Cromey Online

The writings of author, therapist, and priest Robert Warren Cromey.

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Saturday, October 28, 2006

Episcopal Peace fellowship

EPF has been around for a longtime. Those of us interested in peace can find out more about a national organization of Episcopalians deeply concerned for peace. They provide pamphlets, banners, peace crosses and more. You can also join the group at that address. I just bought a peace symbol cross to wear with my vestments.

Here is an Internet address where you can learn more: www. epfnational.org is the Internet address.

Followers of Jesus have called him The Prince of Peace. The prince part is militaristic but his words, “My peace I give unto you,” are right. Every parish could be or should be a peace church, a place where peace is studied, honored and lived.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Fear of Controversy

Friday, October 20, 2006

We have some African Bishops vs. the Episcopal Church, USA. Then there are the Episcopal Bishops against each other over homosexuality and same gender marriage. We have lesbians and gays against those who want to control their sexual and marital activity. We have caucuses of women clergy fighting for good jobs and equal pay in the parish life. Abortion foes fight those advocating free choice.

Many fear the break-up of the Anglican Communion, hate our washing our dirty linen in public and despair that we are not loving and forgiving enough.

So what’s new? Christians have always been mired in controversy. Jesus preaching and teaching cost him his life. The disciples fled in cowardly fear. Some followers of Jesus thought there was no need for men to be circumcised Jews before they were allowed to be baptized. Is Jesus truly God or truly man? What is the meaning of the Eucharist? Do we need Popes, kings or even Bishops? Then we had crusades and pogroms in the name of Christ. Coming along were witch hunts, Lutherans, Calvinists, Papists, Anglicans, high Church, low church, Black rights and on and on. Now we are in the age of sex. Homosexuality, abortion, pre-marital sex, women Bishops, priests and deacons.

In the 1960’s, when Episcopalians went on freedom rides, marched in Selma and disrupted college campuses, many traditional church people were outraged. As the debates and demonstrations went on, most church people came around and wanted justice to be done. But it took years.

So now we are debating, threatening, anxious and polarized by issues of sexuality. This is healthy for the church. It stretches our minds, wrestles our faith, challenges our values. So let’s relax and get on with it.

And you know what? As soon as sex gets settled and we hope for peace and quiet, something else will come along to get us in controversy, polarity and new battles. God’s peace is the struggle for truth, integrity and justice.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Get Out of Iraq

October 17, 2006

Get Out of Iraq

The Christian position on the Iraq and Afghan War is clear, stop killing people, torturing prisoners and making people homeless. We have these odd notions like “thou shalt not kill,” love and forgive your enemies, and love your neighbor as yourself. Calling enemies rag heads, terrorists and scum smack of bearing false witness and racism. Oh well, many Christian politicians and religionists have found ways around these basic Christian moral and ethical standards to justify killing.

But many Christians and other religionists say, “Well, we must be practical.” Whoever said the radical ethics of Jesus were practical? One theologian says Christians are aliens in an alien land. We should feel and look like aliens, folks from outer space. We are different, radically different in the way we look at life and the way we behave. Otherwise we are just bookends in the comfortable pews enjoying nice music, mediocre sermons, congenial vanilla neighbors of various colors and throwing a soup kitchen here and there.

People more thoughtful than I have suggested that:
If we get out of Iraq immediately, if not sooner, many people will die.
If we “stay the course” in Iraq many people will die
If we turn the mess over to the United Nations, many people will die.

I, and others, say get out immediately and let the Iraqis and their neighbors clean up the mess the United States has created.

Of course, this might hurt the oil supply. But that would be good so as to limit driving and stop auto emissions from further warming the planet.

As a Christian, a follower of Jesus, I want an end to the deaths of Iraqi and Afghan civilians, women, children and soldiers as well as American, British and other military men and women.

The church is full of palaver about reconciliation. Let church leaders pitch in and find ways of real reconciliation between the nations of the Middle East and the rest of the world.

Get out now. Clergy; take a stand and urge your congregations to support immediate withdrawal. Lay people; urge your churches, schools, businesses and friends to push our government to stop the killing. Enjoy being an alien in an alien land.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Values- Capitalism or Jesus

A friend wrote me that he was not concerned for the values of Jesus in getting us out of the present wars. He suggested some political and military solutions that might help end the conflict. He said his teen age son wold welcome the draft. Here is my response:

Dear Friend - You may not be concerned with Jesus. Neither is the President who says he listens to Jesus.
The President is a liar. As a follower of Jesus, I believe in following the values and morals of love, compassion, forgiveness and community in making decisions. Our government has no such interest. Its values are oil, money, power, war, death and destruction of innocents, civilians in order to get its way. I certainly don't have any answers on how to do things, especially as I do not believe a word of what the government lets the media cover and therefore print and show.

I will stand in vigil for peace and justice, making sure that the government does not change my values and for making some witness to greater values than capitalism and its inability to put human beings before money and profit.

I hope there is a draft, that will cause a real uprising in this country that will end the bloodshed our government has unleashed.

How to Listen to a Sermon

How to Listen to a Sermon

A friend, a thoughtful layperson asked me what criteria I use for evaluating a sermon? Good question. There are few helps for lay people on how to listen to a sermon and what to look for in a preacher’s efforts.

Here are some items I think are important to keep in mind when listening to a sermon.

Length – In the context of Eucharist a sermon should be no longer than fifteen minutes and preferably twelve. A traditional Sunday morning liturgy has four readings from the Bible, Old Testament, Psalm, New Testament and Gospel. (That is far too many for human beings to bear. Most people couldn’t pass a quiz on what was in any of them save a really good gospel story, maybe.) Then there is the lengthy Nicene Creed, endless prayers of the people, which in many churches include a boring telephone book list of people in sickness, toil and trouble, most of whom no one has ever heard of. Then there is the long Thanksgiving consecration of the elements, then lines of people taking communion. Fifteen minutes for the sermon is plenty in that context. If the service is Morning or Evening Prayer on a Sunday, a twenty to twenty-five minute sermon might be endurable.

Theme – Does the sermon have a central theme or point? Can it be summed up in one sentence? I heard a sermon that dealt with the following themes: The spirit works outside the normal channels, the culture yearns for the spirit, environmentalism, various uses of salt, ordained through adversity and finding Christ in others. All of the themes were important and helpful for living the Christian life. Any one of them would have made a fine sermon. Dealing with too many themes makes the sermon long, confusing and unfocused.

Bible – How does the preacher use the Bible? With four Bible passages to choose from, the preacher has many choices. Sadly many preachers feel they have to mention all four passages, plus a sacrament or two. A good sermon deals with one major theme and one passage from the Bible. It is hard for some preachers to focus on a simple theme that emerges from the scripture. If the preacher bounces around from passage to passage, he or she is confusing to the congregation. Thrusting the Bible in the face of the people is a way of exerting power over people who respect the Bible but don’t know much about it. Lay people may tend to be intimidated by the superior knowledge of preachers who indeed do know more about the Bible than most lay people. The preacher who tosses around lots of Bible references usually has not made a decision of a clear, simple, major theme to share with the people.

Stories – What most people walk away with from a sermon is a good story. Jesus was a storyteller, an artist, who told stories to teach his understanding of the word of God. The Good Samaritan and The Prodigal Son are among the most famous stories remembered by millions of Christians and others. No sermon should end without the recounting of a story NOT in the Bible. The story should be from real life in the world, from the newspapers, the people in the parish (not the confessional), the city and community where people live. To retell a story that has just been read at the gospel is an insult to the intelligence of the listeners. Stories gleaned from literature, TV, movies, sit-coms, theater and songs often reflect the hurts and joys of human life and can inspire Christian people to forgiveness and love. Autobiographical stories help humanize the preacher. A sermon without a story is like a meal without salt.

Life Now – A sermon should relate the gospel of Jesus to how we are in the world right now. It should be real and concrete and not airy-fairy full of ideas and concepts. Love, compassion, forgiveness, healing and community are gospel themes that relate directly to how we treat each other in church, school, work, and family. The gospel relates to how our nation acts in the world. How does the gospel relate to race, sex, war, torture, abuse and so many more issues?

Call to Action – A good sermon ends in a call to action. The preacher can move the congregation to action in the world based on the social, personal and political issues we all face every day. Write a letter, visit the sick, give money to a cause, teach a child and yell at the president.

I suggest people listen and take notes when listening. It will be much easier to stay awake and will help in understanding what is being said. The structure, or lack of it, of the sermon will be more apparent.

Give the preacher good sermon feedback. Be concrete. Not just, “I liked your sermon.” But “I enjoyed your view of the Eucharist, the story of the virgin birth or homosexuality.” Or perhaps you disagreed with something specific. Say that.

Most preachers get very little concrete helpful feedback. Most of us need it regularly. One book I read suggested regular feedback sessions with members of the congregation. Another suggested the preacher sit with people and study the passages from the Bible to be read the following Sunday and help come up with sermon ideas.

I’d be interested in any feedback or others ideas about preaching which you might have after reading this piece.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Sex - for a change

Friday, October 6, 2006

Sex is in the Air – for a Change

The Foley business has the media and the Republicans in a snit. Front-page headlines in today’s SF Chronicle lament Korean women forced into prostitution here and in that country. The movie Shortbus is reviewed warning it exhibits explicit sexuality and full frontal nudity. I plan to attend ASAP. We Americans love to lament and leer about illicit sex.

Church people say, “When will we ever stop talking about sex and get on with the preaching of the gospel?” Straight people don’t want to hear another word about homosexuality. Lesbians and gays want to get married. Family values people want sex only among straight adults in married bedrooms. Republicans want to control everything including sex. American torturer Muslim prisoners using sex to humiliate and get information.

One highly rated film The Departed warns, “This film contains sexual situations, strong language and extreme violence.” Video and print pornography continue to be enormously profitable businesses in the United States in the red as well as the blue states.

I recommend leering, loving and looking at sex depictions in the various media. It is a way of finding pleasure and enjoyment in our lives. There are times when women are exploited in such depictions but most women in them are there by choice and for money. Most often the images of people being intimate and enjoying sex can be fun and arousing and leading too sexual contact. Pictures of physical beauty, men and women’s bodies, are works of art, products of the creation. I have never seen a naked body, which I did not fine lovely. Large men and women have a charm to be enjoyed by looking past the cultural stereotype of bones as gorgeous, to the beauty of the flesh as sensuous.

When I was at Esalen Institute in Big Sur, California in the 60’s I was naked in the hot tubs with all sorts and conditions of men and women. They all had their own beauty. A woman showed us the scar where her breast had been removed. Her body even with the scar was lovely and so was she.

I suspect Americans are sexually confused often because they hate their bodies. Too large, too small, too wide, too skinny, big tits and ass, no tits and ass, cocks too small or too large are all categories that fearfully lurk in the hearts of American men and women. If you have trouble with your body, you probably have trouble with your sex life.

Well to sum up. I prefer explicit sex to explicit violence. So I’ll probably see Shortbus but definitely will not see The Departed. I will root for the downfall of the Republicans over sex exploits and lying. I think prostitution should not be a matter of the law then women could not be forced into prostitution. Let women do what they want with their bodies, as there will always be men who will pay. Free enterprise, I say.

Sex is for our enjoyment, creating intimacy, and procreation. Let people be free about their sexuality.