Hypocritical Outrage

Hypocrite

You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.

 – Matthew 7.5 (ESV)

 REFLECTION

As time goes on, I find that my level toleration for blatant and unapologetic hypocrisy is fading to nothingness. This has become more evident as I watch the reactions of Americans to tragedies that occur outside of our nation. This is coming on the heels of the tragic events in Paris, and more recently Brussels. I want to reiterate that these are indeed tragedies. The lives lost can not be replaced. It is indicative of the sort of evil that permeates our world.

However, I can not help but feel slighted. I feel slighted that it seems that these tragedies elicit a response of sorrow, regret, and anger. Whereas the tragedies of Nigeria, and Istanbul receive mediocre coverage. [I had to look deep to find the hyperlinks] Let us not forget the scores of Black and Latinos who are being killed at the hands of fellow Americans daily.

I believe it’s a form of hypocrisy to have a response that is so emotional, so heartfelt for a group of people thousands of miles away, but have a negative, angry, and cold response to a group of people a few hundred miles away.

Am I sad for the people impacted in Paris and Brussels? Yes. I’m also sad for those who were killed in Nigeria and Istanbul a few days before. Terrorism is terrorism. Whether its brown-skinned “Islamic” extremists in the Middle East, or white-skinned “Christian” extremists in the United States. Whether you are screaming, “death to America” or “Go back to Africa”, you are creating an act of terror.

Until we are at a place where we can mourn for the dead, regardless of their skin color, we will always be nothing more than a bunch of racists liars, pawning off our corrupted form of democracy to the rest of the world.

Palm Sunday

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Almighty God, whose most dear Son went not up to joy but first he suffered pain, and entered not into glory before he was crucified: Mercifully grant that we, walking in the way of the cross, may find it none other than the way of life and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

 – Book of Common Prayer, 1979


This 2016 Palm Sunday or Sunday of the Passion, was a little different for me. This Sunday was the celebration of my time at Redeemer Anglican Church, Norwood. I’ve spent four years there. Two years as an Associate Clergy, one year as the Assistant Vicar and finally, this past year as the Vicar. I skipped curacy due to my previous time as a Baptist Minister.

It was humbling and bittersweet. I was humbled by the love the congregation showed me. I was humbled by the love I was shown by my Baptist colleagues, whom we shared a worship space with. I was humbled by the list of accomplishments that were read as we walked together as Vicar and parish.

It is bittersweet because I know that I must depart in order for the congregation and I to continue growing in Christ. Typically in Anglican/Episcopal churches, the priest has a three-year term. Some stay later, as I did. It is sweet because I am excited about the direction both the parish and I will go, albeit, not together.

As one of my parishioners said “We are forever linked Father!” Indeed we are. This parish is my first Anglican congregation. I am the parish’s first “outside” (community, race, age, and diocese) Vicar. One never forgets the first of anything. May God bless the parish of the Church of the Redeemer, Norwood and the First Baptist Norwood communities. Until we meet again.

Feast of St. Patrick

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Almighty God, in your providence you chose your servant Patrick to be the apostle of the Irish people, to bring those who were wandering in darkness and error to the true light and knowledge of you: Grant us so to walk in that light that we may come at last to the light of everlasting life; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

 – Lesser Feasts and Fasts, 2006

REFLECTION

St. Patrick’s Day is one of interest to me. I was quite ignorant of the impact His Grace (he is a Bishop) had on society as a whole. Perhaps its because I live in Boston where he is sometimes reduced to a mere color and baby clover. It was when I was presented with the prospect of being ordained (Anglican priesthood) on his feast day*, I decided to do a little more research on him. He was quite the remarkable man.

He is British by birth, NOT Irish. He is the son of a deacon and grandson of a priest.** He was kidnapped by Irish pirates and forced into slave labor at the age of sixteen. Six years later, he fled back to Britain. According to his writings, the six years of captivity, in a foreign land, lead to him converting (in an authentic way) to Christianity. While in Britain, he studied for the priesthood and was ordained. He then felt God calling him to return to Ireland and preach to the masses. He did this and would become Bishop of Ireland, and ultimately the Patron Saint of Ireland.

St. Patrick is interesting because, in many ways, he found Jesus in jail. This is something that does happen. Although many who are ignorant of this believe that one can’t grow closer to God in the midst of captivity, St. Patrick does. The act of returning to the place of his captivity, to preach to those whose souls are held captive by sin is nothing short of admirable.

In the National Guard Armory where my headquarters is located, there is a very large (probably 6 feet in height, 3 feet in width) painting of St. Patrick hanging on a wall of the drill shed. Everyone who walks in stops and admires it. It’s quite a sight! I believe it’s the only armory in Massachusetts to have something like that in it. It’s there because of its historical value. It was placed there by soldiers of the community years ago. It’s a direct connection to the past. Many people have tried to get it removed (screaming anti-religious rhetoric)  but to no avail. It is a mainstay. It is a relic of the not only the immediate past, but the distant past, of that young man, who decided to serve something bigger than himself.

* Alas, I was ordained on the 16th. 😦
** At that point, there was only one CHRISTIAN Church where priests could get married and have children.

Religious Diversity…Maybe

Below is a table and link to the Pew Research Center displaying racial diversity in American Christian faith groups. This is from 2014. I’m not confident that it has gotten better. My pessimism is due to an email I received from a colleague of mine. The article was another Pew Research Center poll of religiosity among the states of the union, which my home state tied for last. A link to that is embedded in the Pew Research Center logo below. In the end, we are in a bad way.

– Fr. JMH


How Racially Diverse are U.S. Religious Groups?


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Been a While

It’s been a while since I have reflected on the state of affairs in the Church, government, and American society as a whole. After Easter 2016, I will be able to dedicate more time to this blog/website. I’m looking forward to posting more. Although there are people who read my posts, I am also filled by the sheer act of writing and reflecting. It is mentally refreshing to put fingers to keyboard (as opposed to pen to pad) when it comes to the state of affairs today.  I can’t wait! Until then, may God continue to bless you throughout the Lenten Season!

 – Fr. JMH

Pressures on the Priest (3 MARCH 2015)

Frs. John and Charles Wesley

Frs. John and Charles Wesley

Lord God, who didst inspire thy servants John and Charles Wesley with burning zeal for the sanctification of souls, and didst endow them with eloquence in speech and song: Kindle in thy Church, we beseech thee, such fervor, that those whose faith has cooled may be warmed, and that those who have not known thy Christ may turn to him and be saved; who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

 – Collect for the Feast of John and Charles Wesley, Lesser Feasts and Fasts 2006.


REFLECTION

Fathers John and Charles Wesley are interesting to say the least. They are fine examples of priests who strove to grow closer to God and empower others to do the same. This is made evident by their desire to build a community of believers in the Church of England that adhered to a strict interpretation of the Book of Common Prayer. If the Wesleys were alive today, they would be accused of being “fundamentalists” in the most negative of senses.

The conflict between the brothers (John’s ordaining of American “elders” against the wishes of Church authorities in England, and his brother Charles) is what ultimately lead to the founding of the Methodist denomination. I’ve often wondered about John’s action, was it just or not?

On one hand, he is a representative of the Church of England in the New World. He took the same ordination vows that I would take some 300+ years later: that we would adhere to the instruction of our Bishops. It is clear that John Wesley did not.

On the other hand, John Wesley has several communities of believers, those who need pastoral care and support. It is more than he or his brother Charles could handle. If the Church of England were to send more priests to the New World, that would have solved the problem. However, that did not to seem to be the case. The only feasible solution would have been to enlist lay leaders as “elders” to provide pastoral oversight in their absence.

I struggle with this story because I understand both the duty to the Church Universal and the duty to the local parish. However, I must admit, that I place a little more stock on the Church Universal than the local church. This may be shocking considering that I come from a Baptist background where local church autonomy is the law of the land. Even then, I agreed with that concept in principal. I believe the needs of the local congregation are important, but they are not important than the authority of the Universal Church.

I believe that this is what happening with the church today. We have priests who are succumbing to the pressures of the congregation and are violating the authority, history, tradition and scriptural interpretation of the Universal Church. This violation leads to the extreme liberal and conservative wings of the Church which leaves out a large segment of our society being un-churched. This segment are those, like myself, who don’t view the world in only black and white but rather some shades of grey. There are some issues that are black and white, but there are many that are grey.

With that said, I understand the situation in which John Wesley was in. However, I also understand the situation that Charles Wesley was in. In the end the priest must seek guidance from God, his clergy superiors, his colleagues and parishioners that have his and the congregations best interest at heart. Doing this and above all, trusting in God, will he avoid falling to the pressure of one segment of the church that alienates another.

 – FR. JMH

ADVENT 2014 (17 DEC 2014)

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ALMIGHTY God, give us grace that we may cast away the works of darkness, and put upon us the armour of light, now in the time of this mortal life, in which thy Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the quick and [the]* dead, we may rise to the life immortal, through him who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, now and ever. Amen.

 – Collect for First Sunday of Advent, 1928 Book of Common Prayer


REFLECTION

This has been a season of darkness. There is really no way to understand this. For the past few months the darkness that looms over our nation has intensified. Everything from the political gridlock, to Black Friday fights, to the deaths of Black men at the hands of police officers, to the violent riots that ensued shortly thereafter. This darkness, is the darkness of selfishness, greed, and corruption that our nation has embraced since we decided that our individual wants and desires outweigh the common good. When we decided that God does not have a place in all aspects of our lives, this is the result.

The season of Advent is a penitential season. We are to reflect on our lives as we anticipate the arrival of the Christ child via the Blessed Virgin Mother as depicted in the above icon. I have tried to use this time to reflect on my shortcomings not only as a priest & chaplain, but also as a child of God, a Christian. I ask myself three questions:

 – Have I preached the Gospel to all nations, teaching the masses?

 – Have I showed Christ-like love to others, by displaying empathy to ALL, not just those I agree with?

 – Have I taken steps to grow closer to God?

I can honestly say I made progress, but I still have a long way to go. It’s not easy, but God never said that it would be. I urge you to ask yourself these three questions rather than picking a “side” in a spiritual battle of darkness where all are destined to lose somehow. The only winner in this equation is Christ.

 – Fr. JMH

New Sermon Site!! (12 SEPT)

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Greetings All,

 

I have started an Spreaker page with my sermons posted. This is in an effort to be able to do my part, as a clergyman, to spread the Gospel to all nations! The URL is below. I am also in the process of having this Spreaker page in the ITunes podcast store! Enjoy!

http://www.spreaker.com/user/frjmh

 

– Fr. JMH+

Maundy Thursday 2014

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“ALMIGHTY Father, whose dear Son, on the night before he suffered, did institute the Sacrament of his Body and Blood; Mercifully grant that we may thankfully receive the same in remembrance of him, who in these holy mysteries giveth us a pledge of life eternal; the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who now liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit ever, one God, world without end. Amen.”

 – Collect for Maundy Thursday, 1979 Book of Common Prayer


 

REFLECTION

Maundy Thursday (or Holy Thursday as my Roman Catholic brethren call it) is the day of the maundy (foot washing) and the Last Supper of our Lord Jesus Christ, before the crucifixion and resurrection. Some churches practice one or the other and sometimes both rituals on this day.

I remember the first time I participated in the foot washing ritual. I was a student at Boston College participating in a service trip to Mexico. We spent a long day working on a house for a family. The Jesuit priest, who was our trip leader, began to explain what the foot washing ritual was. My colleagues were all Roman Catholic and were well aware. I was a Baptist at the time and had no clue. I knew the scripture reference, but was confused as to the nature of the ritual.

When the priest brought out the large bowl, I decided to make sure I sat next to an attractive woman, in order to wash her feet. I was 20-years-old at the time and preferred my foot washing experience to be enhanced by pretty, manicured, feminine feet. Yes, this is quite shallow, and in many ways, I was a shallow Christian at the time.

When large bowl made its rounds, I began to get a little nervous of having a woman wash my feet. It felt a little too intimate. I remembered that the only person who had touched my feet was my mom when I was child. She would tickle my feet. The time came, and I took off my shoe and my sock. I placed my foot into the bowl and felt the lukewarm water. I then felt the hand of the young lady grab my heel and with her other hand, scoop the water onto the top of my foot.

I immediately felt, as much as I could, the feeling that the disciples felt; uncomfortable, and unworthy. I started to picture Jesus washing my feet. I wanted to jerk my foot back because of these feelings, but I endured. I started to reflect on what just happened, then I remembered, it was my turn to wash feet.

As I grabbed the bowl and turned to face the next woman, I still had those feelings of uncomfortableness, confusion and worthlessness. I decided that I was going to clean this woman’s foot as best as I could, because of the feelings that I experienced. I gently grabbed her heel, and with my free hand, I scooped water onto her foot several times. I took my time in drying her foot. A small part of me wondered if she thought I had some sort of foot fetish. But I think she knew I was genuine. I remember when the foot washing ritual ended, and the we concluded with the Eucharist, I thanked God for the opportunity to participate in such a powerful ritual.

Since that moment, I participated in various foot washing ceremonies. Some of the ceremonies corresponded with Maundy Thursday (in the historical churches), and others did not (free churches, during revivals and such). Each and every time I think about the type of servant leader that Jesus of Nazareth was. How He, as the Lord, decided to psychically take care of his brothers, his flock. I can only hope and pray, that I can show a fraction of the level of love and care for my brothers and my flock.

 – Fr. JMH

Holy Week 2014

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Almighty and everliving God, in your tender love for the
human race you sent your Son our Savior Jesus Christ to
take upon him our nature, and to suffer death upon the cross,
giving us the example of his great humility: Mercifully grant
that we may walk in the way of his suffering, and also share
in his resurrection; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives
and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever
and ever. Amen.”

 – Collect for Palm Sunday. Book of Common Prayer, 1979

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REFLECTION

Yesterday was Palm Sunday. The sermon I preached (located in the media section) addressed some of the generational gaps in our society and how Christians from different generations interpret Holy Week or Passiontide. In the end, the purpose of Holy is for us, as Christians, to not only celebrate Easter, but to also remember the happiness that was Palm Sunday, the sadness that was Maundy Thursday, and the sorrowful despair that was Good Friday. All too often we skip Holy Week and jump straight to Easter. We sometimes regulate Easter to mean the bunny and eggs. It is to the point where some Christians do not refer to Christ’s rising again as Easter, but rather “Resurrection Sunday.” I find this to be sad.

It is sad because we, as Christians, have allowed someone else to determine who we are. I had a conversation with a Jewish colleague of mine. He is preparing for the Passover Seder this evening. He was lamenting on the attitudes of some of his Jewish congregants. He relayed the following story to me:

I (my buddy) asked him (his colleague) when he travels, because he flies everywhere, does he go into the cockpit and speak to the captain of the plane? He says no. I then say, ‘Oh, you mean you don’t go into the cockpit, look around the area, inspect everything, question the pilot to make sure he know what he is doing?’ He starts looking at me confused. I then say ‘So you assume he know what he’s doing, right? Because he is the pilot? You trust him enough not to ask any questions, but you don’t trust the minister, the priest or the rabbi about matters of God? Matter of fact, you don’t trust God about matters of life? You sit there and say ‘Oh, I need proof, I need to see it for myself’ when it comes to God and matters of God, but you don’t need proof from the captain, who is flying this plane, with your life in him hands?’ This is the problem with all our religions, its man made chaos because man does not want to serve God, they want God to serve them, and what they want. They see God as their servant. They ignore the fact that they have an obligation to serve God.

 

After my buddy finished, I began to think about associates I know who do the same thing. They take God and mold Him to their own instruments. I recently heard a story of a guy (new or rededicated Christian, no denomination specified) telling his friend, that God didn’t call said friend to their current occupation because it wasn’t confirmed by “a pastor”, despite the fact that the friend spoke to me, a priest. The guy did not know the difference or rather similarities between a pastor and a priest. I suspect that the guy just wanted to use his false sense of righteousness to spiritually beat up and bully his friend by telling him that he is less than. This is sickening. This is what is harming the Christian Church.

On the flip-side, we have those Christians who are afraid to stand up and defend the faith because they are afraid of hurting someone’s (usually one who can care less of the faith) feelings. They will downplay the fact that the sins that Christ died for, are the same sins that we commit day in and day out. They will not address the fact that we are no better than St. Peter, who denied Christ three times. All of this will be negated because of the fear of being called judgmental by someone who has their own agenda against the church.

During Holy Week, I urge you to fight the temptation to use God as your personal instrument of destruction. I know it may seemed a little far fetched but it is the reality of the situation. During Holy Week, many people who do not attend church throughout the year show up to services, much to the chagrin to the faithful that attend weekly. This can cause a sense of anger and even resentment from the faithful. I urge you to show love to them, especially since they rarely attend church for whatever reason. Show them the same love, that God the Father showed to us this time, over 2000 years ago.

I also urge you to hold steadfast to the faith. Do not condone the ungodly behavior of friends and loved ones, or allow the watering down of scripture just to not appear judgmental. In the end, you are doing them a disservice by allowing them to live a life that is contrary to what God wants.

 – JMH+