Friday, June 22, 2018

Friday (St Alban)

Wishing to give our Tanzanian guests ample opportunity to recover from jet lag, we did not plan a strenuous day. The principal daytime activity was a visit to the Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site near Collinsville. Just as we were beginning to enjoy the view from atop the principal mount (100 feet above its surroundings), the skies opened, and, bereft of shelter, we all got quite wet. But we eventually got back to the museum and very much enjoyed the experience. We had a good chunk of down time after a late lunch, which I used to process emails, have a General Convention-related phone conversation, and write another lectionary meditation for Forward Movement (six down now, 23 to go). In the evening, we went to nearby St Michael's, O'Fallon for Evening Prayer, a light supper, and conversation with Bishop Elias and Lucy. They were most gracious hosts and it was a wonderful occasion. 

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Thursday

  • Long treadmill workout to start the day.
  • Morning Prayer in the cathedral, around 0930.
  • Sat with my notes on the readings for Proper 18, when I will preach at my DEPO parish in Mississippi, until they yielded a homiletical message statement. It feels like labor and delivery. (OK, not literally, but ...)
  • There are certain ministries one hopes there is never a need for, but it's good to be prepared, just in case. Exorcism is one of these. I took a balcony-level look at some pastoral-liturgical materials, made some notes, and had a pertinent conversation.
  • Opened a sermon prep file on Proper 19 (16 September in Robinson)--said my prayers, took a pass at the readings, made some preliminary notes.
  • Lunch at home. Leftovers.
  • Packed and got organized for three nights away.
  • Left with Brenda at 2:30 for STL. Retrieved Bishop Elias and Lucy Chakupewa from there arduous journey (four flights, more than 24 hours) from Tabora, Tanzania. Checked us all in at the Hilton Garden, O'Fallon (which feels like my summer home now), got settled, then took them to dinner. 

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Wednesday

  • Up quite a bit on the early side--showered, dressed, and with my morning tea by 0700.
  • Read Morning Prayer in my recliner, and, while waiting for some contracted termite assassins to arrive, got to work on the project that would punctuate my day, but not be completed until mid-evening back at home: plotting my sermon prep for September through November. I do this sort of thing roughly quarterly, and in involves going through old material and figuring out what can be salvaged and repurposed, and what occasions simply demand a fresh homily.
  • Met briefly with the termite assassins and got them going on their work.
  • Took Brenda to a 0900 doctor's appointment.
  • Did some rapid-response grocery and nutritional supplement shopping.
  • Dropped Brenda and the groceries off at home and continued on to the office for an 1100 appointment with a cathedral parishioner who was keen to discuss immigration issues, and what a response of Christian leadership might look like. She has an admirable heart for refugees and immigrants, and has embraced a commendable ministry of advocacy on their behalf. For reasons I've made clear, I'm slow to be officially involved in matters of public policy, but recent crisis involving children at our southern border is not, I believe, something over which Christians of goodwill and an informed conscience will disagree.
  • Substantive phone conversation with a lay leader in one of our Eucharistic Communities.
  • Lunch from Taco Gringo, eaten at home.
  • Back to the office to resume work on the sermon planning project.
  • Worked things out by phone with Green Mazda, who took delivery just today on a vehicle that meets my specs.
  • Met a bit with the Dean and a lay member of the cathedral over some details for this October's annual Synod.
  • Headed down to Green Mazda to do the deal, check in hand. It to forever! One inexplicable delay after another. But it eventually got done, and around 4:30 I drove off the lot in a CX5 with all of 2.8 miles on the odometer.
  • Back at the office, came to a penultimate stopping point on the sermon work.
  • Evening Prayer in the cathedral.
  • Spent the evening finishing the sermon planning endeavor and figuring out how to pair the new vehicle with the garage door opener. You know, priorities.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Tuesday

  • While still at home: planned tasks for the week, met with a termite inspector (the news was not good, but expected).
  • Dropped the YFNBmobile off at the dealer for a scheduled maintenance appointment. Hoofed it in the heat down to the office.
  • Made some sense of the detritus on my desk after two weeks away from the office.
  • Morning Prayer in the cathedral.
  • Reviewed the draft of the summer edition of the Springfield Current.
  • Edited, refined, printed, and scheduled for posting the working text of my homily for this Sunday (St John's, Albion).
  • With two substantive phone conversations and relatively short email, dealt with a prickly pastoral/administrative situation.
  • Walked back up Second Street to Isringhausen BMW to pick up the vehicle. Since it's four years old and the odometer sits north of 82,000 miles, I took the time to talk with the sales departments about how the numbers shake out for a trade-in and new X3. 
  • Lunch (well on the late side) from KFC, eaten at home.
  • Registered online for a conference in September, in Dallas.
  • Met with Sue to talk about some Synod issues.
  • Dashed off a note to a priest with a June ordination anniversary.
  • Ducked out to keep an appointment with a doctor who explained how I might forestall more kidney stone attacks. Basically, I can choose to be fat and actively diabetic with minimal chance of kidney stones, or less fat and less diabetic, but with increased risk of stones. Party on.
  • Headed down South Sixth to the Mazda dealership to check out the CX5. Got marooned there for a while in a violent thunderstorm, but made substantial progress in evaluating the automotive options. The landscape may change, but it looks prudent to forego a tiny amount of amenities and save the diocese several thousand dollars by going the Mazda route. Maybe I'll see something differently in the morning.
  • Picked up some Chinese from HyVee for dinner and brought it home, close to 7pm.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

The Lord's Day (IV Pentecost)

On the road from our Mt Vernon hotel at 8:45, headed east. Arrived at St John the Baptist, Mt Carmel on schedule at 10:00, ahead of their regular 10:30am Sunday Mass. Presided, preached, and confirmed two adult men. I was particularly impressed with the energetic singing of this congregation. There were only about 30 in the room (which, in that building, is comfortably full-ish), but it sounded like more. After a delicious lunch of pulled pork and fried chicken, we were on the road home at 12:30, and arrived at 4:10. After eight nights and days away, home was sweet indeed.

Sermon for Proper 6

St John the Baptist, Mt Carmel--Mark 4:26-34, Ezekiel 17:22-24

As I look at my Facebook feed, there’s a quote that I see at least once a week, it seems. It’s attributed to St Teresa of Ávila, and it goes like this:
Christ has no body now but yours. No hands, no feet on earth but yours. Yours are the eyes through which he looks compassion on this world. Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good. Yours are the hands through which he blesses all the world. Yours are the hands, yours are the feet, yours are the eyes, you are his body. Christ has no body now on earth but yours.
As I mentioned, it’s a very popular quote, and it’s not difficult to see why. On its face, it just seems to make sense, and it’s quite inspiring; it makes you want to get out into the world and do some good in the Name of Jesus. So it’s with some trepidation that I’m going to take the opportunity this morning to be the skunk at the garden party, the curmudgeon everybody wishes would keep quiet. I’m going to make a case that this quote, whether or not it actually comes from St Teresa, runs smack dab up against the two parables in today’s gospel.

The first of these parables is about a farmer. He does what farmers do: plants seeds, waters them, presumably fertilizes and pulls weeds around them. He also does what all people do—get up in the morning, interact with others, eat and drink, work, and go to bed at night. In the meantime, his crop grows. He doesn’t know precisely how. He certainly does not make it grow. But grow it does, and eventually it’s mature, and he takes out his sickle and harvests it.

That was a simple parable, as parables go, but the second one is even simpler. The Kingdom of God is like a mustard seed, which is a very, very small seed. Yet, when the mustard plant is mature, it’s a shrub that dominates the garden, large enough that even birds find it attractive to perch on its branches.   

The theological and spiritual takeaway from there two parables is that God gives the growth, God gives the increase. Now, if you’re hyper-attentive to everything about the Diocese of Springfield, you’ll know that this is the historic Latin motto of our diocese: “Deus dat incrementum,” God gives the increase. And we ignore that at our peril. The parable about the farmer does everything it can to downplay and minimize the activity and effort of the farmer—he sows, he waters, he eventually reaps—and to highlight and magnify what God accomplishes—God is responsible for the actual growth of the crop.

When we forget that it is God who gives the growth,  or when we ignore our knowledge that it is God who gives the growth, we assume that it is then all up to us, because, of course, Christ has no body but ours; no hands, no feet on earth but ours. We find ourselves consumed by frenetic activity toward the end of confecting, conjuring, ushering in, what we suppose is God’s plan, or even, as some express it, fulfilling God’s “dream.” When this happens, the Church becomes just another social service agency, not much different than the local food stamp office or the Rotary Club, except that we pray before meals … and even the Rotary Club does that, last I checked.  

Perhaps we miss this point of these parables because we have a tendency to wander off from the company of those to whom Jesus explains his parables. To the public, Mark tells us, Jesus spoke only in parables, but to his closest disciples, he explained them. In other words, those who were closest to Jesus had the benefit of understanding the deeper things of God, the more profound mysteries of God’s presence in the world. Those who kept Jesus at a distance, those who only heard him as he addressed the crowd, did not have that insider’s advantage.

It is our relationship to Jesus that most dramatically influences how we perceive what God is up to in the world, what God is up to in history. But it’s not what we might call the “historical Jesus” that I’m talk about here; that is, the man Jesus of Nazareth who walked among the towns and countryside and villages of Roman Palestine two-thousand years ago. We don’t have access to that Jesus the way those who heard his agricultural parables from his own lips did. The Jesus to whom we have access is the risen and ascended and glorified Christ, who sits at the right hand of the Father, and will come again to judge the living and the dead. The Christ to whom we do have access—and here I’m going to ask St Teresa to let me bend her words to my purpose! —the Christ to whom we have access is available in the life and ministry of his holy Church. Christ has no body but the body of the Church. Christ has no hands but the hands of the Church. I said in the context of some confirmations a few weeks ago that these hands of mine are not important because they’re the hands of Daniel Martins, but because they’re the hands of the Bishop of Springfield, and, through them, the touch of the Apostles, which passes along the touch of the historical Jesus, reaches across the centuries, right into our own lives today.

The disciples were privileged to have Jesus explain his parables to them because they were close to him, they were in a vital relationship with him. The way you and I can put ourselves in the way of a similar advantage is by abiding in Christ, remaining in close connection to him through the community of the Church—through the Church’s scriptures, through the Church’s worship, through the Church’s sacraments, and through the Church’s people. We have another botanical image today in our first reading, from Ezekiel, which describes a massive cedar tree, grown from a mere sprig, so large that innumerable birds find a home in its branches. We can understand that tree to be a figure for the Church, which is large enough to offer a home to the variegated diversity of human beings who are called by the risen and glorified Christ to faith and discipleship.   

I see many mottos and mission statements from parishes and dioceses that include the words “change the world,” or something like them. I think I understand the charitable intent behind those words. People who speak and write them really do want to be agents of change for the good, even to do God’s work. But I hope no group of Christians, or any other human community, ever entertains the notion that we are or will, with sustained effort, even over several generations, ever be able to fix the world. And for that matter, speaking internally, we’re not, by our own efforts, ever going to “fix” the Church. Fixing the world, fixing the Church, is up to God. Deus dat incrementum. God gives the growth. The most we can do is do a little bit of planting, a little bit of watering, and, if we’re at the right place at the right time, a little bit of reaping. I, for one, take great comfort from that.

Praised be Jesus Christ. Amen.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Saturday (Joseph Butler)

Wrapped up the St Michael's Youth Conference with a votive Mass for St Michael & All Angels this morning at 1030. Then Lady Brenda and I enjoyed lunch at Ruby Tuesday in Fairview Heights, followed by a pit stop at Cold Stone in O'Fallon/Shiloh before continuing east on I-64 to the Hampton Inn in Mt Vernon. Checked in, got settled, then took in the latest addition to the Star Wars franchise (Solo) at a nearby cineplex. Dinner at Cracker Barrel (when in the country, do what the country folk do). Off to Mt Carmel in the morning.