changing course (Eze 18:1-4, 25-32; Matt 21:28-32)

Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost (Year A, Proper 21)
St. Luke's International Hospital Chapel
September 25, 2011– 10:30 a.m. Holy Eucharist

Both the Old Testament reading and the Gospel today talk about changing course.

Arguably one of the most important words in Bible is the word "turn". The Hebrew is shuv. Shuv can be translated turn, go home, return, reconsider, regret, repent. It means to change course, to face in a new direction.

The idea of shuv is at the heart of the message of all the prophets. Return to the Lord! Turn back from evil and return to His ways, and you will find life and peace.

And it's at the heart of the New Testament. Both John the Baptist and Jesus began their work with the same call to shuv: Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand.
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The message God gave to Ezekiel is very straightforward: You sin? You die.

It's not rocket science. One thing follows the other, cause and effect.

Remember that "sin" in the biblical sense doesn't mean just the Big Stuff like murder, robbery, adultery. It means turning your back on the Lord, straying from His path.

Note also: It's not that we die because our parents or our ancestors sinned. God clearly rejects that line of thinking. In Ezekiel's time, the Jews had been taken captive and forcibly relocated to Babylon. They complained that they were being punished because of what their ancestors did, saying: "The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children's teeth are set on edge" (Ezek 18:2).

To that, God says, in effect, "gimme a break":
"Behold, all lives are mine; the life of the father as well as the life of the son is mine. The one who sins, he it is who shall die." (Ezek 18:4)

God isn't in the business of punishing the children of sinners. You sin? You die, not your children or your grandchildren.

We may--and, sadly, quite often do--suffer the fallout from the sins of our parents. A selfish father's adultery. An anxious mother's overprotectiveness. Abuse. A lack of affection. That's part of the tragedy of the world. But to say we suffer the fallout from someone else's sin is different from saying the sin and its punishment are ours.

You sin? You die. And this is not God's capriciousness, either. It's just cause and effect. St. Paul put it like this: "The wages of sin is death" (Rom 6:23). The recompense for working is money. The recompense for sin is death.

What kind of death are we talking about? Physical death, yes, evenutally, but even worse, spiritual death, which can begin even in life and which goes on…for all eternity.

So what is spiritual death? Many of you have probably tasted it already. The "symptoms" include:
A narrowing of the heart. A sense of distance from people around you, the world around you. The inability to make real connections. A loss of yourself, your identity. A loss of meaning and purpose. A sense of emptiness. Boredom even with the pleasures of life. Anxiety. Anger at others, at God, at yourself. Hopelessness. A slowly deepening darkness in your heart.
This spiritual death can begin here, now. It begins whenever we sin--whenever we turn away from God, whenever we pull away from His good will for our lives.

And unless we turn back, it will go on forever and ever.

To become a Christian means to make this turn. To become a Christian involves turning away from darkness, from self-centeredness, from injustice, from emnity with God--away from everything that displeases God.

And it involves turning toward Jesus, toward life, toward justice, toward obedience, toward intimacy with the Father.

That is what Christian baptism is all about. Do you renounce the devil and all his ways? Do you turn toward Jesus and life in harmony with God's will?

The hitch is, we can't make this turn. We're like the Titanic heading toward the iceberg. Even knowing the danger was ahead, the huge ship couldn't turn enough to avoid it.

Human beings are actually worse off than the the Titanic. Because, given enough time, the Titanic was capable of changing course. But we're not. We don't have it in us to change ourselves.

Sure, we can change the clothes we wear, get a new haircut. We can train ourselves to take on new habits. We can learn to control ourselves and put on a presentable face.

But we can't change our hearts.

"Cast away from you all the transgressions you have committed, and make yourselves a new heart and a new spirit!" (Ezek 18:31)

The people to whom Ezekiel relayed this message proved that they couldn't make a new heart and a new spirit for themselves. And neither can we. We are unable to save ourselves. Our wills are weakened, our hearts are bent. And we can't fix that.

But God can. God can make possible what was impossible. What God commands, He enables. God tells us to make new hearts; He gives us the grace to do it.

The Reformer John Calvin said "[God] invites all to repentance and rejects no one." (Calvin, Comm. Ezekiel 18:32). And because God invites all to repentence, He offers all the grace to enable such repentence.

St. Paul is on to this in today's letter to the Philippians: "Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure." (Phil 2:12b-13)

It is God who works in us. If we allow Him to, God will work in us, healing our wills so that we WANT to do what pleases Him. Notice the all-important repeated clause in the baptismal vows:
- Do you turn away from all the powers of darkness?
    I do, WITH GOD'S HELP.
- Do you turn toward Christ and toward the light?
    I do, WITH GOD'S HELP.
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The first son in Jesus' parable changed course. He went from not doing the will of his father to doing the will of his father.

Jesus confronts every person with this same question. Jesus' whole mission, today as well as back then, is to summon every one of us to the same obedience: Today, go and work in the vineyard. Today, go and live a God-pleasing life in harmony with the Father's will.

Two thousand years ago, tax-collectors and prostitutes heard this call and they responded to it. Like the older brother, with their lives they had been saying "I will not" to God's will. But, like the older brother, they "changed their mind" and began to follow Jesus. They changed course. They discovered in Jesus the power to change course. The grace to stop living in sin. The grace to enter into fellowship with God.

To be a Christian is to change course. If we are still living pretty much like everybody else in the world--if we are making decisions pretty much on the same basis, if we are using our time and our money and our talents for the same ends, if we are thinking mostly about ourselves, if we are just as comfortable in our sinfulness--then maybe we haven't really become Christians yet. Maybe we're more like the younger brother who says "Yes" to his father but then goes on with business as usual.

Jesus offers us the power to change course. The power both to say "Yes" and to live a life that also says "Yes" to God.

And what happens when we change course?

Life happens.

"Why will you die, O house of Israel? Turn, and live!" (Ezek 18:31b, 32b)

The tax-collectors and prostitutes repented and followed Jesus into the Kingdom because they saw that that's where real life was. Real joy. Real community. Fellowship with the living God. The sweetness of heaven, here on earth, and forever.

Turn, and live!

方向転換をする(エゼキエル書18:1-4, 25-32; マタイ21:28-32)

2011年9月25日・10時30分 聖餐式




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宗教改革者のジョン・カルビンが言いました:「主はすべての人を悔い改めへと誘い、誰をも拒まれない」と(Calvin, Comm. Ezekiel 18:32)。悔い改めへと誘ってくださる神は、悔い改めることができる恵みをも与えてくださるのです。


- あらゆる暗闇の力を退けますか? → はい、神の助けによって退けます。
- イエス・キリストへ、光へと向きを変えますか? → はい、神の助けによって...
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「イスラエルの家よ、どうしてお前たちは死んでよいだろうか...お前たちは立ち帰って、生きよ!」(エゼキエル18:31b, 32b)




sermon preview: turning and living

"Cast away from you all the transgressions that you have committed, and make yourselves a new heart and a new spirit! Why will you die, O house of Israel? For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Lord GOD; so turn, and live!" (Ezekiel 18:31-32)
In order to live--not just to draw breath, but to respond fully to the life we've been given, to live to the fullest, we must change. The "default setting" in sinners is warped. We have to reset the system. The problem is, though it sounds good, we don't have in us the power to "make ourselves a new heart and a new spirit." But Jesus does have that power. If we allow Him, Jesus will renew our wandering and exhausted hearts. He will turn us homeward, and cause us to really live. This, indeed, is the Father's joy.




夕の礼拝 2011年9月18日


  • ペルシャの王、クセルクセス
  • その妻となる、ユダヤ人の超美人エステル
  • エステルを子供のころから育ててくれたいとこのモルデカイ
  • クセルクセス王の高官ハマン


















エステルはこの言葉に心が大いに打たれます。モルデカイに返事します。「急いで、首都にいるすべてのユダヤ人を集め、わたしのために三日三晩断食し、祈ってください...このようにしてから、定めに反することではありますが、わたしは王のもとに参ります。このために死ななければならないのでしたら、死ぬ覚悟でおります。」(4:14, 16)







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prophetic assurance?

I love the drama of First and Second Kings.

I was digging the last chapter of First Kings, which was one of the morning readings this week.

In this chapter, both kings of the Divided Kingdom team up to retake a prime piece of real estate east of the Jordan called Ramoth Gilead, currently under the control of the Arameans. But they want assurances that things will go their way.
    The king of the southern kingdom of Judah is Jehoshaphat ("Joe" to his friends, "Phat" to his detractors). Joe is a faithful Jew, unlike the crapbag king of Israel, Ahab. Joe says, "We should really find out what the Lord thinks about all this. Know any prophets?"
    Ahab calls together four hundred yes-men who say in unison: "You betcha! The 'Lord' says go for it." (This 'Lord' is 'adonai' whereas elsewhere in the chapter it's YHWH--the Hebrew is telling us subliminally that these "prophets" don't have a clue as to who God is or what He might be saying.)
    Joe is naturally suspicious. "Um...don't you have any real prophets? You know, who actually get their content from YHWH?"
    What Ahab says next is priceless: "Yeah, there's this one guy. But I hate his guts. He's always saying negative stuff about me."
    Blanching, Joe says, "Um, I don't think saying you hate God's prophet is such a good idea..."
    "All right, all right." Ahab turns to one of his men: "Go and get Mike and bring him here."
    So the messenger, a barrel-chested, mean-looking guy with uneven eyes (okay, I made that up), goes off to summon Micaiah. When they meet he offers some "friendly" advice. Speaking Hebrew with a Cockney accent, he says, "Look here, mate. Everybody else's telling the king it's awright to go ahead wi'dis fight, innit. How's about you play nice and sing the same tune, right? If you know what's good for you."
    Micaiah says, "Look, I don't make this stuff up. I can only say what God tells me to say."
    The prophet is brought before the two kings. Ahab, rolling his eyes, poses the question. "Very well then, Mike: Should we go to war against Ramoth Gilead? Yes or no?”
    Micaiah answers right away. "Sure. Attack. Be victorious. It's pretty much a done deal. "
    "Really?" Ahab asks, eyes narrowing.
    "Nah," Micaiah says. "Actually, you should tell everybody to go home."
    Ahab turns to Joe. "You see? I told you he's always disrespecting me."
    "Disrespecting you?" says Micaiah. "Hardly. The fact is, God was looking for a way to take you out. He was in heaven with all the angels, saying 'How can we get Ahab to get himself killed by attacking the Arameans?'
    "There was a bit of brainstorming, and then one of the angels raised his hand: 'Ooh! Ooh! I know! I'll go and dupe all of Ahab's so-called prophets"--all the other angels snickered when he said that--"and get them beating the war drums.'
    "And God said, 'Hmm, sounds like it could work. Give it a shot.'"
    For this, Ahab throws Micaiah into jail "until I return," he says. But the prophet retorts: "If you come back in one piece, then I guess God hasn't spoken through me after all. Ya'll all better remember what I said."
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The drama continues. Ahab makes Joe dress up in all his fancy robes so that he will draw all the enemy fire, while he himself dresses like a grunt. But a random Aramean arrow "happens" to find a crack in his armor, and Ahab spends the rest of the day bleeding to death on the floor of a chariot.

But what I found fascinating was the interaction between Ahab and Micaiah. The prophet tells it like it is, straight from God's mouth, clear and unambiguous, but Ahab doesn't want to listen and thinks Micaiah is being mean and unfair. Ahab never once considers that he might be wrong, out of bounds, in need of changing course.

Instead, Ahab prefers to muster a whole group of "prophetic voices" to assure him that God wants him to do what he was already set on doing.

But note: God actually enacted His judgment by giving Ahab the "prophetic assurance" he was looking for before flying headlong into destruction and death.

Can anyone say General Convention? Or General Synod, perhaps? (But how could hundreds of people be wrong?)

If you read these words: "The church is bleeding to death"--what church(es) come to mind?

And how many times did I hear at seminary something along the lines of "I hate Paul's guts. He's always saying negative things about [whatever I like to engage in/whatever is considered groovy in my groovy circle of friends]."

But even more painfully: How many times have I "sought the Lord's guidance" only to ignore it and set about rationalizing my own predetermined course? And how often has that worked out?

And still more painfully: Am I doing it now?


doing it right

People involved in parish ministry risk becoming near-sighted. Immersed in the small world of your own people every Sunday, you tend to forget there are other ways of doing things. Slowly, imperceptibly, you can fall into the "always done it like this" mindset--the same mindset that probably drove you a little crazy when you first arrived.

So it's instructive to visit other churches from time to time. Even if the church sucks, you're bound to encounter differences that make you think about the status quo in your own congregation.

How much better, then, to visit a church that seems to be doing many things extremely well. Last Sunday, I had the pleasure of worshipping at Church of the Good Shepherd in Binghamton, New York. My old spiritual war buddies from seminary, Matt and Anne, co-pastor this church. Boy, was it exciting!

I'd had a meeting the previous day in the southeastern part of the state, so I drove 150 miles over mountain roads and through pelting rain to get there for Sunday Eucharist. There was a moment of panic when I discovered that most of the entry points to Binghamton were under several feet of water. Thank God for GPS navigation systems.

There were so many good things going on at Good Shepherd, I'll only list a few of them:

An active, well-attended Adult Sunday School program. I got to the church at about 9:45 a.m. Finding the sanctuary empty, I went downstairs. There, flooding notwithstanding, I found a room full of maybe 50 people, ranging from college students to octogenarians, median age probably around 35. There were several different ethnicities represented, and an even number of men and women.
Okay, this is the Bishop, not Matt, but you get the idea...

When I slipped in, they were all listening attentively to Matt. He was pacing furiously around the front of the hall, using an exposition of the Great Commission (Matthew 28) to talk about the mission of Good Shepherd.

People asked questions, made comments. They answered Matt's occasional Bible knowledge questions! Matt was enthusiastically painting a picture of a congregation embedded in local communities, looking outward, eager to show God's love through service and gospel proclamation.

At one point, Matt asked: How many of you have been at this church for more than three years. Maybe half a dozen people raised their hands. Then he asked, how many have been here for more than a year and a half. About three-quarters of the people raised their hands. Talk about new growth. Something is drawing these people in.

Reverent, joyful worship. The whole service, with readings and hymns, was printed attractively in a booklet. Hospitality trumps tree conservation!

Before the service, Matt reminded the congregation, which apparently includes many new or not-yet Anglicans, to pray the words of the liturgy attentively. I suspect liturgical inculturation occurs through little catechetical moments like that.

There were maybe 130 people there (fewer than usual because of the flooding), but it felt smaller because the sanctuary (a former Catholic church) is so huge. Who knows? Maybe it will be filled one day--in the not so distant future, if current trends continue.

The music was a mix of standard Anglican hymns and praise music. A band consisting of the music director on piano, bass guitar, and bongo, acquitted themselves fairly well without drawing too much attention to themselves. I enjoyed singing.

Especially considering Matt's strong Reformed Anglican commitments, the worship style was fairly High(ish). There was a procession, with two torchbearers and a crucifer as well as a Eucharistic Minister. The altar team genuflected at some of the right places (i.e. the words about the Incarnation in the Creed) although I don't think anybody else did. A few older folks crossed themselves. Matt wore a chausuble for the Ministry of the Table. A sanctus bell accompanied his reverent elevation of the consecrated elements.

There were informal moments, too. Matt greeted us at the beginning, while Anne came to the microphone at announcement time holding the baby. The passing of the peace was a lengthy, boisterous affair.

They've just started having a person at the back of the church standing by to pray with people at any point if needed.

Solid preaching. When I get a chance, I catch Good Shepherd sermons online, so I've come to expect passionate, orthodox preaching tied closely to the biblical text. In fact, Matt and Anne's expository preaching has inspired me to do more of that with my own congregation, which has been well received (somewhat to my surprise).

Matt changed the readings in light of the week's devastating floods. It was a variation on the theodicy (=seeking to understand the place and meaning of suffering in the will of God) message that Matt has preached before, such as after the massive earthquake in Haiti.

I was again struck by Matt's refusal to let God off the hook. "God allowed this flooding to happen." Given his understanding of the inviolable sovereignty of God, that's pretty much where you have to end up. But Matt also followed that declaration with a very definitive "and we cannot know all the reasons why." Seems to me that Job would agree.

I also liked this line: "There have been many floods. God spoke about only one." Meaning: The story of Noah doesn't allow us to say that all floods are punishment for human wickedness.

Well, go read, or better yet, watch or listen to the whole thing. In fact, tune in to Good Shepherd's sermons every week. You are sure to be edified.

Also: Matt's sermon went on for more than 30 minutes, and NOT A SINGLE PERSON was looking at their watch impatiently. In an Anglican church. Nobody. They seemed quite content to sacrifice the 0.29% of their week it took to sit and listen to somebody preaching the Word of God.

Outward-looking ethos. During the floods, the church had been providing food as well as shelter for a handful of displaced families. Good Shepherd already runs a soup kitchen.

In Sunday School, Matt expressed his vision of all Good Shepherd members becoming Kingdom agents in their own communites. There was a huge, hand-drawn map of Binghamton on the wall, with parishoners' houses marked. The goal is to have various local mission groups take responsibility for their own neighborhoods, in terms of service and evangelism.

In Sunday School, and even more pointedly in his sermon, Matt was really calling on his people to go out in service. We're not social workers, he said. What we do is different. When people ask us why we're doing what we do, we say "Because God loves you and He told me to do this."

Well, there's more I could remark on. But it is clear that God is blessing the faithfulness of Good Shepherd, and that He has blessed them with passionate, clear-thinking pastors in Matt and Anne.

I'm excited about the future for this church. Especially in the wake of this flooding, which comes as a serious blow to an already economically depressed city. What better environment for the gospel to flourish in?


homeless in the choir

an article written for the St. Luke's Chapel Choir's bi-yearly anthology

"For example, something about you that people don’t know."

When Mr. Ohnishi approached me about this article, he suggested the above theme. Later, when I looked over the paper he gave me, I also noticed “my encounter with a choir” as a suggested theme. So I decided on a combination: “Something about me that people don’t know, that has to do with my encounter with a choir.”

When I was 22, I was working at an entry-level position at an ad firm in my home town in Texas. One weekend when I traveled out of state to a friend’s wedding, I met my ex-girlfriend from college, and before I knew it the old flame came roaring back to life.

A few months later, I quit my job, said goodbye to my protesting family, packed all my worldly possessions into a car and drove 1,000 kilometers to Atlanta, my heart full of thoughts of building a family and building a career in advertising.

In short, I bet the farm on “the love that lasts forever.”

It was all very exciting and romantic. And stupid.

Within two weeks of arriving in Atlanta, I discovered that my girlfriend was NOT betting the farm on “the love that lasts forever” but rather betting little plots of the farm on several different boyfriends. You might call it risk management, or different values, or playing the field.

Whatever it was, I was not down with it, and terminated the relationship. I promptly fell into a deep funk.

The problem was, now I was alone in a strange town, with no place to live, no job, and not much money. My car became my warehouse and my bedroom. I parked at night next to a public park, always worrying about whether the police would come around.

I sent my resume out to dozens of ad agencies, but had no luck landing any interviews. In fact, I couldn’t get interviews for jobs waiting tables! So I was basically spinning my wheels, at a total loss about what to do next with my life.

Around this time, I happened upon a beautiful old Episcopal church. The last time I was in church was the previous Christmas with my family. And that had been the first time in a long time. You might say I was a long way from being a “model Christian.” At that time, I wasn’t even sure I believed in God.

But I felt drawn to this church. The signboard out front said there was a service of the Stations of the Cross on the coming Friday. When I was a child, during Lent I used to go to the Stations of the Cross service every Friday with my family. The service was way too long, although it was kind of interesting because we all got to walk from station to station, making a big circuit around the inside of the church. But what I enjoyed most was the potluck supper after the service!

So maybe it was nostalgia which brought me back to this church on Friday. The service was a little lonely, with just the priest and one other parishioner besides myself.

But then, as we started walking to the first station, we sang the Stabat Mater dolorosa—“At the cross her vigil keeping…” (Hymn 149). Suddenly I was back home again, standing between my mother and father. For a little while, I forgot I was alone in a strange city, forgot I was homeless, forgot I was heartbroken, forgot everything.

I just sang, and recalled Christ’s final hours of suffering as we walked slowly around the church.

The priest approached me after the service. I’m sure he wondered who the devil I was. He had a gift that many priests I know have—namely, the gift of strongarming people into doing service at the church. “Have you ever sung in a choir?”

Next thing I knew I was a bass in the Church of Our Saviour choir. The choir took me in like a long lost relative. I got to know them. The alto who was a lab technician at the famous Centers for Disease Control. The tenor who was still single and living at home and could have been a stand-up comedian. The elderly soprano and bass couple, neither of whom had very strong voices but they sure loved Jesus. The bass who knew everything there was to know about the history of church music.

And, of course, there was a subtle (and sometimes not so subtle!) rivalry between the two best sopranoes (I’m convinced this is a phenomenon you can find in any church choir anywhere in the world--I wonder about St. Luke’s choir!).

Thursday night choir practice was the highlight of my week. (It wasn’t like I had to make room for it in my busy schedule!). So I kept going week after week, even when I finally got a job and a place to live in a different part of town.

And, of course, now I had an obligation to go to church on Sunday, too. This church had High Solemn Mass every Sunday (this was a very High Church kind of place) and the choir played an important role in leading worship.

So without planning on it, I found myself back in church again. It was a strange feeling. Somewhere, I guess I had thought I had moved on from religion. But now I found myself surrounded by stained glass and incense and candles and pious Christians. I was reciting the prayers thanks to which I had come to love the English language.

To tell the truth I have no memory of the sermons preached. I do remember the deep comfort of being fed week by week on the Body and Blood of Christ, despite the fact that I had ignored Him for so long.

And most important of all, I was part of this Christian family, accepted, welcomed into people’s homes, even, and allowed to sing together with them.

Being part of that choir probably saved me from an emotional trainwreck. I stopped singing with the choir only when I came to Japan.

So I am deeply grateful for God’s kindness. And for choir families everywhere.


random thoughts while flying to the far side of the planet

1. Some very fine colors at both sunset and sunrise.

Sunset had a kind of rich, persimmon liqueur color going on--I don't know if there even is such a thing as persimmon liqueur or if it would anything other than nasty (can anybody say "Jaegermeister"?)--but if there were, it would surely look like the sunset I saw. Liquid, deep orange with just a hint of rosy peachskin.

To stick with the cocktail theme, sunrise offered much more of a grenadine--a long, thin layer of intense clear red bordered top and bottom with cake-frosting cloud strips, quickly dropping off to darkness.

Nicely done, God!

2. Delta weren't no Singapore Air, but it wasn't awful. I was relieved not to learn too much about the flight attendents' personal lives or level of job dissatisfaction.

One steward, who might have even been heterosexual, did "confide" to his colleague: "I'm not feelin' it today." Well, I wasn't feeling it either. But there you have it.

But, boy, once you experience individual seat monitors, anything else seems so shabby.

Also, at the risk of sounding elitist: I admit a moment's disappointment upon seeing that the wine came from a paper carton...

3. I was able to confirm that I'm not a big Julia Roberts fan. The last film on the flight was, if I'm not mistaken, "Eat, Pray, Love." I seem to recall a DVD cover with that title starring Ms. Roberts, and had heard of the book it's based on.

I saw this quote from a review of another movie: "If a volcano erupts in the city you're in and the only safe place to be is a theatre showing Apollo 16, go jump in the lava."

Well, sitting in a middle seat on a Boeing 747 with big-screen monitors, I was basically at the mercy of this movie during the last stretch of the flight. I didn't put in the headphone tabs, which probably helped...

It was a very religious movie--if your religion happens to be Spiritual-ish Hedonism.

Having not read the book or listened to the dialogue, I gather it was about Julia Roberts Career Woman going off in search of Herself and, indeed, finding Herself in several modes: Julia Robert Repeatedly Enjoying Italian Cuisine. Julia Roberts Getting All Conflicted in a series of more or less casual romantic involvements. Julia Roberts Experiencing a Stream of Moments of Enlightenment involving indigenous people in various foreign countries. All interspersed with a smattering of Julia Roberts Doing Meditation.

But, you know? I'm always just happy when Robert Downy Jr. can find work.

4. There are two elements in novels or movies that I find so deeply uncomfortable emotionally that I will often stop reading or watching works that contain them: marital infidelity, and a fall back into addiction.

One of the other movies on the flight, The Dilemma, incorporated both of those themes! To be fair, some close calls notwithstanding, the main character was able to stay clear of his gambling addiction.

But the whole cheating on your spouse thing? It drives me nuts. It's equally excruciating to watch whether the guilty party is the husband or the wife. But I guess I tend to expect female characters to act with a little more selfless maturity, so am more disappointed when they choose What's Good for Me Now over faithfulness.

I enjoyed the male friends' relationship at the heart of this film. Who knew it was possible for two men to be vulnerable and committed to one another without having sex? It's so Nineties! 1890s, that is.

The "dilemma" of title was the main character wrestling with whether to to tell his best friend about his wife's affair. It raised interesting questions about painful honesty and loyalty and the demands of love between friends.

I was saddened but not surprised with the film's conclusion. After all beans get spilled at the climax, we find out that the cuckolded friend's marriage has ended, offscreen. No anguishing, not the slightest sense that reconciliation was even a possibility.

But Hollywood has pretty much just assumed the easy disposability of marriages that "don't work" at least since Kramer vs. Kramer.

On the other hand, the cheating wife's attempt to go with the "you're partly to blame for the fact that I couldn't keep my pants on with another man" was rejected for the lame infantile ploy that it is. Even she didn't buy it, finally.

All in all a good film.

5. America is definitively a nation of a Generously Sized People. The two male leads in The Dilemma were both...big and fat. There, I said it. There was some TV show, too (Molly & Mike? Mike & Molly?) where the two main characters were QUITE girthful. And their obesity didn't seem to be a recurring source of humor (I think--I had the sound off).

And then, sitting in the hotel sports bar last night, I realized how shrewd it is for popular entertainment to reflect the thunderous reality on the ground.

I guess I just wonder why it took so long.



"So one elephant having a trunk was odd; but all elephants having trunks looked like a plot."
--GK Chesterton, Orthodoxy, p. 51




Job's big fat question mark

Good people prosper; bad people suffer.

That's a very attractive proposition. And you and I believe it, to some extent. We WANT the good to succeed and the bad to fail. And we hope that's the case. Sometimes, we even make the mistake of thinking it must always be the case.

I was in Los Angeles in 1977, at the opening of a little movie called Star Wars. You may have heard of it. Three things I remember about that day. One was waiting in a long line to get into the theater. Another was my cousin having had too much popcorn and coke and throwing up through his nose.

The third was the crowd's reaction when the evil Death Star blew up. The theatre exploded! People stood up, clapping and shouting. We were giddy with joy and deep satisfaction.

Can you think of any Hollywood movie where the hero dies a failure, and the villain lives and faces no comeuppance for his villainy?

No. Only the Europeans make films like that. Hollywood wouldn't let such a movie go into production. Because most people wouldn't go see it. And that's partly because it goes against our deeply engrained sense of how the universe ought to be.

What's more, that deeply engrained sense is deeply engrained in us exactly because we are made in the image of God. God created the universe and ordered it so that good people should prosper, and bad people should not prosper.

In other words, it is meet and right that those who live in alignment with God's gracious will and who are opened to his grace should prosper and enjoy great blessings. And it is equally meet and right that those who turn their backs on God's will and live only for themselves should be thwarted and not enjoy peace.

When we long for this order (the Bible calls it "justice"), we are in tune with the heart of God.

The trouble is: The cosmos just ain't what it used to be. Sometimes the good guys go down and stay down. And sometimes the bad guys win and walk away. And that's the end of the story.

So when we overlay the "good, blessed; bad, suffer" grid onto this disordered world, too often it doesn't match up. If we try to force it to match up, we can cause a lot more sorrow and suffering than is necessary.

To put it another way, when we take the true statement that "good people should prosper, and bad people should not" and turn it around and say "those who prosper must be righteous (since they're prospering), and those who suffer must be sinners (since they're suffering)"--we have said way more than we are allowed to say.

The Book of Job holds up a big, fat question mark to that distorted idea. It's an idea which has been around for a long time, and is with us still.

Job's story also helps us to remember that, in a fallen world, sometimes tears are the more fitting response to reality....

ホスピタリティはこのチャペルの使命です(ローマ12: 9-21)

司祭 ケビン・シーバー
2011年9月4日・10時30分 聖餐式







  • まず、皆さんは、自分自身ここに居場所があるということを知っていただきたいです
  • それから、神はわたしたちに常に人を送ってくださり、そういう人たちを歓迎して欲しい、ということを知っていただきたいです
  • そして、わたしたちの責任は、新しいクリスチャンを作るのではなくて、神の愛を示すことだ、ということを知っていただきたいです

































「聖なる者たちの貧しさを自分のものとして彼らを助け、旅人をもてなすよう努めなさい...喜ぶ人と共に喜び、泣く人と共に泣きなさい」(ローマ12:13, 15)


"Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality…. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn" (Romans 12:13, 15)

Hospitality, in its essence, is an openness to the other, our readiness to become invested in the troubles, the sufferings, and the joys of the other--and our readiness to allow the other to approach and to participate in our common life, even if only for a short time. In this sense, hospitality is merely our own, small imitation of God's dealings with us in Jesus Christ.