that we who pursue chastity are now the endangered minority, and that the Council was in no way ready to vote on something they knew nothing about.

Surprised by my own words, I realized they were not entirely mine, in the Spirit of Lk. 11: 11 and 12: ‘When you are brought before rulers and authorities, do not worry about how you will defend yourselves or what you should say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what you should say.’

As the Word received in silence burns in us, fan it into flames. Speak. Entrust the fire to heaven. Shine.

‘If I say, “I will not mention Him or speak any more in His Name”, His Word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot’ (Jer. 20: 9).

Please take time to watch our new video and become ‘Chaste Together.’

trust advent

Trust

‘Advent means a heart that is awake and ready, which does not let itself become bitter and deadened by hard blows but stays awake and aware of the free coming of the Lord God. That is why this free God must be met by a free person…who may well suffer hard blows but without going under.’ (Fr. Alfred Delp)

Christmas invites us to welcome Jesus into the mangers of our lives. He alone can make a feast out of what frightens, even repulses us.

Gabriel, the scary angel of Annunciation in Luke 1:5-38, helps us here. How Zechariah and Mary respond to this intimidating creature (don’t be fooled by the androgynous darling of religious art who whispers gently) blazes a trail for me when life announces something dreadful. Rather than seize up with control, I now invite Jesus into the mess. I try and trust that new life is growing in what might otherwise kill me.

Christmas is rife with ugly announcements for lovely people: the cancer diagnosis, parents whose son returns home as a ‘daughter’, the spouse who splits, a church split by an unchaste pastor, death threats from offended LGBT+ers…

Zechariah helps me a lot. His response is much closer to what mine might be. He’s an old religious guy, guided and steadied by rules. Rigor mortis has set into any hint of womb-like elasticity. When Gabriel declares he will father the firebrand John the Baptist, he tries to mop himself off the floor by demanding a map, more knowledge, a strategy. ‘How can I be sure of this?’ he says. Thrown off, he tries to control the situation by insisting on a more logical prophecy. Like us, he demands of mystery what it cannot give.

Perhaps the wise old guy was a preacher who used words to control his world. Not for long. The angel gives him nine months to be still and listen to a voice other than his own. Gabriel mutes Zechariah as he awaits the Baptist–a humbling pregnancy for any priest! Yet rather than scorn Zechariah, I empathize with him. I too grasp for control when levelled by scary angels; noisy with intense, often indecent language, I lose my voice. But I don’t lose the invitation to new life! I’m just chastened a little until I simmer down and can trust God’s design in my distress.

Gabriel encounters Mary after Zechariah. Mind you, the angel’s annunciation to her is far more challenging. Not only has God willed Mary to become a mother, He Himself will father the child. Yet this overwhelming prospect doesn’t provoke a controlling response. Unlike Zechariah who grasps after facts, Mary counters a native fear with faith: ‘Tell me more,’ a response resonant with consent.

And trust. She leans into the mystery, content to grow in ‘the love that surpasses knowledge’ (Eph. 3:19) rather than flail for security in mere knowledge. Soon she will be filled with love’s fullness (v.20), our Savior, her Son, God’s only, expanding in her until she can contain Him no more!

I love her simple answer to angel Gabriel: ‘Be it to me as you said’ (Lk. 1:38). Henri Nouwen paraphrases this beautifully: ‘I don’t know what all this means but I trust that good will come from it.’

May Mary’s wisdom and humility become ours. A good goal for all the scary annunciations that await us in 2020? Spend less time grasping for security in vain things and lean longer into the mystery of divine mercy. I want to try and trust Jesus with every unsettling thing and so abide in peaceful love more than with alien passions like anxiety. Please join me.

‘What transformed Mary into royalty is that she recognized God as a God of challenge. She experienced what it means to be torn away from all normal destinies and, thereby, to be caught up in new possibilities. She stands as a healing and helping source of strength, right in the middle of what no-one can know beforehand.’ (Fr. Alfred Delp)

Please take time to watch our new video and become ‘Chaste Together.’

Fearing the One I Love

Our trouble lies not in heavy-handed religion but in banal lullabies that assure us that God is love, all love, and only wants our best—‘best’ defined by our doing whatever we want.

Our trouble lies in the fact that we no longer fear God. We want the benefits of the Cross but not the call to carry our own. We have made Him in our image, not submitted to the One in whose image we are made. We then dare to shake our fist at any version of Him that gets in the way of our version of ourselves.

For this trouble Advent may not be long enough. For this the Church is genius. Our calendar year ends with Daniel’s apocalyptic vision of the Ancient One ascending His throne—radiant, smoking hot—His royal seat blazing—‘a surging stream of fire flowing out from where He [the Father] sat’ and received the Son before whom the whole host of heaven bows down and declares: ‘dominion, glory and kingship’ (Daniel 7).

In the middle of the fireworks God incinerates His main adversary–the Beast– while lesser beasts are granted a season in which to do their dirty work. Have these lesser beasts charmed us, made us beastly? They give us what we want, including just enough spirituality to assuage our touchy souls. We are sleepy, full of unbaptized ideas and vague discontent. We ladle another round of boozy good cheer and cry ‘abuse’ when the religious disagree with us.

Advent begins, our New Year dawns, not with dreamy glimpses of angels and virgins and starry nights but with an alarm. Wake up people! You think all is well? Think again! The first Sunday in Advent highlights Jesus’ Second Coming; His re-entry will be violent, decisive and conclusive. Of the two men out in the field, only one will be plucked out by Jesus to escape the terror at hand (Matt. 24). No wonder the second Sunday features John the Baptist’s call to repent of every worthless thing we cherish—to get rid of it now before Jesus Himself burns it up ‘with unquenchable fire’ (Matt. 3:1-12).

God is love. And fearsome. For me, these first few days of Advent have been tough, full of minor humiliations that have exposed by touchiness and subtle adulteries of heart. I haven’t much more to offer Him than my sin. So be it. Better to burn now than later.

I fear this God. Yes, He loves me, deeply, ‘His Spirit longs for me jealously’ (James 4:5). He has laid claim to me through His blood and has a right to the whole of me. Every haggard part. All well? Nah: I’m burdened by pet beasts. Wellness to me is facedown, crying ‘dominion, glory, kingship.’ My happiness hinges upon full surrender.

Please take time to watch our new video and become ‘Chaste Together.’

Advent: Woes and Warring for Souls

‘Perhaps what we modern people need most is to be genuinely shaken…God permits this whirlwind to go over the earth…This is the first Advent message: before the end, the world will be set quaking.’ FR Alfred Delp

‘The coming of Jesus is fearsome news for everyone with a conscience’, says Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Advent jolts us awake. Rather than lull ourselves to sleep with boozy good cheer, we can rouse ourselves in the electric lights radiating from the gray. God calls us to shine bright for the saving of many lives.

So it was at our Gender Matters Conference in Manila. Between the Feast of St. Andrew and the first Sunday of Advent, hundreds of us packed out a hall in the city center and betrothed ourselves anew to Jesus and His truth for humanity amid a national drive to enslave citizens by guaranteeing ‘rights to gender expression’, aka defy your nature and conjure a false self. The Philippines is poised to become the first nation in Asia to pass a law that grants preferential treatment to the ever-expanding LGBT+ set while imposing extreme penalties for anyone who ‘creates an emotionally distressing environment’ which ‘results in the loss of self-esteem’ for any person flaunting an identity fracture.

The bill is expressly designed to silence any pastor, parent, or friend who casts a vision of gender wholeness for loved ones being tempted by a host of fake identities.

Andrew Speaking at Gender Matters.

Jesus provokes us who have died to these solutions and now live for Him. We cannot celebrate the dead-end of sexualizing our injuries and unmet needs. In truth, we grieve and mourn and cry out for true justice. A godly congress-woman implored us to pray and fight for a delay of the bill which slam dunked the lower house 187-0 and is scheduled to go before the Senate mid-December. Wise senators are working hard for this delay in order to buy time in which to rouse the Church—Philippine’s drowsy, distracted giant.

The Holy Spirit honored our gathering; His Presence summoned fresh repentance and many tears over this delusion and the traditional adulteries that broke ground for this rainbow psychosis. More than anything, we poured out our hearts for a generation who are being entombed by fake identities.

I recalled St. Andrew whose gift to us as the first apostle was a deep, child-like faith in Jesus and an immediate evangelistic impulse. Having beheld the Lamb, he directed his brother Peter to Jesus, declaring ‘We have found the Messiah’ (JN 1:35-42).

St Andrew reminded me that our Philippine advance was not first about politics or theology or psychology—it was for persons doomed to die unless merciful ones, endowed with true vision, direct them to Jesus. Scattered throughout our gathering were wide-eyed gender-benders alongside faithful friends. ‘They’ are us—wounded wonderful persons who will remain slaves until they discover the Father who alone has power to confirm us as His sons and daughters (Gal. 4:3-7).

‘When these signs begin to happen, stand erect and raise your heads because your redemption is at hand’ (LK 21:28).

Please take time to watch our new video and become ‘Chaste Together.’

Burn. Again.

“Every tree that does not bear good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire. I [John the Baptist] am baptizing you with water, for repentance, but the One coming after me is mightier than I. I am not worthy to carry His sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire…He will gather the wheat into His barn, but the chaff He will burn with unquenchable fire’ (Matt. 3:10-12).

Weary and controlling after Thanksgiving (why do joyful occasions make me a jerk?), I extended my misery to Annette and hurt her. Badly. To an outsider, my sin may not have been a felony, but it was one of those flashpoint sins that bound up a host of smaller historic ones; together, they effectively bludgeoned Annette.

At Mass that morning, I brought my sin into the light and heard the invitation that Leanne Payne gave us continuously (out of the mouth of a C.S. Lewis character): ‘Die before you die; there is no chance after that.’ In choosing to lay down my sin and destroy it at the foot of His Cross (‘please God, may it be so this time…’), I perceived with the eyes of my heart a fire raging around me, licking up the mess. God in Christ came with fiery love to destroy the sin that destroys through me.

Advent, like Lent, holds up a mirror to the spiritual monsters we can be—on one hand, earnest and devout; on the other, blackening eyes with limbs we thought were amputated long ago. All this requires is that we look intently and beyond our own selfish rationales in order to behold the hurting eyes of another and finally, the blazing love of God in Christ who awaits our fleshly offering.

In today’s Gospel, John the Baptist calls the religious to repentance, rather than the more obviously disordered. Ouch. Annette and I now attend polite religious gatherings defined by worship that is choreographed, carefully. Our prayers tend more toward ‘us’ the privileged interceding for ‘them’, the unfortunates. That gets ‘us’ safely off the hook and frees us to retain our reserve; it frees us from the flames.

In truth, most of us are deeply divided souls and our religious devotion may well tempt us to hide those divides for both the sake of convenience and appearance. In muted tones, mid-week, we hear of crippled marriages, the beloved son’s suicide, the ex-married and ex-middle class Mom who works weekends to eat.

This Advent I pray for the Cross to expose our Pharisaic mixtures and to provoke us into the flames, together, in this one body. I pray that simple songs might set our hearts aflame with His blazing love, that powerful preaching might convict us with signs and wonders following, that the Holy Meal endowed with the Spirit’s power might deliver us from demons, sear our flesh, and unite what’s left with God’s best for our broken lives.

Maybe John is asking us to lay down our linen blazers and tiny crosses around our fine necks; maybe he’s asking us to put our entire selves on the chopping block and to sob over the lies we told and the divided lives we lived. Maybe he’s asking us to forego social graces, to run boldly to the throne of grace (Heb. 4:14-16) and get messy, stripped and naked, so that at last we might say we only want Jesus and that only He can clothe us (Rom. 13:14) with what we need to live undivided, grateful lives.

Maybe then we the Church would not have to worry so much about ‘how to reach the lost.’ They would hear the sobs and see the beeline straight to the altar and would fall face down with us. Together with all the saints, we might cry out for mercy amid the roaring blaze of Love from which none will escape.

‘On that day, the Gentiles will seek out the root of Jesse, for His dwelling shall be glorious’ (IS. 11:10).

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