- A "normal" weekday morning, except that I had trouble getting my mind, body, and spirit firing on all cylinders. Maybe I should start drinking coffee late in life. Maybe I've been working too hard and this was a sign that I need to slow down. Who knows?
- Once my engines were revving, around 10am, I conferred with the Archdeacon on my meeting in Jacksonville last night, and attended to a task related to one of our seminarians.
- Took care of a small piece of Nashotah-related business.
- Spent the rest of the morning on taking the broad strokes of my Synod address to "rough draft" status.
- Lunch from Hardee's, eaten at home.
- Returned to my Synod address, eventually completing the task by mid-afternoon.
- Updated the status report on everyone involved in any way with the ordination process. Sent by email to the chair of the Commission on Ministry and the Archdeacon.
- Conceived, hatched, and drafted a homily for St Luke's Day, to be delivered at St Luke's Church (Springfield) on the 18th.
- Evening Prayer in the cathedral.
Friday, October 2, 2015
Thursday, October 1, 2015
- Out the door just before 7am for my customary Thursday AM walk.
- Processed some emails and read Morning Prayer at home.
- Substantive consultation with the Archdeacon over a couple of ongoing pastoral/administrative concern.
- Attended to a package of details related to the ordination process.
- Lunch at home--leftovers.
- Finished the post for the Covenant blog that I roughed out last week. Sent it on to my blogmasters.
- Spent quality time with commentaries in preparation for preaching on the feast of Christ the King, to be delivered in Marion County Parish (St John's, Centralia and St Thomas', Salem).
- Processed another small stack of emails.
- Home for a fairly quick dinner, then off to Trinity, Jacksonville, where I met with the vestry for an initial consultation as they prepare for Fr Ashmore's retirement in January.
Tuesday, September 29, 2015
- Morning Prayer in the cathedral.
- Usual week-beginning informal debrief with the Archdeacon.
- Refined and printing the working text of my homily for this Sunday (All Saints, Morton).
- Handled a stack of relatively minor administrative issues. These things always end up more time-consuming than I anticipate.
- Took a phone call from one of our clergy.
- Lunch at home. Leftovers.
- Attended (by way of preparation) to a quite serious administrative/pastoral matter.
- Laid out the broad strokes of my address to next month's annual diocesan synod.
- Attended to some administrative details pertaining to getting ready for synod.
- Reviewed the second quarter financial reports from the mission congregations.
- Began the process of building by 2016 visitation calendar, which will be a challenge in view of the sabbatical I am planning.
- Swung by home to retrieve Brenda, and headed on down to St Thomas', Glen Carbon, where I took part in the Mass and potluck commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of Fr Tony Clavier's ordination to the priesthood.
Sunday, September 27, 2015
Out early--though perhaps not so bright--at 7am heading south. Arrived at St Michael's, O'Fallon a little after 8:30, ahead of their scheduled 9am liturgy. Celebrated, preached, confirmed, and presided at a baptism, as we observed the parish's feast of title, St Michael & All Angels. That was a pretty good day's work right there, but I then swung over to St Paul's in Alton, where I met briefly with whoever was still around after the post-liturgical coffee hour, and then for a while with at least a remnant of the search committee. Their transition has not been as smooth an timely as we all would have liked, so some extra pastoral attention was warranted. Home at about 2:30. Napped. Walked. Watched the Cubs beat the Pirates.
St Michael's, O'Fallon--Genesis 28:10-17
This passage from Genesis was chosen for the feast of St Michael and All Angels, no doubt, because of the reference to angels ascending and descending “Jacob’s ladder.” When we encounter angels in scripture, sometimes it’s a single angel who is responsible for delivering a message. (After all, the literal meaning of “angel” is “messenger.”) Gabriel comes to mind, as the one who delivered to the Blessed Virgin Mary the news of her vocation to be the theotokos, the God-bearer. Sometimes the angel we meet is one who acts boldly on behalf of the LORD. Here we think of Michael, who, as we read in Revelation, leads the hosts of heaven in doing battle with the minions of darkness. At other times, angels are depicted as simply worshiping and praising God, ascribing glory to God. This seems to be what the ascending and descending angels in Jacob’s dream are doing.
In each of these cases, however, the angels in question mediate the presence of God, or represent God in some way. Gabriel speaks on God’s behalf. Michael acts on God’s behalf. The angels on Jacob’s ladder point to God as the source of light and life. After encountering them, Jacob exclaims, “How awesome is this place!” This place. He associates the place with the glory that he encountered there.
You and I may not encounter angels on a regular basis (although, we perhaps do so without realizing it). But we do encounter the glory of God. We experience liminal moments, moments when the kingdom of this world and the kingdom of heaven are separated only by an exquisitely thin tissue. I, for one, am pretty easy to impress, so a good, rollicking thunderstorm presents me with such a moment. Walking along the surf on an ocean beach does the same. Certain pieces of music and certain works of art make me feel as though I am touching the very face of God. Of course, at every celebration of the Eucharist, whether in an ancient Gothic cathedral or a humble country church, or at the bedside of a dying Christian, we consciously and formally invoke the presence of angels to join us in our inadequate offering of praise and thanksgiving: “Therefore we praise you, joining our voices and archangels and all the company of heaven, who forever sing this hymn to the glory of your Name …”, as we then break into Holy, holy, holy …”
“How awesome is this place.” This place, literally, is a place where the Eucharist is regularly celebrated. This building, this room, housing this altar, the home of this people, is the venue of the assembly of those who regularly encounter the Living God here. How awesome is this place.
In this place, the people of God encounter the glory of God. This is our Bethel, which means simply “house of God,” and is the name Jacob gave to the place where he had his dream. This is where we have the opportunity to see the angels of God ascending and descending. In this place, the people of God receive the gifts of God. We are fed by the Word of God, both in the liturgy and in occasions outside the liturgy. We are fed in the Most Blessed Sacrament, as we together join in intimate Holy Communion with our risen Lord Jesus. In this place, we who are the branches of the vine, the members of the body, also share holy communion with one another, with those other members that are connected to the same head, with those other branches that are connected with the same root. This is where we form of the bonds of affection, the bonds of community. This is where we grow to trust one another, to love one another.
Here we encounter God’s glory. Here was receive God’s gifts. Here we become one people in Christ. Here we are made disciples. And from here we go forth as those who are sent, in apostolic mission. Indeed, how awesome is this place. This is the house of God; this is the gate of heaven. As the baptized people of God, as disciples of the risen Jesus, you and I live within that heavenly gate. As we go out, we become that gate. We extend the bounds of the kingdom of heaven to the places we go and to the people we meet in those places. We become, if you will, angels—messengers of the good news of God in Christ. The awesomeness of this place can be experienced by those who never drive into this parking lot and never walk through these doors. Such awesomeness can be encountered through the ministry of those who regularly encounter God’s glory here and receive God’s gifts here and are made disciples here and are send forth in mission from here.
Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were told that they would be blessed with descendants, and that those descendants would be blessed by the care and guidance of a good and gracious God, but that the vocation of those descendants would be to channel blessing to all the peoples of the earth. You and I, my brothers and sisters, are those descendants—wild Gentile olive branches grafted onto the cultivated tree of Israel. We are blessed to be a blessing. In the words of the Liturgy of St John Chrysostom, used by our Eastern Orthodox cousins, “We have seen the true light, we have received the heavenly Spirit. We have found the true faith; we worship the undivided Trinity. who has saved us.”
How awesome is this place. This is the house of God. This is the gate of heaven. May Michael and all his angels guard and preserve us. Amen.
Saturday, September 26, 2015
Out the driveway with Brenda at 8:15 headed for points south. Arrived at St Thomas' in Salem in plenty of time to prepare to preside and preach at the funeral for Father Tom Davis, who was raised up in that parish as what used to be called a "late vocation," and then served it for several years until advancing age and declining health made it prudent for him to step down about five years ago. It was a good crowd, and we gave him a proper sendoff. I mentioned in my homily that, if we do one thing right in the Episcopal Church, it's funerals. If you just follow the Prayer Book, it's hard to mess it up too much. After a reception in the parish hall of the nearby Methodist Church, we headed home, arriving around 4:00.