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

Touching

 I had been told it was awkward and heavy, far too heavy, and there was no stand for it so it would have to be laid down on the steps of the chancel. It was heavy and plain: a 6x6 (or 8x8?) piece of lumber, more than seven or eight feet tall, with a cross beam insert.
    While unadorned and raw-looking, it wasn’t splintery. Three of us carried it from the back to the chancel steps. Then the other two stood behind it and held it vertically. I went to the front and bowed and kissed it.
    Slowly the people came forward, shy and hesitant, some of them, reverent, all of them. Some touched it gently, then turned aside. Others genuflected and embraced it at the foot. There were many bows, many kisses. And there were tears.
    The choir had sung a motet. And then, after some silence, a few people still to come forward, they started a hymn. “To mock your reign, O dearest Lord, they made a crown of thorns.”
    The people had finished, we three lifted it up again, and carried it over to the side, laying it on its side, leaning upon a wall. I went back to those chancel steps and forward to the bare altar. I spread a cloth and placed two chalices. The other priest now was at the step, vessels in his hands, vessels containing life set aside the night before. I placed one vessel on the cloth, and poured from the other into the chalices.
    The choir by now had finished. “They did not know, as we do now, though empires rise and fall, your Kingdom shall not cease to grow, till love embraces all.”
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    Out & About. I am teaching a two-week class on the Resurrection gospels. These stories are quite different and they have fascinating details. The classes are at 9:30 a.m. at St. Matthew’s Cathedral, 5100 Ross Ave., Dallas. The first class is Sunday, April 8.
    On Sunday, April 22, at 6 p.m., I am to give the spring theology lecture as Theologian-in-residence. It is called “Friendship: The Final Frontier.” It will be at Church of the Incarnation, 3966 McKinney Ave., Dallas, and a reception will follow.

From Palm to Refusal

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There is something strange about the Palm Sunday liturgy, but it’s not a problem in the liturgy, it’s a problem in us.

We start with palm branches, placing ourselves with the joyous, adoring crowd that welcomed Jesus into Jerusalem. That crowd spread branches of palm along his way. Instead of rolling out the red carpet for him, they improvised a green one. Call it, the people’s welcome. It’s beautiful and exciting, and we sing All glory, laud, and honor to thee, redeemer King, to whom the lips of children made sweet hosannas ring.

And then, about half an hour later, we are reading the Passion Gospel, the long story of Jesus’ arrest, his condemnation, and his crucifixion. Often this Gospel is read with different people taking different parts. The whole congregation usually takes the part of the crowd, which means we say Away with him; crucify him.

Thus, within less than an hour, we go from joyfully welcoming Jesus to calling for his death.
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I repeat, this is not a problem with the liturgy; it is in fact its design. Going through Palm Sunday makes us aware of the very short distance within us between loving Jesus and refusing him. This is our problem. Why are we like this? Why do we move so quickly from love to hate?

It’s, of course, because we are sinners that we hate. But it is because we are human that we move back and forth. Only human beings are capable of changing our minds. Angels, by contrast, are eternally fixed by their decisions. Their intelligence is higher than ours, but ours has an openness to change that they lack.

Which means—and here’s, as it were, the silver lining to the Palm Sunday cloud—not only can we move from love to hate, but we can also move from hate to love.

We will never perfectly love God, but we can ever turn back to him and love him some more.
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One of the ways Jesus saves us is by shocking us into the self-realization that the capacity to condemn him is within every human heart. The shock of that self-realization can then make us desire to be different. We can then cry out to God to save us. “I don’t want to condemn you!” one might say. And when our heart is broken, God is able to come into our heart and fix us from the inside out.
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Out & About. I am to preach at the Palm Sunday and Easter Day services at St. Matthew’s Cathedral, 5100 Ross Ave., Dallas. On both Sundays the services are at 8 a.m. and 10:30 a.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."