Monday, June 29, 2015

MONDAY MORNING REFLECTIONS - SAME SEX MARRIAGE - ONE MAN'S THOUGHTS




BY STEVE DUNN

On June 26, 2015 the Supreme Court made a decision that is the equivalent of a moral earthquake.  They declared by a 5-4 vote that same sex marriage was a right protected by the Constitution of the United States.  It is an event that to many is a disastrous event for which our nation will further erode the already tenuous moral fabric of America.  But to many it is a moral victory affirming a way of life that they consider both healthy and desirable. I stand on the side of those who consider this decision to be a sign of our moral failure. The fact that the decision had the slimmest of majorities should give us a clue as to how unwise and potentially dangerous this decision may prove to be.

Most of us who pay careful attention to the moral character of our nation saw this one coming.  We also knew that there was nothing that we could do to stop it.  We are already praying for the impact of what we believe will be ultimately prove to be unwise.  Marriage, already an endangered institution, will not be strengthened.  I believe that many people and families and our nation itself will be hurt by this decision. I agree with Russell Moore, writing in The Washington Post: "The Court now has disregarded thousands of years of definition of the most foundational unit of society, and the cultural changes here will be broad and deep."  

I will not elaborate on all my reasons.  I suspect they would simply fuel what will become an even more nasty cultural debate.  For now it is the law of the land.  As a minister, nothing in the decision compels me to unite same sex couples.  Marriage in the US is still a civil matter as the law goes, and I would give up my professional right to preside over those unions rather to participate in a legal process that deprived me of the right to act in a manner consistent with my biblically-informed conscience.

In the meantime, I will continue to love my neighbor regardless of their sexual orientation.  I will treat them with gentleness and respect--which God commands me to do.  But I will continue to affirm that I believe that marriage is intended to be between a man and a  woman--and that to be healthy we must live by God's design for this institution.  And I will continue to teach that marriage is so sacred that it should involve the mutual submission under the love of Christ that makes such things as spousal abuse or abandonment or no-fault divorce something to be rejected in all ideas of marriage.

I will not engage in the falsehood of affirming a lifestyle that I believe to be contrary to God's design because loving and respecting someone does not mean that I agree and approve with everyone's personal decisions and values.  That's a destructive lie that political correctness would impose on all of us--a lie that often proves destructive to anyone that the guardians of political correctness deems to have less rights than the rest of the citizenry.

But let me repeat--I will not treat a lost battle in the culture war as an excuse to stop showing the unconditional love of the One who loves me conditionally to any person--straight or otherwise.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

THERE IS HOPE ON THE HORIZON

Photo courtesy of Glacier National Park
BY STEVE DUNN

Christians are sometimes criticized as negative, judgmental, and living in the past.  They are often labeled as Bad News instead of the Good News they profess to be.  It is, as they say, a bum rap.

Christians do not casually nor naively see everything that is new or emerging as progress.  They readily recognize the shallowness and self-aggrandizement that accompanies many cultural fads and trends.  They do not support the narcissism that causes much of the world to withdraw from meaningful participation in the human community.

As such they are often voices crying in the wilderness--with others simply shouting back "shut up and don't disturb us."  And as Christianity becomes more and more a counter-cultural faith, that distinctiveness (and disturbance) will grow.

What too many people within our culture miss is that its heart, Christians are carrying a message of hope.  Consider these words from the Bible:

"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!" (2 Corinthians 5.17)

 "For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope." - Jeremiah 29:11

"...so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life." -Titus 3:7

"So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal."  - 2 Corinthians 4.16-18

And then, perhaps the most well-known and hope-filled: "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him." - John 3.16-17

I know that are some Christians that get it wrong--that believe judgment and condemnation are the message; but trust me, those of us who take the Bible seriously are not in the judgment business but the hope proclamation one.

Give us a chance to share.



Tuesday, June 9, 2015

A NEW SERENITY PRAYER

God, grant me the serenity
to accept the people I cannot change,
which is pretty much everyone,
since I’m clearly not you, God.
At least not the last time I checked.

And while you’re at it, God,
please give me the courage
to change what I need to change about myself,
which is frankly a lot, since, once again,
I’m not you, which means I’m not perfect.
It’s better for me to focus on changing myself
than to worry about changing other people,
who, as you’ll no doubt remember me saying,
I can’t change anyway.

Finally, give me the wisdom to just shut up
whenever I think that I’m clearly smarter
than everyone else in the room,
that no one knows what they’re talking about except me,
or that I alone have all the answers.

Basically, God,
grant me the wisdom
to remember that I’m
not you.

Amen

Resposted from THE JESUIT POST   I believe James Martin, SJ is the author;

Monday, June 8, 2015

MONDAY MORNING REFLECTIONS: AMAZING GRACE-WORDS TO LIVE BY

BY STEVE DUNN

In our performance-based, in your face, never let them see you sweat world--too often our both our position and success life depends on where you live, or Tex Sample says, "The wisdom in which you chose your parents."

Although I am not an irresponsible,"everyone owes me something" person that hides behind a victim status; I am grateful that my ultimate worth does not depend on me.  I depend on the One whose death and life and resurrection makes me worthy.

I resonate with and rest in the truth that the Apostle Paul spoke to the Church at Ephesus: "…For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them." - Ephesians 2.8-10

One of my favorite singing groups testifies to it as well:

Thursday, June 4, 2015

MONDAY MORNING REFLECTIONS ON THURSDAY: THE HURRIEDER I GO






BY STEVE DUNN

It's Thursday. I should have written this on Monday.  After, it's my regular feature,
Monday Morning Reflections."  I'd like to think the days went by in a blaze of useful activity but they really disappeared in a haze of "whatever."  If I think hard enough I can account for the passage of time, but I am not sure if how I passed it was worth the consumption of those minutes, hours and days.  In fact, I have this frustrating sense that I have wasted those days.

I didn't know until today that Lewis Carroll is the author of this quote, but right now I am feeling that "the hurrier I go, the behinder I get."

So is my problem the lack of focus or the speed at which I live?

It seems that our culture is enamored with speed--and its partners: immediate, just do it, keep on trucking,  seize the moment--and their little sister, "whatever you do, don't fall behind."

At least once lately I have nearly been in accident.  Another driver (often with a cell phone in hand) does something unpredictable.  I have had to decide what to do in a split second;  I have been fortunate but if we had needed to split the second even more, the outcome might have been a disaster.

It's times like these that I am grateful that my life is in someone else's hands instead of mine.

Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High

will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.a
I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress,
my God, in whom I trust.”

“Because heb loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him;
I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.
He will call on me, and I will answer him;
I will be with him in trouble,
I will deliver him and honor him.
With long life I will satisfy him
and show him my salvation.”  Psalm 91.1-2,14-16

This doesn't mean I just let life carry me along in its currents, trusting in God to send a rescue party when I start to drown--but it does mean that in the rapid, often-unfocused days in this world; I better sure that I am hanging close to God.



Monday, May 4, 2015

MONDAY MORNING REFLECTIONS: BALTIMORE APRIL 2015

Photo, Karl Merton Ferron, Baltimore Sun




BY STEPHEN DUNN

This photo grabbed my attention this week.  It was of a protestor in Baltimore responding the persons of the 300 Man March movement that had come to the city to try to be a "neutral force" in helping the anger and violence of  Baltimore to subside.  It was a sentiment shared by the citizens of that city that had been victimized by the riots on the wake of Freddie Gray's death, apparently at the hands of officers of the Baltimore Police Force.  It was shared by the black mayor of Baltimore who invoked a rigid curfew to control the violence.  It was shared by the families of the 100 police officers who been attacked and injured while trying to protect the citizenry.

It was not shared, I suspect, by those of many races, who will continue to use this tragic event to further divide us and to use the misfortune of this city to advance their hateful and self-serving aims.
That Freddie Gray had died because of the criminal conduct of some officers seems pretty certain at this time.  And if everything is proven in a court of law, these men in blue will become men in orange as they enter prison.  But we should not forget that Freddie Gray's criminal record reveals him to be a societal predator that undermines the well-being of any city.  Still, he did not deserve to die as he did. He is hardly, however a martyr.

I believe that this man's shirt should be our first goal.  To stop murdering one another, stop preying on one another, stop hating one another because of our personal philosophies and prejudices. To stop trying hold onto the past as an excuse for despising our brothers.

I know that the issues are complicated, but resorting to violence unleashes hatred not healing--and we all suffer.

Long ago the Prophet Isaiah gave us wise counsel: …"Learn to do good; Seek justice, Reprove the ruthless, Defend the orphan, Plead for the widow. "Come now, and let us reason together," Says the LORD,  - Isaiah 1:17-18  And the end game of that effort: forgiveness and healing.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

MORE CHURCH SIGNS

BY STEVE DUNN

Lots of feedback, especially from Facebook--so let's have some more fun. -STEVE