Sunday, January 19, 2020

Second Sunday after the Epiphany

As the service time at Christ Church, Springfield was not until 1015, I had plenty of time to get myself put together, grab some breakfast at Charlie Parkers, and load up the car before heading over there. Presided, preached, and confirmed one young man, duly keeping the feast with a congregation that was a bit thin because of the holiday weekend. After some post-liturgical socializing, I stopped by St John's Hospital to look in on and anoint Fr Gus Franklin, whom I had just learned has been there for the last few days. Got myself headed north in time to arrive in Chicago around 3:45.

Sermon for II Epiphany

Christ Church, Springfield--John 1:29–42

In church circles, including Episcopal church circles, there has been a definite uptick over the last decade or so in the use of the word “discipleship.” I can remember when it was almost never mentioned—well, among Episcopalians, at any rate—but that’s changed. We hear it quite a bit now. In general, that’s a good thing, in my opinion. It’s certainly a big improvement from only a few years ago, when there was a reluctance to even mention the name of Jesus, let alone talk too seriously about following him.

Discipleship, though, is not a simple thing. It looks different to different people. For some, following Jesus looks like taking on all the social evils of the world. This certainly includes the standard “leftwing” evils of sex and gender discrimination, threats to reproductive choice, income inequality, climate change, prison reform, and the like. But there are also “rightwing” “Social Justice Warriors” for whom Christian discipleship involves opposing evils like abortion, crime, the cataclysmic re-definition of marriage, the collapse of personal morality, erosion of civil liberties, government overreach, and the list could go on. And, I would suggest, there are evils that are pretty much non-political, things that everyone can get enthusiastic about opposing, regardless of their political views: addiction, terrorism, human trafficking, and child abuse—because, you know … this is what Jesus would do, right?

Then there are those, in my experience, for whom Christian discipleship is about trying one’s best to become a “good person”—following Jesus’ example, behaving toward others the way we would have them behave toward us, cultivating virtues like humility and generosity, striving for spiritual fruits like patience, gentleness, and self-control.

(Of course, there are many people—an increasing number, it appears—who think Jesus was, at best, an irrelevant fool who may not ever have even existed, but they’re not likely to even claim to be Christian, much less be interested in discipleship.)

Today we see Andrew and Peter—or Simon, as he is named initially—and, presumably, John, though he is never named—we see these three “inquirers,” I think we can call them, two of whom were disciples of John the Baptist—we see them drawn to follow Jesus. This takes place right after his baptism by John the Baptist, which, you may recall, we celebrated liturgically a week ago. It’s not hard to wonder … why? We are understandably curious about what motivated them to go to such lengths to seek Jesus out, to find him, to end up staying with him—staying with him not only that night, but all the way to the cross and the resurrection.

The answer, of course, is both simple and profound. Andrew and Peter and John recognized Jesus as the Messiah, the Anointed One of God, the One for whom their people had been expectantly waiting for centuries, the One who was, as John the Baptist named him, the “Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” And, as readers of John’s gospel, we have the added advantage of having seen Jesus revealed as the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit, and as the very Son of God.

How did this affect the lives of these three neophyte disciples? Well, it upended them! They left their homes and livelihoods and followed Jesus all the way to the cross—some backing away for a bit then, but coming back together in the Upper Room—all the way to the cross and on to the empty tomb. And then they became heralds of the Christ to the point of their own martyrdom, John bearing his final “witness” in exile rather than in death. In the process, these disciples, along with the ones who were called after them, built the Church. We should not fail to note the prominence of Peter in this narrative, the first among the disciples to confess Jesus as the Messiah, the Son of the Living God, the one to whom Jesus would promise the keys of the kingdom. We who bear on our brows the mark of the cross of Christ are the heirs of these first disciples.

Would the way most of the world—including ourselves—would the way we recognize Jesus lead to such a witness? Could it? Does your understanding of who Jesus is upend your life? What, exactly, is different about you because you are a disciple of Jesus? Does being a disciple of Jesus affect the decisions you make about your career? About your education? The kind of house you live in? Does it affect how you spend your money? Does it influence what you do with your discretionary time? Does it affect how you vote?

Here’s the thing: The way we follow Jesus—that is, the character and quality of our discipleship—the way we follow Jesus is determined by who we think he is. If Jesus is, for us, a political activist or a community organizer, that’s where discipleship will take us. If Jesus is, for us, an uncommonly good person, a shining moral example, an exceptionally wise philosopher and teacher, then that’s where our discipleship will take us.

But if we believe Jesus to be the Son of God, the Incarnate Word, the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit, then we will give our lives to him wholly. We will be unreservedly at his disposal in the way we spend our time, the way we spend our money, and the way we spend our emotional energy.

Here this prayer from John Wesley, a priest of the Church of England in the late 18th century, although he’s most well-known as the founder of the Methodist movement:
I am no longer my own, but thine.
Put me to what thou wilt, rank me with whom thou wilt.
Put me to doing, put me to suffering.
Let me be employed for thee or laid aside for thee,
exalted for thee or brought low for thee.
Let me be full, let me be empty.
Let me have all things, let me have nothing.
I freely and heartily yield all things to thy pleasure and disposal.
And now, O glorious and blessed God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
thou art mine, and I am thine.
So be it.
And the covenant which I have made on earth,
let it be ratified in heaven. Amen.

Who is Jesus? The way we answer that question determines what we think it looks like to be his disciple. We can think he’s a social reformer, of either a leftwing or a rightwing variety. We can think he’s a shining moral example or an inspired teacher. Or we can agree with Peter, and acknowledge him as the Messiah, the Christ, the Son of the living God, and then join John Wesley in giving ourselves over to him wholly. Who is Jesus? As Andrew said to his brother Simon, so I say to you, “Come and see.” Amen.

Saturday, January 18, 2020

Confession of St Peter

Up, put together, and across the alley for devotions, intercessions, and Morning Prayer by myself in the cathedral by around 0815. Then to the west side IHOP for breakfast (I declined their specialty and had an omelette, so I was able to feel self-righteous for a while). Back at the office, I processed a bunch of email, then prepared for my 11 o'clock appointment with a postulant to assess his prior theological education and plot a course of any necessary remediation. Then I met with him for about an hour, which was a very productive encounter. Picked up some lunch from Dynasty Cuisine down on South Grand (a Chinese place) and brought it back to the office to eat while I watched an episode of a Netflix TV show). With intermittent breaks to attend to emails and texts, the main accomplishments of the afternoon were the finish work on tomorrow's homily (Christ Church, Springfield) and significant progress toward preparing the corporate worship at the clergy retreat next month. Evening Prayer in the cathedral. Dinner at Longhorn.

Friday, January 17, 2020

Friday (St Antony of Egypt)

Up at 0445 and on the road southbound at 0525. Arrived at Green Mazda in Springfield at 0845, checked the YFNBmobile in for a service appointment, and was ferried to the office by Canon Evans, who met me at the dealership. Processed a few issues with him, one of the most "visible" of which was a pile of books and other materials on the conference room table, where they had been placed so the walls could be painted. We're leveraging the staff change to take care of some needed capital maintenance. Most of the books, along with the state-of-the-art 1995 AV equipment should be re-homed, and we are taking step to do so. Then, from 10 to noon, two diocesan priests and I conversed withe a candidate for ordination in order to certify that he has indeed been trained in the areas prescribed by the canons. We determined that he has. Fr Ashmore, one of the examiners, drove me down to get my car, and after a trip through the drive-thru at Chick-Fil-A, I kept a 1:15 blood donation appointment. That put me back at the office an hour later, where I spent the rest of the afternoon clearing out my email inbox, my physical inbox, organizing the tasks that were already awaiting me, and actually engaging three or four of them. Met briefly with the Dean about the SKCM Mass. Evening Prayer in the cathedral. Braved the freezing rain for dinner at Friday's.

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Thursday

  • Usual weekday AM routine.
  • Consented to the consecration of the bishop-elect of Oklahoma (grateful that they found the technology to make this chore take place completely online). Shared some observations about the bishop-elect with the Standing Committee.
  • Traded emails with the Administrator on an HR issue.
  • Traded emails with the Communicator over some database issues.
  • Read and Facebook-shared the Covenant post for the day.
  • Passed on to Canon Evans a message from the "national church" office.
  • Brainstormed on finding someone to take over the task of coordinating the diocesan prayer calendar. After spending some time scouring the database, I ended up posting on the diocesan Facebook page soliciting volunteers.
  • Roughed out a project that The Living Church asked me to take on--a 1,000 word pamphlet on "Christmas joy," taking a break to lunch on leftovers. This project, in fact, consumed most of the rest of the productive time in the afternoon. Trying to hew to a word-count target makes writing more complicated.
  • Several emails traded with the Communicator over a range of issues.
  • Evening Prayer with Brenda.

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Wednesday

Yesterday proceeded efficiently and calmly. Today was more chaotic, with what seemed like non-stop distractions--all important and worthwhile in their own right, and a major unexpected rabbit hole (I seem to have misplaced the new sticker and for my license plate, and the accompanying renewed registration, all which expire at the end of the month, so ... waiting to hear from the Secretary of State's office as to what I need to do). Also spent two hours taking Brenda to a dental appointment. In the midst of the storm, I did manage to take care of some Communion Partners business, bring the liturgy program for the SKCM Mass within a couple of yards of completion, reach out to lay leaders in vacant or soon-to-be-vacant parishes, and open a sermon file on Lent II (Trinity, Mt Vernon). I have high hopes for tomorrow being more orderly.

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Tuesday

  • Intercessions, Morning Prayer, tea, breakfast, crossword, social media skimming.
  • Responded in some detail to a handful of emails that have been hanging.
  • Wrestled with my exegetical notes for Epiphany VI (St Thomas', Glen Carbon) and brought forth a homiletical message statement.
  • Applied myself once again to my (ongoing, apparently) project of trying to manage (with a light touch) the extraordinary demand at present for supply clergy and the relative shortage of priests who can fill those needs.
  • Lunched on leftovers.
  • Took a 75-minute vigorous walk on a sunny and (for mid-January) mild afternoon.
  • Paid attention to a matter pertaining to the provincial ECW.
  • Attended to a brief report from the treasurer of the Anglican Fellowship of Prayer, the board of which I am a member.
  • Caught up on some Covenant blog reading.
  • Evening Prayer with Brenda.