Saturday, May 28, 2016

Friday

8am Morning Prayer & Mass in St Mary's Chapel (keeping the feast of Corpus Christi, transferred, since we always observe Jackson Kemper at Commencement), followed by a somewhat attenuated breakfast ahead of a firm 9:30 start time for the regular May meeting of the Board of Directors. We were joined by several Members of the corporation, who had seat but not voice, although on selected occasions we solicited their input. The bulk of the morning was devoted to figuring out how to deal prudently with the financial straits that the House finds itself in, although they are not as narrow as they were a year and two ago. After an expeditious 30 minute lunch, we dealt with more routine concerns--election of officers (I am once again the Chairman), cleaning up some language in our statutes and policies, adopting new Audit Committee protocols. We were finished at 2:50. Forty minutes later I was on the road toward the Twin Cities, where my daughter and her husband and their two children live. Brenda flew in; I picked her up at MSP in the late evening. We're looking forward to being grandparents for the weekend. I'll be back in this venue on Tuesday.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Thursday (Corpus Christi)

  • Morning Prayer was a 7:30, but most everybody, YFNB included, thought it was a 8:00, so ... on the breakfast.
  • At 9:15 I headed over to the St John's-Northwestern Military Academy chapel to vest and get otherwise oriented and organized for commencement, which was at 10:00 (on this, everyone agreed).
  • I know the chapel is not air-conditioned, so I expected to be uncomfortable, and I was, but it could certainly have been worse. After the Dean and Faculty award the earned degrees (of which there were 26, including two from the Diocese of Springfield), it's my turn to award the honorary degrees, of which there were two: Bishop Michael Marshall (who was one of my homiletical and catechetical heroes as long ago as the early 1980s ... so, very cool) and Bishop Harold Miller of Down & Dromore.
  • I then presided at the Eucharist, which was a distinct privilege. 
  • Just enough time to pose for pictures, air out a bit, grab some lunch in the refectory, and head down to the room called the West Wing for the annual meeting of the Members of the Corporation of Nashotah House.While I chair the actual governing body, the Board of Directors, elected by the Members, I do not preside over the annual meeting. So I got to sit in the back row and ask questions and make observations. We elected several new members, and many of them asked insightful questions, so it was time well spent.
  • We adjourned just in time to make it to the chapel for 4:30 Evensong, which was followed by dinner, on a somewhat less festive note, back in the refectory.
  • During the evening, I actually got to spend some solo time in the library ... yes, processing email.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Wednesday (St Bede)

  • 8am, Morning Prayer in St Mary's Chapel
  • 8:45ish until 10:15ish--breakfast in the refectory. Sat a bit with Matthew Dallman to review the draft of the liturgy for his ordination to the diaconate on June 11. Processed some emails.
  • 10:30-11:45ish: Attended the annual Alumni Day Mass, in the chapel. Brilliant homily from Fr Joel Prather of the Diocese of Milwaukee on the importance and relevance of St Bede.
  • Noonish until 1:30ish: Lunch for alumni and tomorrow's graduates at the Olympia Resort in Oconomowoc.
  • 2:00-3:30: Attended a presentation by Fr Jack Gabig (faculty) and Fr Lee Nelson (alumn) on some ideas about catechesis in a post-Christian culture. Relevant and timely.
  • Sat in the refectory (where there's good wifi) and processed emails.
  • 4:30-5:40ish: Solemn Evensong in the chapel, which included a "sermonic lecture" from the Bishop of Down & Dromore in the Church of Ireland, Harold Miller. It was superb.
  • Gala banquet in Adams Hall, which included the presentation of several awards to distinguished alumni.
  • And the highlight of the day: A late-night run to LeDuc's, the iconic (to Nashotah students) frozen custard joint in the nearby community of Wales, accompanied by my friend Fr Dow Sanderson, rector of Holy Communion, Charleston (SC).

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Tuesday (Jackson Kempter)

Last night I had driven as far as Rockford, so this morning I got up and continued my journey to Nashotah House, where I arrived around 10. Spent the morning signing some certificates and catching up with the Dean and the Secretary of the Directors on a range of issues. Lunch in the refectory, then I got settled in to my quarters (just a few feet from where I lived as a student in the 80s). Then it was off to the nearby St John's-Northwestern Military Academy chapel, venue for commencement on Thursday, for a liturgy rehearsal. Back on campus, I processed several emails, and then attended semi-choral Evensong (the Psalm and Canticles were sung by the choir) in a packed chapel. This was followed by a reception in the refectory for Professor (of Church Music) Joseph Kucharski, who is retiring. The evening was capped off by a smallish gathering of some Corporation Members (formerly known as Trustees) and three of those who have been nominated for election as members.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Trinity Sunday

Met Mother Kathryn Jeffrey, rector of St Andrew's, Carbondale (with St James' Chapel, Marion) for breakfast at 8:30. We then headed to the church ahead of the regular 10am Sunday liturgy, at which we received one adult and confirmed her teenage daughter. The liturgy was enhanced by the presence of a harpist--not something I've experienced very many times--and she was joined by an accomplished flutist, in addition to the regular keyboard musician (piano today, as the organ is acting up). Toward the conclusion of the coffee hour I made about a 20 minutes presentation on the approaches to parish mission strategy. Pointed the YFNBmobile toward home around 12:30 and pulled into my driveway a little bit before 4:00. After a walk and a casual meal out with Brenda, I spent much of the evening responding to emails. This entire week will be devoted to travel, and some stuff just needed to get done sooner or later.

Sermon for Trinity Sunday

St Andrew's, Carbondale w/ St James', Marion--John 16:12-15Romans 5:1-5, Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31

You’ve probably noticed how difficult it is for human beings to get along sometimes, right? That’s why we have wars. That’s why we have lawyers. That’s why we have conciliators and facilitators and psychotherapists. Countries have conflicts with other countries; we see it on the news every day. Very serious cutthroat competition drives our marketplaces. Extended families are dysfunctional across multiple generations. Even those who claim to be followers of Jesus squabble amongst themselves over all kinds of things, both major and minor. And I’m sure that none of this comes as any news to you. It’s just the environment we live in.

But, as Christians, as followers of Jesus, we have a distinctive attitude toward all this ubiquitous conflict. We certainly live under its shadow—whether the conflict is global or local, whether it’s substantial and dangerous or just petty and annoying. But we are people who, simply by virtue of our identity in Christ, are committed to the imperative of reconciliation. Reconciliation is not just an aspect of the gospel; reconciliation is the gospel. The possibility and hope of reconciliation—reconciliation with God, reconciliation with other people, reconciliation with ourselves, reconciliation with creation, with the cosmos—this is precisely the good news that is our mission to propagate by deed and word. Indeed, the catechism in our Prayer Book articulates the mission of the church as restoring “all people to unity with God and one another in Christ.”

This is daunting, isn’t it? I, for one, find it extremely intimidating. But the good news is, we don’t have to make it up from scratch. We don’t have to accomplish it on our own power, as a result of our own resourcefulness and our own hard labor. It’s God project. And within the life of God itself, we find the resources we need.

Today is Trinity Sunday, which reminds us that when we as Christians say “God,” we mean something rather more complex and interesting than, say, Jews or Muslims or people who just use the word casually without giving it very much thought. The doctrine of the Trinity wasn’t fully fleshed out in the mind of the Church until around four centuries after Jesus was no longer present on this planet in his human body. It’s infamously hard to understand, and even harder to explain. There is no single adequate way of speaking about the Trinity—though lots of wrong ways!—just a few phrases, like “trinity of Persons in unity of Being”—that have distilled as less inadequate than all the others.

We have all sorts of symbolic abstractions that we use to navigate these perilous theological waters. You’ve probably seen that chart that has the word “God” in the middle of a triangle, and the words “Father,” “Son,” and “Holy Spirit” at each of the corners. Between each corner and the center is a line labeled “Is,” to indicate that each of the Persons of the Trinity is truly and completely God. The lines that actually make up the triangle are labeled “Is Not,” indicating that the Persons of the Trinity are not to be confused with one another. Really, it makes most anybody’s head swim, doesn’t it?

So it’s helpful to bear in mind that there’s a difference between the doctrine of the Trinity and the Trinity itself, as important as that doctrine is. God cannot be reduced to or contained by any doctrine, though the doctrines of the Church are true as far as they go, and we’re not at liberty to play with them; they’re the least bad descriptions of whatever it is they describe. Now, to end of making that distinction between the doctrine of God and God himself, let me call your attention to an icon that originates in Russia about 500 years ago, but has become quite well-known in both its native Eastern environment and in the Christian west as well. In the development of Christian devotion, this image has come to be understood as representing the unrepresentable Trinity in the “least inadequate” way.

It depicts three “angels” whom we read about in Genesis. They visit the patriarch Abraham and deliver the news that his aged wife Sarah will nevertheless bear a son within the next year. Abraham prepares a meal for them, and this icon shows them seated at his table for the meal. Because, according to the Law of Moses in the Old Testament, you can’t depict God artistically, this icon has entered the Christian spiritual tradition as a kind of surrogate image for the Holy Trinity. The “angels”—and an angel is always an ambiguous figure in the Old Testament—the angels whom we mystically see as representing the three Persons of the Holy Trinity, are gathered at a table for a meal. Now, think about it: a meal is an intrinsically social occasion. All of us have found ourselves in situations—at a dinner party, in the dining car of a train, perhaps on a cruise ship—when we’re sharing a meal with people we’ve never met before, and in those circumstances we feel an impulse—or an obligation, at any rate—to make conversation, to be sociable. So the fact that we see, by analogy, the Persons of the Trinity sharing a meal together demonstrates that they are in relationship with one another. They are not compartmentalized, not siloed, not abstracted, but engaged with one another, in relationship with one another.

Now, notice that each bears a symbol of royal—or, in this case, divine—authority, but each one’s head is inclined in deference to the others. They are absolutely co-equal, and at the same time mutually subordinate.

This “picture” says way more than “a thousand words.” It is a mystical image of the what our missionary goal—that is, reconciliation of all people with God and one another—an image of what our missionary goal looks like. The Holy Trinity shows us a God who goes out of Himself to be in relationship with humankind. This results not only in “peace with God” but sharing in God’s glory.

This “outgoingness” of God is intimated by the personification of Wisdom in this morning’s first reading from the Book of Proverbs. We read
Does not wisdom call, and does not understanding raise her voice? On the heights, beside the way, at the crossroads, she takes her stand. …  “I was beside him, like a master worker; and I was daily his delight, rejoicing before him always.
Then, in St Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, God’s love is described as having been “poured into our hearts,” a robust image of God’s outgoingness, of God extending himself, of God’s “sociability,” of his desire to be in relationship with us, because God is, in his very nature, “communal”—a divine community of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Unity of Being, Trinity of Persons.

Jesus, in his farewell address to his closest disciples on the eve of his death, talks about the Holy Spirit who will be sent after his departure, and describes the Holy Spirit as the “Spirit of truth.” This reminds us that an authentic relationship is indeed an environment in which truth can be told. Think how rare that is in so many of our relationships, both individually and in community. We often don’t feel safe in speaking truth, for fear of what the response will be. We figure that a fragile and insecure and not entirely truthful relationship is better than a broken relationship, better than no relationship at all. But as we see the Holy Trinity, represented by angels, gathered around the table in this icon, it’s clear that they are not going anywhere without one another. Their commitment is solid. When we’re in a secure relationship, we can tell the truth, because we’re not afraid that those who hear the truth we speak are going to bolt, to break off the relationship. We are Trinitarian Christians because the relationship between the Persons of the Trinity provides the template, the model, by which we can safely speak truth to one another. The Trinity is the seedbed in which we can grow into the sort of reconciled mutual deference that mirrors the life of God.

So, you see, we have much more to celebrate on Trinity Sunday than a doctrine, as significant as the doctrine is. The Trinity itself, God himself, not the doctrine, is our very life and salvation. The Trinity is the roadmap and the resource for our missionary work of restoring all people to unity with God and one another in Christ.  Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit: As it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever. Amen.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Saturday

  • Out the door at 8:30, headed south. Arrived at St Paul's, Alton at about 10:15.
  • Presided over the installation of the Revd Cindy Sever as Rector of Alton Parish. It was an energetic and lovely ceremony.
  • After the post-liturgical potluck I headed further south still, arriving at St James', Marion in time for their regular Lord's Day celebration, which occurs on the eve thereof. Presided, preached, and laid hands on one person renewing her baptismal vows.
  • Dinner for vestry and spouses at the home of St Andrew's, Carbondale parishioner Trish Guyon, which is always an elegant affair. By now she knows what I like to drink and what I like to eat, so it's pretty special.