I have a countdown clock on my blog counting the minutes until he's not president anymore, I can no longer stand to listen to him give press conferences (I read the transcripts later) and I agree with Anne Lammott who said Bush Years are like dog years -- every one of his as president has seemed like seven ... and yet I cringed when I saw this on the news this evening.
I want us to be a better country than this -- that we boo the President of the United States when he throws out the first pitch on Opening Day is a terrible commentary on just how much work there is to do to restore this nation to a place where we can once again be proud of the things that there are for us to be proud of about America.
It just makes me really sad. And tonight there just doesn't seem to be anyplace to take that sadness. So there it is.
And tomorrow is another day,
Monday, March 31, 2008
You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.
This is not the first time you have seen Hillary Clinton seemingly at her wits end, but she has always risen, always risen, much to the dismay of her adversaries and the delight of her friends.
Hillary Clinton will not give up on you and all she asks of you is that you do not give up on her.
There is a world of difference between being a woman and being an old female. If you’re born a girl, grow up, and live long enough, you can become an old female. But, to become a woman is a serious matter. A woman takes responsibility for the time she takes up and the space she occupies.
Hillary Clinton is a woman. She has been there and done that and has still risen. She is in this race for the long haul. She intends to make a difference in our country.
She is the prayer of every woman and man who long for fair play, healthy families, good schools, and a balanced economy.
She declares she wants to see more smiles in the families, more courtesies between men and women, more honesty in the marketplace. Hillary Clinton intends to help our country to what it can become.
She means to rise.
She means to help our country rise. Don’t give up on her, ever.
In fact, if you help her to rise, you will rise with her and help her make this country a wonderful, wonderful place where every man and every woman can live freely without sanctimonious piety, without crippling fear.
Particularly wonderful in a week coming which will take me to New Hampshire for a three day meeting with the Claiming the Blessing Steering Committee (looking to Lambeth and beyond) and then back here to preach on Sunday and gear back up to head to NYC for the Anglican Covenant Conference at the Desmond Tutu Center and, oh yes, a Canterbury Campaign gathering on April 12th with NYC folks.
But that's in the week to come.
Today is a going to the dog park/getting household stuff done/in time to settle in and watch the Dodgers open the season against the Giants at Dodger Stadium. (Go, Blue!)
But before we launch off into the day, here are a couple of "favorites" from last week:
Favorite photo on the blogosphere (from Fr. Jake):
Q. Do you feel bitter about your service in the Bush administration?
A. No. I'm thankful I got fired when I did, so that I didn't have to be associated with what they subsequently did.
Happy Monday, Everybody!
(Si, se puede!)
Sunday, March 30, 2008
Doubt is not the opposite of faith: fear is. Fear will not risk that even if I am wrong, I will trust that if I move today by the light that is given me, knowing it is only finite and partial, I will know more and different things tomorrow than I know today, and I can be open to the new possibility I cannot even imagine today.
Saturday, March 29, 2008
[Episcopal News Service, Stockton, California] The reorganization of the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin officially began on the evening of March 28 in a church partially illuminated by the Paschal Candle.
Officiant Bonnie Anderson, president of the House of Deputies, began the service at the Episcopal Church of St. Anne in Stockton, California, with the Easter acclamation: "Alleluia, Christ is risen." After the Prayer for Light and the rest of the candles were lit, she and the congregation recited the three Easter Lucernaria, or anthems.
The service was based The Book of Common Prayer's Order of Worship for the Evening.
Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori led the congregation of about 300 in the Litany for Healing, praying in part that God would "heal our wounds received at the hands of our friends, our fellow parishioners, and the clergy of this diocese, and help us to know the joy of your saving help."
The litany also included a prayer that God would "remove the darkness of our anxiety and despair over what has been done in our parishes and in our diocese, and let us see the glories of new possibilities, new friendships, and new ways of serving you." And the litany included the prayer that God would help the people of the diocese to know that God is always present "guiding us to Easter hope and resurrected life."
PS - Fr Jake has a round up of bloggers commenting from San Joaquin ... check it out here.
Thursday, March 27, 2008
Wednesday, March 26, 2008
In the church office we're still in recovery mode ... after Easter Monday off (which seems like a great idea on Easter Monday) now we're digging through our desks getting to everything we were going to get to "after Easter" and wondering how it got to be Wednesday already.
For me, that list included not only writing thank you notes to all who worked so hard to make our Holy Week and Easter liturgies such wonderful celebrations of God's abundant love but also getting caught up on the episodes of "As the Anglican World Turns" I missed while off in Holy Week Land.
So here goes -- a start, at least:
In the Diocese of San Joaquin they're gearing up for a special convention to elect a provisional bishop this coming Saturday. Fr. Jake has a good "round up" of the scoop on that -- as does the new website for the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin. It is indeed a new day dawning for that diocese!
"In other news" the Global South Steering Committee met just before Holy Week and posted their "reflections" on Easter Monday. Not really any surprises there -- same old saber rattling -- but, as one email correspondent offered, "Frankly, I saw the GS primates' statement as very hopeful. They are becoming increasingly desperate -- only the desperate feel the need to issue public threats." We shall see. Mark Harris offers his usual thorough job of examining the primates' "messing about with Anglican identity" -- and while you're over there at PRELUDIUM, check out his piece on the future-or-lack-thereof of the Anglican Communion Network: Goodbye Network?
Finally, for today, a sad and sober note amidst the glow of Easter are these reports from Nigeria about escalating violence targeting LGBT people in general and our Changing Attitude Nigeria allies in particular.
From the press release issued March 21st:
A shocking story of mob violence has emerged which almost culminated in thedeath of one of the leaders of the Changing Attitude Nigeria (CAN) group inPort Harcourt. The violent attack occurred in the context of the funeral ceremony being held for the sister of Davis Mac-Iyalla, attended by six members of the Port Harcourt group on Thursday, 20 March 2008.
The CAN Port Harcourt leader who was the subject of the attack said:“I am in total shock and living in fear while feeling the pains I suffered inthe hands of a mob group that attacked me at the Service of Songs for Davis’s late sister. While hymn singing was going on a muscular man walked up to meand asked me for a word outside the compound.
“The next thing I saw was a mob group who were there to attack me. They started slapping and punching me, kicked me on the ground and spat on me. I have never known fear like I knew when they were brutalizing me. I thought they were going to kill me there and then. While beating me they were shouting: ‘You notorious homosexual, you think can run away from us for your notorious group to cause more abomination in our land?’ Those who attacked me were well informed about us so I suspect an insider or one of the leaders of our Anglican church have hands in this attack.”
I remember well when Davis MacIyalla was here in Pasadena last month, listening to him speak of his grief at not only the death of his sister but at the fact that he would not be safe to go back to Nigeria in order to be present at her memorial.
As we continue to celebrate the Good News of the Risen Lord -- of the triumph of life over death and the promise of God's love made available to all -- let us not forget there are those within our own Anglican Communion who live in fear for their lives simply because they have been willing to tell the truth about who they are.
And let's roll up our sleeves and get back to work to change that.
Tuesday, March 25, 2008
Claiming the Blessing [CTB] and Integrity are co-sponsoring a series of regional workshops to provide local Episcopalians with the information and tools to be more effective advocates for LGBT equality at the diocesan level.
Participants will learn about the status of LGBT issues in the Episcopal Church, the polity of the Episcopal Church at all levels, how to elect and lobby bishops and General Convention deputies, how to submit and pass diocesan convention resolutions, and how to communicate effectively with a variety of target audiences and the media.
The first one was in Oakland just before Easter and still to come are:
South Central Region--March 28-29--Liberty, MO
Southeastern Region--April 11-12--Atlanta, GA
Midwestern Region--April 25-26--Cincinnati, OH
Northeastern Region--May 9-10--Newark, NJ
For more details, check out Walking With Integrity ... and give thanks for those willing to step up and continue to make a difference ... for the trainers and the trainees ... and for all committed to continuing to challenge the church to move forward into God's future of compassion, inclusion, justice, hope and love.
"One of the things I think I've learned in the last five years is that, as much as I wanted to be known as the good bishop, and not the gay bishop, there's no escaping," Robinson said in an interview last week at the diocesan headquarters here. "I would love just to be a simple country bishop, but that just doesn't seem to be in the cards."
No, no it doesn't. But let's give thanks for someone willing to play the hand he's been dealt faithfully -- even if it doesn't have the cards he was hoping for!
Monday, March 24, 2008
When I was a day-school chaplain, I used to tell the children that Chaplain Susan didn't do 40 Days of Lent just to do ONE day of Easter, so we were going to celebrate all FIFTY Days of Easter ... every single one of them!
So here's a start, on this glorious First of Fifty Days of Eastertide, a couple of things to celebrate:
At All Saints Church, the rector's Easter Day sermon began with the story his 85 year-old mother's encounter with the young many who entered her house uninvited on Good Friday afternoon with a gun in his hand. You'll want to watch it for yourself here ... don't know if you'll be able to hear the "gasp" that went through the 900+ in the congregation when he gets to the "and then he raised his gun ..." part but it really is quite an extraordinary Easter moment.
In the Guardian, there's a great post-Easter profile of the Bishop of New Hampshire entitled "Gay bishop's mission to unite" by religious affairs correspondent Riazat Butt.
And a couple of things to remind us how are we are STILL from "thy Kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven:"
This reflection about the Lambeth Conference from the AAC (American Anglican Council) weekly email update for Easter by David Anderson :
If those of us who are orthodox Anglican bishops had all been invited, and had we gone with our brother bishops from our respective overseas Provinces, how would we have entered into Eucharistic fellowship and communion with the bishops from the American Episcopal Church (TEC) who are currently teaching false doctrine, permitting and even celebrating immoral behavior, deposing clergy including bishops who disagree with them, and going to secular courts of law to bring suit against our clergy and laity? It is not a small thing that a simple "sorry" could wipe away. To be in Eucharistic fellowship with them would require a profound change of mind and heart on their part, a return to historic orthodox Christian teaching and practice.
My, my, my.
And finally, and most sadly, the sobering benchmark of 4000 American dead in Iraq was reached, according to news reports.
May they rest in peace and rise in glory ... and may we be given the grace, the wisdom and the courage to END this war ... Period.
Sunday, March 23, 2008
someday but that we are to be alive here
and now by the power of the resurrection.
The Very Rev. Tracey Lind, dean of Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in Cleveland, said she would preach about when Mary Magdalene and “the other Mary” went to Jesus’ tomb and were met by an angel who rolled away the stone before the cave to reveal that Christ had risen from the dead.
“I’m going to talk about the stones that need to be rolled away from the tombs of lives, that are holding us in places of death and away from God,”Ms. Lind said. “One of the main stones in our churches, synagogues, mosques, communities, countries, world is the pervasive stone of racism. What Obama has done is moved the stone a little bit.
“I will ask our congregation to look at the stones in our lives,” she said.
Preach it, Sister! Alleluia! Alleluia!
Saturday, March 22, 2008
In a very few minutes I will head over to All Saints Church to prepare for The Great Vigil of Easter. We will kindle the first fire of Easter outside in on the platform in front of the church, light the Paschal Candle, process into the darkened church to the ancient sound of the Exultet and then settle in to hear selections from scripture -- recalling our history -- along with contemporary readings -- calling us into God's future -- all leading up to the great moment when Easter will arrive ... with trumpets blaring, bells ringing and Alleluias proclaiming.
We will baptize into the Body of Christ three adults (the 17 children having been baptized at the 4:00 "Children's Vigil") and incorporate into the membership at All Saints Church 33 new members -- who have been preparing for this night for months in our Covenant I class.
The liturgy is described as follows:
The Great Vigil of Easter is the culmination of the sacred celebration of Holy Week and the beginning of the celebration of the Lord’s Resurrection. It is the climax of the Christian Year and unfolds the story of redemption in scripture, psalm, and sacrament. It begins in darkness and proceeds to a joyous burst of light. It begins in silence and proceeds to the glorious proclamation of the Paschal Alleluia celebrating the passing from death to life, from sin to grace.
As we baptize new Christians into the Body of Christ and incorporate new members into All Saints Church we listen to the historic record of God's saving acts in history through the scriptural stories that are our heritage. We hear from contemporary sources calling us to speak truth to power in the name of the God who calls us to walk in love with God and with each other. And we gather at the table to be fed by the bread and wine made holy -- praying that it give us strength for the journey as we go out to be the Body of Christ in the world.
Frederick Buechner famously said, "The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep need meet." The Great Vigil of Easter is a place where that gladness and that need meet in this liturgical celebration of our baptismal call.
And now ... off to church with me!
Friday, March 21, 2008
Finding the “Good” in Good Friday
Jesus went out with his disciples across the Kidron valley to a place where there was a garden, which he and his disciples entered. Now Judas, who betrayed him, also knew the place, because Jesus often met there with his disciples. So Judas brought a detachment of soldiers together with police from the chief priests and the Pharisees, and they came there with lanterns and torches and weapons.
Then Jesus, knowing all that was to happen to him, came forward and asked them, “Whom are you looking for?” They answered, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus replied, “I am he.” Judas, who betrayed him, was standing with them.
When Jesus said to them, “I am he,” they stepped back and fell to the ground. Again he asked them, “Whom are you looking for?” And they said, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus answered, “I told you that I am he. So if you are looking for me, let these men go.” This was to fulfill the word that he had spoken, “I did not lose a single one of those whom you gave me.”
Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it, struck the high priest’s slave, and cut off his right ear. The slave’s name was Malchus. Jesus said to Peter, “Put your sword back into its sheath. Am I not to drink the cup that God has given me?”
“Jesus went out with his disciples across the Kedron ravine. There was a garden there, and he and his disciples went into it …” And we know the garden’s name: Gethsemane. And we know what happens next – we know where this familiar Good Friday story leads – know where we will leave it when we conclude this three hour service of prayer and reflection, story and song. We know that Jesus dies: that the life -- the promise -- the light that shone so brightly will be extinguished. All that will remain of the rabbi from Nazareth will be a broken body and the broken dreams of his scattered followers. The Kingdom he proclaimed has not come. The powerful remain powerful: the oppressed remain oppressed -- and where there had been hope there is only despair.
This is the stark truth of this day we call "Good Friday" -- a crucial point in the symphony that is Holy Week. Palm Sunday was our overture: touching on all the themes to be played throughout the week and leading us into the subsequent movements. And now we've arrived at Good Friday: in some ways the "adagio" of the piece. In the hours between now and the "allegro" of Easter, we sit in the silence and contemplate the power of this story that is ours.
When my children were little, I remember my younger son Brian asking me one year, “So what’s “good” about a Friday where the church service is long, the music is sad and Jesus ends up dead at the end?” This question from an 8 year old all those many years ago now may resonate with some of us today as we gather here … in numbers significantly less than will gather on Easter Sunday morning! … to walk with Jesus through this last, agonizing part of his journey on earth. Just what is “good” about Good Friday?
My search for an answer to that question turns me, once again to the words of Robert Shahan, a former Bishop of Arizona, who famously said, "Faith is what you are willing to die for. Dogma is what you are willing to kill for."
What’s good about Good Friday is that Jesus didn’t come to give us dogma to kill for -- he came with a willingness to die for the sake of the message that the Kingdom of God is at hand: the Reign of God is about to be realized. It is here. It is now. He came with a message of inclusiveness and compassion: compassion in the truest sense of the word. The Latin word for passion means "suffering": the combined form of "compassion" means "with suffering." It is an invitation to join, to be a part of something requiring sacrifice and often pain. For us, it is an invitation to join and be part of the crucifixion story not in a way that leaves us stuck in the agony of Good Friday but in a way that leads us to the Glory of Easter.
“This is the cup God has given me; shall I not drink it?” Jesus asked in the Garden. Was it a rhetorical question asked by the one who saw unfolding before him the events that would lead to the death he had been born to die -- the sacrifice of the sinless one for the sins of the world? Or was it said hoping-against-hope that there was still another way to make known to the people of God the love of a God who was willing to become one of them -- to show them how to walk in love with God and with each other?
I believe it was the latter. I believe that more important than the death Jesus died was the life Jesus lived – a life so in alignment with God’s will – God’s love – that he was “obedient even unto death.” Not obedient to a vengeful God who sent Jesus as a blood sacrifice – to a death that was the inevitable result of humanity’s abject sinfulness for which we should still wallow in guilt and shame.
Rather, what I believe is good about Good Friday is that Jesus was obedient to the love of a God so great that it enabled him to transcend the FEAR of death as he walked the way of the cross on – as he chose to drink the cup he had been given even as he questioned up until the very last moment whether there wasn’t another way to accomplish the work he had been given to do.
The “good” in Good Friday is that in spite of the worst the world could do, the love of God transcended even death. The “good” in Good Friday is that we who follow Jesus, we who have been called to BE the Body of Christ in the world, can likewise transcend the fear of death in order to live lives fully alive – in order to continue to walk in love with the God who loved us enough to become one of us in order to show us how to love one another.
Here’s how another bishop – Gene Robinson, the Bishop of New Hampshire – names it:
I can "be not afraid," but instead be a bold and active witness to the love of God. As I strapped on my bulletproof vest just before [my consecration as Bishop of New Hampshire] I remember feeling blessedly calm about whatever might happen. Not because I am brave, but because God is good and because God has overcome death, so that I never have to be afraid again.
That is the power of the resurrection. NOT in what happens AFTER death, but what the knowledge of our resurrection does for our lives and ministries BEFORE death.
What we have to proclaim is a Gospel that can truly enter into those places of darkness and suffering where compassion is the only gift we have to give. It is ours to give, as the Body of Christ, because our Lord went there first. It is ours to give when we reach out to the oppressed and the persecuted. It is ours to give whether we proclaim the Gospel to those who have never heard it before: or to those who have never before heard that the Good News of God in Christ includes them.
Twenty years ago I got questions from a child wanting to know what’s good about Good Friday.
Today I get emails from children of God wanting to know what’s good about a church that chooses bigotry over the baptized; a communion that places its institutional preservation ahead God’s inclusive love; that seems to fall so short of being Body of Christ it was intended to be. It seems to many that we stand at a Good Friday moment in the church, as we watch those with dogmas they’re willing to kill for focus their resources on schism and division.
My answer is God is not finished with the church yet … or with ANY of us. But just as the dream of God could not be killed on Good Friday, the dream of a church where ALL are fully included in the Body of Christ is still alive and well in the hearts, minds and ministries of countless faithful witnesses throughout the Anglican Communion and beyond.
At our Easter Vigils tomorrow, when we baptize 20 new members into the Body of Christ and receive as new members of All Saints Church 30 more, we will celebrate the outward and visible sign of that dream of God being claimed by a new generation of witnesses. And those of us who head for Canterbury this summer to take that witness to God’s inclusive love to the bishops gathered for Lambeth Conference will go empowered by all that is good about Good Friday.
Twenty years ago I got questions from a child wanting to know what’s good about Good Friday.
Today I get phone calls from reporters wanting to know what’s good about America -- and how do I, as a preacher, plan to deal with the issues of racism & sexism, of power and polarization and politics in the pulpit.
My first answer is “carefully.”
But the more important answer is “directly.” For the truth is, we are a nation that has been led into the temptation to place its national security ahead of its dedication to the proposition that all are created equal. Waging pre-emptive war, exploiting the environment, failing to address the crisis of poverty and jettisoning historic constitutional protections, it seems to many that we stand at a Good Friday moment in this country as we watch our political process become driven by the media and our hopes of new vision and leadership derailed by polarizing rhetoric fueled by sexism and racism.
My answer is God is not finished with America, either … and just as the dream of God could not be killed on Good Friday, the dream of a nation where “liberty and justice for all” really means ALL is still alive in the hearts and minds and imaginations of Americans everywhere.
Yesterday, we saw an outward and visible sign of that dream being claimed at the Los Angeles Convention Center, where over 6000 new American citizens were naturalized. As we watched the procession of newly minted Americans stream past us in all their wonderful diversity it seemed to me a sign of great hope for this nation that – in spite of the challenges we face – there are still those flocking to the dream of an America that is good, that is free, that IS about liberty and justice for all. And when we finally spotted our OWN new Americano in the crowd – Abel Lopez – I had one of those “glory attacks” you may have heard about as I thought about the work and witness he will continue to offer as one empowered by all that is good about Good Friday.
So let us stand with those who claim all that is good in a church still becoming all it is meant to be. Let us stand with those who embrace all that is good about in a nation still “under construction.”
And now, let us stand in this moment at the foot of the Good Friday cross – a cross which Jeffrey John describes in this way: On the cross God absorbs into himself our falleness and its consequences and offers us a new relationship. … From Good Friday on, God is no longer "God up there," inscrutably allotting rewards and retributions. On the Cross, even more than in the crib, he is Immanuel, God down here, God with us.
God is with us – and that is good news: on this Good Friday and always. Amen.
Thursday, March 20, 2008
It's Maundy Thursday again ... "MONDAY" Thursday ... as my kids used to call it. It's not "Monday" Thursday, of course ... it's "maundy" for maundatum the Latin for commandment. For on this Thursday in Holy Week we remember the commandment our Lord gave us in one of his final acts before his arrest, trial and crucifixion: "A new commandment I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you so you must love one another. By this all will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."
The very familiarity of these words can take away their power when we hear them these centuries after our Lord spoke them that night in the upper room to those "still didn't quite get it" disciples. They celebrated the Passover meal symbolizing God's deliverance of Israel from death in Egypt – even while the impending tragedy of the death of God's Son loomed on the horizon. "A new commandment I give you," he said to these faithful Jews who already had ten perfectly good commandments, thank you very much. Not a recommendation. Not a suggestion. Not a "resolution" ... but a COMMANDMENT -- elevating it to the status of the ten that came down the mountain with Moses ... elevating it to "the Word of God."
This, my friends, was precisely the kind of talk that had gotten him into this no-going-back place to begin with. This insistence that God's revelation didn't quit on Mt. Sinai didn't sit well with those who considered themselves the champions of orthodoxy … the leaders of the religious institutions of his day.
Invested in the status quo, there was no room for new commandments ... for "continuing revelation" ... for Jesus -- this rabble rouser from Nazareth. "A New Commandment?" Blasphemy! Apostasy! Heresy! And so the gloom darkened, the troops gathered -- and the cross loomed. And yet, "Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end." Loved them enough to tell them the truth -- no matter what the cost.
Loved them enough to share all of who he was with them – and command them to do the same to each other.
But where does the foot washing part fit in to all this? One commentary I read reaches this conclusion: "Jesus was showing us that we are all equal when we gather around the table of the Lord. If the Creator could wash the feet of the created, should not the creatures wash the feet of one another in equality? And if Jesus saw himself in his creatures, shouldn't we see him in each other?"
Does that mean we're supposed to REALLY wash each other's feet? Well, let's look again at our criteria for primary sacraments in the church: We do it because Jesus told us to. ("given by Christ to His Church" in the loftier words of the catechism)
Baptism in Matthew 28: GO THEREFORE and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son & Holy Spirit.
Eucharist in Luke 22: And he took bread and when he had given thanks he broke it and gave it to them saying, "This is my body which is given for you. DO THIS in remembrance of me.
And in today's gospel: John 13: So, then, if I -- your Lord and teacher -- have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have given you an example that you also should do as I have done to you.
I imagine our Lord shaking his head and saying in gentle despair, "What part of go and do likewise didn't you understand?" Peter certainly didn't understand ... at least at first. "You do not know now what I am doing, but later you will understand," said Jesus -- in words of profound reassurance. That's the beauty of sacraments: you don't have to understand them to do them -- to accept them.
Could it be that part of the reason the "kingdom" hasn't come yet is that the church missed the boat on what Jesus intended to be another primary sacrament "given by Christ to his Church": the sacrament of servanthood? Sadly, examples are all too easy to find -- such as the newspaper article about a church edict forbidding women and children to participate in ceremonial foot washings on Maundy Thursday. It declared that the act of foot washing was symbolic of Jesus choosing an all male priesthood -- therefore the ceremony would consist of twelve men from any congregation -- no women and no children.
Can you imagine our Lord saying to his disciples gathered on the night before he was handed over to suffering and death: “A new commandment I give you: exclude women and children.” I can’t imagine that – instead I imagine Jesus reading the Atlanta Journal/Constitution, shaking his head in discouragement and saying, “What part of love one another don’t you understand?”
The priesthood of all the faithful: that’s the calling we ALL gather tonight to celebrate as we share with each other the bread and wine made holy. The priesthood of all the faithful -- ALL the beloved people of God: not just the ones with white plastic around their necks and seminary degrees hanging on their walls. Can we – in this "out-of-the-ordinary" week – dare to claim that extraordinary calling? Can we – each and very one of us – believe that God will give us the grace to obey this New Commandment if we will but ask – if we will but follow the One who calls us to walk in love as He loved us and gave Himself for us.
As in that upper room you left your seat
we come to praise you for your grace divine;
May the Lord who has given us the will to do these things, give us also the grace and power to accomplish them. Amen.
Wednesday, March 19, 2008
Here we're all looking back toward the baptismal font ...
Here we're all returning the favor by laying hands on our bishops ...
(from Episcopal Church Peace Ministries)
Prayer for our enemies
Prayer in our Fear and Anxiety
Prayer in Grief for War
Prayer for those in Military Service
Prayer for those in Captivity
For those Missing in Wartime
On this Wednesday in Holy Week we hear these words from the prophet Isaiah: “The Lord GOD has given me the tongue of a teacher, that I may know how to sustain the weary with a word.” Or, as the contemporary language translation “The Message” puts it, “God, has given me a well-taught tongue so I know how to encourage tired people.”
And what a timely message for this Wednesday in Holy Week – Holy Week Hump Day, we might arguably call it. For as we reach this mid-way point in the week between Palm Sunday and Easter I look around and I see an awful lot of tired people. And I’m not just talking about my All Saints colleagues who are working 24/7 to make “Holy Week Happen” … I’m talking about another kind of tiredness … of a deeper kind of weariness.
We don’t have to look further than the latest CNN bulletin on the polarization in American politics or the latest blog post on the schism in the Anglican Communion to realize there is a lot to be weary about. It comes from those who yearn for political leaders who offer hope rather than hype and for church leaders who are more committed to the Kingdom of God Jesus proclaimed than they are to the Institutional Church they are determined to maintain. And, on this fifth anniversary of the war in Iraq, it comes from all who yearn for a just end to an unjust war that continues to take both Iraqi and American lives as its economic impact drains us with a price-tag too staggering to even comprehend.
Where, oh where, is there a “word to sustain the weary” in all of this!
Well, some of you may know that I have a blog that I post to on a regular basis. Yesterday, reflecting there on one of the gospels appointed for Tuesday in Holy Week – the one where Jesus tossed the moneychangers out of the Temple in a fit of righteous indignation, I wrote: If we’re not righteously indignant we’re not paying attention.
As we follow the life and example of Jesus may we be given the courage to challenge the civil boundaries that keep us from being a nation where liberty and justice for all really means all. And as we follow Jesus this week in the way of the cross may we also be given the grace to take up the cross of righteous indignation and take ON those religious authorities who presume to say who qualifies and who doesn’t to be gathered into God’s loving embrace.
That post engendered this comment from someone named Jesse:
I was 'righteously indignant' now I'm tired. I've been reading the blogs and the venom and hate that gets promoted there. The vitriol directed at the +PB and the church for trying to defend what's given into their care, their stewardship. I'm tired Susan. I want to lay down this cross and stop. I'm tired of being the enemy. One of the reasons I joined TEC was the sense of welcome I 'perceived'. I have to tell you I wasn't thrilled that the local Episcopal priest was a woman
but when I met her and we talked and I told her my story, that woman gave me the energy to go on fighting the fight to be a Christian.
The priest who gave Jesse the energy he needed to go on being a Christian knew what it was to strengthen the weary … to encourage the tired. And even through cyberspace we can reach out and encourage each other – especially on those days when we, like Jesse, want to lay down whatever cross we’re carrying and just stop.
Yesterday we got a call from a local TV reporter wanting to know if he could come by with the news van and get an All Saints reaction to Barack Obama’s speech on race, faith and politics – and may I just say how refreshing it was to be asked for an interview about something that didn’t involve the words “gay” “bishop” or “Anglican Communion!” Anyway, in our conversation about preaching and the pulpit I was reminded what I was taught in seminary is the two-fold job description of a preacher: to comfort the afflicted and to afflict the comfortable.
And today, on this Holy Week Hump Day, I want to suggest that it isn’t just a job description for those who preach from a pulpit but for those who live out the Gospel in hundreds of different ways in our daily lives and work. Yes, if we’re going to follow Jesus we WILL be … we SHOULD be righteously indignant about any number of things. And that indignation will lead us to afflicting the comfortable in their power and privilege – to challenging those who wage war and who perpetuate bigotry: whether it’s lighting a candle at a peace vigil or signing on to the rector’s letter to the Archbishop of Canterbury it IS work we have been called to do on behalf of the Gospel. But on the other side of that coin is our call to comfort the afflicted – and today I want to call us to remember not to neglect that half of our “job description.”
God doesn’t promise we won’t be weary. But God promises to be with us in the weariness. And God promises to send prophets like Isaiah and pastors like Jesse’s with words to sustain us when we’re weary – to encourage us when we’re tired. And so, like the prophet who is called to both afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted, let us commit ourselves – each and every one of us – to not only receive those words of encouragement when we need them but to offer them to those who yearn for them: wherever and whenever we can. Amen.
Tuesday, March 18, 2008
Whatever you call it, it's an annual opportunity to see friends from around the diocese, to trot out our red stoles (along with cassock and surplice -- how Anglican is that?) and to enjoy the company of our clergy colleagues in the oasis of a liturgy we didn't have to plan. It is also a moving opportunity to remind us what a privilege it is to serve God in this church ... and, for me, how deeply grateful I am to be part of this diocese of my birth & baptism.
This was the second year we've had the Los Angeles Diocesan service at St. John's on Adams ... last year it was just "St. John's Episcopal Church" ... this year it was "St. John's Cathedral" for, as readers of this blog might recall, last month St. John's was dedicated as the "pro-cathedral" of the Diocese of Los Angeles ("pro" because it will serve as both the Cathedral for the Diocese and the Church for the congregation of St. John's).
It was another "beautiful day in the neighborhood" and I left not only "renewed" but "refreshed" ... and ready to keep on rocking and rolling through Holy Week to Easter and Beyond.
And then it was back to the details of life ... which for me today was proofing the Easter Vigil liturgy, getting my "welcome to All Saints" letters out to the 33 new members being registered Saturday night at the Vigil and giving two interviews (on newspaper, one local TV) on Barack Obama's speech this morning. (Never a dull moment, eh?) And now it is getting my meditation for noon Eucharist tomorrow together before getting back to church to do the 7:30 tonight.
Onward to Easter!
The Jesus who threw the money changers out of the temple is not the “gentle Jesus, meek and mild” of Sunday School flannel boards and stained glass windows. Rather this is an outraged Jesus who has finally had it up to “here” with those in authority whose commitment to the “letter of the Law” they inherited blinded them to the Spirit of the Law Jesus incarnated. Out of patience? Jesus? Is that hard to imagine? Harder to imagine, perhaps, is that he wouldn’t have been by this point.
Abraham Heschel had this to say about patience: “Patience, a quality of holiness may be sloth in the soul when associated with the lack of righteous indignation.” [Heschel, The Prophets] And Jesus was righteously indignant, all right! The picture that comes to my mind when I imagine this scene is Peter Finch in the movie “Network” yelling, “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore!” Jesus was NOT going to take it anymore and he made no bones about it as he went toe-to-toe with what would have been the clergy, vestry and wardens of his day.
And I love that he started where they lived – quoting the scripture they shared in common as his “opening argument” -- “My house will be called a house of prayer for all the peoples” … but you have turned it into a den of thieves! No wonder they began to plot his destruction: as one of my mentors once cautioned, “Just because you’re not paranoid doesn’t mean people aren’t out to get you.” And out to get Jesus they were.
And what were his greatest crimes? Knowing their tradition as well as they did. Calling them out of their comfort zone and asking them to abandon “how we’ve always done it.” Insisting that “a house of prayer for all the peoples” meant ALL the peoples … not just the ritually clean, not just the ones with enough wealth to purchase the doves necessary for the temple sacrifice – all the peoples. Offering God’s healing grace to all people -- the lepers and outcasts, the women and the children, the Roman centurion and the Syro-Phonecian woman. Fulfilling the vision of the prophet Isaiah who spoke for Yahweh to the people of Israel, “It is not enough for you … to bring back the survivors of Israel; I will make you the light of the nations, so that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.”
I remember this morning the words we pray in the daily office: Lord Jesus Christ, you stretched out your arms of love on the hard wood of the cross that everyone might come within the reach of your saving embrace. That everyone might come. Everyone.
It was not only what he was willing to die for it was what he was willing to pitch a fit for. What got those tables tossed and those doves disturbed in this act of outrage in the Temple was the very idea that there were those who would put themselves and their rituals, their sacrifices and their “theological boundaries” between God’s grace and anyone who God created in love and calls into that saving embrace.
And the beat goes one. From my perspective the mindset operating in the Temple that Jerusalem day is still hard at work in parts of this Episcopal Church – of this Anglican Communion. It is the mindset that results in comments like this one from a post to an online discussion site: “The Episcopal Church’s current problems have little to do with sex, but everything to do with an unwillingness to maintain theological boundaries."
Maintain theological boundaries. Let’s try it on: Lord Jesus Christ, you stretched out your arms of love on the hard wood of the cross that we might maintain theological boundaries. Don’t know about you but that’s not working for me. And it didn’t work for a clergy colleague of mine who offered this online response:
The Jesus I have met on my walk of faith constantly challenged theological boundaries, constantly bothered the authorities both civil and religious. He consorted with the unclean, he had women in his cohort, he denied the priority of familial relations, he violated purity codes. With the procession into Jerusalem, he upset the civil authorities and with the subsequent overturning of the temple tables he upset the religious authorities. Here a boundary, there a boundary, everywhere a boundary. I think that unwillingness to maintain boundaries may be of the essence of the faith ... at least if Jesus is to be the center of that faith.
If we’re not righteously indignant we’re not paying attention.
Monday, March 17, 2008
Will it still count as the Nation's Pastime if the Boys in Blue don't hit the field in Vero Beach to start the pre-season?
Almighty God, whose most dear Son went not up to joy but first he suffered pain, and entered not into glory before he was crucified: Mercifully grant that we, walking in the way of the cross, may find it none other than the way of life and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
“No good deed goes unpunished” was something I grew up hearing my Aunt Gretchen say – usually with a frightening degree of relish in her voice and usually as she was launching into a long, gossipy story involving one of her Altar Guild or Daughters of the King cronies. Thinking back, “see these Christians, how they love one another” was not exactly what got modeled for me in my early growing-up days in the church … it was more like “see these Christians, how they fight and argue over things like women priests and prayer books, over who gets to sit in which pew and sing which hymn.”
And so I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that “No good deed goes unpunished” comes to my mind as an appropriate sub-title of the gospel story appointed for this Monday in Holy Week – the story of the woman whose extravagant outpouring of precious perfume as a gift to Jesus earned her a tongue lashing from his disciples. The good deed – the gift she offered – was judged and rejected by those surrounding Jesus who thought she should have made a different choice.
And then Jesus intervened.
“Let her alone. Why do you criticize her?” he asked – and then challenged them to look beyond their “either/or” mind-sets and embrace what we like to call “both/and” thinking – that feeding the poor is always important but so is taking care of each other: that in doing what she did – offering what she offered – she gave not only a gift to Jesus but an example to us of risking to give abundantly, to love extravagantly.
What an example for us to claim on this Monday in this Holy Week. And what an antidote to the “either/or” challenges that seem to face us every time we turn around – not to mention the “no good deed unpunished” contingent who are all too ready to leap in at a moment’s notice with what we shoulda, coulda, oughta done instead …
The climate of polarization that currently grips both the American Culture and the Anglican Communion is a prime example. A case in point is the story a friend and parishioner tells of her experience being part of a day of dialogue that brought together folks from different congregations and contexts for “conversation across the divide.” They started by going around the table and naming what were, for them, Jesus’ core moral values.
“Peace” said my friend.
In the wider Anglican Communion and here at home in the Episcopal Church the either/or du jour seems to be “justice or unity.” Can we find a way to respect the dignity of every human being and fully include all of the baptized in the Body of Christ and still maintain unity? Frankly, the jury is still out – but there’s plenty of both murmuring AND infuriating going on … particularly as we countdown to Lambeth Conference this July.
And there are LOTS of good deeds not going unpunished as those working, striving, strategizing and advocating for a way forward through the hard ground of our differences run up against just how hard it is to hear the “both/and” voice over all the “either/or” shouting.
The prayer that began our worship this morning is full of “both/ands” -- joy and pain/glory and crucifixion/the way of the cross and the way of life and peace. For the “way of the cross” is by its very nature a both/and – a way we walk throughout our spiritual journey and a way we walk in a most intentional way this Holy Week.
Sunday, March 16, 2008
The rector's semon was officially entitled "The Liberating Power of Self-Offering" but what I heard was "A Tale of Two Processions."
Two processions entered Jerusalem this spring morning. The procession of Jesus on a donkey and the procession of Pilate on a strong steed. Jesus' procession is surrounded by children, men and women waving palm branches -- symbols of peace.You can hear it all here.
While Pilate's procession is surrounded by swordsmen, military might and the banners of the forces of domination. Jesus' procession is about liberating the crowds; calling them to the true meaning of Passover. Pilate's procession is about controlling the crowds gathered in Jerusalem for Passover."
Pilate's procession was about overpowering. Jesus' procession was about empowering.
Those are the choices laid before you and me over these next eight days -- the holiest week of the Christian year: will the steps we take in our journey be in the service of domination or liberation?
I recommend it. Highly.
And now, onward to Holy Week!
Almighty God, whose most dear Son went not up to joy but first he suffered pain, and entered not into glory before he was crucified: Mercifully grant that we, walking in the way of the cross, may find it none other than the way of life and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Saturday, March 15, 2008
'Twas the week before Holy WeekAnd all through the churchNot a copier was cranking:Not even a lurch.
The palms that were meant
To be folded with care
Had not yet arrived
There was panic in the air ...
THAT being said, here's a quick update on the latest episode of "As the Episcopal World Turns" ... subtitled: Canonical Kerfuffle:
Fr. Jake has the most thorough overview of the backs-and-forths of the last day or so on this one but the "long story short" is that The Living Church published an article suggesting that there might not have been a sufficient number of bishops present at Camp Allen to make the vote to depose +Schofield and +Cox count.
"In consultation with the House of Bishops' parliamentarian prior to the vote," Beers said, "we both agreed that the canon meant a majority of all those present and entitled to vote, because it is clear from the canon that the vote had to be taken at a meeting, unlike the situation where you poll the whole House of Bishops by mail. Therefore, it is our position that the vote was in order."
And Fr. Jake offered this summation:
The Presiding Bishop presents that matter to the Bishops at a meeting. If the Bishops entitled to vote give consent, the Bishop is deposed. The wording suggests that it is a majority of Bishops at that meeting entitled to vote that is required. Otherwise, the terminology "All the Members" would have been included, as it was in the previous section.The wording of that canon certainly needs to be cleaned up. That is quite clear.
Friday, March 14, 2008
Some quotes from reflections coming in from bishops re: the just completed House of Bishops Meeting at Camp Allen:
Bishop of Arizona's Kirk Smith:
... in spite of intensive lobbying by many bishops of our church, the Archbishop of Canterbury has decided not to permit Bishop Gene Robinson of New Hampshire to participate in any capacity at the upcoming Lambeth Conference in July. Although Bishop Robinson was the only American bishop not to receive a formal invitation, it had been hoped that a way could be found to have him present in an unofficial capacity.
This news was greeted with great sadness by most of the House, and we are working to find ways support our brother during our time in England, and especially to invite our counterparts in the Anglican Communion to meet with him. I invite you to read all the documents that are posted on the Episcopal News Service website, including Bishop Robinson’s very moving response to the Lambeth decision, as well as a resolution passed by the House in support of him.
Whether one agrees with him or not, it is important to remember that he is a duly elected Bishop and that his exclusion is hurtful not only to him, but to the integrity of the American church.
Bishop for Ecumenical Relations, Chris Epting:
The most painful session was learning that our brother Gene Robinson’s (and our) request for him to be included in the Lambeth Conference in some official way has been rejected by the Archbishop of Canterbury. Even his request simply to pray with his brother and sister bishops during the retreat and during Bible studies. Unbelievable! We will surely make a statement expressing our dismay and sadness at this decision. And we will find ways to stay connected with him during the Conference.
Thursday, March 13, 2008
Offered as clarification to the secular press who, bless their hearts, have trouble keeping all our ecclesiastical details sorted out, I thought it offered some great reminders to all of us who blog, comment and otherwise reflect on the whole state of the Episcopal Church and the world:
1. We’re Episcopalians, not “Episcopals.” (Just like those folks down the street are Methodists, not Methods.)
2. The ecclesiastical body known as the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin hasn’t left the Episcopal Church just because some of its members have.
3. +Gene Robinson isn’t the first gay bishop, or the first openly gay bishop, in the Episcopal Church, the Anglican Communion, or Christendom. He’s the first openly gay man to be consecrated bishop. (That we know of. 1,980 years--plus or minus a few--is a long, long time to go without the Internet.)
4. Deposed clergy are not "stripped." They may retain their frocks, along with other contents of their closets. It's the title and the property they can't keep.
Wednesday, March 12, 2008
Integrity expresses its profound disappointment and anger that the Archbishop of Canterbury has failed to find a way for the Rt. Rev. Gene Robison to meaningfully participate in the Lambeth Conference. The Rev. Susan Russell, President of Integrity, said, "Bishop Robinson's marginalization is symbolic of the discrimination experienced by the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender faithful daily throughout the Anglican Communion. It runs completely contrary to the promise made at the last Lambeth Conference 'to listen to the experience of homosexual persons' (see Lambeth 1998 Resolution 1.10.) making a travesty of the so-called 'Listening Process.'"
Russell added, "Integrity completely supports Bishop Robinson's call for other U.S. bishops to attend the Lambeth Conference despite his exclusion -- and we challenge them to speak not only for him, but for the LGBT faithful throughout the Anglican Communion who will have no voice in Canterbury. Integrity will be consulting with a number of progressive bishops on how to best offer that witness."
Russell concluded by saying, "Integrity continues to prepare for our Lambeth Conference witness with our global Anglican allies. We will be there in numbers and we look forward to the opportunity to claim God's justice and proclaim Christ's love."
(See Canterbury Campaign for more information.)
Give to your Church, O God,
a bold vision and a daring charity,
a refreshed wisdom and a courteous understanding,
that the eternal message of your Son
may be acclaimed as the good news of the age;
through him who makes all things new,
even Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
We, the House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church, approaching the forthcoming Lambeth Conference, are mindful of the hurt that is being experienced by so many in our own Episcopal Church, in other Provinces of our global communion, and in the world around us. While the focus of this hurt seems centered on issues of human sexuality, beneath it we believe there is a feeling of marginalization by people of differing points of view. Entering into Holy Week, our response is to name this hurt and to claim our hope that is in Christ.
As the Lambeth Conference approaches, we believe we have an enormous opportunity, in the midst of struggle, to be proud of our heritage, and to use this particular time in a holy way by affirming our rich diversity. The health of such diversity is that we are dealing openly with issues that affect the entire global community. Thus, even as we acknowledge the pain felt by many, we also affirm its holiness as we seek to be faithful to our Lord Jesus Christ.
Even though we did not all support the consecration of the Bishop of New Hampshire, we acknowledge that he is a canonically elected and consecrated bishop in this church. We regret that he alone among bishops ministering within the territorial boundaries of their dioceses and provinces, did not receive an invitation to attend the Lambeth Conference.
We appeal to the faithful of the Episcopal Church and the faithful in the wider, global Anglican family, to focus and celebrate our unity in the comprehensiveness of diversity. In union with Christian tradition through the centuries, we are willing to face challenges that precipitate struggle as a means towards reconciliation.
During our meeting we have been praying for a "daring charity and courteous understanding." With this intent and guided by the Holy Spirit, we go to the Lambeth Conference spiritually united and praying that God will sanctify our struggles and unify us for Christ's mission to a hurting world.
source: episcopal life online