Showing items filed under “February 2017”

What God Hath Done

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The late Fred Craddock was a professor of preaching for many years down at Emory, although I learned that he had early in his life taught at a college in Enid, Oklahoma, and knew some of the people from my home town. It was at the College of Preachers in Washington that I got to learn from him.

His sermons were full of stories of things in his life where he saw something remarkable. He insisted, however, that his life was just like everyone else’s. God wasn’t any more present to him than to anyone else; his life was no more remarkable than anyone’s. What was different, he said, was that he didn’t let his life run through him like a sieve. Instead, he wrote things down.

He told us that he had notebooks full of things he had noticed and written down shortly after they happened—written by hand, by pencil, “just as God intended,” he said. It was an inspiration to me.

One little notebook of mine has recently surfaced. It looks like I took Craddock’s advice to heart, if only half-heartedly. There are short entries written in pen, scattered over about five years, starting in 1992. I was a rector back then in a small church in the Hudson Valley. 

Indeed, remarkable things were happening, most of which, I find, I have forgotten. I’m thankful for Fred Craddock; thankful for this notebook; thankful indeed for what God has done.
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[An entry from June 1992:] There are two relatively new families whom I hadn’t seen for a few weeks. I called one last week. “Hi, this is Father Austin, just thinking about you and wondering how you are.” Apologies for missing church, and explanations—out of town, etc.—then: “I just came home from the doctor and I’m pregnant. Want to speak with [my husband]?” They were happy and proud, surprised too at the speed of things. 

And then, yesterday, I phoned the other couple. Apologies for missing church, and explanations, and guilt over laziness, and then: “We’re expecting another baby.” 

I wondered, whom should I call next?
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Out & about. This Sunday, February 19, I’ll be preaching at the 10 a.m. service at St. Andrew’s new Westridge campus in McKinney: 2301 Eden Dr. It meets in an elementary school there.

There will be a three-week class on Losing Susan at Incarnation, starting Monday, February 27, at 6 p.m. Each week we’ll take up one part of the book: I’ll offer some theological reflections on that part of the story, and then we’ll open it up for discussion. Incarnation is at 3966 McKinney Ave., Dallas.

Hide Not Thyself from Thine Own Flesh

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   The command comes from Isaiah 58, recently read at Morning Prayer. Through the prophet, the Lord is contrasting true faith and false. He says: if you really want to be serious about your faith, then practice “the fast that I [the Lord] have chosen,” namely, “loose the bands of wickedness,” “let the oppressed go free,” “break every yoke,” “deal thy bread to the hungry,” “bring the poor that are cast out to thy house.” The clincher, the final image of a true religious fast, is this: “when thou seest the naked, that thou cover him; and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh.”
    In one sense, all very familiar: faith without works is dead, so pay attention to the poor, the oppressed, the hungry.
    In another sense, all very simplistic: some yokes are not oppressive but right judgment, brought upon people for good purpose. The prisoner who is guilty has the opportunity to face his sin; however messy it is, in the normal course of things God does use worldly government to advance the human good.
    And so, all too easy to put it out of mind.
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    At the coffee shop, he sits at a corner table, laptop opened, hour after hour after hour. He’s always there.
    “Do you know anything about that guy?” a friend asked me. No, I said, do you? “I asked the clerks once; they said he’s usually quiet, but on occasion gets out of hand.” The mind turns to a supposition of mental illness, a need to stay on medication. “At least he’s warm,” I said.
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    There he was, at his corner table. I was sitting outside, on the other side of the glass, focusing on my usual tasks. In my peripheral vision there was another person with him, a woman. I half-thought, how nice, someone’s talking to him. But I kept at my task and didn’t look up.
    Until I was ready to go. Then as I gathered my things I saw two youngish people, a woman and a man, sitting near him. Talking with him. They were there with a patiently attentive posture, looking at him, saying I know not what—they were inside, and I was on the other side of the glass.
    It was time for me to go. The cock was crowing.
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    Out & About. This Sunday, February 12, I’ll be speaking at Church of the Holy Cross, 4052 Herschel Ave., Dallas. I’ll be talking at 9:30 about Losing Susan, and then preaching at the 10:30 mass.
    The following Sunday, I’m to preach at the 10 a.m. service in McKinney, at St. Andrew’s new Westridge campus: 2301 Eden Dr., McKinney.
    There will be a three-week class on Losing Susan at Incarnation, starting Monday, February 27, at 6 p.m. Each week we’ll take up one part of the book: I’ll offer some theological reflections on that part of the story, and then we’ll open it up for discussion. Incarnation is at 3966 McKinney Ave., Dallas.

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The Rev. Canon Dr. Victor Lee Austin is the Theologian-in-Residence for the diocese and is the author of several books including, "Losing Susan: Brain Disease, the Priest's Wife, and the God who Gives and Takes Away."