Blessed is sometimes translated into “happiness.”  And when Jesus talks about being blessed, he announces that it will be the meek, the poor, and the persecuted.   Could he be ironic or sarcastic?  An announcement that God’s work was different, not the property of the lucky and privileged?

The writer Matthew understood that “blessing” or happiness was meant to be a regular, and rigorous, orientation toward life.  It was not a cheap optimism, but a steely view towards one’s personal power.

To say that our meekness, lack and want is blessed, is to alter our perspective toward desire.  What was hidden is now seen.   We had been unaware that we were so attached; we denied were were captivated by our desires.  We are creatures that want; we want because we lack.

Blessing our desires also announces that we lack, yet without shame.  Our desires not be condemned, but honored.  And so, may our compulsions not destroy us, our limits understood as giving us the frame for appreciating the goodness and life in us.

May our attachments not terrify or diminish us.    May our imperfections themselves not hinder us, but be celebrated.  Blessed are those who make mistakes, for they will have done the work.

Anglican Priest Gets Caught with PrOn on computer

This is pathetic.

Not just because pr0n is problematic ethically.  That’s the easy answer.

But this is a Christian soldier who made his reputation critiquing the sexual inclinations of others.    He is a poster boy for the log-twig reference our jefe made as reported in scripture.   Yet another example of someone who protests a bit too much.

Of course, a part of me thinks they should be celebrating.   If it’s your average Jenna Jameson flick or Girls Gone Wild clip they could be saying:  “Yay.  It’s not a tween!”  It’s just a priest looking for a little stimulation to take home.  It’s just a guy wanting to be double teamed by a blonde and a brunette.

There are a lot of worse fantasies.

But on a church computer?  Really?

Was he trying to get caught?

Is he a pervert?  Or an idiot?

I wonder if it’s possible to distinguish between pornography and nakedness, critiquing an exploitative industry without condemning our fascination with sex.

He may or may not be a pervert or an addict, but I wonder if a culture of shame tends to exacerbate an obsession with sex rather than develop a healthy understanding of it.   Shame is the root of hypocrisy, or the water that feeds it.

Learning from Comedy

I once took a class on stand up comedy.   Comedy isn’t simply about the content of a joke.  It’s also about presence.

I found several of the rules useful for preaching – and even everyday pastoral care.  Not that life is always funny – but comedy is not merely about the amusing.  It may also be about seeing the absurd in the everyday, or pricking the consciences of the powerful.  I have often seen the mourning tell wicked jokes at a wake.  And laughter may be one way we heal.

Here are some basic rules I learned from class:

1) Be emotionally full.

No monotones.   Be present!  It’s hard to listen to someone who has no investment in what they’re saying.  It means speaking from your diaphragm, expanding your body, and standing straight.   It can be learned.

2) No place you would rather be.

Preaching is an honor.  People are giving you their time and attention.   It’s exciting to be before people, and they respond to your love and enjoyment of them.

3) Don’t get mad at the congregation.

It’s easy to look at the congregation and see sinners: those who don’t fulfill their obligations, refuse to tithe, misunderstand the church, and don’t provide any help.  Yet, they are there to hear you;  they are motivated by some love of the Lord or they wouldn’t be there.

4) Don’t get mad at yourself.

It’s not always going to be perfect.  Not every sentence you say will be coherent; you may go off track.  If they don’t respond, it might not be you.  If an idea doesn’t work, there will be another time.

5) Keep control of yourself.

Control means good timing; patience; and not crying when you get to a sad story.  Don’t let your frustrations or resentment overwhelm the Good Word you are offering your people.

One need not be funny in a sermon.  Not all priests have that gift.  But presence is a skill that all priests can learn, and can do so to their benefit.