Tag Archives: Kansas City

A Christian Voice In A Changing Culture

Shaken, Waking Up

Advent starts with a bang this year if Jesus’ words in Sunday’s Gospel reading are true. Luke 21: 25-36 describes the terrifying world-scape into which He will enter, not as a helpless babe but as Almighty Judge separating the faithful from frauds. Season’s grievings!

History unwinds like a ticking bomb: explosions in a Parisian concert hall, a Mali hotel, and a Russian-bound jet over Egypt contract like excruciating birth pains. Brussels shuts down as innocents are subject to a kind of martial law as authorities search for the fearless few who now hold the world captive to terror. We are united in fear. Disempowered people invoke murderous demons (Rev. 9:21) in an effort to captivate the world by the threat of random massacres. Nothing new under the sun: Jesus said that ‘People will die of fright in anticipation of what is coming upon the world’ (LK 21:26).

On one hand, it all seems far away from our insulated roost in Kansas City. But the spirit of murder increases here too, just as arbitrarily and perhaps sourced in the same theme of disempowered people grasping at demonic exaltation. Not long ago, I rode my bike home for lunch through a pleasant street of small condos, mostly inhabited by the elderly. An hour later in broad daylight, a man broke into two units and brutally murdered 5 persons.

I say this not to frighten but to alert you this Advent. Where does our security lie, in false prophecies of peace or in the peace that can only come through Jesus Christ who promises not a harmonious world but Himself? Alfred Delp, a German priest who contested Hitler and was executed, wrote this before his martyrdom: ‘There is perhaps nothing we need today than to be genuinely shaken up. Where life is firm we need to sense its firmness; where it is unstable and has no foundation we need to know this too and to endure it…Advent is a time when we need to be shaken. The necessary condition for Advent’s fulfillment is the renunciation of presumptuous attitudes and dreams through which we build imaginary worlds…Being shattered, being awakened—only with these is life made capable of Advent.’

Jesus alerts us that the darkening world-scape can weigh us down ‘with everyday anxieties’ (LK 21:35). He also notes that our response to such fear may well be drugging ourselves with ‘carousing and drunkenness’ (v.35). Friends, might we who love the Holy One not fall prey to deadening ourselves with foolish diversions but rather seek Him first as our foundation then prayerfully help secure others in Christ? Let us heed Jesus’ command this season ‘to always be on the watch—vigilant—and pray that we might have the strength to escape the tribulations that are imminent so that we can stand before the Son of Man’ (v. 36).

Our Advent begins with preparing for Jesus’ second coming. We might begin by identifying and renouncing the illusions we employ to ward off fear. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus and so establish our lives on the only foundation that will withstand the shaking to come.

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

Download PDF

Under the Rainbow?

When I crossed the finish line at Kansas City’s toughest half-marathon last week, I was astounded to see volunteers adorning us in rainbow necklaces. We looked like a swarm of half-naked gay activists. Refusing to be an emblem of the zeitgeist, I politely refused my medal and thought about the hundreds around me who unwittingly had become flags of a false freedom.

More concerning was this comment by a friend of DSM/LW, recently back from Rome. “Pope Francis is surrounded by people who are pushing a gay agenda…When I was at the papal audience two weeks ago, there was a rainbow balloon ‘cross’ flying overhead the entire time. The gay issue is a major source of fracturing within the Church.”

Both encounters tempted me to fear. Peace prevailed when the Spirit reminded me of the authority I possess as a Kingdom citizen. I am not living in a rainbow dome but under the rule and reign of an altogether generous Father who through Jesus is making me His own. I look to Him alone to define me; the fire of His love burns off all other claims upon my personhood.

Now is the time for all fiery converts to stand firm in Christ Crucified: this is our day ‘to know Him in the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of sharing in His suffering, to become like Him in His death, and so somehow to attain to the resurrection from the dead’ (Phil. 3:10, 11).

I love St. Paul’s being-converted-tension here; the Apostle is clear, he has not yet attained in full this Cross-bearing unto Christ-likeness. Rather, he aspires to know Him in the fight for freedom to which God calls all converts. ‘Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, we press onward to win the prize for which God has called us heavenward in Christ Jesus’ (Phil. 3:13, 14).

I will cry out for mercy for all who live under the rainbow. With gentleness and respect, I will testify to hope for anyone longing to be free from false liberties (1P 3: 15). I belong to the King, under whose reign I bow. And race: ‘I run in the path of His commands, for He has set my heart free’ (PS 119: 32).

Download PDF

Fear and Fasting

‘The resurrection of Christ makes life a perpetual feast.’ St. Athanasius

Real life provides many occasions for fear. As a parent, I am particularly in tune to threats upon my children’s good. As they grow and face the ‘free fall’ of their own decision-making, Annette and I have feared for their good. Such fear focuses and fuels our prayers: ‘O God, use this impasse, this accident, this strange relationship, this attitude, this addiction as an open door to Your new life.’

Last weekend my youngest son Sam graduated from college as a teacher. That marks the fourth and final college graduation of my kids. Sam took his time getting there. Our move to Kansas City nine years ago blew holes in his security and he lost ground. He faced more than a few dead-ends before he found Home. Jesus helped him through a group of faithful young adults. Sam has become an upright, dynamic young man and will make a great teacher. I am proud beyond words of his new life, which to me is founded on nothing less than resurrection.

Reflecting on our fight for his rising, I recall countless occasions where fear competed with faith. We could witness Sam’s deception and desperation. Yet we could not save him from either. (We did insist he pay for his own idolatry.) So we waited and prayed and tried to help him when asked. Our hope bottomed out on several occasions but it was God who became the ever-deepening ground of our hope. That occurred wordlessly, without feeling. We were conscious of fear.

I take heart from the saints who had a hand in creating, preserving and proclaiming Jesus’ life. The whole arc of His existence introduced fear into these mortal lives. So God, employing dreams and angels, was quick to speak: ‘Mary, do not fear your favor–the new divine life emerging within you; Joseph, do not fear to protect this woman; she bears great favor.’ (LK 1:30; Matt. 1:20)

The initial response to the resurrection was anything but clarity and assurance. Fear seemed to rule the day as an earthquake and intimidating angel scared the life out of the tomb guards (‘they became like dead men’ Matt. 28:4). Fright seized the two Marys who waited there so an angel exhorted them ‘to not fear.’ Working at it, ‘the two hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell His disciples…’ (Matt. 28:8).

I love that: ‘afraid yet filled with joy’, an apt reminder of how we feel toward loved ones whose action we cannot control and yet for whom we seek a rising. Jesus insists. He rose for everyone, and He beckons constantly to us to emerge from the tombs of limited vision and closed horizons. He opened that horizon: we pray that blind eyes might see it, and lame limbs walk towards it. Joy overtakes fear as we consider the magnitude of what He won for all in His Resurrection.

Last Saturday, all my kids gathered with Annette and me to celebrate Sam’s graduation. We feasted on great food and strange humor and the faith common to us all. I could see the earmarks of new life—the horizon Jesus opened for each that each is discovering in his or her own way. On such blessed occasions, we forget about fear; feasting and joy prevail.

‘Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and now is found. So they began to celebrate.’ (LK 15: 24)

Download PDF

Merciful Discipline 4: Hopeful, We Rebuild Trust

This is the fourth post of six in the Merciful Discipline Series. A complete list of available posts will be at the end of each article as they are made available.

Merciful Discipline 4: Hopeful, We Rebuild Trust

We do not want you to grieve…as those who have no hope. (1Thes. 4:13)

Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful. (1Cor. 4:2)

Cursed is the man who trusts in man, who depends on flesh for his strength and whose heart turns away from the Lord…He will dwell in the parched places of the earth. (Jer. 17: 5, 6)

One struggles to consider a more profound violation of trust than priestly abuse of children. Based on the trust Catholic parents grant the Church, they have entrusted their children to a handful of priests who used that trust to abuse.

Diabolical—the disintegration of young lives and long after, the disintegration of trust in the Church itself. What greater victory could the enemy of our souls achieve than the scattering of the sheep through such a violent abuse of trust?

We overcome evil through good. And that good comes through acknowledging the mistrust that remains and choosing to begin a process of forgiveness. Our wounds united with Christ’s, we have access to the antidote: Mercy. We can apply that Mercy to both abusing priests and those who unwittingly sustained the abuse through its mishandling.

Forgiveness is neither weak nor a set up for ‘revictimization’. Forgiveness is power. In the Spirit of Jesus, we entrust all involved in the abuse, including our own damaged hearts, ‘to Him who judges justly.’ (1P2:23) We choose to place the hemorrhaging mess into the only Wounds that can heal it; we gratefully remove ourselves from the role of Redeemer and Judge. In forgiving our captors, we begin to be released from an unbearable weight. Little by little, we chip away at the burden of another’s sin until Jesus alone bears it. Forgiveness is the power by which we triumph over beloved enemies.

Forgiving spiritual leaders means that we are growing up. As the laity, we have authority to name a leader’s sin against us or loved ones and to do something about it. In that process, which includes forgiveness, we strike a death blow to clericalism. We refuse to grant Catholic leaders the magic of perfection. We cease to be children and become discerning, engaging colleagues with clergy.

We can disagree with them. And we can go directly to Christ ourselves—to trust more in Him than in the priest or bishop. Jesus always wanted it this way. God wants to use the sexual abuse crisis to free the laity from childish reliance upon mere men, and to mature into wise and helpful members of Jesus’ body.

Trust must be earned. We forgive our offenders in obedience to Christ and to free our own hearts. Yet reliance upon those we have forgiven is wise only when their trustworthiness is evident.

There is evidence that the Church is repenting of her lack of transparency in failing to protect her young. Pope Benedict has championed reform here. He has repeatedly acknowledged the Church’s scandalous track-record and has exerted enormous energy in insisting on strict measures of accountability, discipline, and prevention in the world-wide Church. (He would be wise to keep doing so!)

The US Bishops have established arguably the highest standards for transparency and accountability and victim-care for the US Church than any other branch of the RCC. For that to become a living reality, ‘all diocesan leaders must be committed to transparency about their actions, ensure that immediate and appropriate responses to abuse become routine, and ensure that all such actions are adopted by all church leaders.’ (John Jay Report, p.93)

Having stumbled recently, the Kansas City Diocese under Bishop Finn has set up a new and solid system of checks and balances that line up entirely with recommendations from the Graves Report. Instead of alleged abuses going to the Vicar-General, an Ombudsman receives them and reports them directly to the police and the DFS, while initiating an investigation, which includes a Victim’s Advocate. An Independent Review Board operates as well, investigating whether alleged perpetrators should continue in ministry.

Jennifer Valenti, the new and apparently dynamic Ombudsman, urges all of us to do our part as faithful, discerning members of the one Body. She implores us:

In order for the safety net to be effective, you must take a stand. You cannot stand in silence when you suspect abuse. It takes courage, but you must report it.

If we discern any possibility of abuse, we are to call DFS at (800) 392-3738.

Our hope is in God, the Author and Finisher of His Church. To love the Church and to be whole-hearted in our service of her, we must forgive her grievous failures even as we discern her repentance. In so doing, we destroy the will of the evil one with good. Evidence of change in the ‘system’ still requires that we keep growing, learning how to trust others with a new maturity. That maturity requires that we do our part to ensure that the Church is a safe place for children.

Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in Him. He will be like a tree planted by the water, that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has now worries in a year of drought, and never fails to bear fruit. (Jer. 17: 7, 8 )

Since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart. We have renounced secret and shameful ways. We do not use deception, nor do we distort the Word of God. On the contrary, be setting forth the truth plainly, we commend ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God. (2Cor 4: 1, 2)

O Blood and Water, that flows from the heart of the Savior as a fount of Mercy for us, we trust in You! – St. Faustina

MORE:

The Merciful Discipline Series of Posts (updated with each new post as they become available):

 

Download PDF

Heritage 2011

Heritage 2011

A dear friend recently eulogized his mother with these words: ‘You have given me the heritage of those who fear Your name.’ (PS 61:5) The Psalmist refers to God as the giver; my friend added to that his acknowledgement of the faith he inherited from his good, god-fearing mother.

I contemplated the reference to fearing God. What does that mean? Uncomfortable with fear in our therapeutic age, certain that all shame is bad and that honoring anything greater than ourselves is a set up for abuse, we refuse to link fear with faith in God.

What a loss. To me the fear of God takes our faith and trust in His goodness and anchors it in His holy power. Fearing Him means a healthy reckoning that He is God and we are not, that He alone holds the keys to life and death, and that we do well to take His ways seriously and make them our own. Or else.

Or else what? I don’t know for sure, but I don’t want to find out the hard way. Nor do I want my kids to meander in misty notions of grace without the hard truth of sin’s consequences. Annette and I have made it our absolute priority that our kids know that their main inheritance is the fear of the Lord. It’s not education or good humor or well-intentioned acts—it’s about knowing God as revealed in Christ Jesus, full of grace and truth.

This year, Annette and we are grateful that each of our kids is centered in God. After many detours, they love Him and possess a healthy fear of Him. They respect His power as well as the power of sin; they try to steer clear of those strongholds most familiar to them.

This year, Sam fought to remain free from friends he could not handle and free for fellowship. He has also worked really hard this year to become financially responsible. He intends to become a middle-school teacher.  We witness the success of his efforts to grow in godliness. He has a deep heart for God and for weak humanity.

Katie is excelling at Beeson Seminary in Alabama. She has found her niche as a budding theologian and a woman who loves the Church. Both are rooted in humble reliance on God. She re-upped to serve on one of our healing teams before she left. She told me she did so because she felt weak in some relational areas, and to serve others was a good way to stay clean and strong. What a daughter, a Christian after my own heart!

Nick married beautiful Meg last May. He was already busy in his Pittsburg-based seminary, running marathons—as focused as one dares to be. The day before the two wed, he received an offer to come on staff at a turned-on Anglican parish in Kansas City. He took the job, and life changed fast. Nick amazed me in how he cared for Meg in this process of rapid change. She chose to leave a good job back east and Nick took seriously her loss and needs. Much competes for his attention, but Meg wins first place. God has trained him in the way of love.

Greg and Christina celebrated their first year anniversary last September after landing his first job in a law firm in Colombia MO. The year preceding, Greg fought hard to secure a job. Caught in the undertow of the recession, his high-standing as a graduate meant little to nothing. The way that he endured multiple, exhaustive interviews to no avail amazed me. He struggled to not fear his law-school debt or to doubt his own adequacy. He feared the Lord, and fought hard to stay centered in what was true. He lives out his heritage well.

Annette and I have sought one true thing: that our kids would receive the heritage of ‘those who fear His Name.’ We are deeply grateful for those of you who prayed and fought for our godly fear. Thank you.

In 2012, may the Lord bless and build you up in your inheritance as children of a holy, loving God.

‘His Mercy extends to those who fear Him from generation to generation.’ – (Luke 1:50)

Download PDF
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox

Join other followers: