Friday, April 24, 2015
Completely a travel day. We were packed and out the door right at 10am, and covered most of the length of I-55 in a southerly direction. Now ensconced at the Hampton Inn in Yazoo City, Mississippi, where we look forward to spending some quality time with the good people of Trinity Church here. By the leave of the Bishop of Mississippi, I look after Trinity under the HOB's Delegated Episcopal Pastoral Oversight (DEPO) protocols.
Thursday, April 23, 2015
- Task planning at home for my one day in the office this week.
- Dropped my car off at the dealer for service; walked the six blocks or so down Second Street to the office.
- Consulted with the Archdeacon over some emerging pastoral/administrative issues in a couple of parishes.
- Stopped by the cathedral office to welcome Fr Andy Hook, just taking up his duties as Provost.
- Morning Prayer in the cathedral.
- Talked with the rector of one of our parishes over an emerging pastoral issue.
- Talked with Fr James Muriuki, Priest-in-Charge of Redeemer, Cairo over some of the details of his upcoming installation.
- Refined and printed a working text for my homily this Sunday.
- Walked back up to Isringhausen Imports, but my car wasn't quite ready, so I cooled my jets there for about 40 minutes.
- Picked up an Italian beef sandwich from Chi-Town's Finest and took it home to eat.
- Went for my semi-annual teeth cleaning and dental checkup.
- Took care of a small bit of the large task of General Convention preparation.
- Took a first prayerful pass at the readings for Proper 5 (June 7 at Trinity, Jacksonville).
- Responded via email to a couple of additional pastoral and administrative concerns.
- Evening Prayer in the cathedral.
- Brenda and I then took Fr Hook out to dinner.
Wednesday, April 22, 2015
A day of travel, and a frustrating one at that. Everything went smoothly on the front end. I left my hotel just before 8am, drove uneventfully to DFW, fueled and turned in my rental car, checked in and boarded my flight to Chicago, all on time and without incident. I deplaned at O'Hare on schedule, grabbed some lunch, bought a pair of shoes (a planned expedition at Johnston & Murphy), and headed to the United Club for what I thought would be about 2.5 hours. There I processed several emails (always an available task) and got some reading done. After a while, however, the messages started to trickle in about delays to my flight to Springfield, beginning with 45 minutes, due to a delay of our aircraft getting in from it's previous trip (Traverse City, MI). By the time everything played out, that 45 minutes had stretched into 3.5 hours, and it was after 9:00 before I was in my car and headed home. United Airlines did not make me a happy customer today.
Tuesday, April 21, 2015
Arrived at the Church of the Incarnation for 7:30 Morning Prayer, then on to the semi-annual meeting of the Living Church Foundation board of directors. We finished mid-afternoon, whereupon I repaired to my hotel for a much-needed nap, after which I processed a batch of emails and then joined a couple of my colleagues for an haute cuisine Mexican diner. Making my way home tomorrow.
Monday, April 20, 2015
I am happy to announce that I expect the second half of 2015 to involve considerably less travel than the first half has. And with that hopeful prognostication ... I am writing this from a hotel room in Dallas, where I am attending a semi-annual meeting of the board of directors of the Living Church Foundation. I flew in this afternoon. We gathered at a restaurant for dinner tonight and will convene for our working session tomorrow at the Church of the Incarnation. The Living Church, in its range of ministry, is one of the real points of light in the Episcopal Church (and beyond) today.
Sunday, April 19, 2015
Here's a group shot from this morning's luminous liturgy at the Chapel of St John the Divine in Champaign. Pictured with YFNB are those who were baptized, confirmed, and received--along with some parents and spouses, and, of course, Fr Sean Ferrell, the very able priest and pastor of that community. The chapel was comfortably full, the music was (as always) awesome, and it was wonderful to be in a parish with such a low average age. It was worth hitting the road right at 6am in order to get there for their early liturgy. Home around 3:00, after a lunch stop in Decatur.
Chapel of St John the Divine, Champaign--Luke 24:36b-48, Acts 3:12-19, I John 3:1-7
Episcopalians are accustomed to throwing around in-house jargon like “high church” and “low church” and “broad church” and the like, and that’s a sport that I have myself participated in many times. Usually, what we’re referring to with these terms is liturgical style, and, by that standard, the Chapel of St John the Divine certainly stands in the “high church” lineage. Incense, chanting, icons, holy water, a music program in the English cathedral tradition—it all adds up.
But this morning I’d like to offer you a different take on “high church,” one that doesn’t have anything to do with the accouterments of worship. Let me begin to unfold this for you by posing a simple question: Where did you first learn about Jesus? Now, maybe it was literally “in church”—it would surprise me if that were not the case for some among us here this morning. But, if it wasn’t precisely in a church building and in the context of worship, I would bet all the money in my wallet at present that, for the great majority of us, it was at least within the community of those who regularly gather for worship in the same building. Now, I suppose there might be some who would say something like, “I learned about Jesus at home, at my grandmother’s knee”—and I might respond, “How absolutely blessed you are for that.” But then I would go on to ask, “Where do you suppose she learn about Jesus?” And the answer would probably be, “In church, of course.”
So we have all these outward signs of “high church”—candles, vestments, liturgy. We even have bishops who, if you ply them with the right beverages, will talk about their “lines of succession,” which is just fancy language for “ecclesiastical pedigree.” But these things don’t exist in a vacuum. They have a purpose. They are ultimately about something, and that something is that the Church is not just an aggregation of individual believers who decide to hang out together. It’s not like the Rotary Club, or one of the Greek houses on campus here. It’s not a voluntary organization, a society or club for those who share certain beliefs or principles or tastes, which we can join when it suits our purposes and leave when it no longer does. Rather, the Church is an organism. That word has biological connotations, doesn’t it?—and rightly so, because the Church is all about life, the life of God that you and I share in by virtue of our common baptism. The Church is an organism also because it reproduces; it gives birth to new Christians in the baptismal font. As we prayed in one of the Easter Vigil collects, “multiply, by the grace of the Paschal sacrament, the number of your children…”.
We encounter Jesus—the Messiah, the Savior—in the narrative of the Acts of the Apostles today, where he is referred to as the “Holy and Righteous One.” We also meet Jesus, the risen Jesus, in Luke, where he comes among us and shares a meal with us. We encounter him in and through the community of the Church, and, to be ruthlessly honest, nowhere else—at least, not in his fullness. And, in that context, then, in the context of the community of the Church, we are moved toward repentance. We repent for not having seen Jesus, or for having rejected Jesus, in times past, like the people of Israel addressed by Peter as recorded for us in Acts. We repent for our lack of faith, for the laxity of our discipleship. It is the community of the Church that provides us with a framework, a context, the right kind of boundaries, that make it possible for us to repent fruitfully.
Then, as a result of our repentance, and our incorporation and participation in the people of God, the Body of Christ, the community of the Church, we receive “power from on high,” which is what Jesus told his followers to remain in Jerusalem and wait for as he took his leave of them according to Luke’s gospel. Of course, in this Paschal season, and on a day when we are administering Baptism and Confirmation, we would naturally be inclined to identify “power from on high” with the Holy Spirit, and we would not be wrong in doing so. This, in turn, this power from on high that we receive from the Holy Spirit—and, I will hasten to add, in the context of the community of the Church—the Holy Spirit enables us to see things and know things and do things in extraordinary ways, virtually as God himself sees and knows and does. And why? Because part of the package of our vocation as baptized disciples of the risen Christ is to be heralds of his kingdom and collaborators with him in the mysterious and wonderful ministry of reconciliation and redemption.
But none of this is an accident—something Luke is very keen on us understanding today, both in Volume I of his magnum opus, which we know as the gospel that bears his name, and in Volume II, which we know as the book of Acts. Luke wants us to see clearly that it’s all part of God’s plan. The coming of the Messiah—the Savior, the Holy and Righteous One—was long planned by God and foretold in scripture. It has been available to us all along, though we may not have seen it yet, just as it was with the disciples in the upper room when Jesus came and ate broiled fish and, as Luke tells us, “opened their minds to understand the scriptures.” One of the key ministries of each local Christian community is to be a place where the people of God come together to have their minds opened to understand the scriptures, to mine the treasures that are there, to drink from the living waters that communicate to us the very life of God. Anyone can pick up a Bible in a hotel room and read it randomly, and, by the mercy of God, sometimes perhaps get something true and positive out of it. But only within the community of the Church is the Holy Spirit present to open our eyes to see what God wants us to see when we crack open a Bible. The Bible is not a free agent; it’s the Church’s book. The Holy Spirit is, of course, at liberty to show up in other contexts, but the only guarantee we have that the Holy Spirit will open our eyes to understand the scriptures is when we’re reading them shoulder to shoulder with other members of the community of the Church, both those who are presently 98.6 and those who have gone before us under the sign of the cross.
Jesus tells the disciples in the upper room that they will be his witnesses “to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.” Then, in Acts, we see Peter being exactly that—a witness—and eventually, according to tradition, fully so, because the Greek word that gives us “witness” in English is the same one that gives us “martyr.” A witness is a martyr is a witness is a martyr … you get the idea.
The Eucharistic Community of St John the Divine on the campus of the University of Illinois is a group of baptized disciples of the risen Jesus who stand among the company of witnesses, the throng of martyrs, in succession to Peter and the other apostles, the company of those who bear testimony to the One long foretold in scripture, the Holy and Righteous One, the community whose mission it is to announce and prepare the way for God’s own mission of making all things new, of bringing light out of darkness, truth out of error, health out of sickness, and life out of death.
As disciples of this risen Jesus, and part of the company of witnesses, our very lives become a living testimony put at God’s disposal for the redemption of a broken world and torn universe. And this is all because we are, yes, “high church,” which probably means a lot more than you thought it did!
Alleluia and Amen.