Wednesday, January 30, 2013

St. Thomas Aquinas for Children

I'm into my fourth week as the rector of St. Luke's Episcopal Church in Baton Rouge, LA.  And since we do not currently have a curate/day school chaplain, I've been covering the chapel services for St. Luke's Day School.  Worshiping with the children is a powerful experience, and it's wonderful having them serve as acolytes, lectors, and Prayers of the People intercessors.  Every single service with the children moves my heart.

Since the feast day of St. Thomas Aquinas fell on Monday this week, we've been observing his day for the lower and middle school chapel services.  Introducing and commending the example of St. Thomas to children is not an easy task!  But I did my best.  With perhaps a bit of poetic license, here's what I shared with the children in my brief homily.

Today we remember a priest and one of the great Christian saints: St. Thomas Aquinas.  St. Thomas lived over 700 years ago, and he is one of the most influential persons in the history of the Church.

When St. Thomas was a boy, he was stocky and had trouble speaking.  Some of his schoolmates made fun of him and called him the "Dumb Ox."  But that didn't phase him.  Because St. Thomas had a gift that not many people have - the gift of understanding really hard things and then explaining them in ways that almost anybody could understand.  He started writing, and eventually wrote around eighty-five works of philosophy and theology.  They are still studied to this day, and many of them have profoundly influenced the Church and even people who aren't Christians.  So instead of calling him the "Dumb Ox," people started calling him "Doctor," which meant teacher.  

One of St. Thomas' works is called the Summa Theologica.  It's massive - way bigger than even the entire Harry Potter series.  In it, St. Thomas offers a big picture of how everything comes from God, and everything returns to God.  And it shows how our task in this life is to so cultivate virtues of mind and character that we are rightly directed towards our true purpose, which is to live forever in the presence of God's beauty and love.

As we remember St. Thomas, we do well to remember what Jesus called the first and greatest commandment: to love the Lord our God with all of our heart, with all of our soul, and with all of our mind.   St. Thomas provides a wonderful example of what it means to love God with all of our mind.  For when we use our minds that God gave us - when we work hard to study and learn, when we do our homework and come ready for school - we are offering praise and thanksgiving to God.  So what we do in church and chapel services, and what we do in our classrooms - it all forms a seamless whole.  It's all about loving and worshiping God.

So use your minds by working hard to study and learn.  For when you do you best by using your mind, you give glory to God.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Tertullian: "Where diversity of doctrine is found"

Heretics have tampered with the scriptures, and mutilated, and altered them. Catholics never change the scriptures, which always testify for them. Where diversity of doctrine is found, there, then, must the corruption both of the Scriptures and the expositions thereof be regarded as existing. On those whose purpose it was to teach differently, lay the necessity of differently arranging the instruments of doctrine. They could not possibly have effected their diversity of teaching in any other way than by having a difference in the means whereby they taught. As in their case, corruption in doctrine could not possibly have succeeded without a corruption also of its instruments, so to ourselves also integrity of doctrine could not have accrued, without integrity in those means by which doctrine is managed. Now, what is there in our Scriptures which is contrary to us? What of our own have we introduced, that we should have to take it away again, or else add to it, or alter it, in order to restore to its natural soundness anything which is contrary to it, and contained in the Scriptures? What we are ourselves, that also the Scriptures are (and have been) from the beginning. One man perverts the Scriptures with his hand, another their meaning by his exposition. For although Valentinus seems to use the entire volume, he has none the less laid violent hands on the truth only with a more cunning mind and skill then Marcion. Marcion expressly and openly used the knife, not the pen, since he made such an excision of the Scriptures as suited his own subject-matter. Valentinus, however, abstained from such excision, because he did not invent Scriptures to square with his own subject-matter, but adapted his matter to the Scriptures; and yet he took away more, and added more, by removing the proper meaning of every particular word, and adding fantastic arrangements of things which have no real existence. 

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Starting Out at St. Luke's, Baton Rouge

Blogging continues to be slow as I adjust to a new home in Baton Rouge and a new position as rector of St. Luke's Episcopal Church.  I've been on the job at St. Luke's for two weeks, with my second Sunday coming tomorrow.  It's been fast and furious.  My first Sunday (Epiphany 1) included a baptism at one of the four services.  Last Wednesday evening was the "Celebration of a New Ministry" and my formal 'installation' as rector (more here, and here where there is a photo of my LSU Tigers stole).  We've had a death and will be planning for a funeral next week.  And tomorrow morning (Epiphany 2) is the annual parish meeting including the election of new vestry members, with my first official vestry meeting taking place next week.  Never a dull moment!

And then today the Baton Rouge paper published an article about me entitled "Epiphany in Eucharist."  I'm definitely not used to this kind of attention.  But the article is well written and it's yet another injection of positive energy for a parish that's poised on the edge of wonderful things.

I've jokingly told folks that starting out at St. Luke's feels a bit like drinking water out of five fire hoses.  But I wouldn't want to be anywhere else.  I'm thrilled to be in such a terrific parish.  God is good!

Monday, January 7, 2013

How to Be a Biblical Scholar

Lutheran Satire strikes again in this brilliant video that lays out "How to Be a Biblical Scholar" in three easy steps: (1) Read something; (2) Say whoever wrote that thing didn't really write it; and (3) Refute all counterarguments by name-dropping your very prestigious alma mater.  Be sure to watch the entire video (the second half that comprises the ending is wonderful).  And enjoy!

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Letter to St. Luke's, Baton Rouge

Blogging has been slow these days while the Owen family continues to settle in to a new home in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.  Starting next week, I will begin work as the sixth rector of St. Luke's Episcopal Church.  Even during this time of transition, while I have technically been "under the radar" (I haven't worn a clerical collar in weeks), the generous welcome and hospitality of folks here has been extraordinary.  I feel incredibly blessed by God to be called to this new ministry!

Below is my first newsletter article for St. Luke's.  It's basically a letter to the parish expressing my joy and excitement about the call to serve among them.

Dear Friends,

Greetings to you all in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ!

By the time you read this it will be Epiphany season and a New Year. But as I write, it's in the midst of Advent and the chaos of moving as the Owen family prepares to travel to our new home with you all in Baton Rouge. I can hardly begin to describe how excited I am to be called as rector of St. Luke's! And that excitement is shared by Julie, Mary Emerson, and Hobson. We are so very eager to get to know all of you and to walk with you as disciples of Jesus.

From my first contact with the St. Luke's search committee to this day, my heart has been filled with joy. That joy comes from the love and grace of God. It's the joy of hope and expectation finding fulfillment in the coming of Jesus at Christmas and his manifestation as Son of God and Savior of the world during Epiphany. And it's the joy of beginning a new chapter of ministry at St. Luke's church and St. Luke's Day School.

One of the most powerful ways this joy finds expression is in our worship: as we say the words of the Prayer Book's liturgies, as we celebrate the sacraments, and as we sing beautiful hymns of praise and thanksgiving. Our patron saint understood this very well. As theologian Don Saliers puts it in his book Music and Theology:

Luke can barely make it through two chapters of his gospel without breaking into song four times: the great canticles of Mary, of Zechariah, and of old Simeon commingle with the angels' spontaneous Gloria in excelsis.

According to St. Luke, when confronted by the overwhelming goodness, love, and grace of God revealed to us in Jesus, we worship. We give thanks. And we sing!

I am looking forward to doing that with you all on January 13, my first official Sunday. And almost before we've had time to catch our breath, we're going to turn around and do it again with Bishop Thompson, and with friends from near and far, as we celebrate the start of this new ministry on Wednesday, January 16, at 6:30 p.m.

I believe that great things are in store for St. Luke's church and for St. Luke's Day School. And I am reminded of the following words from the apostle Paul: "Glory to God whose power, working in us, can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine" (Ephesians 3:20).

It's really true: God can and will do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine in the coming months and years. What a blessing to be a part of that journey with you!

Yours in Christ,