Judas and God’s Mercy

In this episode of Christian Mythbusters, Father Jared breaks the myth of the betrayal of Judas and the depths of God’s mercy. You can hear Christian Mythbusters in the Grand Haven area on 92.1 WGHN, on Wednesdays at 10:30am and Sundays at 8:50am. You can also subscribe to the podcast on Apple here.

The transcript of the episode is below, or you can listen to the audio at the bottom of the post.

This is Father Jared Cramer from St. John’s Episcopal Church in Grand Haven, Michigan, here with today’s edition of Christian Mythbusters, a regular segment I offer to counter some common misconceptions about the Christian faith. 

Today is Wednesday in Holy Week, which also has another name in the tradition of the church, “Spy Wednesday.” It is called this because it was on this day that Judas betrayed Jesus to the Sanhedrin. Judas snuck into the night, behind the backs of his Lord and his fellow disciples, and—just like a spy—crossed over into enemy lines. Only, by betraying Christ to the religious authorities, it was revealed that Judas was not working on the side of the kingdom of the Messiah but, instead, on the side of the religious and political forces that were conspiring to kill the Messiah. 

And so, on this week, I thought it might be a good opportunity to break some of the myths around Judas, his betrayal of Christ, and the depths of God’s mercy. 

What’s interesting is that when you look at all of John chapter 13, the chapter from which today’s Gospel comes, you see a larger story. The chapter tells of the disciples arriving in the upper room, of each of them walking by the basin for foot washing and waiting for a servant to come in and do that. No one does, though, and so Jesus himself rises from the table, takes off his outer garment, and washes everyone’s feet. Jesus said it was a symbol of how much he loved them, and he told them—and us—to go and do likewise. 

After the foot washing there is some back-and-forth discourse between the disciples and Jesus, resulting in Judas abruptly leaving the table as he goes out into the night to betray Christ.  

So, if you are paying attention to the order of things in this story, what you will realize is that Jesus would have washed Judas’ feet. One by one, Jesus washed the dusty and dirty feet of each one of his followers and at some point, he came to the feet of Judas. 

Jesus knew what Judas had in his heart, that Judas had decided to betray Jesus to the religious leaders for thirty pieces of silver—and, as well, perhaps, for the satisfaction of knowing you are right and someone else is wrong (which is sometimes more valuable to us). And yet still Jesus took each one of Judas’ feet in his hands and lovingly washed the dust and the dirt off of them, probably longing to wash the fear and sin and mistrust from Judas’ heart as well, if only he could.

In the All Souls’ Chapel of our parish, there is an  icon to the left of the altar called the Anastasis, or the “Raising Up.” It is the traditional Easter icon in the Orthodox church.  You might think, looking at the Anastasis, that this is an icon of Jesus’s resurrection, but it’s not. It is actually an icon of Jesus breaking down the doors to hell itself to raise up those who died before he came. And so, in the icon, Jesus descends to the dead and he lifts Adam and Eve out of their graves to bring them to paradise. This is the doctrine of the “Harrowing of Hell” the day before Easter Sunday.

And I have no way really of knowing this really, but I wonder. 

Because after Judas went out and betrayed Jesus, and after Jesus was arrested and tortured and killed, we are told that Judas regretted everything he’d done. He tried to give the money back to the religious leaders who paid him, and they simply insulted him and sent him on his way. So, Judas went and he hanged himself, sure that God’s love for him had reached its end. 

And so, I wonder if, when our Lord descended into the dead, rescuing all those who had died before his resurrection changed everything, I wonder if Jesus also went to go find Judas, sitting somewhere alone. Because if he did, I imagine Judas would have looked at Jesus with eyes full of fear… and would have seen only eyes of love looking back. And I wonder if Jesus raised Judas up to, rescuing him from all of his failures, and bringing him to paradise with everyone else.

I mean, that’s the kind of thing that Jesus always seems to do, right? Always going after that one lost sheep.

There is never too far to go, no place you will ever go, to find yourself beyond the reach of Jesus’ love. 

There is no failure too great, no betrayal too significant, where Jesus’ love cannot find you and rescue you.

And I really hope on this Wednesday of Holy Week, that you know that, that you know that God’s love for you, God’s mercy, is no myth. 

Thanks for being with me. To find out more about my parish, you can go to sjegh.com. Until next time, remember, protest like Jesus, love recklessly, and live your faith out in a community that accepts you but also challenges you to be better tomorrow than you are today. 

The Christian Response to the Immigration Crisis

In this episode of Christian Mythbusters, Father Jared breaks the myth of the Christian response to the immigration crisis—including, what the actual crisis is. You can hear Christian Mythbusters in the Grand Haven area on 92.1 WGHN, on Wednesdays at 10:30am and Sundays at 8:50am. You can also subscribe to the podcast on Apple here.

The transcript of the episode is below, or you can listen to the audio at the bottom of the post.

This is Father Jared Cramer from St. John’s Episcopal Church in Grand Haven, Michigan, here with today’s edition of Christian Mythbusters, a regular segment I offer to counter some common misconceptions about the Christian faith. 

Photos revealed by Democratic Representative Henry Cuellar’s office this past Monday showed the current situation at the border. While it’s not exactly the kids in cages of the Trump era, it’s not much better. Multiple children and youth of varying ages are shown lying on palates, with light mylar blankets, crammed into a facility clearly not designed for housing kids.  

With more unaccompanied minors arriving at the border just three weeks into March than the entire month of February, a number for March  that is currently twice the number as apprehended in January, people on all sides of the aisle are talking about the crisis at the border.

And there is a crisis going on, but it’s not at the border. And so, this week I’d like to break the myth of the Christian response to the immigration crisis. 

Shockingly enough, many of the Christians who urge violation of facemask and distancing guidelines in the midst of a global pandemic, those who applaud people who violate federal laws for marriage equality or oppose equal access in sports for trans kids, these same Christians become very law and order focused when it comes to questions of immigration. 

Which is convenient. 

And also, to be honest, a little racist and a lot nativist. 

Let’s be clear, Christians in America have been down this road before. Whenever there is an influx of immigration—whether it is Protestants responding to Irish and Italian Catholics, or many Christians responding to Chinese workers seeking a better life, or, in our own time, people fleeing violence and poverty in Central and South America, Christian leaders talk about the importance of protecting our country, of keeping out those who might create too much of a burden or produce too much change. 

Never mind that study after study has demonstrated that immigrants actually help build the economy. Never mind that study after study has shown that immigrants actually do more to increase the tax and revenue base than drain from federal budget programs. You cannot be bothered with facts when what you really peddle in is fear. 

There is an immigration crisis in America, and it is the crisis provoked by the abject failure of our country, especially our Christian citizens, to actually care about people who don’t live within our borders.

Former Republican congressman and current MSNBC commentator Joe Scarborough blamed what is happening at the border right now on President Joe Biden, saying, “As long as you have a permissive immigration policy, you’re going to have a crisis at the border.” 

The sheer inhumanity of Scarborough’s statement shocked me—even though I know it is a perspective shared by far too many Americans and certainly far too many Christians. The fact that we might have a policy that would say that if you come to our border, as a child, fleeing violence and poverty, we will let you in, we’ll find a place to house you, we’ll care for you… that he would think this is the problem demonstrates all that is broken with American views on immigration. 

Why wouldn’t we have a policy that when people are fleeing violence and poverty—often violence and poverty that we caused—that we would let them in, we’d keep them safe, we will absorb them into our country while at the same time changing how we engage in Central and South American countries so that they can as well once more be safe places to live? Why wouldn’t Christians advocate for that? 

It’s like one of the most powerful scenes in the Handmaid’s Tale, when a woman fleeing violence and oppression shows up on Canada’s border after crossing a river. The border agent finds her and says, “If you return to your home country, would you be persecuted based on being a woman, and would you be subject to the danger of torture, or risk to your life? As a person in need of protection, do you wish to seek asylum in the country of Canada?” She says, “Yes.” And he says, “Welcome to Canada.”

There are not millions of people seeking to invade the United States, despite the untrue and obscene rhetoric of both Republican and Democratic politicians. There are kids—yes, thousands of kids, but thousands of kids coming to a country with hundreds of millions of citizens. And unless we are going to sink the Statue of Liberty into the ocean, we better let those kids come in. 

Because immigrants make us stronger. They make us better. And Christians who follow a Jesus who fled across borders due to a violent government should know better than to turn refugees away, particularly when those refugees are children. 

Because it is Jesus down at that border. And the real crisis is that American Christians simply do not seem to be able to see him there. 

Thanks for being with me. To find out more about my parish, you can go to sjegh.com. Until next time, remember, protest like Jesus, love recklessly, and live your faith out in a community that accepts you but also challenges you to be better tomorrow than you are today. 

The Blessings of Same-Sex Marriage

In this episode of Christian Mythbusters, Father Jared breaks the myth of the blessings of gay marriage—and tries to be clear about the dangers of the language used in the recent statement from the Vatican. You can hear Christian Mythbusters in the Grand Haven area on 92.1 WGHN, on Wednesdays at 10:30am and Sundays at 8:50am. You can also subscribe to the podcast on Apple here.

The transcript of the episode is below, or you can listen to the audio at the bottom of the post.

This is Father Jared Cramer from St. John’s Episcopal Church in Grand Haven, Michigan, here with today’s edition of Christian Mythbusters, a regular segment I offer to counter some common misconceptions about the Christian faith. 

Just when you think that conservative Roman Catholics have given up on Pope Francis, the Vatican proves them wrong and demonstrates that the See of Rome remains very much in traditionalist hands. On Monday, a Vatican statement that was approved by Pope Francis said that not only does neither God nor the church bless same-sex unions, that they cannot bless them because they are an inherently sinful choice. Traditionalists cheered, progressives lamented, but it is the LGBTQ Roman Catholics—indeed, LGBTQ people of faith around the world, who will face pain and harm because of this statement. 

And so today I’d like to break the myth of the blessings of gay marriage—and to be clear about the dangers of the language used in this statement from the Vatican.

My own tradition, The Episcopal Church, has been blessing same-sex unions for quite a while now, decades in some places. We have had had full marriage equality throughout the church since 2017. The parish where I serve, St. John’s Episcopal in downtown Grand Haven, has been fully affirming of our LGBTQ members ever since I’ve been here. All this to say, I have some experience with same-sex marriage in the church as a straight ally.

And it’s beautiful. It’s holy. The real blessing of same-sex marriage isn’t the one that the church chooses to bestow on couples. It is the blessings that same-sex couples bestow on the church through their participation. 

One of the fundamental reasons our church changed our discipline and teaching on the place of LGBTQ Christians in the life of the church was because we could no longer deny the profound fruits of the spirit we experienced in our LGBTQ members and in their partnered relationships. They had all the evidence of holiness that we expect to see flourish in a faithful Christian marriage when people are straight—and in many respects, given the challenges same-sex couples faced, their marriages evidenced an even stronger holiness and rootedness than many straight marriages. 

And I can say without a doubt that the same-sex couples who attend my church, the ones whose weddings I’ve been honored to preside over, the ones who have been together for decades and who continue to serve faithfully in church leadership… these are many times some of the strongest marriages I’ve seen in the church. They make manifest an affection, a gentleness, and a delight that inspires our straight couples to be like them. 

By telling same-sex couples that their relationships are an inherently sinful choice, the Roman Church is telling a portion of the body of Christ I have no need of you—a direct contradiction to the teaching of St. Paul himself. The Roman Catholic church, my own church, all traditions in the church are diminished if same-sex couples are pushed to the side. 

But even more troubling is the way that this language will wound LGBTQ persons who are already facing increasing discrimination in several parts of the world, even in several parts of our own nation. By describing their relationships as a sinful choice, those who have violently attacked gay couples for simply being together will be further emboldened in their hate—and emboldened by the pope, no less. 

And LGBTQ persons who are already struggling with increasing rates of suicidality because of the way they are treated by their religious communities, because of the ways they have been treated by political powers in this country, these people will now feel even more isolated, even more alone. 

So, let’s be clear. This kind of language costs lives.

If you’re a gay Roman Catholic, I want you to know that I see you. And I think you are fabulousl. You are glorious and brave for continuing to stick it out, for trying to be a voice for change and reform in your church tradition. Bravo. This Episcopal priest is an enthusiastic ally of your work.

And if you’re an LGBTQ person who feels like there’s no place for you, I want you to know that I see you too… and I’d like to meet you. I’d like to show you around to places that would not tolerate you but places and churches who would enthusiastically welcome you, who would be grateful to have your relationships bless the larger church, and who would love to serve and worship Christ alongside of you. 

Choosing to be married to the person you love, including when that person is of the same-sex as you, in no way preludes your relationship from showing the love of Christ to the world (like every marriage should in the church). In fact, in many ways, your marriage can be an even more powerful witness because of the courage it takes for you to choose to wrap your love in the grace and discipline of Christian marriage. And if you do that, man, I hope you will do so proudly. I really do. 

Thanks for being with me. To find out more about my parish, you can go to sjegh.com. Until next time, remember, protest like Jesus, love recklessly, and live your faith out in a community that accepts you but also challenges you to be better tomorrow than you are today. 

Christian Humility

In this episode of Christian Mythbusters, Father Jared debunks the myth of Christian humility, to try to unpack how true humility is different than talking down to yourself in the mirror (or in your own mind)… or letting other people talk down to you.. You can hear Christian Mythbusters in the Grand Haven area on 92.1 WGHN, on Wednesdays at 10:30am and Sundays at 8:50am. You can also subscribe to the podcast on Apple here.

The transcript of the episode is below, or you can listen to the audio at the bottom of the post.

This is Father Jared Cramer from St. John’s Episcopal Church in Grand Haven, Michigan, here with today’s edition of Christian Mythbusters, a regular segment I offer to counter some common misconceptions about the Christian faith. 

I got some very good advice recently from one of my CrossFit coaches, Kate, at 321 Wellness here in Grand Haven. I’ve been doing CrossFit for over a year but I still feel like I lag behind the other athletes at times. I’ve got a weak lower back that is prone to injury, if I’m not careful. I’ve got a weak right hip which means I tend to collapse my right leg too much. And I don’t have the engine to power through some of the more intense cardio at times. So all of this means that I often find myself finishing last in times or reps. 

So, in the midst of our workout, I was talking about how poor an athlete I am, and Kate said, “Stop that, Jared. You’re not allowed to talk about yourself that way in my class.”

It really stuck in my head. It made me think about the negative messages we so often tell ourselves and how those messages can be destructive to our sense of self and dignity.


So today, I’d like to break the myth of Christian humility, to try to unpack how true humility is different than talking down to yourself in the mirror (or in your own mind)… or letting other people talk down to you.

Humility is absolutely a Christian virtue. Jesus tells us in Matthew 23 that those who exalt themselves will be humbled but that those who humble themselves will be exalted. St. Paul urges us in Philippians 2 to try to put on the mind of Christ, a mind of humility and service. St. Augustine of Hippo taught that preachers needed to have a humble disposition even as they approach the Biblical text for preaching, knowing that only a humble person can truly grasp the truths of Scripture and that the grace of preaching well depends on God’s gift coming alongside careful your study. 

At its root, humility comes from the Latin word humilitas, the same word from which we get the word humus, for earth. To be humble is to know that you are dust, formed by God and breathed into with the Spirit of God… to know that you are indeed beloved dust, but you are, still, dust.

Humility as a Christian virtue, however, needs to be separated from two things that are contrary to the actual teachings of the church and are not helpful for spiritual growth. 


First, there is false humility. We live in a sardonic and cynical time, when self-deprecating and dry humor is the way many of us make our way through life. However, often we use self-deprecation to mask very real feelings of inadequacy.  This is what my coach at 321 Wellness caught onto, that I was truly feeling inadequate as an athlete and so was not only making fun of myself, but I was speaking an identity of inadequacy as an athlete into my my own spirit and mind. 

And, as she knows, that’s not how you grow as an athlete. 

It’s also not how you grow as a Christian. 

And that brings me to the other form of false humility that creeps up from time to time in the church, the sort I touched in a couple weeks ago when I talked about the myth that you’re not good enough. Sometimes in teaching people the truth of their broken and fallen nature, churches can lean so far into that that you can begin to believe you are broken beyond repair, you truly are a worthless wretch. This language, particularly when it comes from the church, can forever damage your true sense of self. 

But remember, humility is remembering that you come from the humus, the earth. Humility isn’t about looking down on yourself, it’s about seeing yourself honestly. And that means you have to see the good in you as a Christian who is indeed trying to grow (just like I had to see the good in me as an athlete who has actually advanced because of my great coaches… and because I’ve tried). 

One of me mentors once told me that as a priest I always have to remember that I’m not as bad as my worst critic says I am… but I’m also not as good as my biggest fan would lead me to believe. The truth is always somewhere in the middle.

And it’s there, in the middle, that I hope you find an honest view of yourself, one that sees how tremendously beloved you are by God, one that rejects words that dehumanize you or put you down—whether those words come from others, or whether they haunt your own thoughts. Be humble, absolutely. But also know that God is pretty crazy about you, that God was willing to give up everything to show you that love, and, through God’s grace, you can do some pretty powerful things for love and justice in this world—if you can just believe in yourself, your true self. 

Thanks for being with me. To find out more about my parish, you can go to sjegh.com. Until next time, remember, protest like Jesus, love recklessly, and live your faith out in a community that accepts you but also challenges you to be better tomorrow than you are today. 

Christianity and Life

In this episode of Christian Mythbusters, Father Jared debunks the myths of what Christians believe about life… or at least, what often seems to be a myth given the perennial hypocrisy of the church on these questions. You can hear Christian Mythbusters in the Grand Haven area on 92.1 WGHN, on Wednesdays at 10:30am and Sundays at 8:50am. You can also subscribe to the podcast on Apple here.

The transcript of the episode is below, or you can listen to the audio at the bottom of the post.

This is Father Jared Cramer from St. John’s Episcopal Church in Grand Haven, Michigan, here with today’s edition of Christian Mythbusters, a regular segment I offer to counter some common misconceptions about the Christian faith. 

One of the number one reasons people give for not being a part of the church, is that it feels like the church is a hypocritical organization. One response to that is to take the approach of legendary Christian singer-songwriter Rich Mullins, who used to say the church isn’t full of hypocrites, we’ve always got room for a few more. What Rich was playfully pointing out was that everyone that is in church is hopefully trying to grow and that means at times they will be inconsistent in their actions and beliefs. Christians are not those who are perfect, they are those who fall down and then get back up through the grace and love of God. 

But another response to the perspective that the church seems to be a hypocritical organization is repentance and contrition for the times that charge is true. And I think one of the largest issues facing our world, one in which the church has often taken a conflicting and sometimes hypocritical stance, is the question of life. So today I like to try to break the myth about what Christianity believes about the value we place on life.

Most of the time a conversation with Christians arounds the value of life centers around the legality of abortion.  Being a priest in a church that affirms the tragic dimensions of abortion while also believing that legislative solutions don’t actually deal appropriately with what is involved… it means I often find myself on the other side of my siblings in Christ on this question. 

Roman Catholic nun, Sr. Joan Chittester, said it best, “I do not believe that just because you are opposed to abortion, that that makes you pro-life. In fact, I think in many cases, your morality is deeply lacking if all you want is a child born but not a child fed, a child educated, a child housed. And why would I think that you don’t? Because you don’t want any tax money to go there. That’s not pro-life. That’s pro-birth. We need a much broader conversation on what the morality of pro-life is.” Years later, when the Trump administration was putting children in cages at the border, she stood by the statement, saying, “You have babies and pregnant mothers on the border. They’re innocent and defenseless, but those babies are being separated and segregated.”

Part of the problem is that many Christians base their opinions on questions related to life on the political views of the party with which they,  instead of basing their views on Scripture and a consistent ethic of life. That’s why you have people who are very strong believers and outlawing abortion but who also support capital punishment, war, and immigration policies that absolutely cause the death of those fleeing violence and poverty. 

But I want to be super clear here that I’m not only criticizing the right. Because the Democratic Party also fails significantly on this question. I know, some of you might think I spend most of my time disagreeing with the policies of our former president, but when President Obama was in office, I found plenty of time to disagree with him as well. Most significantly, I found his use of drones to kill people outside of the judicial process to be deeply disturbing.

And now, under the leadership of President Biden, I continue to be concerned. Reports are very clear that the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Solomon approved the 2018 assassination of Washington Post journalist Jamaal Khashoggi. Who knows why, perhaps due to some international relationships, President Biden has refused to hold the crown prince responsible for this murder. And the outrage is significant.

Don’t get me wrong, President Trump refused even to release this report when it was created. But now that the facts are known, for President Biden not to deal strongly with Saudi Arabia with regard to this murder is a tremendous dereliction of duty. I hope that the outrage over this decision pushes the administration to act differently, to demonstrate that the lives of all people do matter, including the life of Jamaal Khashoggi. 

I don’t know what the next four years of the Biden administration will look like, but I do know that I hope that the church stands up on the side of life. And I think that means we need to stand up on the side of social policies that will protect the most vulnerable, that means we must insist on an end to the cruel practice of capital punishment, that means we must resist constant militarization and war. That also means the church must come clean with its complicity in systems of homophobia and white supremacy that have resulted in the deaths of countless gay, lesbian, transgender people who had occupied some of our pews… systems that have resulted in the deaths of countless people of color, while so many Christians stood by, doing nothing. 

Either we really do care about life or we don’t. And an unbelieving world is watching to find out. 

Thanks for being with me. To find out more about my parish, you can go to sjegh.com. Until next time, remember, protest like Jesus, love recklessly, and live your faith out in a community that accepts you but also challenges you to be better tomorrow than you are today. 

Good Enough

In this episode of Christian Mythbusters, Father Jared debunks the myths that you’re not good enough—a myth we often tell ourselves, or the church tells us, particularly in Lent. You can hear Christian Mythbusters in the Grand Haven area on 92.1 WGHN, on Wednesdays at 10:30am and Sundays at 8:50am. You can also subscribe to the podcast on Apple here.

The transcript of the episode is below, or you can listen to the audio at the bottom of the post.

This is Father Jared Cramer from St. John’s Episcopal Church in Grand Haven, Michigan, here with today’s edition of Christian Mythbusters, a regular segment I offer to counter some common misconceptions about the Christian faith. 

As we wind up the first full week of Lent today, if you are observing the season, you might be finding your Lenten disciplines beginning to be a bit more of a struggle—if they weren’t already. I know we’ve all already had to give up so much during this past year, that giving up something extra in Lent can feel like a true burden (which is one of the reasons why last week I talked about how Lent is about much more than giving something up!). 

But I know I’ve struggled more than normal in my own disciplines this year, and I would imagine I’m not alone. All of this brings out one of the unintended consequences that Lent can sometimes result in: you just feel worse about yourself than when you started.  And, given that sometimes it might feel like the big goal of Christianity is to make you feel worse about yourself, I think this is a good week to break the myth that you’re not good enough.

In my evangelical upbringing, I grew up with a fairly normal amount of guilt—at least, normal for evangelical Christianity. Like other church traditions, I often felt like I just couldn’t measure up to the expectations of God and the church. I felt like I did way too much sinning. I was always confessing to God. I was always trying to do better… and never quite enough. 

While contrition for the sins we’ve done, for the things we’ve left undone, while this is an important part of the spiritual life, an important part of growing and maturing spiritually, it can get out of hand when you start truly doubting whether you are good enough for God, good enough for the church, good enough for anything.

So, let me state one thing very clearly: you are good enough for God. You are so good, that God in Christ was willing to lay aside the powers of divinity and suffer death on a cross so that you might know how much God loved you, so that God could forgive your sins and heal your brokenness. You matter very much to God. And, even though we don’t know each other, you matter to me as a priest. I’m honest. You do. 

One of the things I love about the catechism of The Episcopal Church, as it is articulated in our Book of Common Prayer is where it begins. Our catechism begins with the question, “What are we by nature?” Given so many of the messages I’d heard from the church over the years, my own answer would probably have been something like “we are sinners” or “we are all broken” or “we are all wretches in need of God’s grace.”

But that’s not the answer our prayer book gives. Instead, it says, “We are part of God’s creation, made in the image of God.” The prayer book reminds us that, though we do all have our own brokenness, though we all have our own struggles and sins, that is not at the core of our nature. The core of our nature is the image of God, pressed upon your very soul. At your beginning, you are good.

The catechism goes on to acknowledge that humans have misused our freedom from the very beginning but that our help is in a God who revealed God’s true nature to us and who sent Jesus Christ to bring us back home, to make us truly the children of God we were meant to be. 

So, if you’re feeling at this early part of Lent that you’re not good enough, I’d encourage you to perhaps spend some time in stillness, practicing the presence of God and letting God’s love wash over you. 

And if you are in a church that tells you you’re not good enough, that your messed up or damaged goods—particularly if you are getting that message from the church because of your gender or sexuality—then I’d encourage you to do what I say at the end of every one of these segments: live your faith out in a community that accepts you and challenges you to be better tomorrow than you are today. 

But you can’t grow to be better tomorrow unless you first know that you are loved today. And who you are, particularly your gender or sexuality, is never something broken. It is the way God has created you. And it  is beautiful—and God wants to harness who you are in good and powerful ways. 

You are a beloved child of God, good at your creation—gay, straight, cis, trans, someone who is doing great at Lent or someone who cannot seem to get through one day right this year. NO matter who you are good as you were created. And the image of God is pressed in your very being. The capability of being the hands and feet, of being the words and actions of the love of Jesus in this world is who you are meant to be. But you cannot show others God’s love unless you first feel it yourself, until you know that you are indeed enough… more than enough… you are indeed beloved. 

Thanks for being with me. To find out more about my parish, you can go to sjegh.com. Until next time, remember, protest like Jesus, love recklessly, and live your faith out in a community that accepts you but also challenges you to be better tomorrow than you are today. 

Lent – More than Coke or Chocolate

In this episode of Christian Mythbusters, Father Jared debunks the myths about Lent and the idea that it’s primarily about giving up coke or chocolate or some other delight. You can hear Christian Mythbusters in the Grand Haven area on 92.1 WGHN, on Wednesdays at 10:30am and Sundays at 8:50am.

The transcript of the episode is below, or you can listen to the audio at the bottom of the post.

This is Father Jared Cramer from St. John’s Episcopal Church in Grand Haven, Michigan, here with today’s edition of Christian Mythbusters, a regular segment I offer to counter some common misconceptions about the Christian faith. 

Here we are on Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the Season of Lent and the day that many of you have started giving up soda or chocolate or alcohol or some other delight in life. 

While giving up something is an important part of observing this season (I’m giving up something, too), it’s not actually, though, at the heart of what Lent is about. So, today I’d like to bust the myth that Lent is primarily about not having coke or chocolate. 

Lent began in the early church as a period of fasting, prayer, and preparation for catechumens—those who were going to be baptized at Easter. Over time, though, the preparatory aspects of Lent spread and were practiced by all those in the community, not just those preparing for baptism. Lent also became a time when those who had been separated from the church due to some kind of notorious sin were reconciled by penitence and forgiveness. 

So, the first thing to remember, is that the point of Lent is to prepare you for Easter. Lent is not meant to be simple mortification, or giving things up. It is not like a second round of New Year’s resolutions. If you give something up, it is to help you do the spiritual work you need to do so that you can more fully celebrate at Easter. 

In the Episcopal Church, we invite people to the observance of a Holy Lent with five different practices—not just giving up something sweet. 

The first practice of Lent is “Self-Examination and Repentance.” Called examen in Latin, the examination of conscience is one of the fundamental Christian spiritual practices. It was first enjoined by St. Paul who warned that, before receiving Holy Communion, you should “Examine yourselves, and only then eat of the bread and drink of the cup.” Throughout history many spiritual mothers and fathers of the church have urged a daily examination of conscience, which also includes repenting from sins you have done and seeking to amend your life. 

The second practice of Lent is “Prayer.” And, as I’ve said before on Christian Mythbusters, we must remember that prayer is primarily about practicing the presence of God. Or, as our prayer book says, it is “response to God, by thought and by deeds, with or without words.” During Lent you try to me more intentional about your prayer life, about setting aside time to be in the presence of God and responding to God’s presence in your life.

Fasting is the practice of going without food for a period of time… sort of. Traditionally there are two related practices here. “Abstinence” means lowering the quality of your food, for example, abstaining from meat. Fasting means lowering the quantity of food you eat. So, having a great big basket of fish and chips because it’s Lent is not really what it is about. My wife and I decided to fast one year by eating vegetarian for the entire season—but we also quickly discovered you can do that without actually lowering the quality of the food you eat by much. What you should focus on for your Lenten fast is eating more simply and also eating less. A traditional fast is eating one main meal with two smaller meals at other times during the day, those two smaller meals, put together, still being less than a full meal.  

Self-denial is where you get to the giving up chocolates or soda part of Lent. You are to deny yourself something you normally enjoy for the purpose of increasing your willpower and spiritual discipline. Every time you crave what you have given up you remember the choice you have made, the commitment you have placed upon yourself. Studies have actually shown that engaging in self-denial can increase your willpower in other areas of your life. 

The final practice is reading and meditation on God’s holy Word—the Bible. If you are only giving things up for Lent and not taking anything on, you are missing the richness of the season. Because while you are fasting and abstaining, while you are more active in prayer and more attentive to your inner spiritual life, you will also become better able to hear God’s voice in Holy Scripture. So, find a good reading plan and carve out a few minutes a day to read Scripture. Whether you follow the Daily Office (as many in our church do), sign-up for a plan on a Bible app, or just choose to read through a section of Scripture, you will be blessed by the opportunity to listen more carefully and closely to God’s call in your life. 

Self-examination and repentance. Prayer. Fasting. Self-denial. Reading and meditating on Scripture. These are the ingredients for a Holy Lent—and if you use them all, it will be a much more powerful experience than just giving something up. 

And if you’d like to have a community to begin Lent with, you’re more than welcome to join us. We’ll be streaming live on our YouTube channel (youtube.com/sjegrandhaven), a service in English at noon and a bilingual service in English and Spanish at 6pm. And you can even come to the church parking lot at 524 Washington in Grand Haven, after the services, from 1:00pm-1:30pm or from 7:00pm-7:30pm, and receive ashes and Holy Commnuion. I’d love to see you. 

Thanks for being with me. To find out more about my parish, you can go to sjegh.com. Until next time, remember, protest like Jesus, love recklessly, and live your faith out in a community that accepts you but also challenges you to be better tomorrow than you are today. 

A Faithful Fat Tuesday

In this episode of Christian Mythbusters, Father Jared debunks the myths (or, really the misconceptions) about the point of Fat Tuesday / Shrove Tuesday / Mardi Gras, etc.). You can hear Christian Mythbusters in the Grand Haven area on 92.1 WGHN, on Wednesdays at 10:30am and Sundays at 8:50am.

The transcript of the episode is below, or you can listen to the audio at the bottom of the post.

This is Father Jared Cramer from St. John’s Episcopal Church in Grand Haven, Michigan, here with today’s edition of Christian Mythbusters, a regular segment I offer to counter some common misconceptions about the Christian faith. 

Well, Lent is just around the corner with Fat Tuesday (or Shrove Tuesday or Mardi Gras or whatever your culture or tradition calls it) coming to us on February 16 and then the beginning of Lent arriving on Ash Wednesday, February 17.

Given the variety of cultural experiences and approaches to this final day before Lent, I thought today might be a good day to break some of the myths—or really, more accurately, misconceptions people have—about the final day before Lent. Quick answer? It’s not just about parties or pączki—though I do admit to loving a good pączki.

It’s actually pretty interesting how every culture approaches the final days before Lent differently. You can get some of the different approaches just through the names different countries and languages use. 

For some cultures, the celebrations of the Tuesday before Lent stretch even longer than just that one day. In New Orleans, the celebrations begin on Twelfth Night (January 5, the last day before the Epiphany on January 6, the Epiphany being where the church remembers the visit of the magi to the child Jesus). Hence the custom of eating King’s Cake from Epiphany all the through Mardi Gras… Mardi Gras being French for Fat Tuesday) itself on Tuesday before Ash Wednesday. 

Are you keeping up with me?

In German the day is called Fastnachtsdienstag (forgive my German), literally the Tuesday night of fasting. In Pennsylvania Dutch country it is called simply Fastnacht Day and there is a donut called a fastnach that is associated with its observance. 

Though those who love pączki often will call the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday Pączki Day, the traditional Polish name is Fat Tuesday (and no, I’m not even going to attempt to pronounce that in Polish). Both the baking of fastnach and of pączki come from this idea of using up all the fatty delicious things in your pantry before the Lenten fast begins. 

In many Portugese, Spanish, and Italian-speaking countries it is known as Carnevale, from the Latin, carnevale. It means putting away the meat or flesh. This is actually where we get our English word for carnival, even though the point of carnival isn’t a great party but is instead one final night of eating meat before the Lenten fast begins and you put the meat away.  

In the Episcopal Church, to my everlasting dismay, we do not feast on delicious yeasty donuts or enjoy some great meat before going vegetarian. No, we eat pancakes—a food so aptly described once by Mitch Hedberg, who said of doing comedy, “You can’t be like pancakes, all exciting at first but by the end you’re sick of them.” 

Still, cooking pancakes is another way to use up those eggs, all that butter milk, and sugar before the fast of Lent begins. We try to make it a little more fun at my own parish, St. John’s Episcopal, by bringing in some of the Carnivale traditions of our Latinx members along with turning it into a karaoke night.. and generally someone does bring some pączki for me.


Yes, after all of that—particularly the karaoke—we are all ready to begin repenting on Lent when Ash Wednesday comes. 


But that’s actually the point of the last Tuesday before Lent, it’s not really so mubh about the partying as it is about the preparing. One of the oldest descriptions of this day comes from Ælfric of Eynsham who lived at the turn of the first century. He wrote, “In the week immediately before Lent everyone shall go to his confessor and confess his deeds and the confessor shall so shrive him as he then may hear by his deeds what he is to do.” 

That word, shrive, is the Old English word receiving the sacrament of reconciliation. That is, to be shriven is to confess your sins to God and then to have a priest pronounce God’s absolution over you. This Old English word is why my own Anglican tradition calls this day Shrove Tuesday, the day we’re forgiven.

So, the final Tuesday before Lent is not really a day to make all kinds of mistakes, to get all your sinning out before Lent begins. Rather, the final Tuesday before Lent is meant to be a day of preparation for the Lenten fast, a day when you intentionally get rid of some of the delights of this world (including by enjoying them a bit!), but you do that so that you can enter into Lent the following day with less temptation around you. 

As you approach this coming Tuesday, no matter your own tradition, perhaps consider that. Consider what things in your life you need to get rid of, what things you need to pull away, in order truly to walk close to Jesus during Lent. Maybe even go to your priest or pastor—or even just a trusted sibling in Christ—and get that nagging sin off of your chest so that you can focus on what Lent truly is about: getting closer to Jesus.

But that question—what Lent and Ash Wednesday are truly about, I’ll leave for next week’s edition.

Thanks for being with me. To find out more about my parish, you can go to sjegh.com. Until next time, remember, protest like Jesus, love recklessly, and live your faith out in a community that accepts you but also challenges you to be better tomorrow than you are today. 

Christian Devotion

In this episode of Christian Mythbusters, Father Jared debunks the myth of what true and faithful Christian devotion actually looks like. You can hear Christian Mythbusters in the Grand Haven area on 92.1 WGHN, on Wednesdays at 10:30am and Sundays at 8:50am.

The transcript of the episode is below, or you can listen to the audio at the bottom of the post.

This is Father Jared Cramer from St. John’s Episcopal Church in Grand Haven, Michigan, here with today’s edition of Christian Mythbusters, a regular segment I offer to counter some common misconceptions about the Christian faith. 

One of my favorite leaders in my own Anglican Tradition was Bishop Frank Weston, bishop of Zanzibar in Africa, who offered a powerful sermon in 1923 to a group of gathered Anglicans. Near the end of that sermon he said, “If you are Christians then your Jesus is one and the same: Jesus on the Throne of his glory, Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, Jesus received into your hearts in Communion, Jesus with you mystically as you pray, and Jesus enthroned in the hearts and bodies of his brothers and sisters up and down this country. And it is folly—it is madness—to suppose that you can worship Jesus in the Sacraments and Jesus on the Throne of glory, when you are sweating him in the souls and bodies of his children.”

Given Bishop Weston’s attempt to describe the whole nature of full and faithful Christian devotion, today’s I’d like to try to break the myth of what a truly devoted Christian looks like. 

First, I want to be clear that participation in the Christian church is essential to Christian devotion. But that is not because you cannot love God apart from the church—many have clearly done that well. It is not because you cannot be saved unless you go to church—our God can save everyone and the whole of the Scriptural tradition would indicate that he tends to have a preference for those religion often leaves behind. 

Rather, participation in the Christian church is essential for the fullest experience of Christian devotion because it is through the church that we learn how to love our neighbor faithfully. The reason for this, of course, is because Christians are a bunch of imperfect, often frustrating to be around people. And, as our Lord told us, simply loving those you already like is no great test of Christian discipleship. But loving those you find more… difficult… this is when we begin to learn what it is like to love like Jesus. And there’s no better way to find people that are sometimes difficult to love than to start going to church regularly. 

Furthermore, the practice of devotion in the Christian church is meant to train our hearts and our spirits. Devotion to God through prayer, through spiritual practices, through devotion to the blessed sacrament, through sacred images which draw our hearts and minds to God, all of these train us to love God more than ourself. Because, of course, the hardest thing it seems for humans to learn when it comes to Christianity (or any religion, really) is how to love anything more than we love ourselves. 

But it does not end there. 

Rather, the practices of Christian devotion, practices that draw us more deeply into the love our God has for us and the love we have for our God, these are meant to teach us how to better practice reverence in other areas of our life as well. After all, as Bishop Weston also said in that same sermon, “You cannot claim to worship Jesus in the Tabernacle, if you do not pity Jesus in the slum.”

Yes, you cannot claim to worship Jesus in your church if you are not equally concerned and filled with love for Jesus in the poor and oppressed. Or, as our Lord himself said in the twenty-fifth chapter Matthew’s Gospel, “Then they will answer, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you? Then he will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’”

Love Jesus in your church, absolutely. But practice your adoration and devotion there so that when you encounter the hungry in our world, when you encounter the sick, when you encounter the immigrant or the prisoner or anyone who is oppressed by the systems and powers of this world… so that when you encounter them, you have learned what it means to love Jesus there too. You have learned that Jesus is there, too. 

And so that you have learned what it means to offer all of yourself, not just to an idea about Jesus in church, but to offer all of yourself to Jesus as he meets you today in the poor, imprisoned, immigrant, and oppressed of this world.  

Thanks for being with me. To find out more about my parish, you can go to sjegh.com. Until next time, remember, protest like Jesus, love recklessly, and live your faith out in a community that accepts you but also challenges you to be better tomorrow than you are today. 

A Cosmic Vending Machine

In this episode of Christian Mythbusters, Father Jared debunks the myth that God is some sort of cosmic vending machine, and also offers a fuller understanding of how prayer is much more than asking God for things. You can hear Christian Mythbusters in the Grand Haven area on 92.1 WGHN, on Wednesdays at 10:30am and Sundays at 8:50am.

The transcript of the episode is below, or you can listen to the audio at the bottom of the post.

This is Father Jared Cramer from St. John’s Episcopal Church in Grand Haven, Michigan, here with today’s edition of Christian Mythbusters, a regular segment I offer to counter some common misconceptions about the Christian faith. 

Growing up in the church, I was taught to pray from a very young age. For some reason, however, I primarily only ever thought of prayer usually in two ways: giving thanks for something (usually a meal we were going to eat) and asking God for something I really wanted. In theological lingo, these are prayers of thanksgiving and of petition. 

But as I studied Christian spirituality in seminary, I was amazed to discover the actual depth and breadth of the practice of prayer in the Christian tradition. So, this week, I’d like to break the myth that God is primarily a cosmic vending machine.

I use the image of cosmic vending machine, not because I actually think many Christians explicitly think of God that way, but because I don’t think we often don’t realize that our prayers can become so full of petitions—and we can get so frustrated and disheartened with some petitions aren’t granted—that we can turn God into a cosmic vending machine in practice.

Petition, however, is only one type of prayer—and it’s not even the most important! But before getting to the types of prayer, it’s important to be clear about what prayer actually is (and why it’s not a cosmic make-a-wish system).

In The Episcopal Church our beliefs and practices are primarily articulated in our Book of Common Prayer. During the Reformation, when other Christians were drawing up creeds and confessions, statements of faith that distinguished them from “those other people who were clearly wrong,” that is not what was happening with English Christianity. Instead, we were creating a prayer book, the seventeenth-century version of which was used a mechanism to get Catholics and protestants to stop killing other and instead to find ways to pray together. We may disagree on all sorts of things a Christians, but in Anglicanism and in the Episcopal Church, we find ourselves united, not by our exact belifs, by our prayer and worship of  the Holy Trinity, of God.

Our prayerbook also contains a catechism, a summary of the Christian faith that probably Christians from almost any denomination would read and find consonant with their own beliefs. I love the definition of prayer in the catechism of the prayer book, where it says, “Prayer is responding to God, by thought and by deeds, with or without words.” 

There is so much to unpack in that sentence. First, prayer is response to God. That is, prayer presupposes that God is already active. You are not inviting God into a situation; you are acknowledging that God is already present and you are responding to that presence. 

In fact, I often describe prayer as, at its most basic, as practicing the presence of God, learning how to perceive the presence of God and then respond to the grace of God which enfolds you.

Second, prayer can be a response through our thoughts and through our deeds, it can be with or without words. In the Christian traditions of monasticism there is the saying that goes, laborare orare est, “to work is to pray.” You can learn how to turn your work into prayer if you remember that prayer is not asking God for things… but is responding to God. Sometimes prayer is with words… but sometimes it is without words. St. Paul says that the Holy Spirit interprets our groanings when we don’t have words to express how we feel. 

And once you understand prayer as practicing your ability to perceive God’s presence, once you understand prayer as a faithful response to that presence, then the various types of prayer begin to make sense. In our catechism, we identify seven principal kinds of prayer. 

We’ve already talked about petition (asking God things for yourself) and thanksgiving (expressing gratitude to God for our blessings, redemption, and whatever draws us closer to God). Related to petition are prayers of intercession (that’s bringing before God the needs of others). 

Most people are also familiar with prayers of penitence, when you confess your sins to God—but true penitence, remember, is never just confession, it also involves being willing to make restitution when you can and intending to amend your life. 

Those four most of you have heard of, but there are three other types of prayer though, types of prayer that are essential to a robust and rich spiritual life.

Adoration is lifting our heart and mind to God, asking nothing but to enjoy the presence of God. If you find yourself always having things to say to God, this sort of prayer can be difficult but it can also be a deep experience of grace.

Praise is articulating the truths of God’s attributes. We don’t praise God to get something, but because God’s very being draws praise from us.

Finally, oblation is offering yourself, your life and your labor, to the work and purposes of God in this world. 

Yes, prayer is much more about a cosmic vending machine. Prayer is about learning how to be attentive and respond to the cosmic—and personal—realities of God’s grace and love for you. 

Thanks for being with me. To find out more about my parish, you can go to sjegh.com. Until next time, remember, protest like Jesus, love recklessly, and live your faith out in a community that accepts you but also challenges you to be better tomorrow than you are today. 

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