Friday, November 25, 2011

Black Friday

They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common.  They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need.  Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
Acts 2:42-47 (NIV)

I am watching Black Friday chaos. People stay bleary-eyed, sleeping in the elements for days, getting trampled and pepper sprayed and, I bet, going into debt for the privilege. I have never, even on Christmas and Easter, experienced this at church and we NEVER pepper spray! For a few, church is as basic to their week as breathing. For many, it is a priority but it can be easily replaced by a promising engagement. And for most, church is a twice or so a year event or no event at all. I think Jesus needs a marketing makeover.  Elmo and Xbox are lord. Wal-Mart and Target are savior.
The early church, described above in the passage from Acts, depicts a "Black Friday" experience of new believers and hyper-dedicated church members. Life with God became a priority for me when I realized what I was doing, even though successful for the most part, was going nowhere. I felt empty even when surrounded by people, trinkets of the successful life and personal success. This is a good story but hardly compelling advertising.
I am struck by verse 2:47 above. We provide an attractive invitation but only God closes the deal. I can live an authentic life as can those who follow Christ with me. But not through lost leaders or deep discounts. Only through faithfully following our Lord. And that means not calling our own shots. We let God call them. A disciple's life
I hope by word and deed that my life and the lives of those I lead make Christ attractive. Guilt and coercion cannot be in my toolkit. How attractive have you made your life? Does it point towards Christ by what you say and what you do? If so, Jesus can work with that. If not, Christ will help change that. The world needs us. We have what lasts beyond Black Friday.
By the way, I get to church at 5:30 am on Sunday in case you camped out overnight for a good seat. See you Sunday.


I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. Isaiah 43:19 (NRSV)

Most of the time, I like new, but not always. New cars smell nice. New gadgets are too cool. New shoes hurt for a bit are an improvement. New contacts make vision crisp. A new stretch of highway is awesome but it was hell while repairs were made. I dread finding a new doctor because my insurance thinks it's a good idea.

Commercials make "new" an all-powerful  good. But we all know that means "spend more money." "New" Coke was a total bust. New technology often means that tech companies work out the bugs with we who are early adopters. New break-through's in medicine change lives and, at times, lawsuits. A new year brings promise (if nothing more than the old one is finally over.)

I am not surprised with the fact that when God tells me he's up to something new that I am only marginally impressed. I mean, it sounds great but it is not that apparent. I get busy and forget about it. I like God but I'll keep myself occupied until there is something obvious on the horizon.

Trouble is, God is doing the improbable if not possible (at least by my standards) and it is all for our benefit. Those that scan the horizon each day with an eye for God's work, see things I miss. Reread the passage above. Don't you have a "desert" in your life that needs a stream and you are dried out?

Are you missing out on something incredible? Build your day around God today.


The Rev. Jim Liberatore, Rector
St. Andrew's Episcopal Church




Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy New Year

Happy New Year

Yesterday was the Christian New Year, The First Sunday in Advent. Did you throw a party? Drink too much? Kiss at midnight? Didn't think so. The secular New Year swamps the boat of the Christian one. Besides, even some Christians do not observe this time of preparation for the Coming of Christ – both the baby in the manger and the King at the end of the Age.

Christianity, no matter what flavor of it we pursue, is meant to be a movement of folks who are called to be a bit odd. Loving, but odd. We even are to practice our oddity. We follow a man who rose from the dead after dying a loser. He told us that leaders are servants. Oh, and those that push to the front of the line in life wind up in the back. If you give up your life for His sake, you get it back. If you guard your life (little risk,) you lose it. And He loves you, no matter what. His love is never in question. He'd like us to treat others that way as well. Withhold judging others no matter how sure you are that you have them figured out.

If you are a follower, how odd are you willing to be? Does anyone wonder why you are different?

I pray your new year is one close to Christ. Prepare to meet Him out there. Be odd.

Saturday, November 19, 2011


Christine and I recently hosted our 4th Amazing Faiths Dinner Dialogue. The Dialogue, coordinated by Houston Interfaith, brings together people of different religions (or no religion at all) to talk about faith in a safe environment. Questions about prayer, after life, suffering and such are open-ended and responses are left to stand as is, no rebuttal or follow up. This year, we hosted people whose background was Hindu, Muslim, Catholic, Scientology, Seventh Day Adventist and generic Christian. At the end of the night, we found this: at our core, we share much the same beliefs and yearnings.

Much of the talk of the day – at work, on TV, at school - centers on differences, rights and being right, and conflict. Yet, we have so much in common. Our Christian story reminds us that every human bears the image of Christ - even a Muslim or Mormon or Atheist. If we are to prosper (or even if we, as Christians are to win over others,) we must start with where God starts, the Christness we share.

Today, see each person first as "Christ-at-the-center." Seek the common ground. Respect is one of the Baptismal Promises of an Episcopalian.

Please join me and others of The Episcopal Diocese of Texas as we host our own Dialogue on Thursday, April 26, 2012, using the materials adapted from this evening. Want to know more? Email me at .

Tuesday, November 15, 2011


"All shall be well.  All shall be well.  All manner of thing shall be well."
Julian of Norwich (c. 1342-1416?)

These words were written by a very holy woman at a troubled time in her life. Behind these words lies a deep faith that God is working. God's will prevails and God's will is rooted in a deep love of us.

Have you cultivated a relationship with God that can issue forth in these words in tough times? If so, share it and encourage others. If not, why not? As Jesus say, worry does not add one bit to our life.

Monday, November 14, 2011

It's Not Fair

If you have ever had children or if you have ever been a child (anyone left without a hand up?,) you have heard or uttered the phrase, "It's not fair." I value fairness, especially for me. Fairness as a guiding principal is not a bad one. That is, we live our lives being fair to one another. But God reminds me that there are principles higher than fairness. These principles are embodied in what God calls The Kingdom, the world as God sees it and wants it.

We read in church recently (you were there worshiping God, weren't you?,) that the Kingdom is meant to be our North Star, our guiding light. Following Jesus keeps us on track because that is his North Star. If we follow him, even if we don't understand, we will still be heading in the direction of abundant life. The story I refer to is found in Matthew 25:14-30. It is about economy in the Kingdom.  In it, a land owner doles out his wealth for others to care for. The distribution is quite varied (not fair) but everyone gets a boatload of the bounty. The expectation of the landowner is clear – make something of it. Risk.

In the end, the land owner returns to see some have risked and leveraged what was not theirs and one, one who was frozen in fear, returned the unleveraged wealth having hid it. The landowner was not pleased with this last resource manager and takes what little he has (not fair.) No Kingdom work was done.

Three things I glean from this Kingdom story. First, there isn't anything I have that did not originate with God. Period (whining may commence now.) Second, some people are asked to manage less than others (not fair) but all get a whole bunch. And finally, I think risk is a Kingdom trait. Yes, an educated, calculated risk but risk none the less. I think the land owner would have been pleased even if the leveragers had lost wealth. The ultimate sin was one of conservation and no risk. The leveragers, in turn, received even more to play with.

You have been asked to manage (and give an account for) a whole lot from God. How's it going? How's your leveraging?

Sunday, November 13, 2011


Does God show up when you need God? Does he supply you with a timely response to your requests? Many times, I ask, no beg, for our Lord to give me insight or permission or to rescue me or, at least, to provide me with a way out that I can blame him for if it blows up.

There may be a number of reasons for the silence.

I am not ready for an answer. I need to mature first. Some "next steps" require preparation. I need to look at myself.

I want to move contrary to Scripture. I know better but would like a "pass" on this one. God cannot be at odds with himself. I want to ignore the bigger picture (my well-being and the well-being of others) God sees to wander into the gratification I want now. I need to look beyond myself.

God's leaving it up to me. Often, the will of God is not a single path but any path that is faithful. We stress about getting it right when all of our considered paths get the nod from God. We falsely assume that there is only one right way. I need to trust myself.

Are you waiting on God for something? Maybe, you need to move first.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Born This Way

The current Newsweek has an article entitled STOP! You can't Afford It. Within it is discussed the propensity many of us have to seek immediate pleasure rather than foregoing it for a future reward. The authors also add that we can be trained to act in our better interest, rebooting our destructive spending habits.

I often hear (even from myself) the excuse that "that's the way I am wired" "or "I cannot help it." While this may be true in certain circumstances, it is not true always. We have so many habits that are pleasurable in the moment and disastrous in the long run. Yet, we persist, calling on genes, old hurts, routinized behavior to justify our refusal to consider a better way and changing.

Today, Christ has power we cannot muster on our own. His power always works towards the good of all. He recognizes that you may be born this way but you do not have to stay this way if life is not served. What's stopping you from his offer?

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28