Grace Abounds
A media ministry of Grace Episcopal Church
A Word from the Rector

Greetings in the Name of our Lord, Jesus Christ!

Having recently experienced a number of challenges related to my eyesight, I want to use visual metaphors in this valedictory column for my service as your priest. The first relates to walking around with the wrong (outdated) eyeglass prescription. I was too cheap to buy new frames, and spent almost two weeks squinting, awaiting new lenses while using old eyeglasses. As you may have experienced yourself, when you squint too long you develop a low grade but persistent headache. The eye strain eventually gives you both a pinched face and the perception of things as presenting some low level sort of problem. What should be beautiful (light, for example) can become an annoyance, and there is a literal strain in the everyday, a strain which is not necessarily anxiety but feels like anxiety is about to begin.

A Word from the Rector: Greetings in the Name of our Lord, Jesus Christ!

I am nearing the end of a free ten week membership in a fitness club. Getting a membership in a high-end club for free has been sufficient motivation to make me more focused on physical activity and health (even though diet remains as unexamined part of the health equation for me!), and—while recognizing that getting into shape involves work— I should be enjoying the opportunity to use the club. But I’m not, really. It is spoiled for me by the bombardment of loud music. In a workout room filled with machines the music is generally less audible, but everywhere else it is a constant.

Greetings in the Name of our Lord, Jesus Christ!

As a middle school student I was enough of a nerd that I drew elaborate maps and wind roses with pen and ink, going so far as to antique them by staining them with tea and baking them in a warm oven. Most of the maps were of imaginary lands (of which I, of course, was the ruler!) A feature I generally included—as found on real maps from ages past—was to label something on the border as terra incognita (sometimes found as terra ignota), which means “unknown land”. But then I discovered an alternate label from old maps, an alternate label that allowed me to spin additional “travelers’ tales” about what lay beyond. The term is terra nondum cognita, “land not yet known”.

Greetings in the Name of our Lord, Jesus Christ!

In the new year the focus is most often on what is new, what is anticipated or hoped for. It is a time of optimism (sometimes forced) in the world around us, and in the Church a time (the season of Epiphany) in which we are reminded that God manifests His presence to us in all places, at all times. God is present to us, and reveals His will, and this focus on presence harks back to the Advent theme of Immanuel, “God with us” (Isa. 7.14). 

Focus

Greetings in the Name of our Lord, Jesus Christ!

Social justice, economic justice, environmental justice. These are terms common in modern debate, commentary, and activism. The definitions involved cover broad ranges that may variously encompass matters like gender, race, sexuality, religious identity, or just about any other distinction the user of the term may choose to name. (Remember all the Marxist debates about class origins?) The Church has certainly participated in these debates, and in actions taken by some to seek to “do” justice. Indeed, in our baptismal vows we promise to “strive for justice … among all people” (BCP 305). But let’s consider that in our vows we speak of justice without any qualifying term!

Greetings in the Name of our Lord, Jesus Christ!

At Exod. 20.8 the Lord gives the commandment, “Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.” How sabbath has been observed in the history of Judaism and the Church has varied widely. Let’s focus on the phrase in the commandment that we are to keep the day “holy”. For something to be holy means that it is “set aside”, i.e., dedicated or consecrated to God, just as each of us is “marked as Christ’s own” in our Baptism (BCP 308). In other words, once we recognize that sabbath is about that which is consecrated to God, we recognize two realities: (a) sabbath is about God; but (b) sabbath is about our relationship with God. God has established this day of rest for our benefit.