Brew Beer Like Jesus?

St.Arnoldus.jpg

Arnold of Soissons AD1040–AD1087. Patron saint of brewers and hop-pickers. 

When we celebrate All Saints Day, we remember all those who have been faithful to Jesus throughout their lives. Why do we celebrate? Because all those who believe in Christ are still alive with him and therefore are still part of his church. They still worship together with us! The author of Hebrews encourages us to imagine those who have gone before us surrounding us and cheering us on to finish running the race that they have already completed before us. "Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us (Heb 12:1)."

The saints that have gone before us also help us understand what it means to be like Christ. Jesus is the perfect image of God and he shows us how we ought to live in this world. But Jesus was sent for a specific purpose (or profession, if you will). He was sent to die for our sins and atone for the world. That mission was unique to Jesus. God has given us other callings. But this raises some questions. What does it look like to be Christ-like in the workforce? What does it look like to be like Jesus as a mother raising children? What does it look like to brew beer like Jesus?

The saints help us answer these questions by demonstrating in real life, through the power of the Holy Spirit, Christ-likeness in a variety of places, times, and callings.

Arnold, was a Benedictine monk who founded the Abbey of St. Peter in Oudenburg, Belgium. He brewed what is known as "small beer" in the abbey along with fellow monks. Small beer is low in alcohol and high in nutritious yeast. The boiling necessary to make the beer frees it from harmful bacteria. We must remember that Arnold lived before germ theory so no one knew about germs yet. But Arnold, moved by God's spirit, encouraged the poor in Oudenburg to not drink water but rather drink the healthful small beer. He also taught the villagers how to make beer for themselves. When plague ravaged nearby towns, all the inhabitants of Oudenburg were miraculously spared. God worked a miracle through Arnold's beer making!

So can you brew beer like Jesus? Yes you can. And in each of our various callings we can strive be like St. Arnold and therefore like Christ. Whatever God has given you to do, do it for the love of God and neighbor, and see what miracles God works through you!
 
Peace,
The Rev. Kurt Hein

Forgiveness Not Tolerance


Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. - Ephesians 4:32

How do I forgive someone when they have done something very wrong to me? This good question reveals a cultural misunderstanding of what it means to forgive. Forgiveness is not ignoring an offense, or tolerating something or someone that has hurt you. Forgiveness is not pretending that something bad didn’t happen, nor is it saying, “It’s really not that big of a deal.” In short, forgiveness is not tolerance. Here are three ways that make forgiveness different. 

First, forgiveness is truthful. The first step of forgiveness is a clear and honest assessment of the wrong committed. Forgiveness looks the wrong squarely in the face and affirms that it is sinful, and harmful. Now we must be careful to judge a deed according to God’s standard in Scripture and not simply by how we feel. But unlike tolerance, forgiveness does not tolerate evil. Forgiveness speaks truthfully about sin and the wreckage it creates. 

Secondly, forgiveness is to “let loose.” Forgiveness means that even though I was hurt by this action, I choose to not hold onto feelings of bitterness or hatred.  Unlike tolerance, forgiveness does not mean that I must trust a person or allow them to hurt me again. Instead forgiveness makes the hard, and difficult choice of choosing to bless our enemy instead of curse them. Every time hatred or bitterness arises in the heart, forgiveness chooses to give those feelings up to God in prayer and “let them loose” to Him. 

Thirdly, forgiveness is love. We tolerate what we hate or dislike. I don’t like kale, but my wife does, so I tolerate it. God does not call us to tolerate our enemies but to love them. Forgiveness is how we express love to our enemies. Therefore there is more to Christian forgiveness than letting go of negative feelings. Scripture calls us to make a positive move of love toward those who have hurt us. The simplest way to do this is to pray for their blessing. In prayer, God will often reveal another way that we can show love. In 2006 a gunman massacred five Amish schoolchildren in their one room schoolhouse in Lancaster County, PA. He then turned the gun on himself. How did the Amish community respond? As they were burying their five murdered children, they began to raise money to help support the newly widowed woman and orphaned children of the deceased gunman. That is the supernatural love of Christ!

Unlike tolerance, forgiveness is difficult work that takes time and prayer. Furthermore it is impossible without the power of Christ’s Holy Spirit. Let us continue to pray for his grace and mercy to forgive others as he has forgiven us.

Peace,
The Rev. Kurt Hein

God's Mountain (Repentance)

You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands. - Isaiah 55:12 (NIV)

In my experience, nothing in nature sings the praises of God as beautifully as mountains. Anna and I visited Colorado for our honeymoon and we both agree that the majesty of the Colorado mountains nourishes the soul. The mountains stand tall yet stable, lifting high into the clouds, their jagged rock peaks salted with beautiful white snow. In the presence of their beauty and grandeur you become lost. For a blissful moment, you are drawn away from thinking about self into the immensity of creation. It is a glimpse of God. A glance of the great Artist that painted this world.

We often think of repentance as primarily something we do. We think of it as a choice that we make. While we do make a choice when we turn away from our sins and follow Jesus, that’s not the deeper truth. The alluring power of the crucified Christ turns us from sin toward God. Like the beauty of mountains moves us away from self into another greater reality, the beauty of Love turns us from selfishness and draws us up into Love Himself. 

This reality is highly practical. When our love for God and others grows cold, and old sinful habits start to rear their ugly head again, we need to realize that simply fighting sin is not sufficient. Yes fight the sin, but do so through the power of the cross. Read the Gospels again. Spend time in quiet, meditating on what God did for you on Mount Calvary. Gaze upon Christian art that depicts the crucified Christ. Take the holy Sacrament. Put yourself in the presence of the majestic mountain of God’s love, of Mount Zion, our heavenly home. It is through the cross that we live victoriously. In the words of Bernard of Clairvaux:

What language shall I borrow
To thank Thee, dearest Friend,
For this, Thy dying sorrow,
Thy pity without end?
Oh, make me thine forever!
And should I fainting be,
Lord, let me never, never,
Outlive my love for Thee.

Peace,

Father Kurt

Radicalized Christians

After the recent mass shooting in Orlando, there has been a renewed rise in discourse surrounding “radical” religion. With all of the talk about radical Islamic terror, we can begin to feel that the problem is found in being too radical. If the problem is being radical then the solution to this senseless violence must be moderation. After all doesn’t the common proverb say, “In all things moderation?” The not so subtle message is, “Don’t take your religion too seriously. Be moderate and everything will be OK.”

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines radical as, “very different from the usual or traditional:  extreme.” If being a Christian means anything then it means following Christ. What does Christ require of his followers? “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me (Matt 16:24).” Christ’s call to discipleship is a call to complete self sacrifice. It is a call to death. In this respect, the call of Christ is very similar to the call of radical Islam. We are both called to die for our God.

However, we find the crucial difference in the goal of our radical extremism. This difference becomes markedly manifest upon a comparative study of the lives of Muhammad and Jesus. Jesus, through his life and actions, clearly and consistently taught the fundamental principle of a God pleasing life. Simply put, the radical calling of the Christian life is to love to the death. And that radical love knows no bounds or limitations, such that Jesus taught and demonstrated in his death on the cross, “Love your enemies. Bless those that curse you (Matt 5:44).” In fact, each one of us were enemies of God when he chose to die on the cross for us.

The center of the Christian faith is a radical Love to the death. We should not run from the label of “radical extremist” because our extremism is the only balm strong enough to heal those forms of extremism in the world that are bent on violence. Moderation is fool’s gold, providing no enduring solution.

How do we live out our Christian extremism? In this moment we are called to radical love in word and deed. Even though we disagree with their lifestyle, we are called to love those who have been traumatized and deeply wounded by the events of the last week. If the Holy Spirit is in us, he will turn our hearts to have compassion on those who are hurting and to weep with those who weep. Whether we agree with someone’s lifestyle is quite beyond the point. If Christ died for them (and he did), then we love them too. 

However, our extremism doesn’t stop there. Remember, God’s love has no bounds or limitations. The Holy Spirit also turns our heart to love the radical Islamic extremist. It appears that this poor man was caught between his confused sexuality and a religion that only provided him with rules and consequences but not with the unconditional love and forgiveness that only Jesus can give. How I wish that Omar Mateen had found himself forgiven at the feet of Jesus! And like the woman in our Gospel lesson on Sunday (Luke 7:36-8:3), experienced the joy of his guilt completely released and his body re-purposed toward radical love instead of sin. As Christ’s disciples we are called to bring that message to others who may be in a situation similar to Omar.

So through the events of this week, do not let seeds of hatred be sown in your heart. But rather embrace the radical message of Jesus. Be a love extremist. And find ways, through word and deed to demonstrate that love to all. The radical love of Christ is this broken world’s only true hope.

Peace,

Father Kurt Hein

What is a Collect???

orans_catacomb2.jpg

You may have noticed that we pray something every Sunday called “The Collect.” What is a collect? Are we collecting something? And what are we collecting anyway?

Well, first off, let’s get the pronunciation right. It’s pronounced 'kä-likt or 'kä-lekt. Think baby colic but with a “t” at the end. This type of prayer “collects” the prayers of the people together and offers them to God. It has a unique format that has been used by the Western church for hundreds of years.

You can break a collect down into five component parts. Sometimes a collect may be missing one or two of the parts. I call these parts the five A’s of a collect: Address, Acknowledge, Ask, Application, Amen.

Address - Who are we praying to? Like sending an email, our prayer needs an address. If you send it to the wrong address, don't expect the right answer.

Acknowledge - What is true about God? Prayer is an act of worship and God is exalted when we declare what is true about him. God's character is the whole reason we are praying to him in the first place.

Ask - What do we want? You are praying, right? Prayer is verbal faith because prayer puts words to what we trust God to provide for us. As long as you have breath you need air. And as long as you have needs, you have reasons to pray.

Application - What are we going to do with what God gives us? This part traditionally begins with the words "in order that." God gives to us and that gift changes us, causing us to act differently. We are blessed to be a blessing. What are we going to do with God's answer to this prayer?

Amen - Why should God listen? It is only through the work of Jesus on the cross that we can come before God with such boldness. That's why collects traditionally end with "through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen" Amen comes from Latin, which got it from Greek, which got it from Aramaic, which got it from Hebrew. It means "so be it" or "this is true."

Here’s the collect we prayed at Pentecost, with each part labeled:

(1) Almighty God, (2) on this day you opened the way of eternal life to every race and nation by the promised gift of your Holy Spirit: (3) Shed abroad this gift throughout the world by the preaching of the Gospel, (4) that it may reach to the ends of the earth; (5) through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

I have taken to writing down some of my deepest and most frequent prayers in the format of a collect. I would suggest you give it a try. Start with your prayer need and work backward. What about God is true that makes you want to ask him for this need? What are you going to do when God answers this prayer? I think you will find that writing down your prayer will bring a clarity and beauty to your prayer life that you may not have experienced before. 

Peace,

Father Kurt Hein