Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Bogus Familiarity

The other day I got a phone call from a man working for one of the police-related charities. I should have known right away that the call was from a telemarketer because there was no immediate response when I said, "Hello." I might have hung then, but I didn't and I heard a cheery voice say, "Dan, this is...."


I'd never met the man before and, had he actually been a police officer, he would have addressed me as "Mr. Weir." My friends call me "Dan" or "Daniel" or, if they have known me since childhood, "Danny," and I, conservative on this issue at least, expect strangers to address me more formally.

The world seems to be awash in this kind of bogus familiarity. Some of it I find silly - the news anchor who ending the broadcast with, "I hope we'll see you back here tomorrow." Some of it I find offensive - the telemarketer using my first name. And some of it I find sinister - the advance fee fraud attempt that begins "Dear Friend."

Whether I see these instances as silly or offensive or sinister, it seems to me that they are all attempts to establish a familiarity, a friendship that isn't there, and to get me, because I have bought into the illusion, to do something that I might not otherwise have done. Do I tune in the following day because of the illusion of friendship? Do I contribute or buy something because the telemarketer has made me feel that he's my friend? Do I believe the unbelievable - that someone wants to give me millions of dollars - because the thieves have called me "friend"?

No, I don't do any of those things. I tune in the news because I think the reporting is good. I never give to or buy anything from telemarketers. I never fall for the fraud attempts, although I do find some of them amusing. I do, however, grieve for a world in which friendship is debased and bogus familiarity is a ready tool for the networks, telemarketers and thieves.

Some may think that I'm a crank, a curmudgeon, for being concerned about something so seemingly insignificant. But is it really insignificant? Isn't friendship one of God's most precious gifts? Friendship with one another and friendship with God. It was Jesus who told his disciples. "I have called you friends," and then went to Cross that all might be drawn into friendship with him. Friendship is a costly gift and one which I will not see cheapened by those who presume to be my friends without any willingness to bear the cost.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Giving Thanks

The Gospel lesson that we used at the nursing home yesterday was the healing of the ten lepers in Luke 17. One of the struggles that many of us have in our culture is with the temptation to take things for granted. We have been taught that we are entitled. Some of that isn't bad - the inalienable rights of the Declaration of Independence and those in the Constitutions Bill of Rights - but one of casualties of entitlement is thanks giving. We take things for granted and not for blessing.

At the center of our liturgical tradition is the celebration of the Holy Eucharist - the Holy Thanksgiving. Even if we don't believe in the Real Presence, the weekly celebrations can help us to practice giving thanks. Frequently as I preside at celebrations, I find that specific blessings for which I am thankful come to mind. Frequently, but probably not often enough. I need to cultivate the habit of thanksgiving for specific blessings. Just as my intercessions and petitions need to be specific, so do my thanksgivings.

So here are a few for today:
  1. For Jan whom I met in church in 1971 and who became my wife in that same church in 1972.
  2. For our children, Meghan and Matthew, and for their spouses, Daryl and Marnie.
  3. For our grandaughter, Emmaline.
  4. For the privilege - and it is a privilege - of serving in the Episcopal Church for nearly 40 years.
  5. For the people of Saint Matthias Church who have ministered with and to me for the past 8 years.