Cardinal Virtue: Fortitude

by Fr Bottom, Curate

A Word re: The Virtues

Most of us are aware of the seven deadly sins, I think largely due to the motion picture Seven with Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman. They are as follows: pride, covetousness, lust, wrath, gluttony, envy, and sloth.

But there are seven virtues far more beautiful and far more interesting than the well-known sins; there are three Theological Virtues – Faith, Hope, and Love; and four Cardinal Virtues – Prudence, Temperance, Fortitude, and Justice.

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Temperance. Wait, what?

by Jesse Davis, Sr Warden

Wasn’t Temperance that lady from The Crucible? You know, “I saw Goody Temperance cavorting with a black cat!” Isn’t it the same thing as abstention and Prohibition?

Temperance is a six dollar word for moderation or restraint.

For millennia, a wide variety of cultures have regarded it as a virtue. Great thinkers from the Buddha to Benjamin Franklin (not to mention Solomon, Plato, and St. Thomas Aquinas) extolled Temperance as essential to a good and moral life. Just like we learned as kids with belly aches the day after Halloween—too much of a good thing is a bad thing. And too much of a bad thing is, well, REALLY bad.

But this view is deceptively simplistic. For Christians, Temperance goes beyond Philosophy 101 and desk calendar wisdom. In Galatians 5:22-23, Paul lists Temperance among the “fruits of the Spirit.” And in 1 Corinthians 9:27 he says, “I pummel my body and subdue it.” Paul is reminding us that in a world full of temptation, the Holy Spirit gives us the strength to live according to God’s will. While the Buddha and the Greeks taught that human will can resist sin on its own, we know that Christ is our only salvation — from sins we have already committed and sins we struggle not to commit. In Christianity, the integral role of forgiveness is what elevates Temperance from a good idea to one of the Cardinal Virtues. Intentionally living with Temperance, that is, the discipline or habit of moderation and restraint, fosters a contrite heart necessary for repentance, and a contrite heart then naturally seeks to live with Temperance.

Unfortunately, today we live in a culture that scoffs at Temperance and lauds her enemies — gluttony, lust, and excess. Hollywood produces reel after reel of teen party movies in which the goals are to drink as much alcohol and have as much sex as possible, without consequences. Because, hey, Party! Binge drinking is an ever-present aspect of college life. All-you-can-eat buffets are a staple of the restaurant scene. Taco Bell has invented a “Fourth Meal” to satisfy late-night cravings (I think you can add a cheesy-gordita-crunchwrap-supreme to any combo meal for like a nickel). In one popular cable show, the host travels the world eating the biggest and most outlandish foods he can find. And pornography is freely available and readily accessible by anyone (of any age) with a smartphone.

Confronted with this panoply of degradations, living with Temperance is hard. Certainly our culture does nothing meaningful to hold us accountable. So like any other vital struggle, our only recourse is in Christ and each other. Each Sunday we recite the BCP confession, asking for both forgiveness and the means to walk in God’s ways. Essentially, we ask for growth in the fruits of the Holy Spirit. The habitual life of the Spirit is a life of intentional discipline, which makes room for the Spirit to grow in us virtue, and slowly, the virtues begin to lead us away from habitual sins. Here’s a pro tip, from an old school sinner. We can make the same confession with whatever words come to our lips (it doesn’t necessarily have to come from the BCP. Although the language is readily available). We can beseech the same strengthening power at whatever hour we need it. It works. Seriously. Try it sometime soon — before you pour another glass of wine, or order Arby’s Meat Mountain sandwich. You won’t just feel better, you’ll draw closer to God and his plan for you.

The more you resist over-indulgence, the easier it is to live in the habit of Temperance.

That’s the wonderful thing about Temperance. Even though it seems like we’re giving something up, in truth we come out ahead. As we decrease, He increases. As our desires and temptations wane, His perfect will takes their place. The longer we walk His path, the less we desire to leave it. Then, the life of tension and struggle becomes the life of peace. God’s peace. And that is a treasure beyond price.

Cardinal Virtue: Prudence

By Gina Bottom

My husband and I recently watched Oklahoma City on Netflix, a documentary about the Oklahoma City bombing that occurred on April 19, 1995. Being from Oklahoma, I have a clear memory of being pulled out of my high school classroom and assembled with all the other students in our small private school auditorium that morning. We were told what happened, we prayed together for the victims, their families and for the rescue efforts. When I got home that afternoon, I spent the rest of the evening glued to my television set absorbing the news. Naturally, I was interested in watching the documentary which focuses on how Timothy McVeigh came to a place in his life where he was able and willing to do such an unthinkable act of hatred toward his fellow Americans.

Spoiler alert: Timothy McVeigh was heavily influenced by the Waco siege on the Branch Davidians on April 19, 1993. Remember the Branch Davidians? I barely remember anything about them, as I was in the throes of junior high angst at that time, but basically a bunch of people were holed up in this compound under the rule of David Koresh in a wacked-out religious sect that ended up with close to one hundred people dying as his followers. As I watched, I naturally thought about Koresh’s disciples, “How can these people not realize this is not normal?!” Sadly it isn’t anything new, as I thought the very same thing when I watched the Jonestown movie and also when I watched Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief. As I type this, it has become evident to me that I watch a lot of cult documentaries. Hmm. In any case, if you haven’t seen Going Clear, that is some CRAZY business. That would be a fun one to get me discussing over margaritas. But I digress.

How do people become so misled that they stray far away from what would seem to be common sense? If it happens to them, what makes you and me so different that we’re above being influenced in the same manner? In short, where did these well-meaning and sincere individuals who were probably seeking the same purpose, comfort, and hope as I do, derail?

Today we’re discussing Prudence, the first and most important among a short list of cardinal virtues. Prudence is one of those words that we kind of know what it means but perhaps not exactly, or even more so what prudence looks like in our everyday lives.

The word prudence is very closely tied with wisdom and caution, so if you were thinking along those lines give yourself a pat on the back. Specifically, prudence is a safeguard or “shrewdness” against being misled. Prudence can be as simple as judging right from wrong in any given situation or the more complicated task of recognizing good from evil. The acknowledgement and acceptance of one’s theology and moral code is much more nuanced than one would readily recognize, therefore prudence is extremely significant. The success of any and all the virtues hinges on our ability to exercise this shrewdness in our lives.

Proverbs has a good deal to say about prudence, some of which are listed here:

Prov. 10:19 When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent.

Prov. 12:23 A prudent man conceals knowledge, but the heart of fools proclaims folly.

Prov. 14:15 The simple believes everything, but the prudent gives thought to his steps.

In general, the wisdom literature presents a pretty clear theme of what prudence looks like practically.

Practically speaking, the prudent are equal parts thoughtful and silent- in both word and deed.

The fool, however, is one who believes everything and proclaims everything.

Imprudence is especially rampant in our current culture, with articles and headlines being regurgitated constantly with little regard to truthfulness or necessity. This really is both a magical and infuriating time to be alive. The technologies that are readily available to us are simply incredible, especially these little supercomputers we hold at our fingertips that enable us to communicate on numerous platforms simultaneously. Technology has completely changed the fabric of society. Whereas one used to have to earn the ability and the right to speak to a wide audience, we now have many means to be heard and to hear.

Phone calls. Texts. Emails. Websites. Social media and blogs; anyone can have a voice and any voice can have an audience. And I’m not knocking blogs- I have a list of blogs I check regularly and I even have my own, not to mention the very blog on which this will be posted. But we must steer our own voices with prudence- lest we become fools and proclaim our own ignorance and lack of self-control.

There is much to be absorbed in our culture today and much of it what we love to hear, but contrary to biblical truth. Moral relativism, a comfortable life of faith, a sneaky yet diabolical belief that God is as equally committed to our own happiness as we are… that is clear evidence of imprudence. And make no mistake, imprudence comes with big consequences.

It is easy to fall into error, hence the definition of “safeguard against being misled”. One cannot consistently and successfully be prudent without the counsel of others. As much as scripture has to say about wisdom and how to take hold of her, scripture also tell us that “Where there is no counsel, the people fall; But in the multitude of counselors there is safety” Prov. 11:14. Prudence does not exist in isolation. Prudence exists in the company of others of whom wisdom is given, of whom wisdom and knowledge is gained and treasured through the Word of God. If you need wisdom, ask the Lord for it and ask with confidence- He loves to answer this prayer (James 1:5)! But don’t simply receive wisdom, heed it and practice prudence. Practice thoughtfulness over the information you absorb on any given day. What are the articles that you read teaching you about God, about yourself and the world? What do the Instagram accounts that you follow say about your heart? What do the people you surround yourself with believe? Exercise prudence- keep your thoughts to yourself on social media, think and dwell on information before churning it back out in word or speech.

Let’s resolve to ask the Lord for wisdom, to practice being prudent until it becomes second nature. Let’s resist being easily led astray and let the Word of God set our hearts and minds on the straight path toward true joy and hope as a follower of Christ Jesus.

Truth: Love is of God

by Jamie Miller, Director of Christian Ed.

For Love is of God……………….

We sing a few sacred hymns with our son, Finn, every night before his bedtime as an evening ritual. At the end of a long day, it is a time that I truly treasure. It’s a time to be still. A time for reflection on our day. A time to love. One of the hymns that we sing comes from 1 John 4:7-8. It goes like this:

“Beloved, let us love one another. For love is of God and everything that loveth is born of God and knoweth God. He that loveth not, knoweth not God. For God is love. Beloved, let us love one another.”

What truths are within this one song? We always hear that we love because He first loved us. (1 John 4:19) His love is the truth that transcends all. His love conquered all. As we are still in these great 50 days of Easter, this is ever present in the sacrifice that He made for us on the cross.

This truth brings comfort and demands action from us in the form of loving one another. How easy is it to “Love thy Neighbor, as our self”? Hard. Really, really hard. We try and we try, but we all fail at times. We snap at each for the littlest of things. We are impatient as we drive in the constant road construction that surrounds us. We fall short over and over again. We forget that simple truth of love and grace. We neglect to show others the grace that God shows us every single day. Why? Why are we so selfish and yet so desire to be loved by one another?

If we are born of God, and know God, shouldn’t that love come without hardship? This is where the truth rings out loud and clear. Jesus answered “…For this I was born and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.” (John 18:37) Are we listening to His voice? Are we following that voice in the darkness?

That transcendental truth is that we can’t possibly imagine being loved so immensely that one would die for us or even number the hairs on our head. (Luke 12:7) His love exists above and independently from our love. There is no one else or thing that can match His love. God is love. His love lasts eternally. No one else can match that. This alone should cause us to bow down to Him and bask in this truth.

So, if we are of God and know God, we should love one another. God lives in us, and his love is perfect in us (1 John 4:12). Allow this truth to sink in; Jesus is that perfect truth. Seek Him; and loving thy neighbor will come naturally. May we be transcended by His love, grace and truth.

Beloved, let us love one another.

A Reflection on Transcendental Goodness

By Callie Stiewig

God is good all the time, all the time God is good. You know the chorus. I have always believed this for as long as I have had conscious memories to serve me. Some people are believers, others aren’t. Some see the sun rise over the horizon and think “beauty”, others think “God”. I’ve always been in the both/and camp. I’m a believer. I can’t help it. God has always been an assumption to me.

I grew up in a conservative Roman Catholic parish. I am fully connected with “smells and bells” in my heart and mind. I know the Liturgy to be transcendent and a vital component of my spiritual “restedness.” I have been blessed to know God without (significant) confrontation and oppression, unlike some of our less fortunate brothers and sisters across the world. I believe that my desire to know God points to something vitally different from other things in nature. My desire to know truth, beauty, and goodness has become my “proof.” My desire to know what is good proves to me that I am made in God’s image. I will explain further.

I find the presence of our human consciousness and inquisitive nature to not only differentiate us from animals, but to also make the case for God. Through our human consciousness we desire transcendental experiences, none of which are necessary for survival. I desire perfection on Earth in everything I seek. In knowledge, love, goodness, beauty, and being. I know that perfect transcendental experiences do not and cannot exist on Earth. Satan has made sure of this. Earth is not Heaven, nor should I desire it to be. But, since perfect knowledge, perfect love, perfect goodness, perfect beauty, and perfect being don’t exist here on Earth, why do I seek them? It makes no sense for me to seek that which is unattainable.

What we seek is something transcendental, something beyond our world and beyond our earthly experience. What we seek is God. To quote St. Augustine – “Thou hast made us for Thyself and our hearts are restless until they find rest in Thee.”

But back to my own journey. As I grew older, my religion evolved. I was partly Catholic and partly an assortment of other things; mostly to do with the effects of nature and relationships, and being a woman in a weird world. The church’s positions on various topics were not for me, but for a long time, I felt I was able to ignore them. Still among this partiality, I found goodness to be constant. No matter where I was, or what I was, I always knew Him to be good. I strived too for perfection; to be like Christ. To be good no matter what I labeled myself.


The transcendentals, according to Christian doctrine, can be described as the ultimate desires of man. Man ultimately strives for perfection, which takes form in the desire for perfect attainment of the transcendentals. The Catholic Church teaches that God Himself is Truth, Goodness, and Beauty, as indicated in the Catechism. The transcendentals are intertwined. Where there is truth, there is also beauty and goodness.

Jesus promised in Matthew 28:20 that “He is with us always.” Romans 8:28 says that God works all things to good for those who love Him. Jeremiah 29:11 tells us that He has a good plan for us to give us a hope and a future. Through His goodness, God reveals Himself to be on our side. His power is greater than all of the darkness that tries to battle us. If we are to consider the Gospels through a lens of transcendentalism, we then must desire their perfect attainment, or rather the perfection of which they speak. We must desire to be like Christ.

In the Christian faith, God’s creation is good. We Christians believe ourselves to be surrounded by truth, goodness, and beauty. “The good is the true presented to us in the form of an invitation. The good is the summons to a decision.” Through the Gospels, Christians recognize this invitation as a transcendental, given to us by God Himself through His only son. The invitation is true, beautiful, and good. The invitation is transcendent.

In the Gospel of John, Jesus declares, “I am the light of the world. He who follows me shall not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”  This is our invitation.

The Liturgy

What is the Liturgy? In a few words, the real presence of God among His people. Who is God? The True; the Good; the Beautiful.

“A thing is good only in so far as it refers in some way to existence; possible things, as such, are not good.”

The Liturgies are the most Holy good we have as Episcopalians, that is if for something to be good it must be referential. The liturgy exists on Earth. It is not possible, it is. We are reminded of our standing invitation every time we approach the altar to take the real presence of God. If there were ever a time for a Christian to experience the “transcendental interferer” (as C.S. Lewis puts it), it would be during the Liturgy.

“A great man knows he is not God and the greater he is, the better he knows it. The gospels declare that this mysterious maker of the world has visited his world in person. The most that any religious prophet has said was that he was the true servant of such a being. But if the creator was present in the daily life of the Roman Empire, that is something unlike anything else in nature. It is the one great startling statement that man has made since he spoke his first articulate word. It makes dust and nonsense of comparative religion. “

C.S Lewis wrote his autobiography and when he came to the chapter that recounted the story of his conversion, he put an inscription at the head of the chapter.  It simply read: “The one principle of Hell is — ‘I am my own.'” The truth of the Gospels, the truth of our liturgies is this; Christ came so that everyone may know He is God and no man is God, and so every man must desire the good, that is being with God and not himself. That is, being with Christ and not his own.

I often find myself delving into self-serving ideologies. I commit the sin of repeatedly “being my own person.” I tell God he should “mind His own business.” The truth is He is minding His own business.  By God’s grace I am His business.  And so are you.  The Father sent the son to interfere with the certainty of death and He overcame it. We meet the son every Sunday during the Liturgy of the Eucharist. We witness His transcendental good in our traditions and practices. He interferes, in a good way, every moment we recognize Him.

Thanks to the Transcendental Interferer, I no longer have to fear my sinful nature. I have been forgiven of all sins and all sins I will commit. I have been given the highest good. I belong to Christ. Body and Soul.

Content influenced by:

A Sermon For St. Thomas Sunday

On Beauty and Resurrection

By Britt Herrington

There is a famous line in Dostoevsky’s novel The Idiot: “Beauty will save the world.” What does this mean? Does it hold any weight, or should we simply discard it as a sentimental platitude? It is my hope that in the musings that follow, we can push into these questions and perhaps arrive at some meaningful understanding.

During this first week of the Paschal Season, I have been meditating on resurrection. This is something I do especially at this time of year because the story of Easter is so familiar to me that I do not want to risk it slipping into unfamiliarity. In particular I have been thinking about the path to resurrection. We Christians like resurrection because it speaks of rebirth, restoration, and renewal. This is all well and good and right, but if we dwell too much on Easter, we may forget that the path to resurrection is the way of the cross.

There is a well-known passage in the Gospel of Mark where Jesus teaches his disciples about what it means be his followers. Jesus tells them: “If anyone wants to become my follower, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and for the gospel will save it” (NET Bible, Mark 8:34-35). Now that is a radical, all-in commitment!

Pause here for a moment. Try to step into their sandals. How must those words have sounded to Jesus’ most devoted followers? You want me to do what? Could you say that part about losing my life again? Maybe I misunderstood. It is tempting for us to read the promise of resurrection back into the story, but it is simply not there. And, to do so redefines Jesus’ call on our lives.

But what does all this have to do with Beauty? Over the past few months, I have come to believe that ‘beauty’ is a word commonly used but rarely considered; its familiarity has bred unfamiliarity, so perhaps a brief meditation is needed to reframe our understanding.

In our day and time, beauty is something we define as pleasing to the eye. It is how we describe a piece of music or a sunset. Lamentably, a Google image search yields hundreds of photos, exclusively of women, and often promoting this or that cosmetic. However, it has not always been this way; in fact, this conception of beauty is something that has emerged only in the years since the Enlightenment. For the ancients, beauty did not refer to an aesthetic quality, but to a virtue. Beauty (together with truth and goodness) is known as a transcendental virtue, meaning it is indicative of the divine. Thus, for the early Church Fathers, Beauty was not a way of describing God, but rather a way of naming Him (Beauty Itself).

Now we are ready to weave together these various strands into a single cord. Due to our inherited understanding, we tend to associate beauty with hopeful and exalted things — like resurrection. Likewise, things that are lowly and broken we characterize as ugly — like the cross. But recognizing God as Beauty Itself ought to immediately challenge this duality and realign our thinking, for if Beauty Itself became lowly and broken, how can we place lowliness and brokenness in the category of ugly? In short, the Incarnation negates the perceived polarity of beauty and ugliness.

Through the Incarnation, Beauty Itself appeared having “no stately form or majesty that might catch our attention, no special appearance that we should want to follow him” (NET, Isa 53:2b). God (Beauty Itself) stepped into the creation as one impoverished, later to be battered and broken on the cross, yet Beauty was not diminished. In this we can recognize that God gestures towards brokenness and impoverishment. Beauty Itself did not remain aloof from suffering with an outstretched hand offering assistance, but entered into suffering with outstretched arms offering atonement. If we are to follow him, we must consider how we might do likewise.

The call to follow Jesus in the way of the cross is a call to enter into Beauty. In the same way, Jesus is resurrected as a promise, the firstfruits, of our own resurrection; therefore, to live in resurrection life is to live into Beauty. Resurrection is the hinge, or the fulcrum, on which our faith turns. This is the mystery we proclaim when we say:

Christ has died.
Christ is risen.
Christ will come again.

Easter looks backward in celebration, and forward in anticipation, at the work of Beauty Itself in the world. Beauty invites participation, transforms us in the process, and prepares us for the life of the world to come. Thus, Dostoevsky was exactly correct: “Beauty will save the world.”

Palm Sunday: Return of the King

By: Brandon Veazey

“Rejoice greatly, O daughter Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter Jerusalem! Lo, your king comes to you; triumphant and victorious is he humble and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”
-Zechariah 9:9

Six hundred years before Jesus entered the city of Jerusalem on a donkey, to the sound of laud and praise, a man named Ezekiel sat on a river bank, in Babylon, awaiting his ordination to the priesthood. Just five years prior he had been taken into slavery by the Babylonians with many other Israelites and now lived in a refugee camp far from Jerusalem. However, it was on that very day that God revealed himself to Ezekiel through a life-changing vision.

The life of this extraordinary prophet is a story for the ages- millennia, in fact- and for the details I gladly suggest that you read the entire record of this vision in the Old Testament. But, for today, I want to do more of an overview of Ezekiel, because I believe it essential to our understanding of Palm Sunday.

On the river bank, just outside of the refugee encampment where Ezekiel lived, God revealed Himself to Ezekiel in a vision. In this vision, there were four winged creatures, with four faces, upon which rested a glorious throne on which sat the “likeness of the Glory of God.”

In the vision, God shows Ezekiel the great corruption and violence that had infected the Jerusalem Temple and the people of Israel. And Ezekiel then sees the Glory of God depart from the Temple, because of that corruption and violence, and head off into the East. God then tells Ezekiel that Jerusalem would be overcome by its enemies and that the Temple would be destroyed. However, He also promises that one day the Temple will be rebuilt and His glory would return to Jerusalem. Several years after Ezekiel receives the vision, he eventually receives the devastating news that the Temple had been destroyed, just as God had revealed to him.

This is where the book of Ezekiel takes an interesting turn. Up to this point it has all been condemnation and judgement. But when Ezekiel learns that the Temple has been destroyed, God grants him another vision in which he sees the Temple rebuilt, and the glory of God entering in by the East gate. The reestablishment of the temple and the return of God’s glory causes the inhabitants of Israel to turn back to love their God and one another. The second vision is a promise from God that He would one day return to His people, by the East Gate.

It is no accident that the gospel writers are keen to specify that when Jesus rode into Jerusalem he entered by the East gate. Jesus had already spread the word of his arrival by referencing the prophecy of Zechariah, saying he would be coming, riding on a donkey.

So, if we do not understand why he was received by a great parade of people crying “Hosannah in the highest!” and throwing palm trees and flowers at his feet, it’s because we are not first century Jews who knew the signs and words of the prophets and awaited their fulfillment.

The Jews were ecstatic to welcome him and praise him, but John tells us that as He entered the East Gate, Jesus wept for Jerusalem. The other three gospels supplement John’s Triumphant Entry narrative by telling us that Jesus’ first action upon entering Jerusalem was to rebuke the fig tree for not producing fruit.

Jesus then proceeds to the Temple and cleanses it of all corruption. After all, God not only promises Ezekiel that His glory would return to the Temple from the East but that He would also cleanse the hearts of His people and purify the Temple of evil. Immediately the same people who rejoiced in his coming to Jerusalem began to turn on him, and just a week after his arrival they go so far as to crucify him.

The Church’s celebration of Jesus’ triumphal entry on Palm Sunday dates to 381 A.D. A Christian pilgrim to the Holy City recorded her observance of the Palm Sunday liturgy in Jerusalem and it puts our modern celebration to shame.

They began with their normal Sunday morning service. They would then go home to eat, and then met back up with the Bishop near the top of the Mt. of Olives shortly after midday. They had another long service at the Mt. of Olives and then at 3:00 p.m. processed to the very top of the Mount. There they enjoyed another service, and at 5:00 p.m. processed into the city through the East Gate. Once they arrived at the site of the crucifixion late in the night they went each to their own home.

Around the fifth century we know that similar practices had spread as far as Spain. And now, churches all over the world have liturgical processions every year on Palm Sunday, full of song, shouts, and palms in commemoration of the glorious entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem.

I’m very thankful that we carry on this tradition, but I think it would behoove us to meditate on what it means to welcome the glory of God into our church and into our lives.

It is meet and right to celebrate our closeness to God through Christ but let us remember that He also promises to cleanse His people of corruption and violence and soften our hearts. On Palm Sunday, as we begin the end of this Lenten season, let us continue to be mindful of the ways we fail to love God and our neighbor with our whole self. The glory of God is descending from the East, let our trees produce fruit and our Temple doors stand open to be cleansed so we can joyfully welcome Him saying, “Hosanna in the highest!”

Respect is a Pillar of Our Faith, and a ‘Pillow’ for Rest

By Dick Wells, Jr. Warden

Yes, this is a commentary on the topic of rest in that we can help our inner selves rest better with the knowledge that we have truly and freely practiced respect. A major part of living a Christian life is simply to act openly and honestly with respect. That is, respect for God’s gifts and God’s people. We can and should show respect within our Parish as well as in our other daily activities. It means walking the walk as well as talking the talk as we practice what Jesus taught us:

“So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you.”

Big things, such as important decisions and major events, as well as small things, such as acknowledging other parish members or sharing coffee, all have elements of exhibiting (or not) respect. The recent national election is a perfect example of the major event: Some people refused to listen to – even shouted down – others’ ideas; friendships suffered; families angrily split over issues; individuals and groups destroyed property and injured people because the vote wasn’t to their liking.

And yet in John we read Jesus’ words:
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

And small things, such as on any given Sunday there are some of us (present company included) who forget to acknowledge the hard work of other parishioners, clergy, Sunday school teachers, nursery staff, altar guild members, and many others who do not get a day of rest on Sundays.

Whereas Paul tells us in his letter to the Romans: “Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.”

An Anglican adage is “kneel for prayer, stand for praise, sit for instruction.” Standing is a posture of respect. In our liturgy, when we stand we are consciously aware of being in the presence of God. In the Opening Acclamation, the celebrant and the people begin by stating what we have come together to do, and that sharing that respect for God and his people does not end when we say the Prayer of St. Francis together. Rather, it continues on into the rest of the week.

Our children, our co-workers, our friends – pretty much everyone we are around – are watching how we show respect. Children will emulate what their parents say and do. Others outside our families will make judgments about Christianity (and Anglican-Episcopal faith) based on what we say and do.

So, (as Paul says to Titus):
“In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness, … .”

Showing respect means that we are other-oriented people rather than self-oriented people, and that allows our hearts to rest.

As Paul says in his first letter to the Corinthians:
“For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved.”

Reflections on Navi & God

By: Fr. Jacob Bottom, Curate

Navi girl. Sweet girl.

Over the last several months, Gina and I have slowly acclimated to life with a 50lb dog in our home. Before she came along we were both unabashed cat people. Our cat, General Parry, carries himself with dignity and self-respect. His gratitude for a cozy life often takes the form of, “You may pet me for exactly 2.5 minutes.” He is quiet and graceful.

Navi on the other hand is like a bull in a china shop, highlighted even more within our small 2-2 condo. She slobbers, sheds, and requires much more activity/exercise than Parry. But she has expanded and enriched our lives in so many ways.

Her presence in our home has given me cause for reflection on several occasions, the most poignant reflections come when I consider the difference between her life on the street and the life she enjoys now. In truth, it fills me with immense happiness. As I’ve thought about this happiness, it has become clear to me that I derive it largely from the fact that we were able and willing to give her a new life. I love the fact that though, at one point, she was emaciated and covered in ticks, she’s now lithe and muscular. Her fur shines and her health is superb. She is loved.

This post is not intended to be a humble-brag about our pet rescue. On the contrary, this post is about how my reflections on Navi have often turned to reflections on God.

If I find great happiness and pleasure in my relationship with Navi, stemming from the fact that she needed help and we gave her that help, and she is now enjoying a more peaceful life of loving companionship, how much more does God take pleasure in me!

I needed help, God saw my need and my inability to escape my troubles and provided me with a new life. He offers me Himself, companionship with Him and all the benefits that come with a relationship with God Almighty. The life that He offers me also requires some adjusting on my part, as no doubt Navi’s new life with us required some adjusting on her part. But the adjustment is incomparable to the love offered.

“For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His love for those who fear him,” Psalm 103:11.

For those of you that know the story, Gina went to great lengths to bring Navi into our lives. And the trouble she went through to bring her home increases our happiness in her and tempers our disappointment when she messes up. Why would we ever disdain something that cost us so much to obtain?!

In my own life, I have often struggled with the belief that God truly loves me. In my day-to-day life, I am both quick and ready to justify myself and to heap guilt upon myself for the faults I so clearly see. It’s a deliciously mixed cocktail of self-loathing and self-justification; which when given a closer look, is also a mixture completely void of God’s forgiveness and love.

In my moments of self-loathing it’s tempting to say, “Good thing God only sees Christ and not me.” But if that’s true, then I could never really say that God truly loves and delights in me. He only delights in Jesus His Son and simply stands me through His pity.

No. I do not think that view is adequate. It doesn’t capture the full beauty of salvation. In salvation I shouldn’t say, “God doesn’t see me but sees Christ.” On the contrary I believe that God sees me because of Christ. Because Christ paid for my sins through His death and gave me new life through His resurrection, I have died to the life of corruption and selfishness in order to fully live a life of cleansing and love.

The scripture calls God’s delight in us as us “being known” by God.

He shows His delight in us, His enjoyment of us, by having gone to very great trouble to bring us back into relationship with Him. Why would He disdain something He paid so dearly to obtain? And why would we then want to run from the new life He’s given us in Christ, to go back to the life from which He rescued us?

“But now that you know God–or rather are known by God–how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable forces? Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again?” Galatians 4:9.

Above I spoke of the adjustment that Navi had to make to begin her life with us. She was used to being outdoors all the time. She ate everything and anything that she could simply to survive. But this is no longer the case, we provide for her, and it is our delight to do so.

We too must adjust in our life with God. The life He calls us to is not the same as the life to which we have become accustomed. God loves us and delights in us but He loves us too much to allow us to stay as we are. There are riches to be had, love to be received, and mysteries to ponder as He cleanses us and we draw closer to Him.

However, it’s often tempting to stop half way. Even when we finally understand God’s love for us, and we become OK with ourselves, we decide that that’s sufficient. “I am finally OK with who I am, so let it be.”

That too is utterly inadequate. We accept God’s love as we are, but we also continue to live in God’s love and allow the Holy Spirit to change us through intentional discipline, so that we may enjoy God as He intends.