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

Obituaries

main image

It comes from the Latin verb, “ire,” which means “to go.” The prefix “ob-” can mean “towards, to,” and the like. So the verb altogether, “obire,” means “to go to meet.” It also means to die.
    From it we get “obituary,” the account of a person’s life published at the time of death. Back when people read newspapers, obituaries formed a favorite section. It still is, in many small towns. You’ve perhaps heard an old timer say of his morning paper, “I read the obituaries first, to make sure I’m still alive.”
---
    In a small town, just about a week apart, two obituaries appeared, both of women in their 30s. One had a hardscrabble life. Reading between the lines, one sensed she had some personal demons, as we say. And a good deal of bad luck. Was there a story to be told about this life, a story that would make it a life? Nothing ever seemed to add up, to build upon what had gone before. And now it was over.
    The other’s picture showed a glamorous woman. Her life was a full resume of accomplishments, social and professional. She had married just a couple of years ago and was leaving behind a baby as well as a husband. This beautiful life, which had seemed to be moving continuously upward, was suddenly stopped by a heart attack, totally unexpected, and fatally efficient.
    Someone said to me, “It’s like a tale of two cities.” Rich and poor, glamour and suffering, success and loss.
---
    Yet, to say the obvious, we do not know, cannot know, the meaning of either of these lives. Just as (may I say it again?) we remain in ignorance of what our own life will mean in the end.
    On that ultimate judgment day at the end of all things, God Incarnate will show us what our lives have meant. His judgment is an act of love! His love is a searing love, a fire of love! (See 1 Cor. 3:11-15.) Everything about us must pass through that fire. Not everything about us can survive that fire. Nothing about us can pass through it unchanged. That fire of love may disclose to us that things we thought were really good about us actually were quite flawed. And it may also disclose glorious things about our lives that we could never apprehend. But when judgment is done, any person whose life is built on the foundation of Jesus will be able to say, “Yes, that is my life. Thank you for making it a life.”
    Who knows the real meaning of her own life? Who knows the real meaning of anyone else’s life? “To go to meet”: that is “obire.” We go to meet our Jesus, and he will then read to us our true obituary.
---
    A postscript to my fellow clergy in the diocese of Dallas. As Theologian-in-residence, I am available to visit your congregation for teaching and the like. Write me if you’d like to schedule something (on Sundays or otherwise): .

Decaf

Out of sync with the world, that’s yours truly. “We don’t serve decaf after noon,” she said to me. One would think there are lots of people who shift to decaf after their morning coffee. I hear people all the time saying, “I can’t drink caffeine after noon; it messes up my sleep.” But if it were true that people shifted to decaf, it would be available. There would be people lined up around the block asking for their post-meridian coffee unleaded. Entrepreneurs would be falling over themselves to meet the demand.
    But the demand isn’t there. It’s only me.
    I can’t figure it out. But it’s true: I’m out of sync with the world.
---
    Is it good to be out of sync with the world? Some three decades ago (back in the dark ages before cell phones and social media), my first rector was driving me around the parish. We were getting to know each other. I let it drop that my wife and I didn’t believe in TV.
    He, sitting behind the steering wheel, turned to stare at me. “Victor,” he slowly said, “TV is real; it’s not something you can believe in. It’s there.”
    Susan and I had decided to live, and to raise our children, without letting that intrusive thing into our home. So it happened that, when she was in second grade, our daughter was invited to speak to a neighboring class about growing up without a TV. It was as if their teacher said, “Today we have a visitor from Mars.”
    Someone asked her what she did without a TV. “Well, we read a lot of books,” she said.
    Clearly out of sync.
---
    God made this world and he loves it enough to die for it. The world, although fallen, retains created goodness. And at the end of all things (as N. T. Wright has taught us) the world will be redeemed, not discarded. So it is not good to be out of sync with the world.
    On the other hand, the world is in rebellion against God. Candidates for baptism traditionally renounce the world, the flesh, and the devil. The world took Jesus’ measure and spit him out, stringing him up on the outskirts of the city and spitting on him. So it is good to be out of sync with the world.
---
    Decaf? It’s of course of trivial importance. But like many trivial things, there’s a sign there for me. And perhaps there’s a question there for you. Am I in sync with this world or not? And should I be? It's a real question, and it calls for discernment.
---

    Out & About. This is a “save the date”: The Fall Theology Lecture by yours truly will be given at Church of the Incarnation, Dallas, on Sunday, October 22, at 6 p.m. in the church. The topic is “What Good Is Authority?” There will be time for questions, and a reception will follow.

12...23242526272829303132 ... 4647

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."