Post Landfall Hurricane Update

{Updated on October 8 at 9:13 PM in bold}
With all six of Georgia’s coastal counties still under mandatory evacuation and officials urging those who have remained to stay in place so that emergency crews can clean up the debris left in the wake of Hurricane Matthew, the Diocesan House is receiving informal reports on various properties. While no churches have been inspected fully, we have received word that Christ Church Savannah, St. Paul’s Savannah, St. Michael and All Angels Savannah, St. Luke’s Rincon, St. Elizabeth’s Richmond Hill, St. Thomas’ Isle of Hope, St. Peter’s Savannah, St. Mark’s Brunswick, St. Andrew’s and St. Cyprian’s Churches Darien, and St. Patrick’s, Pooler all look to have sustained little or no damage. 

 
Despite the storm, four of our 24 coastal churches do have services scheduled:  
St. Luke’s, Rincon at 9:40 AM
St. Michael and All Angels, Savannah at 10:30 AM
The Church of St. Paul the Apostle, Savannah, said Mass at 10 AM
Christ Church St. Mary’s, 10 AM
St. Luke’s Rincon, 9:30 AM
King of Peace, Kingsland 8:30 and 10 AM
Community of St. Joseph, Savannah breakfast at 8 AM and worship at 9 AM
 
Most churches on the coast will not be holding services tomorrow, including: 
All Saints, Tybee Island
St. Andrew’s and St. Cyprian’s, Darien
St. Thomas’ Isle of Hope
St. Matthew’s, Savannah
St. John’s, Savannah
St. Francis of the Islands, Savannah
St. Peter’s, Savannah
St. Patrick’s, Pooler
St. Mark’s, Simon’s Island
Christ Church Frederica, St. Simon’s Island
St. Elizabeth’s, Richmond Hill
Christ Church, Savannah 
St. Mark’s, Woodbine
Holy Nativity, St. Simon’s Island
St. George’s, Savannah
St. Richard’s, Jekyll Island
St. Athanasius, Brunswick
These lists will be updated as we receive more information but also check the church’s website and Facebook page. If you have news to add to this, please contact Anna Iredale, Director of Communications, airedale@gaepiscopal.org.
 
Let us pray:
Almighty God, who stilled the raging sea and saved your disciples perishing in a storm, we give thanks for your presence with us in the midst of Hurricane Matthew. We pray for all working to make way for evacuees to return home, and we remember those killed by the storm and those who mourn. Help us to be ever mindful that it is in you we hope and find peace even in the midst of the storms of this life, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
-Canon Frank Logue
 

Hurricane Matthew Update

With Hurricane Matthew now moving past the Georgia coast, here are the latest updates:

Contacting the Diocesan Staff
With Chatham County still under a mandatory evacuation, Diocesan House remains closed at least through Monday, October 10. Emails will be monitored and responded to as conditions permit. We lost access to the gaepiscopal.org emails in the storm. If you need to contact us, email Canon Frank Logue (frankslogue@gmail.com) and Canon Katie Willoughby (katie.mkw@gmail.com) through their gmail addresses.

Reaching Out
If you would like to help with disaster relief in Haiti and other areas that may be affected by the storm, please visit Episcopal Relief and Development and make a donation.

Let us pray
Almighty God, who calmed the storm tossing the disciples’ boat, calm the fears that beset us as we await Hurricane Matthew: Grant us the peace that comes from you alone as we sit with the uncertainty of evacuation and in fear of damage to our homes and our communities, draw us ever closer to you, and give us the grace to comfort and aid others in need; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord. Amen.

Prayer for Travelers
O God, our heavenly Father, whose glory fills the whole creation, and whose presence we find wherever we go: Preserve those who travel during the storm; surround them with your loving care; protect them from every danger; and bring them in safety to their journey’s end; through Jesus Christ out Lord. Amen.
The Book of Common Prayer

 

Preparations for Hurricane Matthew

With Georgia in the path of Hurricane Matthew, and its status now a Category 4, the diocesan office advises the following:

1) Take any necessary precautions for the safety of yourselves and property. If you have a Disaster Preparedness Plan, put it in place. If you do not, review the communication from the Disaster Preparedness Coordinators here for protocols.

2) Go to Episcopal Relief and Development’s Asset Map (here)
and ensure that the information related to your parish is complete and updated.

3) Create a photo and video inventory of all property; put important documents on the Cloud, and secure valuables and files in a waterproof and fireproof location. Back up all computers and important files.

4) In the event that the storm impacts Sunday services, be prepared to hold Sunday services in an alternate location and prepare a Communion kit and a plan to communicate with the parish.

5) If your parish is covered under insurance provided by the Church Pension Group, here is the number to submit a claim: (800) 223-5705 and the link to their website:  .

6) Stay current on emergency information through Chatham County Emergency Management (here) or the Georgia Emergency Management website (here)

In the event of a voluntary or mandatory evacuation, the Diocesan House will close. A status of the office will be posted to our Facebook page. In the case of emergency, please reach out to Canon Logue (912)547-5648 or Canon Willoughby (912)441-1220 directly by their cell numbers. You can also reach our Diocesan Disaster Coordinators the Rev. Charles Todd (912)441-9027 and the Rev. Jim Parker (912)604-4330. In addition, the staff will have access to email remotely and can be reached.

Let us keep our sisters and brothers in the path of the hurricane in our prayers, as well as our own community.

 

Parental Leave Policy for the Diocese of Georgia

Diocesan Council unanimously approved the following Parental Leave Policy for the Diocese of Georgia at its meeting on October 1, 2016 at St. Paul’s, Albany.

Parental Leave Policy for the Diocese of Georgia

A member of the clergy or full-time lay employee who has been employed by the church for at least one full year and is the designated “primary child-care parent” is entitled to leave for the birth or adoption of a child for a minimum of eight weeks with pay. Up to eight additional weeks may be taken without pay. The member of the clergy or full-time lay employee may elect to use vacation leave or sick leave during this latter period.

Coverage under benefits will continue during Parental Leave as set by Letters of Agreement, such as, but not limited to health insurance.

A member of the clergy or full-time lay employee who has been employed by the church for at least one full year and is the “non-primary-care parent” is entitled to leave for the birth or adoption of a child for a minimum of two weeks with pay and up to ten additional weeks without pay.

A member of the clergy or full-time lay employee employed by the church for less than one full year is entitled to the same number of weeks leave. Pay during this period is negotiated between the church and the member of the clergy or full-time lay employee.

Upon return from Parental Leave, an employee will be restored to his or her prior position, or to a position with equivalent pay, benefits, and other terms and conditions of employment, provided that an employee has no greater right to reinstatement or to other benefits and conditions of employment than if the employee had been continuously employed during Leave period, such as, but not limited to lay-off, re-structuring or conduct subject to disciplinary action.

 

Policy on Alcohol use in the Diocese of Georgia

  • Diocesan Council unanimously approved the following Alcohol Policy for the Diocese of Georgia at its meeting on October 1, 2016 at St. Paul’s, Albany.

Policy on Alcohol use in the Diocese of Georgia

  1. The Church seeks to provide a safe and welcoming environment for all people, including people in recovery from substance abuse and addiction.
  2. All applicable federal, state and local laws shall be obeyed, including those governing the serving of alcoholic beverages to minors.
  3. Some congregations may decide not to serve alcohol at events or gatherings. Others may decide to permit the responsible use of alcoholic beverages at church-sponsored events.
  4. Alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages must be clearly labeled as such. Food prepared with alcohol does not need to be labeled provided the alcohol is completely evaporated by the cooking process; however, it is recommended that even in this case the use of alcohol in cooking be noted on a label.
  5. Whenever alcohol is served, appealing non-alcoholic alternatives must be offered with equal prominence and accessibility.
  6. The serving of alcoholic beverages at church events should not be publicized as an attraction of the event, e.g. “wine and cheese reception,” “cocktail party,” and “beer and wine tasting.”
  7. Ministries inside or outside of congregations will make certain that alcohol consumption is not the focus of the ministry and that drinking alcohol is not an exclusively normative activity.
  8. Food must be served when alcohol is available for consumption.
  9. Reasonable measures shall be taken to prevent service of alcohol to persons who are visibly intoxicated and to prevent any such persons from leaving the premises while operating a motor vehicle including such measures as providing transportation home.
  10. Whenever alcohol is served, those persons having oversight of the event must appoint an adult to oversee its serving. That adult must not drink alcoholic beverages during the time of his or her execution of his or her responsibilities.
  11. No distilled spirits shall be served on church property, except at non-church events for which caterers have obtained the required license to serve distilled spirits. If the church owns a rectory or vicarage, then this does not apply to that dwelling.
  12. Serving alcoholic beverages at congregational events where minors are present is discouraged. If minors are present, alcohol must be served at a separate station that is monitored at all times to prevent underage drinking.
  13. Groups or organizations sponsoring any activity or event on church property at which alcoholic beverages are served must have permission from the clergy or the vestry. Such groups or organizations are responsible for compliance with this policy.
  14. Alcoholic beverages shall not be served when the business of the Church is being conducted.
  15. Clergy shall consecrate an appropriate amount of wine when celebrating the Eucharist and perform ablutions in a way that does not foster or model misuse.
  16. Clergy are encouraged to acknowledge the efficacy of receiving the sacrament in one kind and consider providing non-alcoholic wine when appropriate to the liturgy, such as a 12-Step Eucharist.

This policy is not intended to create any duties owed to third parties or to represent any standard of care, but reflects this diocese’s concern for the spiritual health and welfare of our communities.

 

Requiem Eucharist Set for the Rev. Reginald Gunn

A Requiem Eucharist will be held Saturday, October 8 at 1 PM for the Rev. Reginald Gunn who died Saturday, September 24th while in hospice care.

Born in Tifton, Georgia in 1940, he graduated from the University of Georgia and Seabury Western Seminary  and was ordained in 1965–the same year he married Mary Lu. Gunn served several parishes and missions in Cochran, Douglas, Albany, Savannah and Americus in the Diocese of Georgia as well as in Baton Rouge, Louisiana before retiring as rector of Calvary Church in Americus, Georgia. He celebrated the 50th anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood at St. Patrick’s Church, Albany earlier this year.

In addition to his wife, he is survived by his son Richard S., daughter Heather G. Haskell, son-in-law Glenn Haskell, his brother, Martin S., and Sister-in-law Josephine, and three grandchildren.

A memorial service will also be held at Calvary Church in Americus with the date and time to be announced at a later date.

May the souls of the faithful departed rest in peace.

The following is a remembrance by the Rt. Rev. Harry W. Shipps:

REGINALD RICHARD GUNN
1940 – 2016

“The Lord giveth. The Lord taketh away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.”

As years go by, and friends and loved ones depart this life, we as Christians can say these words with faith and confidence, for we know that nothing breaks the bonds of love, just as nothing can separate us from the love of God.  In faith and hope, we ourselves anticipate “that Great Last Day.”

Reginald, devoted priest and faithful son of the Diocese of Georgia. Loyal Scotsman, Chaplain Clan Gunn Society of North America! Eternal rest now has come to our friend and companion on the Way. He suffered courageously through a difficult illness, and now rests in peace eternal in the Community of Saints. “Happy are they who die in the Lord. So it is, says the Spirit, for they rest from their labors.”

Reginald loved ministry and served his people well. I knew and loved him for many years as friend and bishop. His happy nature and cheerfulness, his ever-present sense of humor always will fill my memory. I know he is waiting to delight me with yet another wonderful, witty story! Let us hope there are Scottish games in heaven.

Father Gunn was born in Tifton, Georgia in 1940, graduated from Seabury Western Seminary, and married his sweetheart Mary Lu in 1965. Ordained the same year by Bishop Stuart, Father Gunn served several parishes and missions in the Diocese of Georgia before retiring as rector of Calvary, Americus, Georgia. He and Mary Lu enjoyed recent years at their retirement home in the hills of North Georgia. In a local parish several months ago, surrounded by family and friends, Father Gunn celebrated with great joy the 50th anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood.

We pray to God the Father that Christ’s Eucharistic sacrifice may be unto us the gateway to eternal life. Into this life our friend Reginald now has entered, and we remember these words of strength and comfort from the Book of Revelation:

“He who sits upon the throne will shelter them with his presence. They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them into springs of living water; and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”

Reginald, may you rest in peace and rise in glory. Amen

+HW Shipps

 

 

Registration Opens for Diocese of Georgia’s Convention

Lead, Grow and Share at the 195th Convention of the Episcopal Diocese of Georgia November 10-12, 2016 at the Church of the Good Shepherd in Augusta. Vote on important diocesan issues; attend workshops to help build your church; learn about exciting projects of the Campaign for Congregational Development, and gather in worship as a diocese.

The convention registration fee covers the cost of production; excellent coffee along with a full breakfast on Friday and Saturday morning; a catered lunch on Friday, and the Friday evening banquet.

The diocesan staff is looking forward to the 195th Convention of the Episcopal Diocese of Georgia!

Go here to register!

For a video featuring Canon for Administration Katie Willoughby on how to register, go here. 

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Fall 2016 Clergy Conference

The Diocese of Georgia’s Fall 2016 Clergy Conference will be held from 5 PM Sunday, September 25 until Tuesday, September 27 at 3 PM at Honey Creek, the diocese’ Retreat Center in Waverly, Georgia.

Join your fellow deacons and priests from around the Diocese as we consider how to connect younger generations to the Body of Christ. The Rt. Rev. Anne Hodges-Copple, Bishop Diocesan Pro Tempore of North Carolina, will be our conference presenter for the Fall Clergy Conference. In addition to working in parish ministry, she was the Episcopal chaplain to Duke University for more than a decade. She will share with the clergy of the Diocese in how to engage in effective young adult ministry.

For information and to register go here.

 

Upcoming Gospel for September 4


Not Comfort Food, an Acquired Taste

The Cost of Discipleship
A Reflection on the Gospel for September 4, 2016
Luke 14: 25-33

by David Somerville

Image result for Ellen Gould WhiteProlific author and American Christian pioneer, Ellen Gould White, held the conviction that “God requires his people to shine as lights in the world.” These are the words of a spiritual giant whose theology led to the development of the conservative Protestant denomination, the Seventh Day Adventist Church. This is interesting. But what has that to do with us? We are not Adventists. We are Episcopalians. Or are we Adventists? The answer will evolve as I invite you, Dear Reader, to explore what’s involved with discipleship.

So who are the Seventh Day Adventists? They are one of the many sects born of the American Great Awakening in the 1840’s. Their members are committed to a literal interpretation of the Bible, especially those parts of the Old Testament concerning the Sabbath, the day before Jesus’ resurrection, as the proper day of weekly worship. These spiritual brothers and sisters of ours, who love the same messiah we do, have a commendable heritage of healthy eating habits as an important obligation of Christian discipleship. Their rigorous discipline and commitment to the well being of the whole person is reflected by the comfort and satisfaction reported by patients who receive care in their hospitals.

Ellen White was inspired by a visionary idea that recurs periodically in the waves of revivalism that is distinctly American. Many of these conservative evangelicals identify with a historic speech by John Winthrop aboard the ship Arbella, bound for the New England colonies in 1630. The idea was that, through their recovered orthodoxy, the Puritans would be “…as a city upon a hill, [with] the eyes of all people…upon us.” They imagined a new nation that would be “exceptional.” But this idea was rather different from the kinds of exceptionalism we see practiced today. Much of today’s exceptionalism is used to justify an attitude of militant superiority over the cultures of the Old World. Today’s ideas on the subject are popular among both social progressives and neoconservatives. They have a strong relationship to the coming presidential election in November.

As I see it, as a member of America’s piece of the world-wide Anglican communion, we have a challenge that comes to us in the Gospel for this coming Sunday that resonates with Ellen White’s conviction. We too are called to be a people who are to “shine as lights to the world.” So then, Seventh Day Adventists are adventists. Are we?

White’s original vision was inspired, but an inspired vision is always a product of the time that brought it into being. Subsequent generations of disciples living in different times and circumstances tend to “freeze” the dynamism of a founder’s creativity and make the original work into a series of rigid, petrified, wooden idols. Other examples of this are what happened to some of the work of Martin Luther and John Calvin. Their writings have been frozen by lesser scribes into rigid fellowships which attempt to preserve the genius of their founder with their hardened “improvements.”

The canon of the New Testament is a living carrier of the eternal, dynamic Word of God. This we believe. It is, perhaps, through the flawed management of their existential anxiety, that some would “petrify” a valued inspiration by containerizing it in order for it to fit onto the shelves of their heads! To do that is the futile vanity of putting a sunbeam into a Mason jar.

In the past, I have struggled with this discipleship passage from Luke, and have done no better by doing the opposite of the above—devising a container that fits my mental shelf. I have caught myself in the act of taking an uncompromising proclamation of Christ, and then, softening the canonical piece with “emotional tenderizer.”

It was my assumption that as a preacher, I would need to come up with something that is both easy for my listeners to digest, and profitable for me to deliver as well. After all without packaging the product attractively, how could I sell it? And if I did not do that, who would buy it? It is too disturbing. Then after thinking this way, I was ashamed because I was left with the suspicion that I would not work for Jesus because I fear him to be either a tyrant, or simply crazy! I would not pass muster either as his disciple or, for that matter, as a conscientious Seventh Day Adventist.

How dare I allow myself to go this way after hearing this piece of the Good News of God? What would my peers, the supervising chaplain, who for a part of my time in the army, was a Seventh Day Adventist? And what would my bishop think? A colleague once tried to help. She pointed out that even Jesus’ own family members had some doubts about him. She reminded me of chapters two and three of St. Mark’s Gospel. Mark reports of some things Jesus said and did that drew disruptive crowds, so even the members of his own family began to wonder if Jesus was indeed out of his mind. So if Jesus’ family had this impression, then maybe I should not be so hard on myself for wondering about the man’s mental status.

How we, who wrestle honestly with our faith and doubt, might assess the mental state of Jesus could lead to any number of hypotheses about it! But the fact of the matter here is that none of the above has anything to do with the cause of my bother about this report from Saint Luke’s Gospel. It has to do with the English translation of the New Testament Greek verb, to “hate,” μισέω (miseo) in the sentence, “Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and …, yes, even life itself, cannot be my disciple.” The use of this word is hyperbolic, not literal.

It is the kind of point-making exaggeration that one is likely to find in the writing style of the first century CE. It is as if the author were saying, “the love of my family is real and natural, of course, but pales in comparison to the value I place on my love of Christ and the cross he bids me to take on as my own”. He might add, “Of course, my family thinks I’m as crazy as Jesus, but that is their problem. I love them anyway.”

So how much does discipleship really cost? That is the question that remains. The answer is as simple as it is rationally incomprehensible. It costs me everything I am and everything I have by which I define myself, having been formed by the culture into which I was born. In a word, it is all the things I strive for and think I must have to feel valued and respected. This includes, mea culpa, renouncing my access to people I enjoy ridiculing. I confess that I have enjoyed the company of my like-minded cronies laughing at certain anxious literalists that I don’t believe know how to read and really think. I remember, for instance, laughing about a young man who told me in all seriousness that “Homosexuality is a sin! I have repented and been baptized; so, therefore, I am not a homosexual.”

My laughter about him was just one expression of my proud snootiness. In my struggle to pay the cost of discipleship, Jesus calls me to “pawn” this cocktail party fun so that I can (in parable language) raise the spiritual funds for the sacrifice of becoming an authentic disciple. God wants me to let go of the cronies I’m comfortable with so I can spend more time with, and be a light to, the man I laughed at because of his flawed skills in basic logic. Yecchh!

Well! Okay. Discipleship is a profoundly good and righteous thing, but it is definitely something with an acquired taste that can be better enjoyed after some years of practice. The good thing about the cost of discipleship is that the down payment is negotiable in prayer, and it is something that involves bearable installment plans.

To go back now for a final look at the inspired thought of Ellen White, what can we appreciate? For me it is the real believability that God is calling us to raise the funds to pay the costs of our discipleship, and that means to come out of the shadows of our old habits and “… shine as lights in the world” where there is a lot of stupid darkness not to be laughed at, but compassionately protested. Moreover this need is for all baptized Christians embrace.

As we join forces with other Christians, keeping our disciplined installments of worship and service current, we will be living out the words, “Thy Kingdom come.” (But let us, of course, avoid using the counterfeit currency of works righteousness.) Then we will be a people for Jesus, building the highway for his advent, and our society as a church within our country will come to be the city of light upon a hill—not as compulsively doctrinaire sectarians, nor as American chauvinists who preach a pugnacious nationalism. Ours is a higher calling. It is one of the courage and love that rises above the dark idea that America must defend itself against hordes of the unfortunate peoples whose language is not ours. If we have a “manifest destiny’ it is to be a city of light, not a fortress on a hill to bring people in, not keep them out. The bottom line on this meditation is my very imperfect, but evolving conviction that we are a society of servants perpetually ready with our lamps in the night — Adventists of a different but ancient kind!

 

Upcoming Gospel for August 28

The Curious Way
Good Comes Up; Bad Goes Down
A Reflection on the Gospel for August 28, 2016

by David Somerville

Soon after I received my commission as a chaplain in the army, I was sent with my fellow battalion members, to participate in their field maneuvers by visiting the soldiers while they dug their fox holes.

Being a little uncertain about what was to be achieved, I was making the rounds anyway to visit the men. It was a frustrating day from my limited perspective with a desk full of unfinished paperwork back at headquarters and a sermon to write. But the commander was adamant.

He wanted a daily briefing on troop morale —especially in the February sleet at the foot of Mount Rainier.

My ponderings that day were interrupted as I heard a small group of Pfc’s and E-4’s with their comedian/sergeant singing at the bottom of a slushy ravine. Sergeant Bill Goofnoff (obviously not his real name!) was conducting a quartet using his latrine spade as a baton.

It sounded like bluegrass. He did not know I was coming. The men battling the boredom of the day were crooning together, “Drop kick me Jesus through the goal-posts of life, end over end, neither left nor the right….

“Hey, guys,” stage-whispered one of the troops. “Shut up. It’s the chaplain!”

To relieve their embarrassment, I said with tongue-in-cheek, “I had no idea you guys were so talented! You should consider joining the chapel chorus!” I was being affectionately sarcastic. None of these ersatz choirboys had any idea of where the chapel was, nor had they ever expressed any interest in finding out!

What was striking about this incident was that it happened while I was going about a task, following the commander’s order—to assess troop morale, and then update him at 1700 hours (5 P.M.) every day. My action was simply intentional. I knew what I was told to do—function as a staff advisor. What Sargent Goofnoff was doing was the actual work of improving the men’s morale, by caring for their attitudes. But there was something about the old soldier that was not directly intentional at all. He, as he always was, ready for a hearty laugh. Goofnoff was doing what he had done all his adult life — including two tours in Viet Nam — making do with a life with so much meaningless nonsense in it. He was making the lives of his anxious, alienated young men more bearable. Goofnoff was giving them the kind of spiritual nurture that strengthened them without compromising their dignity. There were some younger lieutenants and captains that suspected that the man was disrespectful and that Goofnoff was a goof-off. They were mistaken.

Sergeant Goofnoff was not a theologian. He, who never talked— to my knowledge at least— about his personal relationship with Jesus, was doing something more spiritual than I was—by using laughter to spot the absurdity of anything that involved the inconvenience of form without useful function. Through this unspoken philosophy, Goofnoff was leading his people on a daily exodus from the misery of their attitudes, which, if not dealt with, could have ruined the esprit de corps of his organization. That negative spirituality was stuff Goofnoff knew well. Much of his acquaintance with it came from his own life—which included staying sober while away from his Twelve-step meetings in order to cooperate with a meaningless field exercise, designed by a lieutenant colonel who wanted to impress the general with his tactical expertise.

Sergeant Goofnoff had a salty quality of compassion borne of his recovering from addiction and traumatic memories of Viet Nam. They were the basis for both his affection and empathy. With his emotional baggage converted into a tool of wisdom, Goofnoff was overcoming both his, and his platoons’ anger issues about their meaningless labors. They could not understand how the “higher-up’s” were excited about some new theory on how to neutralize the OPFOR (Opposing Forces). All they suspected was that some of these field grade officers had hopes of gaining career promotion points. Goofnoff certainly acknowledged the need for combat training, but his major concerns involved his men’s welfare. For instance: What are the risks of CWI (Cold Weather Injury), and how can that be minimized? How about the timely delivery of hot meals from the cantonment dining facility?

Sometimes field orders would change without warning from the TOC (Tactical Operations Center). Then the dining facility staff with their truck full of hot meals would not be able to find Goofnoff’s re-located platoon. Those are just a few of the constantly moving concerns that cluttered Sergeant Goofnoff’s life.

While all of that was going on day-to-day, Sergeant Goofnoff kept his crew laughing, and as he did so, he sabotaged his platoon’s negative feelings— not by attacking these demons directly, but by surprising them through something like an unguarded back door. In another manner of speaking, the men with their stubborn, emotional maturity issues were being “fooled”, not “pushed”, into a different attitude toward their circumstances—as if the back door of grumpy stubbornness were poorly secured.

I believe that Sergeant Goofnoff was effective in the emotional leadership of his men because he did not know, strictly speaking, what he was doing. He was just doing it. How else could I describe Goofnoff’s salty grace? Well, on a theological level, it could be suggested that he was a vessel of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit was working through him behind the scenes of both his and his people’s conscious awareness. On a psychological level, it was a variation of what existential psychotherapist, Viktor Frankl (†1997), did with his patients who suffered from self-defeating behavior, especially social anxietiy and irrational phobias. He also believed that certain other intangibles are inhibited by these adjustment problems.

Things like happiness, or success, for example, remain for these people out of reach until a change of attitude happens. Frankl taught that new attitudes can be allowed to“happen” if they are set up to “happen” inadvertently. The question is, what are the conditions that have to be in place for the therapist’s client to discover that he is freed from his trouble?

Dr. Frankl used to tell of a scholar who had to deliver his findings in a research paper before a university audience of his peers. The scholar’s problem was his stage-fright. Somehow Frankl talked his patient into walking up to the dais, and then begin his paper by saying. “I know that this is irrelevant to the subject at hand, but I have this ridiculous fear of public speaking! Would you please bear with me on that? I have this idiotic idea in my head that all of you are conspiring to make me stutter!” There was a sympathetic chuckle from a few in the audience. The scholar did not stutter, and the phobia vanished, never to return. Dr. Frankl’s patient used his technique of paradoxical intention.

The story of how Jesus observed the status-seeking behavior of the leading Pharisee’s guests led him to tell a parable. In his easy-to-visualize scenario Jesus challenges both the host and his guests to reverse their customary habits. It was everybody’s assumption there that God values more the lives of those who achieve great levels of prestigious prominence. Jesus knocks over this paradigm by teaching that the truly faithful soul is one that has the courage and discipline to act in a manner comparable to Viktor Frankl’s technique of paradoxical intention. The easiest way to explain how this works is to use another parable image slightly different from the one that Jesus used, but more compatible to us whose culture is contemporary Western, rather than that of the first century middle east.

So, then, let us “fast-forward” ourselves to the post-war baby-boom decade of the 1950’s. They were the years when fallow fields were becoming Levittown developments, and the gable-roofed schools with clapboard belfries were scuttled for sprawling, flat-roofed “consolidated” schools. These larger buildings typically had parking spaces for thirty or more buses.

One after another of the homes in these neighborhoods were of the same plan—three or four bedrooms, one bath, (and maybe an extra bath in the deluxe model). An unhealthy kind of competitiveness began to effect the people living in this modern milieu. It was in the one-upmanship of appearances expressed in coveting all the durable goods advertised through those boxy round-tube televisions.

Each house had a car in its garage — mostly two-toned Chevy’s, Fords, or Plymouths. But then there was that occasional family with the Cadillac or Chrysler with the bigger tail fins! They were the so-called “Jones’s” that the neighbors strove to keep up with. It was a world of competitive, face-saving. The advertising industries did much to wash the brains of our parents and their neighbors with consumerism by promoting things manufactured by such corporations as Magnavox and Maytag. They also were led to believe that the Good Life could only be had by being first on the block to have the best and the most of these products, not only to keep up with the Jones’ at the country club, but also to look good enough to be accepted by the “right” people.

To someone in the Jones’ neighborhood, Jesus could well have said something a little different, but parallel to, what we will be hearing the deacon or priest read to us next Sunday: “When you hold a backyard barbecue, do not invite the Jones’, or the the Park Avenue vestry, for that matter, hoping to get your daughter into next year’s debutant cotillion. Instead, invite the Goofnoff kids, and their widowed mom, Matilda, whose husband died in the Battle of the Bulge. After all, the man of the Goofnoff family now is Billy. Oh… and, of course, you know that Billy had to enlist for basic training. The Goofnoff’s, you see, could not afford college. Now also, it goes without saying, Matilda has no influence with the cotillion committee! So when you invite for Mrs. Goofnoff to your barbecue with her kids, you will be raised to a higher level of awareness about some new values for your life!”

“What could these values be?” one of these mortgage payers might ask Then Jesus would continue: “It will be your discovery that you are destined to join in the exodus with me to a promised land way beyond your present life of social climbing, competition, and personal achievement. I offer a life that is without the stress that has you saturated with it, and let’s face it. Your life has no meaning.

“Go to where you will find me—in the lower place in the material poverty of the physically blind and crippled. There I am, sharing in the meal which causes the death angel with his pack of lies about status and success to passover over you!”

“Oh, the skeptical home owner,” might say in a slightly anxious tone. “I’m not sure I can take the risk of investing in your proposition?”

Jesus’ response is quick: “Believe me! My credit rating is a lot better than yours or anything else you’ve been involved with! Just look at what I am ready to do: Crown you with the helmut of salvation! The angel’s sword will glance off and break because your helmut is forged from the tempered steel of truth. You will no longer be hooked by the idea that you alone are not enough to be valued by God because you do not have enough! You will no longer be spiritually blind and crippled because you cannot love yourself and therefore cannot love your neighbors. In the world I offer, your neighbors will not be competitors. They will be companions!

 

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