All Saints Day / Everyday Stewardship

Superman's_classic_pose

I remember when the first Superman movie came out. It was 1978 and it seemed quite awesome to this 10-year-old boy they were making a movie out of a comic book superhero. Nowadays, the movie landscape has completely changed. There are superhero movies being released all the time. Not only that, superhero culture is now completely in the mainstream. Everybody goes to see these movies: young and old, male and female, geeks and those from the in-crowd. It would seem that superheroes appeal to people across the board.

In the Church, our heroes are the saints. However, not many movies for wide release are being made about saints or saintly people. Many of them have lived superhero lives by embodying the Beatitudes and giving themselves completely to God, yet they remain virtually unknown to the masses. For one thing, the greatest of God’s stewards do not look different from you and me. They do not wear special suits or fly over buildings. They do not stop speeding bullets or exhibit superhuman strength. In fact, many of them have died as a result of trying to be a superhero for God. That’s not very impressive to a culture that seeks immortality in this world and sees the idea of God as a construct for the weak. Secondly, their power is not their own. All their power comes from Jesus Christ and a relationship with him and his community. That’s not so appealing to a culture that idolizes specimens of rugged individualism.

But in the end, all will know these saints. All of humanity will see God and the truth about those who have embraced the Gospel will be revealed: they were truly the real superheroes all along. I am no longer a 10-year-old boy that pretends to be Superman. Now I am a grown man who aspires to be like those saints who have gone before me, and maybe one day, God willing, my true identity as a superhero will be revealed as well.

The Layers of Fall

fall

My wife’s favorite time of year is here: FALL. She loves sweaters, the seasonal colors, falling leaves, and of course…PUMPKIN! Pumpkin anything! We did draw the line at pumpkin flavored sausage but besides that, everything seems to be fair game.

I like this season as well. Those who know me are aware of my love of cardigan sweaters. Yes, I do think of Ray’s dad on Everybody Loves Raymond, and all the other older men who wear them, but even while I can still say I am under 50, I love the feeling and look of a good cardigan. Mr. Rogers would be proud.

Some days when it is cooler you have to wear a jacket as well. Venturing into the North Carolina mountains requires many layers to keep warm and combat the elements. Then when winter comes, the layers get heavier and sometimes movement becomes limited. I am reminded of the boy in A Christmas Story that had on the big puffy coat and couldn’t move in the snow.

In our lives as Christian disciples, we put layers and layers of theology or spirituality on top of our primary relationship with Jesus. Initial layers of prayer and Church teaching are necessary to not only cultivate our initial belief or relationship with Jesus, but also to protect it. But as time goes on, we can continue to put on so many layers that it is difficult to move. We put on layers that have nothing to do with faith and more to do with our personal hangups and lack of formation. Worse than that, we forget what is really underneath it all: Jesus.

This is far to common for those who work in the Church. I can say that because over 22 years of pastoral ministry in a parish had shown me it is true. Sometimes we have so many layers of stuff that we lose our desire to pray or grow spiritually. We can no longer move due to all of the stuff that we think is important, but most of it has nothing to do with the Good News of Jesus Christ.

This Fall, enjoy your sweaters and pumpkin spice lattes. But be careful as the cold of winter approaches. Don’t cover up too much that which is most important. Keep the Main Thing the Main Thing. And if you forget and go out with so much on that falling in the snow means you can’t get up, let some of the rest of us push you back up into a standing position. That’s one reason why the Body of Christ exists in the first place.

HAPPY AUTUMN!