The way, the truth, and the life

As I’ve hinted at previously, I am doing CPE at a home for the elderly, serving in the capacity as Chaplain Intern.  The Chaplain Interns take turns creating the morning chapel services, and last week, I attempted something very ambitious for a non-fundamentalist Christian:  I decided to preach on John 14:1-7.

The Word of the Lord:

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also.

And you know the way to the place where I am going.” Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.” Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does his works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves.”

What follows is my reflection on this text (delivered 7/7/08).

Read the rest of this entry »

Expell me, Father, or have I sinned?

A couple of conservative news sources are reporting that a college student in Florida is being threatened in this life and beyond for having removed a consecrated wafer from a Catholic Church.  It first was placed into Webster Cook’s mouth during Communion and at some point thereafter, he decided to take it out.  Allegedly, a church official then tried to pry the wafer out of his hands, and Cook responded by putting it in a Ziploc bag and leaving the premises.  He voluntarily returned it later on in the week, after receiving death threats and assurances of eternal damnation.

Bill Donahue from the Catholic League is pissed:

“For a student to disrupt Mass by taking the Body of Christ hostage – regardless of the alleged nature of his grievance – is beyond hate speech. That is why the [university] administration needs to act swiftly and decisively in seeing that justice is done. All options should be on the table, including expulsion.”

And, a spokesperson from the local diocese is calling it a hate crime:

“We don’t know 100 percent what Mr. Cook’s motivation was…however, if anything were to qualify as a hate crime, to us this seems like this might be it.”

Hmm.  Well, that would seem difficult, since a hate crime first and foremost is defined as “a criminal offense”  Oops.  So much for that.  It also must be “…committed against a person, property, or society that is motivated, in whole or in part, by the offender’s bias against a race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, or ethnicity/national origin.” This will also be difficult to prove, given that Cook is Catholic.

Here are my immediate thoughts:

  1. How is this possibly considered a hate crime?  There’s no crime, and no evidence of bias.  These accusers don’t even seem to know what constitutes a hate crime.
  2. There are some really interesting Christological issues here, especially considering the traditional Catholic view of transubstantiation.  If the consecrated bread-become-body of Jesus leaves the church, what happens to it, theologically speaking?  Surely this is written somewhere?
  3. My theology of communion really privileges the sovereignty of God.  In my view, mere humans do not have the power to make – or break – the sanctity of the Eucharist.  Either Jesus will be present to us in the breaking of bread and sharing of the cup, or not – but I absolutely do not believe that humans have the power to defile that which God has made holy.  That limits the power of God too much for me.
  4. If this is a hate crime, what’s the crime?  If this is to be viewed as Cook “stealing” a Catholic artifact (the consecrated wafer), at what point does the bread/wine become transferred to the parishioner?
  5. It may go against Catholic doctrine, but is it also a “hate crime” or “hate speech” for a non-Catholic to take Communion at a closed Catholic table?  I mean, she would likewise be “stealing” a consecrated Catholic artifact too, if that is indeed the root of the problem.
  6. Bottom line: Jesus is a big boy.  If he is so vulnerable that improper handling of the consecrated elements pose a viable threat to his sovereignty, than perhaps Cook should get expelled.  But if the risen Christ is, as I suspect, actually strong enough to survive this affront…perhaps the local (and national) Catholic authorities are going a little overboard here, no?

God, Jonah, and the Great Fish

I’m presently fulfilling an internship as a chaplain at a home for the elderly.  It’s unbelievably rewarding work; I feel deeply blessed to work there.  I’m sure I’ll have more to offer about what I’m actually doing as the summer goes on.

One of my responsibilities is to lead morning chapel worship periodically.  This includes preaching occasionally.  What follows is my recent reflection on the call of God as experienced by Jonah – and the Great Fish (clearly, a subject that happens to be a favorite of mine).  Read the rest of this entry »