A blessing by +Gene

The blessing given by the Rt. Rev. Gene Robinson, Bishop of New Hampshire (ECUSA), at the end of services at All Saints Church Pasadena on Sunday, July 15, 2007.
I found it on the blog An Apple Not Far from the Tree, through a hint by MadPriest. Thank you!
May we all share in the blessing that +Gene gives us!

When Bad Things Happen to Good People

Harold S. Kushner: When Bad Things Happen to Good People (New York 1981) 164 p.
In 1963, Rabbi Harold Kushner had a son, Aaron, who suffered from progeria, "rapid aging". He was never to grow much beyond a metre in height, would be completely hairless, look like an old man already in childhood, and die in his early teens. Aaron Kushner did, in fact, die in 1977, two days after his fourteenth birthday.
Rabbi Kushner had grown up with a God who punishes bad people and makes good people prosper. Naturally, he asked himself what he had done to deserve this fate - he, a man of God, spending his days trying to help others. The answer he found was that his postulate was wrong. The suffering in this world is not caused by God, and it is not meant as a punishment for those who suffer. The suffering itself is amoral, void of meaning.
What is important for us who suffer is to create meaning out of the suffering. The question, "Why did this happen to me?", as natural and understandable as it is, is meaningless. The correct question, Rabbi Kushner writes, is "Now that this has happened, what shall I do about it?" We should not concentrate on the past and on the pain, but open doors into the future.
The facts of life and death are neutral. We, by our responses, give suffering either a positive or a negative meaning. [...] If suffering and death in someone close to us bring us to explore the limits of our capacity for strength and love and cheerfulness, if it leads us to discover sources of consolation we never knew before, then we make the person into a witness for the affirmation of life rather than its rejection.
Kushner here refers to the German theologian Dorothee Sölle (1929-2003).
I have been in ministry for over a decade now. I have seen sorrow and joy in close quarters. I myself have had to deal with the deaths of loved ones and with my own serious illnesses. Yet, this thin book has given me new insights and answers to questions that have tormented me. I read it with many tears and with much recognition. Rabbi Kushner is a Jew, of course, and not a Christian, but he has helped me, both personally and professionally, in ways that no Christian book has been able to - it's not that they were bad, but this is better.
On the cover of the paperback volume I'm holding (Anchor Books, 2004) it says that over 4 million copies of the book have been sold. Even that is too few. More people need to read this book, and it should be required reading in courses on pastoral theology and counseling.

Justice and mercy

The pearl of justice is found in the heart of mercy.
- Catherine of Siena
as quoted on God's Politics

About dogs and people 4

If there are no dogs in Heaven, then when I die I want to go where they went.
- Will Rogers
as quoted by the Episcopal padre

The immorality of moralism

In a Church of England newspaper, the south London priest Giles Fraser writes under the heading Beware of the morality of legalism (Church Times August 1, 2008). It was very interesting to read his text. He argues that it is a great mistake to turn "gospel faith into moral uprightness," and that the conservatives within the Anglican communion are trying to do exactly this.
This is very reminiscent of one of the first texts I wrote on Kalles kyrkliga kommentarer, There is no Christian ethics (May 9, 2006), based on some thoughts by the influential Swedish Christian writer Peter Halldorf. My conclusion there is "... to confuse faith with ethics leads to moralism, phariseeism and many other tragedies."
All the more interesting to read Fraser's article.

Schoolboy Howlers 6

When Caesar was assassinated, he is reported to have said: "Me too, Brutus!"

The ultimate measure of a man

The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.
- Martin Luther King Jr.

Charges filed against Sandell

Last week, I reported that pastor Halvar Sandell from Helsinki received a warning from bishop Gustav Björkstrand for showing a video of an authentic abortion at a confirmation camp.
Now, charges have been filed against Sandell. Birgitta Dahlberg, a politician from the moderately liberal Swedish People's Party (Svenska folkpartiet, sfp) says that if an adult that's supposed to be an authority, a pastor and a teacher forces minors to watch such a material, it's a very serious matter. Anyone should understand, Dahlberg says, that the video isn't suitable, but on the contrary quite harmful, for children of 14 years of age.
The police are investigating the charges, and estimate that the investigation will be ready by Christmas. It is as yet unclear what, if any, crime Sandell has commetted. This case is not urgent, the police say, so they'll take their time.
"Som att visa pornografi för minderåriga" (Hufvudstadsbladet 8.9.08)
Aborttivideon näyttäneestä papista tutkintapyyntö poliisille (Kotimaa 8.9.08)
Vihdin poliisi tutkii aborttivideon (Kotimaa 8.9.08)
Sandell polisanmäld (Kyrkpressen 8.9.08)
Kaplan fick anmärkning av biskopen (Nya Åland 8.9.08)
Aborttifilmin näyttäneestä papista tutkintapyyntö poliisille (STT through Etelä-Suomen Sanomat, Iltalehti and Ilta-Sanomat 8.9.08)
Halvar Sandell polisanmäld (YLE Nyheter 8.9.08)
Sandells straff (Anja Kuusisto's editorial in Åbo Underrättelser 8.9.08)
Halvar Sandell polisanmäld (Österbottens Tidning 8.9.08)
Polisen utreder abortfilmen (Hufvudstadsbladet 9.9.08)
Vichtispolisen inleder förundersökning (Kyrkpressen 9.9.08)
Förundersökning inleds mot Halvar Sandell (Vasabladet 9.9.08)
Förundersökning om abortvideo (YLE Nyheter 9.9.08)

About dogs and people 3

Dogs are not our whole life, but they make our lives whole.
- Roger Caras
as quoted by the Episcopal padre

My sort of cat

A cat died and went to Heaven. God met her at the gates and said, "You have been a good cat all these years. Anything you want is yours for the asking."
The cat thought for a minute and then said, "All my life I lived on a farm and slept on hard wooden floors. I would like a real fluffy pillow to sleep on."
God said, "Say no more," and instantly the cat had a huge fluffy pillow.
A few days later six mice were killed in an accident and they all went to Heaven together. God met the mice at the gates with the same offer that He had made to the cat.
The mice said, "Well, we have had to run all of our lives from cats, dogs and even people with brooms. If we could just have some little roller skates we would not have to run again."
God answered, "It is done." All the mice received beautiful little roller skates.
About a week later God decided to check on the cat. He found her sound asleep on her fluffy pillow. God gently awakened the cat and asked, "Is everything alright? Are you happy?"
"Everything is wonderful," the cat replied. "I have never been so happy. The pillow is so fluffy and those little Meals on Wheels you have been sending over are delicious."
Thanks to MadPriest.

Pastor gets warning for abortion video

Just over a year ago, pastor Halvar Sandell from Helsinki wanted to refuse me the Lord's Supper because of my views on homosexuality (some media report that he actually did refuse me, but that is incorrect). He had no right to do this, of course, so in the end our bishop, Gustav Björkstrand, gave him a warning.
Sandell's been at it again in June this year. This time he's in trouble for showing an authentic abortion video to his confirmation pupils, aged about 15 years. Their parents were in an uproar about this and reported him to the Parish Council, which refused to do anything. The parents also sent a copy to the Bishop, who consulted the governmental motion pictures board, and after receiving their report gave Sandell another warning.
The problem was not that Sandell is a hard core anti-abortionist ("pro-life", as it is sometimes euphemistically called); that is his right. He had discussed abortion in class, which also is his right (and perhaps even his duty). The problem was that, having failed to convince the teenagers, he showed them a detailed and bloody video showing an abortion (performed with a method not used in Finland). He had downloaded the video from the Internet. This shocking video, showing close-ups of a dismembered foetus, was too strong for the teenagers, according to the board, and could hurt the development of 14-15-year-olds if shown to them.
A positive note in all this is that Sandell has apologized for his excessive zeal.
Warnings of the kind Sandell seems to be collecting do not, as such, lead to anything worse. If someone is given several warnings for similar offences, however, they can be construed as aggravating factors if the offence is repeated yet again.
In other words, if Sandell keeps his nose clean, this might be the end of it. If not, well...
Disciplinärt förfarande i församlingen 4 (Kalles kyrkliga kommentarer 18.7.06)
Ingen sakramental gemenskap? (Kalles kyrkliga kommentarer 3.9.07)
Sandell i farten igen (Kalles kyrkliga kommentarer 19.6.08)
Biskopen gav kaplan Sandell skriftlig anmärkning (Kyrklig tidningstjänst 4.9.08)
Sandell får skriftlig anmärkning (YLE 4.9.08)
Sandell får skriftlig anmärkning (Kyrkpressen 4.9.08)
Sandell får skriftlig anmärkning (Hufvudstadsbladet 4.9.08)
Halvar Sandell får skriftlig anmärkning för abortvideo (Vasabladet 4.9.08)
Aborttifilmin rippileirillä näyttänyt pappi sai huomautuksen piispalta (Helsingin Sanomat 4.9.08)
Präst klandras för abortfilm (Sydsvenskan 4.9.08)
Visade abortfilm för unga och kritiseras (Kyrkans Tidning 5.9.08)
Präst prickas för abortfilm (Dagen 5.9.08)

Registered lesbian pastors

Gay marriage and blessings of registered same-sex partnerships are a much debated issue in many places. This is the case also in Finland and within the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland. No end to the debate is yet in sight; no cooling of tempers either. Rabid arguments have been used on both side of the argument - along with civilized "agree-to-disagree" -type situations, I hasten to add.
Last week, the Finnish church paper Kotimaa (the name means "home country", "fatherland") published the news that two female ELCF pastors from southern Finland have registered their partnership. As such, this is legal, of course. It has even (reportedly) been done once before, last year. In addition to two pastors registering their relationship, there are pastors living in registered partnerships with laymen in at least four of the nine ELCF dioceses, Kotimaa writes without specifying. I myself have heard of cases in the diocese of Helsinki and in my own diocese, Porvoo, but surely there are many more.
Nobody can deny two adult citizens of the Republic of Finland to do this, and the legality won't be an issue. What can and will be argued, however, is whether this really is something Lutheran pastors should do - i.e., whether homosexuals should be allowed to become or to remain pastors. Some bishops have refused to ordain openly homosexual theologians; some haven't refused, but demanded that the gay pastors be discreet about their sexuality.
The two ladies now in question say to Kotimaa:
"We don't want our names or our home city published. Our mental resources are such at the moment, that we don't want to appear in front of the media with our names. There has been that much gossiping and smearing in our parish."
I can understand and respect the need of discretion, but I lament it. What should by rights be a happy time in the life of two loving people, has to be kept under wraps. Gossiping is born from the need for secrecy and smearing from intolerance - and neither should have any place in a Christian community. But, alas, we Christians are only human, not angels...
A support group (in Finnish) has been founded on Facebook. At the moment, it has over 500 members.
I wish the loving couple all the best! May God richly bless you!
Kaksi pappia rekisteröi parisuhteensa (Kotimaa 25.8.08)
Kotimaa: Kaksi pappia rekisteröi parisuhteensa (ranneliike.net, starting 26.8.08)

Merton on Love and Mercy

A Christian is committed to the belief that Love and Mercy are the most powerful forces on earth.
- Thomas Merton
in Passion for Peace
as quoted on God's Politics

Schoolboy Howlers 5

King Arthur lived in the Age of Shivery*.
* chivalry