Saturday, June 30, 2012

Saturday


We left Springfield at 9:30 in order be in West Lafayette, Indiana in time for the afternoon wedding of a  young lady who worshiped in my former parish (St Anne's, Warsaw, IN) while she was a college student in the area. It was my honor to have been asked to participate in the ceremony. But it was outdoors, on a large pedestrian bridge over the Wabash River, and a thunderstorm hit right as the ceremony began. I gave a rather attenuated version of my planned remarks, because I was holding an umbrella and watching a bunch of people sitting in chairs getting soaked as I spoke! Blessedly, the rain let up soon thereafter.

Following the reception, we headed west and south to Princeton, Indiana, where we are presently camped. Tomorrow's itinerary includes St John's, Albion at 9 and St Mary's, Robinson at 1.

While all this was going on, I was, of course, dealing with the "breaking news" that I am one of ten bishops against whom a misconduct complaint has been filed in response to our having signed a "friend of the court" brief in property disputes that two dioceses are involved in. I will write more about this soon--hopefully tomorrow evening--and most likely release a pastoral letter to the diocese on Monday. Please continue to hold me in your prayers.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Ss Peter & Paul

  • Morning Prayer in the car en route to the Hyundai dealer for scheduled maintenance. The Archdeacon picked me up and brought be back to the office. He briefed me on yesterday's auction sale of the property formerly used by St Alban's, Olney. We did pretty well, all things considered; the auction was well-attended, which puts upward pressure on price.
  • Attended to the usual stack of emails, with intermittent confabs with staff over sundry administrative issues. This consumed most of the rest of the morning.
  • Scheduled routine phone conversation with Bishop Ed Salmon, serving as Dean of Nashotah House, wearing my board chairman hat.
  • I stayed in the office alone over the noon hour, since my car wasn't done yet. Staved off imminent starvation with a stash of cashews I keep in my desk drawer while I wrote milestone event notes to clergy and spouses.
  • Got a ride back to Hyundai around 2, picked up the YFNBmobile, grabbed some Chicken McNuggets at McD's, and returned to the office.
  • Spoke by phone with a lay person in the diocese whom I'm trying to recruit for the part-time position, recently made vacant, of "web monitor" and newsletter editor. I think we've done a deal, and just need to flesh out some details. Stay tuned.
  • Back to the milestone event cards.
  • Evening Prayer in the cathedral.
  • In the evening, hammered out the last of my four blog posts on General Convention issues.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Thursday (St Iranaeus)

  • Morning Prayer at home.
  • 9am scheduled conference call with three other bishops over a matter that has the potential to be a bother in the short run but will probably be OK long term. I'll share more if and when I'm able. In the meantime, if I'm your bishop, remember that prayer for your bishop is always appropriate.
  • Went in to the office and had the rest of my morning hijacked by activity related to the subject of the conference call.
  • Lunch from Da Catch, eaten at home. Walked Brenda's dog for the last time this stint.
  • Gave birth to a working outline of a sermon for Proper 16 (August 26 at St Bartholomew's, Granite City).
  • Loaded the schedule details of the Global South Anglicans conference in Bangkok that follows immediately on General Convention.
  • Left the office early in order to be home when Brenda returned from her California sojourn.
  • Dinner and a movie in the evening (The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel).

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Wednesday

  • Early morning dog-walker was a no-show, so the lot fell to me.
  • Morning Prayer in the car on the way in, due to late start.
  • Processed a handful of emails and took part in a couple of minor administrative conferences.
  • Struggled with the readings for Proper 17 (September 2), having done my exegetical work last week, and finally gave birth to a message statement. Preparation on this sermon will not be put into cryogenic suspension until I return from my vacation on August 22.
  • Spent time on a matter is that is equal parts administrative, pastoral, sensitive, and difficult.
  • Met with the four members of the newly-constituted task team on Companion Diocese Relationships, under the leadership of Norm Taylor. We're pretty much pressing the reset button on this.
  • Lunch at home (leftovers), and, of course, another dog walk.
  • Made a couple of pastoral-administrative-sensitive-somewhat difficult phone calls. 
  • Worked on the website (loading content). We are "this close" to going live.
  • Took care of some Nashotah House flotsam and jetsam.
  • Evening Prayer in the cathedral.
  • More dog walking in the evening. Brenda comes home tomorrow.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Tuesday

  • Task planning for the week at home (still flying solo, not my favorite thing), Morning Prayer in the cathedral.
  • Light administrivia and a handful of emails to process.
  • Refined and printed my working text for this Sunday's homily (St John's, Albion and a special stop at St Mary's, Robinson).
  • Signed documents in front of a notary giving the Archdeacon power-of-attorney with respect to some pending real estate transactions should they occur while I'm away in July and August. 
  • Usual Tuesday desk-clearing.
  • Lunch from China 1, eaten at home. Took Brenda's dog for her midday walk. She seems to tolerate me as a pinch hitter.
  • Worked on my August 25 teaching day at St Thomas', Salem.
  • Entered the details of the General Convention schedule into my calendar, while I will access via my iPhone and always know when I'm supposed to be where in Indianapolis.
  • Evening Prayer in the cathedral.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Fourth Sunday after Pentecost

  • It was an undemanding start to the morning, as the usual Mass time at St John the Baptist, Mt Carmel is not until 10:30. Got there in plenty of time for a good visit with Fr Brant Hazelett before we had to get ready for church.
  • The liturgy was in celebration of the parish's patronal feast--the Nativity of St John the Baptist. After a tasty repast in their newly-remodeled basement parish hall, I shared with them the broad strokes of the diocesan mission strategy, and how it will affect them.
  • Shortly after 1pm, I headed north on Illinois 1 as far as Paris (where we had a congregation for several decades, until last December). Spent some time walking around the picturesque courthouse square, musing how county seat towns like Paris all across the country have largely turned into nostalgia-inducing artifacts of an era that will never come back, even as I told the people in Mt Carmel that Christendom will never come back--at least not in the lifetime of anyone now 98.6 and vertical--so we'd best be about the business of learning how to be the church in the world that actually is. 
  • Headed west on IL33, then through some cornfields on county roads, ending up in Urbana for a 5pm dinner engagement with David Krooks, a parishioner and vestry member from St John the Divine, Champaign. Wonderful conversation and meal at Philo's on South Philo Road.
  • Home around 8:30, where I'm "bachin' it" until Thursday while Brenda visits her mother in California.

Homily for the Nativity of St John the Baptist

During Ordinary Time (the Season after Pentecost), when a major holy falls on a Sunday, parishes for whom it is the feast of title may celebrate it in place of the numbered proper (Proper 7, in this case) that would otherwise be observed.

Luke 1:57-80
St John the Baptist, Mount Carmel 

 Do you realize how widespread the name John is, and how many forms it takes in different languages? In French, it’s Jean; in Spanish, Juan; in Italian, Giovanni; in the Germanic languages, Johann or Johannes; in Russian, Ivan; in Dutch, Jan; in the Celtic languages, Sean or Ian. And then there are the feminine equivalents: Jean, Janet, Jeanette, Juanita, Yvonne, Shawna, and on both counts, I’m probably forgetting more than I’ve remembered. All these names, and more, come from the Hebrew Yohanan, which means, literally, “the LORD is generous.”

The LORD is generous.

In view of this, we do well on this feast day of St John the Baptist, celebrated in the parish church of St John the Baptist, to raise the question: How should a community called by the name of John conduct itself? One obvious answer immediately becomes apparent: With generosity. A community that bears the name “the LORD is generous” is certainly going to be an icon to the surrounding world of the generosity of God. You do know that in a particular and special way here at St John’s. God has been materially generous with you, and you, in turn, have been materially generous with others. You are good at living into your name!

 But how else was John the Baptist generous? We see in the gospels that John generously pointed to Jesus. He did so relentlessly and courageously. This was the whole purpose of his life, from the time he was in his mother’s womb. Remember the incident when a newly-pregnant Mary pays a visit to her cousin Elizabeth who is pregnant with John, and John does a sort of fetal back flip in recognition of the presence of the incarnate Son of God. John kept up with this ministry of pointing to Jesus until the moment he turned over his ministry, as the last of the prophets of the Old Covenant, to the One to whom all those prophets point, the One who is in his own person the New Covenant.

I was excited when I first looked at the readings for this feast day, and discovered that the gospel narrative we just heard never occurs in the Sunday cycle, so I’ve never had to study it wearing my “preacher’s hat.” It’s actually kind of a warmly humorous story. The priest Zechariah, John’s father, had an unexpected encounter with an angel while going about his priestly duties in the temple, and he’s been temporarily rendered unable to speak during the entire period of his wife’s pregnancy. (Of course, one could go in some interesting directions with that particular factoid, but … not now!) Now it’s eight days after the child has been born, the time when a little Jewish baby boy was circumcised and formally given a name. So everyone is gathered around, and they’re about ready to name his Zechariah after his father, but Elizabeth says, “No, it’s going to be John.” The extended family doesn’t quite believe her, since nobody in the family has ever been named John, so they ask his father, who, of course, is still speechless, so he scrawls with a piece of chalk on a slate, “His name is John.”

And at the moment, Zechariah is able to speak again, and he breaks out into what looks for all the world like a song, though we don’t have the original music for it, and that’s the way the church has always thought of it, as a song to be sung during morning worship. You can find it in both the Prayer Book and the Hymnal. We call it the Benedictus, which is its first word when translated into Latin.

Zechariah’s song concludes with, “You, my child, shall be called the prophet of the Most High … knowledge of salvation by the forgiveness of sins …to give light to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death … guide our feet into the way of peace.” Again: How should a community called by the name of John the Baptist conduct itself? By pointing generously and relentlessly and courageously, in deed and word, to Jesus, and by doing so in language that Zechariah’s canticle points to.

We generously point to Jesus when we give people knowledge of salvation—which is to say, the experience of wholeness, true humanity; the knowledge of redemption, of being delivered out of darkness into light, out of sickness into health, out of death into life—and all by the forgiveness of their sins. We do this, in part, by modeling forgiveness in our own lives, by being forgiving of others in the larger community, by naming Jesus as the ultimate source of all forgiveness.

We generously point to Jesus when we give light to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death, when we see those who fall through the cracks and who are rendered invisible to the world, when we remember those who would otherwise be forgotten, pointing them to Jesus as the One who makes their lives worth living. We generously point to Jesus when we guide both our own feet, and the feet of others, into the way of peace, when we experience reconciliation in Christ among ourselves, being ministers of reconciliation in our lives beyond these walls, when we stand as a sign of reconciliation, particularly with others who claim the name Christian.

A community called by the name of John the Baptist has a particular vocation. It is my joy to announce it to you, and it is your joy to embrace it on this wonderful feast day.

Praised be Jesus Christ. Amen.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Saturday


  • I had the pleasure of presiding at the 11am Celebration of a New Ministry for Fr Tony Clavier as Vicar of St Thomas', Glen Carbon and St Bartholomew's, Granite City--at Glen Carbon. Particularly gratified by the turnout of clergy; it speaks well for collegiality in the diocese.
  • Following the reception, Brenda hitched a ride back to Springfield with Fr Matt (preacher for the occasion) and Leslie Gunter, while I visited for a bit with Fr Clavier at his vicarage. I then pointed the YFNBmobile eastward on I-64. Since I was making good time, I paused in Mt Vernon to take in a movie (Prometheus) and dinner (popcorn shrimp at Wild Wings). 
  •  On the way to my hotel reservation in Grayville (right on I-64 just before it crosses the Wabash River into Indiana), I swung by McLeansboro to check in on St James' Church, which we have sold to a local historic preservation group with the understanding that they were going to restore and maintain it as a community center. It doesn't appear that they've gotten going on the project yet. The building has not been deconsecrated, because part of the sales contract is that we have access to it on any occasion when we might want to hold a service in the future. The building was dedicated by George Seymour, first Bishop of Springfield. 
  • Settled in at Grayville around 9pm.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Friday (St Alban)

  • Morning Prayer in the cathedral.
  • Short administrative debriefs with the Archdeacon and Administrator.
  • Brief attention to a diocesan communications-related issue.
  • Processed a batch of emails. Doing so spawns phone calls and short chats with staff, among other things.
  • Small Nashotah-related administrative task.
  • Did the hot wax seal thing on the Letter of Institution for Fr Tony Clavier as Vicar of Granite City and Glen Carbon.
  • Lunch at home.
  • Initial study and exegetical work on a homily for Proper 16 (last Sunday in August) at St Bartholomew's, Granite City.
  • Scheduled maintenance on one area of my electronic filing system.
  • Lectio divina on tomorrow's Daily Office reading from Numbers.
  • Evening Prayer in the cathedral.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Thursday

  • Blew off my Thursday workout. Felt like I needed the extra sleep.
  • Morning Prayer in the cathedral.
  • This was one of those days when it just felt hard to get any traction with anything. Hard to even say why.
  • Began to do exegetical work on my sermon for the first Sunday in September, to be given at Trinity, Lincoln. (Year B, Proper 17).
  • Met with Pete Sherman, our communications chair, over issues related to communications strategy in general and the website in particular. We now have a clear path toward being able to go live with the new website very soon.
  • Lunch at home.
  • Continued my exegetical work on Proper 17, punctuated by frequent interruptions for emails, phone calls, and other such things.
  • Added a bunch of new content to the website, cleaned up some of the detritus left behind by beta testing.
  • Handled a delicate piece of Nashotah House business.
  • Evening Prayer in the cathedral.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Wednesday

  • Morning Prayer in the cathedral.
  • Administrivia with Administrator (who else?) and the Archdeacon.
  • Produced a working draft of a homily for Proper 8 (July 1 in Albion and Robinson).
  • Attended to some General Convention prep work.
  • Lunch at home (from McDonald's, no less; everybody has to slum it sometime).
  • Devoted a chunk of time and energy to preparing for a couple of teaching days at St Thomas', Salem in August and September ("Proclaiming the Gospel 101").
  • Three substantive phone conversations with colleagues on the Nashotah House board regarding an emergent issue.
  • Worked on the third in a series of four blog articles on the issues facing General Convention.
  • Evening Prayer in the office.
  • Dinner from "Da Catch" on South Grand and 9th (fried catfish).
  • Attended and participated heavily in the regular June meeting of the cathedral chapter. They are facing some substantial challenges, and I am committed to walking with them through this time. 

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Tuesday

  • Morning Prayer in the cathedral.
  • Refined the draft of my homily for this coming Sunday--at the parish of St John the Baptist in Mt Carmel, on their patronal feast day.
  • Attended to a couple of personal vacation planning details. (Yes, to quote the Terminator: "I need a vacation.") This will happen in August.
  • Attended to some Nashotah House business.
  • Lunch at home.
  • Had an appointment with my ENT doctor, following up on that thyroid business I went through last summer. After another ultrasound, all appears to be well in that area.
  • Handled a marital judgment request from one of our clergy.
  • Succumbed to the temptation to weigh in on the Deputies/Bishops listserv. You can see what I wrote here.
  • Processed a good-sized batch of emails.
  • Evening Prayer in the cathedral.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Third Sunday after Pentecost

The ordination of David Peters went splendidly. Christ Church Georgetown was a warmly welcoming parish. Spent most of the afternoon circumambulating the entire national mall--from 11th Strett east to the Capitol steps, then west past the Washingtom Monument and on to the Lincoln Memorial and back east to my starting point. That's a long way. So I hailed a cab for my dinner date with friends in the Washington Cathedral area. My journey home in the morning begins with an 8:20am flight to Chicago.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Saturday

This was a day of travel and anticipation. United Airlines took me from Springfield to Chicago, and then, three hours later, from Chicago to Washington, D.C. I had just enough time to check into my hotel near Reagan National Airport, freshen up, change, and catch a cab to Georgetown for dinner at the City Tavern Club. Joining me were Chaplain Major David Peters, whom I will be ordaining to the priesthood tomorrow, Fr Stuart Kenworthy, rector of Christ Church, Georgetown, where the ordination will take place, along with his wife Fran, Fr Gene Tucker and Deb, old friends of both the Kenworthys and Chaplain Peters, and Bishop Jay Magness, Bishop for the Armed Forces and tomorrow's preacher, and his wife Carolyn. It was a spirited time over wonderful food. One aspect of David's story is worthy of particular note: He left Springfield for Washington on May 26--on foot, and arrived just a few days ago! It is quite a saga, a unique act of devotion and pilgrimage.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Friday

  • Morning Prayer in the car again, owing to the press of business. This ought not to become a habit.
  • Got squared away with some last minute preparations for my liturgical formation time with our transitional deacons.
  • Had a scheduled phone conversation with a colleague on the Nashotah board over an emergent issue that needs to be dealt with.
  • Spent the rest of the day until about 3:30 with our three transitional deacons talking about sacramental theology and liturgical practice. We got very "nuts and bolts."
  • Conferred with the Archdeacon over sundry matters.
  • Processed a batch of emails.
  • Prayed the Luminous Mysteries of the rosary.
  • Evening Prayer in the office.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Thursday (St Basil)

  • Up early for my now customary Thursday morning workout. (Also happens most Saturdays and Mondays.)
  • Morning Prayer (memorized short form) in the car on the way to the office. Anxious about things needing to be done before getting back in the car.
  • Reviewed three different pressing administrative matters with the Archdeacon. Good progress on all counts.
  • Back in the bishopmobile at 10:15, arriving at St Matthew's, Bloomington at 11:30. Lunch and tour of greater Bloomington with Frs Halt and Francis as we discussed ways the mission strategy vision might play out in McLean County.
  • Met with a potential aspirant for diaconal ordination.
  • Headed back south, pulling into my parking spot a little past 4.
  • Discussed yet more administrative concerns with the Archdeacon, answered a couple of emails and listened to a voice mail message.
  • Evening Prayer in the cathedral.
  • In the evening, wrote a substantive blog post on General Convention issues.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Wednesday


  • Usual morning routine. 
  • Processed a batch of emails. 
  • Drafted a working text for my homily at St John the Baptist, Mt Carmel on the dedicatory feast, June 24. 
  • Lunch at home (leftovers).
  • "Played with hot wax," as the Administrator likes to put it. Got it right on the first try all by myself, and now we have an ordination certificate ready to present to Chaplain Major David Peters when we make him a priest this Sunday morning. 
  • Attended to some General Convention business. Lots of prep work necessary, both in connection with my committee assignment and otherwise. 
  • Met with two lay leaders from one of our congregations over a matter of some serious concern. 
  • More General Convention and Nashotah House business. 
  • Evening Prayer in the cathedral.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Tuesday

  • Regular morning routine: Task planning, etc. at home, Morning Prayer in the cathedral.
  • Consulted with the Administrator over arrangements for a planned conference for clergy and musicians in November.
  • Attended to some General Convention business. (See here and here for some fruits of my labor, yesterday and today.)
  • Attended to some Nashotah House business.
  • Lunch from TG, eaten at home.
  • Usual Tuesday desk-clearing work: lots of scanning, task-creating, quick reading, and emailing.
  • Took an initial look and made some written reflections on the readings for Proper 17; this will eventually become a sermon to be delivered at Trinity, Lincoln on the first Sunday in September. (Why such a head start? General Convention and vacation intervene.)
  • Evening Prayer in the cathedral.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Second Sunday after Pentecost

We had a warm and energizing visit with the people of St Thomas', Salem. On a good day there are about 40 people in church there, and today was a good day. They were grateful to hear my announcement that I am consenting to their retired Vicar, Fr Tom Davis, serving as their Sunday supply priest on an indefinite basis, with the understanding that both he and they will respect his retired status in various clear and concrete ways. I promised to hold both parties accountable. 

Home just past 3pm, having noticed that gasoline prices about about thirty cents lower in Marion County than they are here in Sangamon County. Hmmm.

Homily for Year B: Proper 5


Mark 3:20-35
II Corinthians 4:13-18 
Genesis 3:8-21
           
St Thomas', Salem 
June, of course, is the traditional month for weddings. Since becoming a bishop, I’ve kind of gotten out of the wedding business, but in 22 years of parish ministry, I certainly did my share. And I have to say, from the very first to the very last, I always got a little misty-eyed at that moment when the bride and groom first catch sight of one another across the length of a church aisle. There’s nothing quite comparable to the glow on the faces in that instant.

There’s also nothing quite comparable to the adjustment two people have to make to actually living with one another! “How can you stand it so hot in here?!”—on goes the air conditioner.  “Hot?! It’s freezing in here!”—off goes the air conditioner.  “This is a lousy show; I don’t want to watch it.” —click  goes the TV remote.  “What do you mean? This is a great show; it never miss it!” — click  goes the TV remote.  I feel hot, therefore it must be hot.  I like this show, therefore it must be a great show. It is completely natural for us to project our own perceptions back on to the world of our experience.  Our automatic assumption is that things are exactly as they seem to be, that the reality we perceive is the reality that’s actually, objectively, there. 

We ought not to be too critical, then, of the relatives of Jesus—his mother and his brothers, as St Mark tells the story—who were deeply concerned about the consequences of his suddenly escalating popularity. He was doing some rather bizarre things—casting out demons, healing the sick—and was attracting a growing and increasingly unruly following. His family was concerned for his safety, and, it appears, also for his sanity. In their words, he was “beside himself.”  The scribes from Jerusalem were a little harsher in their judgement: “He has Beelzebul, and by the ruler of the demons he casts out demons.” 

It’s easy for us, with our 20/20 hindsight, to take offense at such a statement, as Jesus did at the time. But they were only doing what comes naturally, the same thing you and I would probably have done. They projected their own perceptions on to the world of their experience.  Jesus seems crazy to me; therefore he must be crazy. It looks to me like Jesus is demon-possessed; therefore he must be demon-possessed. Jesus’ relatives, and the scribes from Jerusalem, were really being very modern. They were buying into the modern assumption that sensory observation is the only basis for saying something is real. If something can be experienced with one of the five senses, then it is in the realm of scientific fact, not to be questioned by any reasonable person. Anything that lies outside sense perception is a matter of opinion or speculation. You can believe it if you want to, but it’s not something you can reasonably hold anyone else accountable to. 

Now, these assumptions are so much a part of the way you and I were educated and raised, taken so much for granted by our everyday world, that we scarcely know how to think any other way. But it is a short-sighted way of thinking, and the gospel of Christ calls us to  break free from the tyranny of our own short-sighted perceptions. For unless we can do so, we are headed for a painful crash—a painful crash into the wall of ultimate reality, that      which is really real. 
 
There was once a restaurant that was renowned for its clam chowder. It was always packed with customers from all around the area, and beyond. It was so profitable,  and its value had increased so much, that the owner decided to sell out and take life easy. The new owner saw how popular and how profitable the clam chowder was, and figured he could make even more profit if he lowered his production costs. (It’s the kind of sophisticated management strategy you learn when you go for your MBA.) So he started to add just a tiny bit of water to the chowder recipe. For about a month, he thought himself quite clever. The number of customers remained the same, but his cost per bowl of chowder was less, so he made obscene amounts of money. But then his short-sighted perception crashed into the wall of ultimate reality. The word got out that something about the chowder wasn't quite the same, and the surge of customers dwindled to a trickle. The restaurant began to lose money, and closed. 

Adam and Eve were equally short-sighted when they gave in to the temptations of the serpent. They projected their own sensory perception on to the world: that fruit looks good, and smells good, and tastes good. It must therefore be good. This was a short-sighted conclusion, and we’re familiar with the story of their painful crash into the wall of ultimate reality, a crash that you and I and every other human being today live with the consequences of. 

When I was fourteen, and in a playful mood one afternoon, I found myself in possession of my younger sister’s eyeglasses, and, just in the spirit of fooling around, put them on. Talk about an “Aha!” moment!  I could see things I didn’t think I was supposed to be able to see, and I realized in an instant how much of the world I was missing. Needless to say, within a week, I had my own glasses. I needed, in effect, new eyes.

The gift and the virtue of faith is like a new pair of eyes. Faith enables us to expand our limited perception of reality to include the really real, God’s reality. With the eyes of faith, we can see what St Paul sees, as was read for us this morning:
Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day.  For this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure, because we look not on what can be seen, but at what cannot be seen; for what can be seen in temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal.
With the eyes of faith, we can see what our five senses can never tell us, that God is active and present in our experience and on our behalf. Jesus’ relatives saw his healing miracles and thought he was insane. The scribes saw him exorcise demons and thought he was himself demon-possessed.  Jesus, in that situation, called on his followers to use their eyes of faith to see in those very same events evidence of God’s saving activity. In his cryptic parable, the “strong man” is Satan, and the one who enters the strong man’s house and ties him up and plunders his property is Jesus, in his very activity of healing the sick. 

Educated North Americans and Europeans are perhaps less capable than anyone of seeing Jesus’ point. We are among the most spiritually near-sighted people in the world. Of the all the cultures that have come and gone throughout history, all over the world, ours is the only one that even questions the existence of a spiritual realm, a reality beyond the senses. Of all people, we are most in need of the eyes of faith. Faith is both a gift and a virtue. It is something we receive, but it is also something we can develop. I’ve known of those whose spiritual vision is so acute that, at the point in the Eucharist when we talk about being surrounded by angels and archangels, they actually see angels hovering over the altar! I am not among those who have had such an experience, but just hearing about it increases my faith and warms my heart and captivates my imagination. 

The gift and the virtue of faith, leaving behind our short sighted slavery to sense perception, empowers us to live and act with courage and integrity and fidelity, even—and especially—when what we do or say seems foolish by the limited perception of those around us. To the scribes from Jerusalem, and to Jesus’s own blood relatives, it no doubt seemed the height of folly for him to say that those who do the will of God are really his mother  and his brothers and his sisters. To those outside the community of the church (and probably to a good number of those within it, it probably seems foolish to say that the bond of baptismal water is stronger and more abiding than the bond of blood kinship, that other baptized Christians are our real brothers and sisters. It takes spiritual glasses, the eyes of faith, to realize these truths.  But what an “Aha!” moment it is when we put on those glasses. What an experience of joy and expanded perception awaits us when we exercise the gift and cultivate the virtue of faith. 

Amen.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Saturday (St Columba)

  • Out the door at 7:30 and on the road to Todd Hall. Met with a group of diocesan youth and their leaders who had been involved with Work Week, which took place this year in Harrisburg, still recovering from a February tornado. I led the group in unpacking some of the spiritual and theological implications of their experience. Then we celebrated the Eucharist together. 
  • Back home a little past 1pm. Took a good long and hard nap. 
  • Did my usual thrice-weekly weights and treadmill workout (takes about an hour). 
  • Packed and hit the road again, this time with Brenda. Dinner in Litchfield (where there's a Ruby Tuesday; for some reason, Brenda always feels uncommonly good on their food). Then on to Vandalia for the night, ahead of a visit tomorrow to St Thomas', Salem.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Friday

  • Ran out before breakfast to get blood drawn for some routine lab work, but ... the lab is closed on Fridays. I did not know that. Will try again on Monday.
  • Breakfast back at home, then Morning Prayer in the cathedral.
  • Once again, dealt with a handful of emails, though the stack was not as tall as the last couple of days.
  • The rest of the day was pretty much devoted to General Convention preparation, mostly related to the subcommittee that I will co-chair--the one dealing with proposed changes to the liturgical calendar. 
  • I did, however, spend a little over an hour with the Administrator and the Archdeacon, as be began to turn up the heat under getting ready for next October's annual diocesan synod. 
  • Ignatian Meditation on the gospel reading for Evening Prayer--Jesus and Peter walk on water.
  • Evening Prayer in the cathedral.
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Forget to mention yesterday that I made a cameo appearance bringing "ecumenical greetings" to the ELCA Synod's Annual Assembly, being held at the Crowne Plaza here in Springfield. 

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Thursday (Corpus Christi)

  • Usual Thursday routine--up early for workout, in to the office just a bit later than usual. (The workout takes an hour.)
  • Morning Prayer in the cathedral.
  • Processed a batch of emails, a couple of them requiring some careful wordsmithing in response, which is time-consuming.
  • Fleshed out the framework, and added some detail, on a homily for the Nativity of St John the Baptist (June 24 in Mt Carmel, at the Church of St John the Baptist).
  • Lunch from China 1, eaten at home.
  • Worked on the website for about 20 minutes.
  • Drafted a resolution for General Convention which, if submitted an passed, would authorize parishes that wish to do so to use the lectionary for Sundays and Holy Days as it was originally printed in the 1979 Prayer Book (rather than the Revised Common Lectionary, which supplanted in in 2010). Needing one more bishop to sign on before I can submit it.
  • Wrote a promised article for the Alton Parish newsletter providing some basic information about General Convention--what it is, how it works, and what the key issues are this year. Although I wrote it for Alton, they don't get an exclusive, so if you'd like it for your own newsletter, just ask.
  • Evening Prayer in the office.
  • Brenda and I have been really enjoying the carillon festival in Washington Park (which we can walk to) during the beautiful evenings we've had this week.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Wednesday

  • Morning Prayer in the cathedral.
  • Processed a stack of emails. They just keep on coming.
  • Produced a sermon for this Sunday, to be delivered at St Thomas', Salem. This is an "off the books" visit, so I didn't have one in the pipeline.
  • Took an incoming call from a retired priest outside the diocese whom I am recruiting to help us out part-time in our mission strategy project.
  • Ran a personal errand, then had lunch at home (Italian Beef from Fat Moe's, in a strip mall where Lawrence crosses Monroe).
  • Plotted the tasks necessary to being the conductor of the diocesan ECW retreat next March.
  • Spoke by phone with the deployment officer of another diocese who was inquiring about a priest who is canonically resident here.
  • Performed some "scheduled maintenance" on my electronic filing system.
  • Tended to some General Convention business.
  • Being aware that I've been falling down on the amount of blogging I would like to be doing, I sketched out ideas for a handful of posts on Confessions of a Carioca.
  • Evening Prayer in the cathedral.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Tuesday (St Boniface)

  • Morning Prayer at home, since a carpenter's truck was blocking my way out of the driveway, and the carpenter was in our attic prepping for the installation of a new range hood.
  • Took an incoming phone call from the Bishop's Warden of one of our mission congregations.
  • Processed a fairly long list of emails.
  • Incoming phone call from the Dean of Nashotah House, something that is bound to be happening with much more regularity in my new role as Chairman of the Board.
  • Discussed some non-urgent administrative issues with the Archdeacon and the Treasurer.
  • Made air travel arrangements for a trip to Bangkok in July, right after General Convention. I have been asked to join the Bishop of North Dakota in representing the Communion Partner bishops at a meeting of Global South Anglicans. (The cost of this trip is being underwritten by generous contributions from the CP bishops who are not traveling to tropical Thailand in July.)
  • Lunch at home--leftovers.
  • Tied up some loose ends generated by the Bangkok travel planning.
  • Took an incoming phone call from the rector of one of our parishes.
  • More loose ends to be tied up, this time from last Saturday's (very successful) Clergy Day.
  • Incoming phone call from a friend in another diocese who is also a deputy to General Convention, and who wanted to discuss issues relating to that impending event.
  • Worked on General Convention business--specifically, my role on the sub-committtee that will consider proposed changed to the liturgical calendar.
  • Began to lay track for a couple of teaching days I'm doing at St Thomas', Salem in August and September. 
  • Evening Prayer in the office.
  • After dinner, Brenda and I walked up to Washington Park to hear the third of a series of concerts on the massive carillon that stands there (and has since 1961). It was a beautiful evening and a beautiful program. We are so blessed to live amid such beauty.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Trinity Sunday


On the road at 6:30am to arrive at Holy Trinity, Danville two hours later and prepare the celebrate and preach the 9am Mass there. Holy Trinity is our most card-carrying Anglo-Catholic parish, but not in a way that is either pretentious or stuffy. It is a vibrant community, with an attention-getting proportion of children and young adults. The worship and devotion are palpably heartfelt. We baptized a young adult and confirmed two middle-aged folks. After coffee hour, I had an opportunity to offer my mission strategy sales pitch. It was a joy. 

Homily for Trinity Sunday


Isaiah 6:1 8
Holy Trinity, Danville                                                                                                                


This is Trinity Sunday, but I’m not really going to try to explain the doctrine of the Trinity to you. It’s pretty complicated, as doctrines go, with a lot of ‘i’s to dot and ‘t’s to cross. And it’s a doctrine I love and would die to uphold. But I don’t believe Trinity Sunday is even about the doctrine of the Trinity. Trinity Sunday is about the Triune God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. There’s a big difference between the doctrine of God and God himself. Doctrines are important. God is more important. God came first, then the doctrine. First the experience, then the interpretation of the experience.

The Old Testament prophet Isaiah, in the eighth century before Christ, had an experience of God which left him marked for life. He had a vision, a vision simultaneously terrible and wonderful, a vision at the same time both horrifying and immensely fulfilling. In his vision, Isaiah was in the temple, only it wasn’t really the temple—you know how it works in dreams; you’re supposed to be in a familiar place but it’s different—Isaiah was in something like the temple in Jerusalem, and he “saw the Lord seated on a high and lofty throne; his train filled the sanctuary.” Above the Lord on his throne were three six-winged       seraphs—not exactly the kind of creature you meet every day—shouting God’s praises at each other. “The door posts shook at the sound of their shouting, and the temple was full of smoke” Isaiah said.

If Isaiah was familiar with the psalms, he may have been reminded of Psalm 29, verse 9: “And in the temple of the Lord, all are crying ‘glory!’” What a sight! We can scarcely imagine it. To see the very glory of God—what greater honor could there be for human eyes? What greater fulfillment could a human soul wish for? Yet, could there be anything quite so devastating, quite so piercing? Could there be anything quite so embarrassing as being in the presence of such glory, such majesty, such transcendence, goodness of such awful purity—and then to contemplate one’s own puny self in that setting. Talk about being out of one’s league!

Isaiah wanted to worship, to join his voice with those of the shouting seraphim, to sing his own part, “Yes! God is holy! His glory fills the universe!” Yet, in that moment, all he could give voice to was his own inadequacy as a worshipper: “Woe is me! I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips and live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the king, the Lord of hosts.”

Many of you are familiar with my spiritual biography, and know that I was not raised in the Episcopal Church, but discovered it as a young adult. My family was very active in our church. It seemed like we were there constantly, and for the most part, I was there voluntarily and with a good attitude. I’m very grateful for that upbringing. It introduced me to Jesus and to the gospel and to the scriptures in a way that, quite frankly, gives me a great advantage over those of my generation who were cradle Episcopalians. But I had a sense that there was something missing. I didn’t always know I had that sense, and I certainly didn’t know what it was that I missed, because I had never actually seen it,
but I had a sense that there was something missing. At the same time, I was taught to be suspicious of anything that smacked of Catholicism, and Episcopalians, they told me, were just kissing cousins to the Catholics. In college, I majored in music. When you major in music, you have to study music history, and when you study music history, you get a lot a Christian liturgy thrown in at no extra charge—the two just sort of go together.

So it was through my academic pursuits that I discovered what it was I was missing in my church experience, and it was worship. Where I was raised, we loved God, and talked about him and sang about him, but we did not really worship him. Discovering the liturgy of historic Christianity, particularly the liturgy of the Book of Common Prayer, was like stumbling around a dimly-lit room for twenty years, and then finding an extra light switch that boosted the wattage from 20 to 100. I didn’t have an experience quite like Isaiah’s, but it was enough like it to make me appreciate what happened to him when I read about it. The human spirit longs to worship. We were made to worship.

But the impulse to worship is distorted by sin, and most of the trouble we get ourselves into as human beings results from our trying to do the right thing in the wrong way. We find the real God too intimidating, but we must worship, so we find alternative gods that are a little tamer and not as threatening: gods like money, success, hard work, family, health, beauty, sex, alcohol, drugs, and others. Trinity Sunday is about putting these false gods away and falling down in worship before the one, true, and living God, the maker of heaven and earth, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the Triune God who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

In the fourth chapter of the Revelation to St John, we get a picture of how this God is to be worshipped. As in Isaiah, there is a throne, and one seated on the throne.
Round the throne were 24 thrones, and on them 24 elders, dressed in white robes with golden crowns on their heads. Flashes of lightning were coming from the throne, and sound of peals of thunder, and in front of the throne were seven flaming lamps burning.
There is incessant praise, incessant singing, incessant proclamation of the holiness of God. In worship, we lose ourselves and are transfixed by the glory of God. Since earliest times, Christians have used this picture from Revelation as a model for the design and decoration of church buildings and what goes on in them. We cannot replicate Isaiah’s vision. We cannot replicate the picture of the heavenly hosts worshiping the Lamb who was slain in the book of Revelation.

But we can try.

That’s why we use brass and gold and precious metals in the vessels of our worship. God’s glory is worthy of that and more. That’s why those who lead our worship are arrayed in gorgeous vestments. God’s glory is worthy of that and more. That’s why we surround ourselves with stained glass and icons and images of the saints. We need such tangible reminders of heavenly glory. God’s glory is worthy of that and more. That’s why we use incense in our worship—it reminds us of the smoke that was the sign of God’s glory on Mt Sinai and in the temple of Isaiah’s vision. God’s glory is worthy of that and more. That’s why the norm for the worship of God is singing, singing, and more singing. God’s glory is worthy of that and more.

Trinity Sunday is about the glory of God, and the only proper response to that glory, which is the surrender of our hearts in worship, worship of which we are utterly incapable but for the Holy Spirit who allows us a glimpse of God’s terrible glory, his awful beauty, and then gives us the words and the music to sing the praises of that glory. Only those who have worshiped God on his heavenly throne can begin to contemplate and speak of and discuss doctrine. Only those who have lost themselves in worship, who have adored God in his glory, can know him to be the eternal, undivided, and life giving Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. To him be all glory in heaven and earth, now and forever.

Amen.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Saturday (Martyrs of Lyons)

Between 9:30 and 2:30, shared a challenging but very upbeat time with the great majority of the clergy of the diocese (nearly 40 in all). We got one level closer to the "nuts and bolts" of our emerging mission strategy vision. I had a sense that a time for collegiality was greatly enjoyed by those who attended. I came away very grateful for the work to which I have been called and the people with whom I have been called to pursue that work.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Friday (St Justin Martyr)

  • Usual morning routine: task planning and light email processing at home, Morning Prayer in the cathedral. The Archdeacon and I had to office to ourselves today, which some might consider dangerous.
  • Spent the bulk of the morning preparing for my role at General Convention, where I will serve on the Committee on Prayer Book, Liturgy, and Church Music, and co-chair the subcommittee that will deal with matters affecting the liturgical calendar.
  • Lunch from China 1, eaten at home. (The last time I was there, it was with several members of Diocesan Council, so the proprietor asked where all my friends were!)
  • Reviewed some information online in connection with preparing to lead a pilgrimage of youth from the diocese to Canterbury sometime next year.
  • Added some links and content to the still-in-beta diocesan website.
  • Reviewed and responded to a canonical request from a priest for permission to solemnize the marriage of a divorced person.
  • Took care of some Nashotah House business.
  • Attended to some details ahead of tomorrow's Clergy Day.
  • Evening Prayer in the cathedral.