Showing items filed under “The Rev. Canon Dr. Victor Lee Austin”

Glad to Be Here

The story as I recall it was this: It was one of his early radio shows. They were on the road somewhere, and the back of the stage was reached through a narrow hallway. He thought to make an energetic entrance, so he ran through the hallway but, where it opened to the stage, the ceiling was low (he is 6'4") and his grand entrance leap turned into a crash as he clobbered his head.
 He got up from the floor, made it to the microphone, and the first words out of his mouth were: “Happy to be here.” (Later he wrote a book with that title.)
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 Some time ago I was on the staff of a large church. Whenever I rang the rector’s long-term secretary he invariably answered the phone with “Father Austin, what a pleasure!” I learned to say the pleasure was all mine, and it was at least a smile-bringing pleasure to hear his voice. I once teased him and said he couldn’t really mean it since he said the same thing to everybody, and with upright seriousness he corrected me. “I never say it to —” and he named someone I forget. But for those who heard it, what pleasure.
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 It’s 6 a.m. and my host was in the kitchen with his very energetic dog. I remarked that she was showing remarkable energy for it being so early. He replied that she was a very theological dog! She was saying, “This is the day which the Lord hath made: we will rejoice and be glad in it.”
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 The first moral task is to give thanks for who we are and where we are and what we are, to give thanks that we have the life that we have. After we give thanks, we may go on to ask for what we need but don’t have. We may also laugh at our embarrassments and repent of our sins. But thanks is the first thing.
 My morning barista asks me how I’m doing. “Glad to be here,” I say, and it’s true, whether it’s cold or hot, wet or dry; whether my feet hurt or not; whatever my unmet deadlines; and whatever foolish or wicked things I may have done—it’s a pleasure. This day, and not some other day, is the day which the Lord hath made.
 I’m glad to be here.
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 Out & About. I am to preach at the traditional services (7:30, 9, and 11:15 a.m.) at Church of the Incarnation in Dallas this Sunday, December 2.

 

Remission

What comes to mind when you hear “remission”? Most of us probably think of cancer. When cancer is in “remission,” it isn’t active, but we don’t know, it might still be there. If someone is “in remission,” as we say, for a number of years, then we don’t expect the cancer to come back. So we think of “remission” as something in the background, perhaps temporarily defeated, perhaps more than temporarily—but there, probably, as an ongoing threat.
 If, however, you are a Rite One person, you might think, instead of cancer, of “one baptism” which, according to the Nicene Creed in the traditional language, is “for the remission of sins.” Here the word “remission” must mean something quite different from the way we use the word with cancer.
 Its root is mittere, the Latin word meaning “to send, to cause to go.” The prefix “re-” means “again” or “back.” The Creed’s assertion is about the “sending back” of sins, the “causing to go away” of sins. When sins are remitted they aren’t around any more. They’re not like cancer, which might still be there; nor is a sinner “in remission,” in some sort of in-between, maybe-okay state. The sins have been turned around and discharged: they ain’t here.
 It’s a bit old-fashioned, but we do sometimes speak of money that is sent to pay a bill as a “remittance.” When the remittance is sent, the debt no longer exists. Indeed, there is biblical warrant for speaking of sins as “debts,” and some versions of the Lord’s prayer have it so: “Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” May it please God to remit all our sins!
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 May I be playful for a bit? When we see the word “remission,” there’s “mission” in it. And there’s “mission” in God’s own being. The Father sends the Son into the world with his mission: in order that the world might be saved. And the sacrifice being accomplished, the Father through the Son sends the Spirit whose mission is to speak of what the Son has done.
 God’s mission is what we can participate in: and we may do so when we plant churches, instruct believers, build communities of forgiveness and truth, seek the healing of the world. In these ways we join in the divine mission to overcome sin, to remit it, to banish it, to send it away.
 We thereby partake of the “re-missioning” of the world: to turn the world from its false mission (the advancement of sin) to its true one.
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 Out & About. I will be preaching at Incarnation in Dallas on December 2. The “Good Books & Good Talk” seminar will not meet in December; on January 13 (Sunday, 6 p.m.) I will lead a discussion of C. S. Lewis’s The Great Divorce. This also is at Incarnation and anyone who reads the book is welcome.
 Looking further ahead: the spring theology lecture by yours truly will be on the theology of suffering. We pray it will not be a painful experience! Sunday, March 24, at Incarnation at 6 p.m.

 

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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."