Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Eve of All Hallows

  • Usual morning routine; Morning Prayer in the cathedral.
  • Last minute consultation with Sue before she published my 2013 visitation calendar. Of course, it has already been tweaked several times as parish clergy have called in with requested and suggested changes.
  • Made a condolence phone call to a cleric who has had a recent death in the family.
  • Wrote my greetings to clergy and spouses who have birthdays and other milestone anniversaries in November.
  • Met with a priest who is canonically resident in the Diocese of Chicago but physically resident in the Diocese of Springfield. We discussed possibilities for deploying him in this diocese.
  • Lunch from Hickory River (chopped brisket), eaten at home.
  • Participated in a conference call with a group of bishops who face the same emerging challenge. 
  • Took care of some routine maintenance personal organization chores.
  • Drafted an Ad Clerum--letter to the clergy--which will be sent on Friday.
  • Made travel arrangements for the annual meeting of bishops from small dioceses, which will be in Salt Lake City the last week of November. With four airports from which it is plausible to fly when one lives in Springfield, this is always a complicated and time-consuming task. I whipped it out in one hour flat. Yes, I know I should figure out a way to delegate this sort of thing.
  • Evening Prayer in the cathedral.
  • After some shopping and dinner out with Brenda (our street not being very trick-or-treat friendly), I produced this Hallowe'en post on my "real" blog.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Tuesday (James Hannington & Companions)

  • While still at home, pretended to organize an impossibly monumental list of 60 separate tasks that I ought to accomplish this week. They will not all get done. There will be a lot of triage involved.
  • Morning Prayer in the cathedral.
  • Attended to a couple of administrative matters--one urgent and important, the other merely important. 
  • Usual Tuesday informal debrief with the Archdeacon and the Administrator.
  • Refined and printed the working script for this Sunday's homily at St Andrew's, Carbondale.
  • Lunch from La Bamba, eaten at home.
  • Processed a batch of emails.
  • Usual Tuesday scanning and organizing chores. This generated some spontaneous hand-written notes and emails.
  • Made a couple of final tweaks to my 2013 visitation calendar and gave Sue the green light to go public with it.
  • Evening Prayer in the cathedral.
  • Substantive after-dinner phone conversation with the Rector's Warden of one of our parishes regarding some transitional issues.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

The Lord's Day (XXII Pentecost)

Apparently I brought a pretty nasty bug back with me from Wisconsin. It laid me low all day yesterday and this afternoon and evening. I did manage to pull myself together long enough to drive (with Brenda's companionship) the 47 miles to Havana to preside and preach for the people of the Eucharistic Community of St Barnabas. I'm generally recliner-bound, with that old run-over-by-a-truck feeling. This will pass.

Sermon for Proper 25


St Barnabas, Havana--Mark 10:46-52

I’m going to date myself with this, but one of the memories of my teenage years is a record—an actual LP—of Bill Cosby doing comedy. The most memorable line from that recording was its first one, when Bill Cosby just says, “I started out as a child.” The one thing I can safely say, is that every one of us either is a child, or once was a child—there are no exceptions! Childhood carries with it both blessings and curses. Children themselves tend to see the curses—they’re smaller than adults, they’re physically weaker, and they’re forever having grownups tell them what they can and can’t do. It’s really a pain … as I recall.

Adults, however, tend to get all nostalgic about the blessings of childhood, the chief of which is that if you get yourself into a jam, your parents will get you out of it—unless, of course, it’s your parents you’re in a jam with, in which case, if you can’t play one off against the other, you’re cooked! But if you’re in trouble at school, or with the neighbors, or you get lost somewhere or forget something, your parents fix it. You don’t always know how; you probably don’t want to know how, but somehow it happens. It’s just magic.
Eventually, though, we have to grow up. And one of the measures of adult maturity is the realization that there is no magic. Getting out of a jam costs somebody something. There is no free lunch; somebody pays the tab. Some people who are physically and legally grown up cannot face this fact. Intellectually and emotionally, they are still children. They cannot face responsibility for their own actions; they try to shift blame and shift adverse consequences for their behavior on to other people. They expect a Sugar Daddy to come to the rescue, to bail them out.

I suspect that it’s this sort of arrested moral development that lies behind many of our social ills, from crime to drug abuse to poverty. Many of us, however, who are well-adjusted adults, and make our way in the world fairly well, nonetheless revert to childish attitudes and behavior where our relationship to God is concerned. Children are always asking for things, telling parents what they want. Have you ever noticed how much we equate prayer with asking God for something? Of course, God invites us to make our requests known to him. But that’s not the be-all and end-all of our relationship with God.

In our catechism, there are seven different forms of prayer defined. Petition—which is asking God for something on our own behalf—and intercession—which is asking God for something on behalf of someone else—are two of these seven. But the other five—which are praise, thanksgiving, confession, adoration, and oblation—the other five do not involve asking God for anything at all. Yet, how much time do we spend on those categories of prayer in comparison with petition and intercession? Even our liturgical prayer—which is probably more balanced than our personal prayer—even our liturgical corporate prayer is filled with petition. In particular, we are frequently asking God for mercy— “Lord, have mercy … Show us your mercy … Have mercy upon us.” Asking for mercy has been a consistent feature of the liturgy, both in the east and in the west—but particularly in the east; if you’ve ever been to a Greek or Russian service, you know what I mean—asking for mercy has been a consistent feature of Christian worship since the very earliest times. And what is mercy? It’s a rich and all-encompassing word that includes, but is not limited to: pity, blessing, favor, kindness, compassion, forgiveness, patience, and understanding. This is what we’re asking from God when we ask him for mercy.

In the tenth chapter of St Mark’s gospel, a blind man named Bartimaeus calls out to Jesus repeatedly, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me! Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” He had a hard time getting Jesus’ attention, but he eventually succeeded, and it became clear that he had a very specific kind of mercy in mind. He didn’t want just general blessing and favor. He didn’t even want money. He wanted to be healed of his blindness; he wanted to be able to see. Bartimaeus, apparently, was not blind from birth. He knew exactly what he was missing, and he wanted it back.

Well, Jesus grants Bartimaeus’ petition—immediately, fully, and without the drama and complication that accompany some of his other healing miracles. He just does it, accepts Bartimaeus’ grateful thanks, and continues on his way. But if we close the book there— “…and Bartimaeus lived happily ever after” —if we close the book there, we miss a very important point. The timing of this account within the larger structure of St Mark’s gospel narrative is critical. It takes place just as Jesus is nearing the end of his slow trip from Galilee to Jerusalem and the final drama that awaited him there.

Because of this timing, then, there is tremendous symbolism in the healing of a blind man when it happened. Bartimaeus’ gift of sight enables him to see. But he sees more than people and trees and sheep on the hillside. He sees Jesus enter Jerusalem, and he sees Jesus go to the cross. For Mark, this is significant, because the cross is absolutely central to his purpose in writing his gospel. Fully one-third of the entire length of Mark’s gospel is devoted to the three days of Jesus’s Passion and Resurrection. Some scholars have called it a “Passion narrative with an extended prologue.” For Mark, everything Jesus ever said or did falls under the shadow of the cross; nothing about Jesus has any meaning apart from the cross.

So, the healing of blind Bartimaeus, when understood on a spiritual and not just a literal level, tells us that God’s answer to our repeated requests for his mercy, even as Bartimaeus had begged for his mercy—God’s answer to “Lord, have mercy” is none other than the cross of Christ. If we look at Jesus but don’t “see” the cross, then we are as blind as Bartimaeus was before he was healed. The gospel of “Christ crucified” is the cure for our blindness. Those who would follow Jesus, those who would want to imitate him or emulate him, those who would ask themselves “What would Jesus do?”, those who would call themselves Christians, cannot avoid the cross. Why? Because Jesus does not avoid the cross. The cross is a scandal and a source of shame, a place of suffering and grief, but there is no knowledge of God in Christ apart from facing that scandal and shame and suffering and grief. These are the conditions from which we need to be healed, and the cross is the place of healing. Those who imitate the persistent faith of Bartimaeus—acknowledging his wretchedness, calling out for mercy, calling out for Jesus’ attention—those who imitate Bartimaeus in this way will share with him in the miracle of enlightenment, illumination, restored sight.

As long as we think of God as a Sugar Daddy, one who magically fixes things for us whenever we get into trouble, we will be disappointed. Of course, God is our Father, and we are His children. But that fact does not absolve us of responsibility for becoming spiritual adults, for becoming God’s grown-up children. Child-like trust in God is positive; child-ish spiritual immaturity is not. If our spiritual development is arrested, we are susceptible to one faith crisis after another. We get sick, and pray, but don’t get better, so we question whether God hears our prayers. We encounter financial hard times, and we ask God for relief, but things go from bad to worse, so we question whether God really loves us. We are horrified by the wars and conflicts that are going on all over the world, and we pray for peace, but the violence escalates, so we question whether God even exists. This is what happens when we look past the cross, when the cross becomes optional in our understanding of how the universe fits together.

But if we embrace the mystery of the cross, if we enter into that mystery, our eyes are opened along with Bartimaeus, and we know the cross to be not only an instrument of shameful death, a symbol of humiliation and defeat, but a source of light and restoration, and the very way of life and peace.

Yes, we started out as children. God invites us to see the light and grow up.

Amen.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Friday (Alfred the Great)

  • Checked out of the Hilton Garden Oconomowoc and on campus in time for 8am Morning Prayer and Mass.
  • Looked at the high-card breakfast buffet in the refectory and decided to make a quick run into Delafield for some animal protein, accompanied by a fellow trustee who is also diabetic and so had the same need.
  • Participated in the ceremonial rehearsal for the 10:30 fall Academic Convocation.
  • Participated in the event by awarding the honorary degree to our distinguished guest, Metropolitan Hilarion Aleyev, top assistant to the Patriarch of Moscow. In addition to several published theological works, he is an accomplished musician and composer. He then proceeded to deliver a captivating lecture on "J.S. Bach as a Religious Phenomenon." I was once a scholar of music, so this appealed to a part of me that doesn't get to come out and play very often.
  • Visited with students, faculty, alumni, trustees, and visitors over a buffet lunch in the refectory, then took my leave of the House for this season and headed home. Got back to Springfield around 6:30pm.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Thursday

On campus at Nashotah for 8am Mattins (sung Morning Prayer), followed by breakfast in the refectory, followed by trustees meetings from 9:30 until noon and 1:30 until 3:00. There's a bit of a learning curve to chairing this group, but I think I'm getting the hang of it. I was grateful for the 90 minute break between adjournment and Evening Prayer, as it allowed for a long walk around the campus--including down at the lakefront--and a "for old time's sake" visit to the library, which may actually have been my true home when I was a student here. Said Evening Prayer at 4:30 ("Evensaid," as some of the students call it) was followed by a glorious Solemn Eucharist celebrating the feast of St James of Jerusalem, transferred from Tuesday. The preacher was Fr Chad Hatfield, a son of the House, and now chancellor of the Orthodox seminary in Yonkers, New York (St Vladimir's). Another scrumptious meal in the refectory, followed by a small social gathering at the deanery with our guest of honor, Metropolitan Hilarion of the Moscow Patriarchate, on whom it will be my privilege tomorrow to confer an honorary Doctor of Music degree (in addition to his ecclesiastical acumen, he's a distinguished composer).

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Wednesday

At Nashotah House. Morning Prayer and Mass in St Mary's Chapel. Breakfast in the refectory. Met with  a sub-group of the Administrative Committee of the board, then with the whole committee, including some time with the auditor of our financial statements. Quick lunch in the refectory before heading back to the chapel to record by video a brief interview wherein I shared some thoughts on stewardship and on Nashotah's ministry to the church in the 21st century. Chaired the meeting of the full board for most of the afternoon, then the Executive Committee. Evensong in the chapel, social hour and dinner in the refectory for trustees and faculty. Had a delightful time getting to know two faculty members and their spouses.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

St James of Jerusalem

  • Took an incoming phone call while eating breakfast from a colleague bishop who has some helpful and particular insights into the sad South Carolina situation.
  • Morning Prayer in the office.
  • Usual Tuesday catch-up with the Archdeacon and the Administrator.
  • Substantive phone conversations with the Dean of Nashotah House and the Vice-Chair of the Board of Trustees over an emerging issue ahead of tomorrow meeting of the board.
  • Dashed off a pastoral email to one of our clergy.
  • Produced and refined a working script for this Sunday's homily at St Barnabas, Havana.
  • Took care of some administrivia.
  • Lunch from TG, eaten at home.
  • Worked from home for the afternoon, mostly processing emails and making phone calls.
  • Took a brisk walk around the neighborhood.
  • Packed and headed north at 5pm. While en route to Oconomowoc, WI, held five phone interviews with candidates for the position at St John the Divine, Champaign. It sure makes the drive time seem faster. 
  • Check in at the Hilton Garden around 10.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

The Lord's Day (XX Pentecost)

Up in time to have all four wheels on the YFNBmobile out of the garage while the digital clock still read 6:00am. Rolled into Edwardsville a little earlier than expected--around 7:20--in plenty of time for the first Mass of two at St Andrew's Church. It was a straight Rite I with no music, which I found oddly comforting, given that it was part of my routine for two decades, and now is a relative rarity. The principal celebration, a sung Rite II, was lively and well-attended. Both coffee hours demonstrated the warmt of the parishioners and gave testimony to the fine work Mother Virginia Bennett has done there over the last 17 years. Father George Pence is doing a fine job holding things together there while the rector, Mother Bennett, recovers from a nasty fall and fractured leg. 
After a stop in Litchfield for lunch at Brenda's favorite eatery, Ruby Tuesday, we arrived home at 2:30. Nap, walk, lots of rest.

Sermon for Proper 24


St Andrew's, Edwardsville--Mark 10:34-45, Isaiah 53:4-12

For seven years of the first decade of this century, there was a TV show that became pretty much the highlight of my week whenever it came on. It was The West Wing, and most of you are probably familiar with it. The ensemble of characters were all members of a fictional White House staff, plus Martin Sheen as President Josiah Bartlett. There was one particular episode that featured a great deal of flashback material, and let the viewers in on what the lives of these people had been like before Bartlett became a presidential candidate. Then it showed them all meeting for the first time as they were recruited, or volunteered, to work on his campaign in the early stages of the primaries. They worked hard for him, put their “real” lives on hold for him, sacrificed comfort and security and took great risks for him. When Josiah Bartlett became president, they were understandably rewarded with challenging and powerful jobs in the White House—the roles in which viewers of  The West Wing had already come to know them.

This is essentially the kind of reward that the apostles James and John were seeking from Jesus as they took him aside one day along the road to Jerusalem. They had thoroughly cast their lot with Jesus. They had walked away from a prosperous commercial fishing enterprise. They had put family relationships and friendships on hold while they barnstormed through the Galilean countryside with Jesus. They had risked everything for him. Now, by their reckoning, the time was drawing short. Election Day was fast approaching. Jesus would make his move, and usher in the Kingdom of God by establishing himself politically, by delivering the Jewish people from the oppressive domination of the Imperial Rome. The time seemed to be ripe. James and John just wanted to make sure of their position: “Teacher, we want you to grant to us to sit, one at you right hand, and one at your left, in your glory.” Jesus is, shall we say, “not amused” by this request. In fact, I would suspect he was a little annoyed. They obviously didn’t get it. They didn’t get the fact that the Kingdom of God is not about human political power structures, and that there would be some considerable suffering and dying before anyone was going to sit at anyone else’s right or left hand, in any degree of glory. Jesus corrects his disciples’ thinking without ambiguity: “...whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all.”

Well, slavery has been totally disgraced as in institution in civilized society, so the idea of being the “slave of all” is not something we can easily relate to. Even the word “servant” carries demeaning overtones. A couple of generations ago, it was not uncommon for more affluent households in this country to employ individuals to do cooking, cleaning, driving, gardening, personal care, and various household administrative chores. These individuals were routinely referred to as servants. Nowadays, for even a very wealthy person to refer to such an employee as a “servant” is scarcely imaginable. And it isn’t that we no longer pay people to do domestic work—if anything, it’s probably more widespread than it was 50 and 75 and a hundred years ago. But instead of butlers and maids and valets we have housecleaners and home healthcare providers and personal shoppers. Instead of cooks and chauffeurs and gardeners we have caterers and drivers and landscape maintenance contractors. The same work gets done, but the attitude is different. We’re comfortable “providing services,” but we don’t want to be “servants.” A service provider has a client; a servant has a master. Providing a service is something we do; a servant is something we are.

So why does servanthood have such a bad rap? There are several reasons, and they are complex. First, there is the implication that a servant is somehow inherently inferior to the one who is served. A 45-year old master sergeant with a quarter century of experience has to snap to attention and salute and say “Yes, sir” to a freshly-commissioned second lieutenant young enough to be his child. Why else, we might ask, would age and experience have to bow and scrape like that, if the officer were not inherently superior? Then there’s the notion that to voluntarily take the servant’s role implies a low degree of self-respect that is not at all healthy. If we put ourselves last, doesn’t it say that we think we deserve to be last? When I was in seminary, every day the whole community prayed that our lives would be characterized by “true humility and self abasement.” This is very old language, and it perhaps didn’t strike people the same way when it was first written, but to my modern ears, it struck a discordant note. In this society that values self-esteem so highly, why would anybody pray for self-abasement?

Another reason that servanthood is such an off-putting concept is the assumption that servanthood is the result of victimhood. Those who are servants are servants because they are made to be, either overtly, or through being oppressed into a fatalistic resignation. The stronger in this world—meaning the educated, the connected, or the otherwise privileged—the stronger in this world naturally rule over the weaker in this world —the poor, the illiterate, minorities, all of which breeds a seething resentment that is potentially dangerous as it grows in strength. Yes, servanthood as a nasty reputation, and it’s not hard to see why.

As friends and followers of Jesus, however, we do not get caught in these traps. We have the opportunity to grow beyond inferiority or self-hatred or victimhood into the sort of servanthood of which Jesus is the true example and model. And Jesus himself had a model; his experience was prefigured in the moving poetry of Isaiah, in what are known as the Servant Songs. In the well-known words of chapter 53, we get a glimpse into the authentic character of servanthood:
Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows ... he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities, and upon him was the chastisement that made us whole ... He was oppressed and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth ... he was numbered among the transgressors; yet he bore the sins of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.
The Suffering Servant of Isaiah, and Jesus in fulfillment of the prophecy, was a servant, but not a victim. He offered himself voluntarily. He was a servant, but in that servanthood revealed himself, not as inferior to those whom he served, but as vastly superior to them, able to bring them to salvation. He was a servant, but it was not because he had a poor self image or low self esteem; rather, he was the only human being ever to have an unblinkingly accurate view of himself. His servanthood was rooted in purpose and mission, not in self-hatred or fatalistic resignation.

True servanthood is ordered toward specific goals: the glory of God and the salvation of humankind. Christian leaders are servant leaders. Servant leadership is humble, but not servile. It is gentle, but not weak. It is never trivial or obsequious, because it is driven by mission. Jesus is the model of servant leadership, and he invites his disciples—his friends, his followers, all Christians, in other words—to imitate his example.

The West Wing staffers whose earlier lives we were allowed to sneak a peak into were all in an unusually reflective and introspective mood in that season premiere episode. There has been an assassination attempt on President Bartlett; the president was only slightly injured, but one of his aides is seriously wounded by gunfire. His life hangs in the balance. Everyone is traumatized. The intoxicating joy ride of working in the very seat of world power has come to a halt. Reality has intruded. They indeed got their reward for serving on the campaign, but there is risk even in the reward; sacrifice and suffering remain on the menu.

This is precisely the lesson that James and John needed to learn when they made their audacious request of Jesus. Amazingly, he resisted the temptation to indulge in sarcasm. Instead, he tried to give them an idea of the implication of what they were asking: “Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?” The way of Jesus is the way of the cross, and so the way of following Jesus is also the way of the cross. There is no immunity from the intrusion of reality. There is reward, but there is vulnerability. There is joy, but there is sacrifice.

Jesus’ pattern is our pattern, and therein lies our hope. It begins with voluntary servanthood—an availability to become possessed by and passionate about God’s purpose and activity in this world, the church’s mission of restoring all people to unity with God and one another in Christ Jesus. The servant life continues in sacrificial suffering, identification with the redemptive self-offering of Christ on the cross. And it culminates, then, in transformation, joy, victory, and vindication. This is the way of servanthood; this is the way of life. Amen.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Saturday

The Saturday session of the 135th diocesan synod got underway promptly at 8:30am and we were adjourned by mid-morning. That's what happens when there's only one contested election, finances are in the black, the budget is not controversial, and the only policy resolutions have to do with companion diocese relationships. (We voted to retire our relationships with Barbados and Recife and take on new ones with Tabora [Province of Tanzania] and Peru.) Home just past noon, Processed some email and prepared a bit for the Nashotah House board meeting during the afternoon, but saved time for a long walk in the beauty of fall foliage. Enjoyed the Illinois Symphony Orchestra concert in the evening.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Friday (Henry Martyn)

Stayed home in the morning to prep for an 11am departure for Bloomington and the 135th annual synod of the diocese. We banged the gavel at 2:00pm and banged in again a little past 3:30 as we recessed for the Eucharist at St Matthew's. In the meantime, we got through the organizational formalities, heard greetings from the Bishop of Chicago, I gave my address, we heard reports from the Youth Department and the Episcopal Church Women, and held an election. We observed the lesser feast of Henry Martyn, Priest & Missionary at Mass, then enjoyed a delicious banquet back at the Chateau Hotel & Conference Center. I am so incredibly blessed to be doing what I'm doing.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

St Luke the Evangelist

  • Got to the office and was immediately distracted by conversations with the Archdeacon and the Administrator. Managed to slip into the cathedral for a few minutes of private devotions, but Morning Prayer drew the short straw today. It happens.
  • Produced a semi-rough draft of a sermon for All Saints (observed on November 4), to be delivered at St Andrew's, Carbondale.
  • Processed a largish batch of emails. 
  • Lunch at home (grilled panini sandwich made from sprouted grain bread, smoked turkey, sliced parmesan cheese, and Thai peanut sauce).
  • Worked on a Letter of Understanding between a particular vestry and a particular rector.
  • Produced a tentative version of my 2013 visitation calendar. Sue will make sure I've covered all the bases and make it public soon.
  • Took a late afternoon/early evening phone call from an old clergy friend who wanted to process the developments in the Diocese of South Carolina. Evening Prayer fell by the wayside, as it was already almost 6:30.
  • Took some time in the evening to write a preliminary response to the South Carolina developments.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Wednesday (St Ignatius of Antioch)

  • After a trip to my doctor's office to get some blood drawn, it was a "normal" morning. MP in the cathedral.
  • Made some technical preparations for the presentation of proposals to synod regarding our companions relationships with other dioceses.
  • Refined my homily for the synod Mass. It's now "in the can" (which means it lives in a file folder in the back seat of my car, a routine procedure).
  • Worked on some details of the upcoming clergy/musicians conference.
  • Lunch at home. Leftovers.
  • Weekly scanning/filing chores. Doing this always generates a few secondary tasks, which take up time.
  • Administrivia.
  • Refined my homily for this Sunday (St Andrew's, Edwardsville). It is also now in the can--and you know what that means now.
  • Worked on a rough draft of a sermon for Proper 25 (October 28 at St Barnabas, Havana).
  • Evening Prayer in the cathedral. 
  • Dinner from Chine 1, eaten in my office.
  • Attended the regular monthly meeting of the cathedral chapter. Productive discussion of transition-related issues. 

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Tuesday (Oxford Martyrs)

  • Somewhat of a regular morning routine, though MP got pushed to about 9:45 because of various conversations with staff prompted by my arrival in the office.
  • Hand wrote two notes: one of thanks, one of condolence.
  • Worked on some Nashotah House-related business in advance of next week's Trustees meeting.
  • Prepared materials for tonight's meeting with the vestry of Emmanuel, Champaign.
  • Lunch from Taco Gringo, eaten at home.
  • Worked on my address to the annual synod of the diocese this Friday. I believe it is now "in the can."
  • Took a brisk walk up to the old state capitol area and back, on a fine day for such an activity.
  • Left at 4:30 for a 6:00 meeting in Champaign. Discussed nuts and bolts of transition issues with the vestry of Emmanuel. 
  • My trip home coincided almost precisely with the time of the presidential debate.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

The Lord's Day: XX Pentecost

Woke up in Marion (which is, in fact, where I had gone to bed, so that's a good thing!). Headed east to Harrisburg in plenty of time to preside and preach at the regular 10am Mass At St Stephen's. Very nice potluck afterward, featuring roast pork and BBQ sauce. (Oh, the bread pudding deserves an honorable mention as well.) St Stephen's is one of those communities where I don't lower the average age when I walk in; it's not a large group, but they have a good proportion of younger folks.

Larry Black, husband of Mother Sherry Black, who takes care of St James', Marion, has recently learned of an adverse development in his health that brings with it a challenging prognosis. So I leveraged my presence in the area to have a visit with both of them in their home. Through the sacrament of Unction, we consecrated Larry's illness to be a tool at God's disposal in the manifestation of His redemptive grace. Do hold them in your prayers.

I arrived home around 4:15. Let the sabbath begin.

Homily for Proper 23

Mark 10:17-31 (Redeemer, Cairo and St Stephen's, Harrisburg)

As we hang out with Jesus in Mark’s gospel in his ministry of proclaiming in word and deed the good news of the Kingdom of God, we encounter an interesting young man today. Apparently, he’s one of those fortunate few who are born with the proverbial “silver spoon” in their mouth. He was not only young; he was young and rich. A lot of things had broken his way during his short life. But he had also tried to be wise; that is, to not squander what had been entrusted to him, to see his good fortune in the context of larger and deeper concerns. We might infer from what we’re told about his conversation with Jesus that he wanted to be responsible, to do the right thing, to move beyond a concern for creature comforts that his wealth made available to him, and consider the deeper mysteries of human existence, to find a profound meaning and purpose for his life. “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

It’s especially easy for anyone who is relatively secure materially—probably nobody here would self-identify as “rich,” though, by the standards of most of the world, we probably are—it’s easy for anyone who is well off and who lives in or around or is familiar with a place like Cairo to identify with this impulse—the impulse of this young man to seek deeper meaning in life—as a place like Cairo confronts us starkly with our own good fortune. Of course, the same might be said by anyone in Harrisburg whose home or workplace or friends and family were left untouched the tornado last February.

So our rich young man who’s trying to seek out higher wisdom hears about a newly famous itinerant teacher who is attracting larger and larger crowds as he moves through the country talking to people. The young man approaches the teacher. He’s certainly curious about what he might yet learn about how not only to do well, which he’s already accomplished, but to also do good. But he was also aware that he wasn’t exactly a beginner in this business of doing good. He had worked pretty hard at doing those things that a good observant Jew would do to put himself in a proper relation to God. So part of what the young man might have been looking for, in addition to advice, was affirmation. “Son, keep on doing what you’re doing. You’re on the right path.” He was fishing for a compliment. Again, if we think about it, we can see ourselves doing this—we want to feel like our lives have some larger meaning and purpose.

So how does Jesus respond to this expression of interest from an earnest young inquirer? Well, first off, Jesus throws him off balance by kind of scolding him, questioning his motives. “Why do you call me good?” And then he states the obvious by naming six of the Ten Commandments. Don’t you hate it when you ask for advice or help from a supposed expert, and they say something like, “Have you tried restarting your computer?” But the young man isn’t going to give up easily; in fact, he’s rather encouraged by what he’s hearing, because he responds along the lines of, “Keep six commandments? That’s it? Well, I’ve done better than that. I’ve kept all ten of them!” And then Jesus turns serious and sincere. We can imagine him putting his arm around the young man; Mark tell us that Jesus, “looking at him, loved him.” And he says, “I’ll tell you what. How would you like to be one of my very own disciples? Here’s what you do: First, go home and liquidate your assets. Sell everything you have and give the money to the poor. Then come and follow me.” The young man is gob smacked. He is strongly attracted to Jesus, and perhaps even flattered that Jesus is inviting him to become a disciple, maybe even part of the inner core. After all, Jesus was asking him to take pretty drastic action—selling everything he owns. It’s an attractive proposition, especially if Jesus turns out to be the long-awaited Messiah. The young man could be getting into a good thing on the ground floor. But there’s a risk. What if he’s wrong? What if he hitches his wagon to Jesus and Jesus just fizzles? He would seriously entertain the invitation to discipleship if he were only allowed to hedge his bet in the form of a modest trust fund he could fall back on if it all goes south. But this was not part of the deal. It was all in or not at all.

We are all consummate bet-hedgers. We do it practically in our sleep: we buy extended warranties on cars and appliances and electronic equipment. We buy travel insurance in case we get sick and can’t use our non-refundable airline tickets. We have lawyers draw up pre-nuptial agreements. We put escape clauses into our contracts, conditions on real estate purchase offers. So it’s not surprising that we hedge our bets in our relationship with Jesus. The young man has an advantage on us in that he could see Jesus face to face, and feel the personal magnetism that attracted so many followers. But we have the young man at a disadvantage, in that we can look back on the inescapable testimony of Jesus risen from the dead, having “delivered the goods” that the rich young man had to take on faith, and we can look at 2000 years of God’s actions in and through the community of the Church.

In any case, the young man decided not to take the risk. He could not overcome his bet-hedging impulse, and Mark tells us that went away sorrowful. We’re not told whether he went completely away, or became part of the “multitude” that followed Jesus at a distance. But you and I have the same choice—to be part of the multitude, or to become a disciple, and be part of the inner core. And the demand that Jesus makes on us is essentially the same as it was for the rich young man. It may not be to literally liquidate and divest of all our material assets, but it certainly involves a transaction in the intention of our hearts, one in which we sign over ownership control of those assets; in other words, to become stewards, to acknowledge that we own nothing and God owns everything and whatever we think is ours is actually only placed in our care by God for us to look after.

So what holds us back from that? What keeps us from that sort of radical discipleship? What tempts us to join the young man in walking away sorrowful? It is, of course, fear—fear of an adverse outcome, fear that our trust will turn out to be misplaced. In this case, fear is the opposite of faith—faith that God is Lord of the future, faith that the cosmic story of creation and redemption—the master story that includes within itself all our personal stories—faith that the master story ends with God’s victory. Jesus invites us to live now in God’s future. This was Jesus’ invitation to the young man, and it is his invitation to us today. The decision to follow Jesus is a decision to live as though we really do believe that we know the end of the story—that God wins, that reconciliation triumphs over alienation, that our prayer “thy kingdom come”—and is there a more constant prayer than that on the lips of Christians?—that our prayer “thy kingdom come” will actually be answered. Our relationship to wealth is a key part of this, and our behavior as Christian stewards of our financial resources is the sacramental sign of our faith.

Praised be Jesus Christ. Amen.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Saturday

  • The morning had a slightly gentler start than an ordinary weekday, but I did have to be dressed, packed for an overnight, and at the diocesan office for a 10am meeting of the Commission on Ministry. Deacons Bill Howard and Ann Tofani were interviewed and recommended for ordination to the priesthood. We then discussed some broader conceptual matters regarding the work of the COM.
  • Southbound on I-55 shortly after noon, arriving at my hotel in Marion just before 3:30. Met by Fr Keith Roderick, Rural Dean, who kindly offered to do the driving for both of us for our appearance at the special 5pm Eucharist at Redeemer, Cairo. There were 21 people in the room, which, in that context, is a bumper crop. Redeemer is in a relationship with the ELCA congregation in Cairo, Emmanuel, that is rapidly becoming much closer. This is an opportunity for Bishop Roth and I to get creative about exploring some of the dimensions of Called to Common Mission, the covenant between the Episcopal Church and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
  • Most of us who were in church promptly adjourned to one of the handful of still-open local eateries for some food, fellowship, and conversation. I enjoyed some tasty fried catfish. Do remember that Cairo is closer to Nashville (Tennessee) than it is to Springfield, further south than Richmond, Virginia; and closer as the crow flies to New Orleans than it is to Chicago.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Friday

The goal was to have something of a "normal" day, but it was not to be. Consulted with Sue regarding several details of next weekend's annual synod. Slipped into the cathedral for some short devotions. Produced a working draft of a homily for this weekend (Cairo and Harrisburg). Welcomed my Roman Catholic counterpart, Bishop Thomas John Paprocki, to the diocesan office and took him on a quick tour of the St Paul's Cathedral. We then walked up to the eatery Obed & Isaac's on 6th Street for a nice lunch, after which he reciprocated the hospitality and showed me around Immaculate Conception Cathedral and his private residence on the third floor of the rectory. It had been my hope for some time to meet him, and I'm glad we were able to connect. I then dashed off to my primary care physician to consult over my recent kidney stone attacks. As soon as I got back to the office, around 3:30, I felt another one coming on, so I drove home to where my supply of pain-killing pills is. Happily, the attack never got traction. 

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Thursday

Ate breakfast and checked out of the Ambassador Hotel in Milwaukee (it's a "vintage" property from the 1930s that has been painstakingly updated to maintain many of its period features) in time to get back to the All Saints Cathedral/Diocese of Milwaukee complex at which the offices of The Living Church are housed. Today was the annual meeting of the larger group--the Foundation. This is the body that takes counsel for the "big picture," helping develop and refine mission and vision, while the Board of Director's looks after strategy, and staff handles tactics. It was a stimulating day. It was my privilege to deliver the homily at a Requiem Mass before lunch. We concluded our business around 4pm, and I immediately hit the road, which put me back in Springfield right at 9:00. Grateful for safe (and healthy!) travel.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Wednesday

I had to pop a couple of pills to deal with resurgent pain as I was going to bed last night, but they did their job and I slept well. Today has been pain-free and drug-free. Today was another productive day with the Board of Directors of The Living Church Foundation, and dinner was with the larger group of foundation members themselves, with whom we will spend most of tomorrow.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Tuesday (Robert Grosseteste)

  • I had the morning free--unexpectedly, due to s scheduling snafu--to I used it to (naturally) process a bunch of emails, pay some bills, and get the oil changed in the YFNBmobile.
  • Participated (robustly, I would probably say) in my first meeting as a member of the Board of Directors of the Living Church Foundation. TLC has played a huge role, since the mid-1970s, in my formation as an Anglican Christians, and is making a major contribution to the ongoing life of the Anglican Communion. It is my joy to "give back" what I can at this stage of my life and ministry,
  • While at dinner with the group, at a charming Serbian restaurant on the south side of Milwaukee, the left kidney decided it didn't like feeling neglecting and started with Level 7 (on the 1 to 10 scale that they now always ask you about), soon shooting up to an 8. I had just placed my order and hadn't even finished my beer, but I was quickly "intervened on" and driven to the ER at Columbia St Mary's hospital. The left kidney has now certainly earned the prize on the Pain-O-Meter, but once the right drugs were flowing into my vein, it succumbed At around 11, I left, armed with three new prescriptions and a souvenir copy of my X-ray.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Monday

Very grateful to be writing from a Milwaukee hotel room, after an uneventful five-hour drive from Springfield, all of which was on the calendar. What was not only the calendar was a four hour visit to the ER at St John's Hospital with a kidney stone. Since Vicodin is not compatible with driving, I was on the verge of having to cancel my travel plans (I'm here for a meeting of the Board and Foundation of The Living Church). But when the moment of decision arrived, I was pain free and had been med-free for five and a half hours, so all systems were Go. I am incredibly grateful for the prayer support I have received over the last 24 hours.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

The Lord's Day (XIX Pentecost)

Up and out of my Effingham hotel at 7:30 for the short drive to St Lawrence's Church in advance of their regular 8am Eucharist. Presided and preached for a congregation of nine: the six regulars, plus two family members visiting from out of town, and YFNB. The Word of God was duly preached and the Blessed Sacrament duly administered. After a nice post-liturgical social time, I was back on the road at 9:30 and home at 11:30. 
Devoted most of my afternoon to writing an article for the next edition of the Springfield Current, now under new editorship. As a token of the new order of things, however, that article is already available on the diocesan website (currently appearing on the Home page right under the "sticky" Welcome). 

Sermon for Proper 22

Given the small size of the congregation at St Lawrence's in Effingham, it seemed more appropriate to preach from notes rather than a fleshed-out text. The relevant scripture reading is the day's epistle: Hebrews 1:1-4, 2:5-12.
  • Reading from Hebrews paints compelling picture of God’s final victory over everything that ails us—in fact, the exaltation of humankind to a position almost of co-ruler with God (“all things in subjection under [our] feet”)
  • But this vision does not usually correlate with our actual experience. We see massive suffering in others, and inevitably suffer greatly ourselves (“As it is, we do not yet see everything in subjection …”)
  • “But we do see Jesus … now crowned with honor and glory because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.”
  • We live in a “time in between”—Analogy/illustration: Battle of New Orleans, Japanese snipers on Pacific islands after WWII—the realm of sin and death still casts a shadow, but the Kingdom of Heaven is breaking in all around us
  • Amidst the suffering (both petty and grand) of this life, the risen Jesus (with whom we connect in the Eucharist) is the constant sign of God’s victory, and the redemption of suffering.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Saturday (William Tyndale)

  • "Soft"morning--read the paper, read M.P. in my recliner.
  • Household chores.
  • Weight & treadmill workout.
  • Took care of some administrative flotsam and jetsam via email.
  • Reviewed some materials related to my impending attendance at meetings of the Foundation and Board of Directors for The Living Church.
  • Departed early evening for Effingham, in advance of tomorrow's 8am visitation to St Lawrence's.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Friday

Morning Prayer in the cathedral.

Three substantive meetings today:
  • Father Dick Swan and Camp Board chair Dave Lattan. We discussed some administrative and policy issues related to the summer camping program for children and youth that we operate jointly with the Anglican Church in North American Diocese of Quincy.
  • Father Dale Coleman of St George's, Belleville. We discussed some administrative and policy challenges and opportunities facing the leadership of St George's.
  • Father Keith Roderick of St Andrew's, Carbondale and dean of the Hale Deanery. We discussed some broad concerns related to our mission in the southernmost part of the diocese.
Between these appointments, I managed to produce a rough draft of my homily for Proper 23 (Cairo and Harrisburg, weekend after next).

Friday prayers: Lectio divina on tomorrow's daily office reading from Hosea.

Evening Prayer in the office.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Thursday (St Francis of Assisi)


  • Up and out for three mile brisk walk at 6:45
  • Started in on task list at home while waiting for breakfast to cook (some Nashotah-related business)
  • Morning Prayer in the cathedral.
  • Processed some detritus from the Forward Movement board meeting (some very interesting detritus, that is, which I expect may eventually have a large footprint in this diocese).
  • Produced a working outline for my homily this coming Sunday at St Lawrence, Effingham.
  • Finished a first draft of a sermon for Proper 24 (October 21 at St Andrew's, Edwardsville).
  • Worked on the liturgy booklet for the synod Eucharist.
  • Lunch from La Bamba, eaten at home.
  • Continued work on the liturgy booklet for the synod Eucharist. The job took me down some unexpected rabbit holes, but it got finished.
  • Left at 3:45 for Bloomington, with Brenda and the Archdeacon accompanying me.
  • Arrived at St Matthew's in time for a 5:15 rehearsal and a 6:30 liturgy at which we ordained Bruce De Gooyer to the priesthood.
  • Left Bloomington at 9, which put us back in the garage just before 10:30.

Ordination to the Priesthood of Bruce DeGooyer


John 6:35-38, Ephesians 4:7, 11-16
St Matthew’s, Bloomington                                                                               

Virtually from the moment I first shook hands with Bruce DeGooyer, in a Decatur banquet room when the three candidates for Bishop of Springfield were being introduced to the diocese more than two years ago, I have thought that he has the charism of a priest, the persona of a priest. So it came as no shock to me at all when Bruce told me he was discerning a vocation to the priesthood. My outward response was something like, “Well, let’s pray on that.” My inward response was more like, “Duh. Of course!”

So here were are, and what a joy this is. Tonight Bruce is accepting a vocation, responding to a call, to be an icon of Christ the Good Shepherd. Jesus, of course, is the only true shepherd in the deepest, truest sense. But he calls some from among his people to be particular signs of his own pastoral ministry, and he shares that ministry with them, such that he acts concretely and reliably through them. When a priest pronounces absolution, forgiveness of sins, the voice of the priest is the very voice of Jesus. When a priest bestows a blessing, it is the very Son of God himself bestowing that blessing. A priest standing at the altar offering the Eucharist does so in persona Christi—in the person of Christ. So what we’re doing here tonight is highly significant—and I want you to see the word “sign” hidden in the larger word “significant”—because we’re asking God to send his Holy Spirit so powerfully into Bruce that Bruce will, in his own person, become a sign, a walking icon, of Jesus our Good Shepherd, helping lead the flock of Christ to green pastures and still waters, and protecting them from predators.

But we’re doing what we’re doing on October 4, on the feast day of St Francis of Assisi. Whether it’s actually fair to St Francis or not—and I suspect that it is indeed not fair—for good or for ill, St Francis is mostly known among Christians in our society as Animal Lover-in-Chief. So, in terms that we might identify with St Francis, perhaps we could say—since only Jesus himself is the actual true Good Shepherd—that what we’re doing to Bruce tonight is turning him into a … border collie. A border collie is … kind of a shepherd, a shepherd’s assistant, at any rate. Now, I happen to share a roof with a border collie, so I know a thing or two about how they operate. A border collie likes to have a job to do, and, once that job is identified, is very devoted, obsessively devoted, to that job. From the perspective of a shepherd, those are actually pretty valuable attributes for an assistant to have.

So it’s a compelling scene that we can paint in our mind’s eye: A beautiful day out in the country, a shepherd leaning back on a tree, staff in hand, keeping his eye on the contentedly grazing flock of sheep, while the border collies circle the flock vigilantly, occasionally nipping at the heels of a sheep that starts to stray. It’s the sort of thing an artist would want to capture with water colors or pastels, and then we could have it framed and hang it on the wall of the den, and be reminded of how it’s just like life in the church, with the bishop representing Christ the Good Shepherd, staff in hand, and the border collies, also known as priests, working hard to help keep the flock in green pastures and beside still waters, and the sheep themselves happy and serene, just grateful for the care they receive.

Well … a bishop can fantasize, right? Real life for sheep and those who care for sheep is not very much like that painting that hangs in the den, and real life in the community of the church is not very much like what that painting symbolizes. Bruce, we are setting you apart in this place to help tend the flock of Christ, to help me tend that portion of the flock of Christ known as the Diocese of Springfield. But what you’re going to find—truth to tell, you’ve probably discovered this already—what you’re going to find is that the sheep in your flock will usually behave not so much like sheep as like … cats. Sheep are usually dull-witted and compliant. Cats are generally much more intelligent and a great deal more independent. They do have minds of their own, and those feline qualities will affect how you minister to them as a shepherd … or, catheard.

Down in Springfield, in the home of the Bishop of Springfield, there lives an eleven-year old border collie named Lucy. Lucy has two cats committed to her pastoral care—a twelve-year old orange tabby named Bixby, and a four-year old little Bengal called Kippy. Lucy understands it to be part of her job description to “herd” Bixby and Kippy. In actuality, she’s pretty lenient about this, and cuts them a generous amount of slack. She doesn’t pester them. The only thing Lucy has a short fuse about is any degree of conflict or altercation between the cats. She has declared the house to be a No Hissing Zone. If the cats even think about mixing it up with one another, Lucy is there with the “paw of death.”

So the cats have learned what sets Lucy off, and they behave accordingly. But, other than that, they don’t pay her any attention, and just keep the border in the background as they go about their lives. So, Bruce, I don’t even know how to begin to tell you what using the “paw of death” would look like in your ministry, so it’s probably best not to even let your mind go there. What you’re going to have to do is discover that the “cats” for whom you care as a priest need to be dealt with rather more patiently and artfully than do typical sheep.

For example, in our house, the “domestic shepherd,” whose name is Brenda, knows what Bixby needs even though he can’t spell it out for her, and as he ages, his needs have multiplied. So Brenda makes sure there’s always food in his bowl, because he doesn’t like it when even a little bit of the bottom of the bowl is exposed, and when he’s being indecisive about staying outside or coming in, Brenda knows how to read his mind and helps him come to the right decision. A good shepherd, ever a good shepherd of cats, knows the flock and can speak not only to them, but for them. Bruce, as a pastor, it will be your joy to say what those among whom you minister cannot find the words for. This is, in fact, the very essence of good preaching. The best sermons don’t so much tell people something new, as tell them what they already know, but don’t have the words for.

And whether you’re in the pulpit, or teaching a class, or leading a group, or doing counseling or spiritual direction, or participating in the larger ministry of the diocese, it will always be your vocation to speak the truth in love, as Paul exhorts the Ephesians in our epistle reading tonight. Speaking the truth in love is much more easily said than done. It demands that one strive for clarity without sacrificing charity, and strive for charity without sacrificing clarity. That’s why we’re going to expend so much energy in a few moments invoking the Holy Spirit, because, without being constantly filled by the Holy Spirit, you will not be able to do this job.

In addition to the grace of the Holy Spirit, the one thing that will sustain your ministry among the various flocks of cats that you will be called to serve is the knowledge that “if you feed them, they will come.” Bixby and Kippy pretty much come and go as they please—we had a pet door installed—but when it’s time to eat, particularly in the morning, they’re around. And it is cause for rejoicing tonight that Bruce is being equipped with an ample supply of the food that does not perish, the food that gives life. Both in word and sacrament, Bruce will feed the flock of Christ with Jesus who is the very Bread of Life, he whose flesh is food indeed and whose blood is drink indeed. 
I am so excited about what this ordination means—to Bruce, to St Matthew’s, but, I must confess, most of all, to the Diocese of Springfield—because it is in that wider role that I expect him to be one of the most valuable border collies at my disposal as we pursue our mission, God’s mission, together. Now let’s get this done! Amen.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Wednesday

  • Morning Prayer at home,
  • With the exception of of about 20 minutes spent in a pastoral phone conversation with a priest from outside the diocese, my entire morning (until 12:30) was devoted to processing some 30+ emails that had accumulated while I was out of town.
  • After lunch at home, in the office a little before 2.
  • Debriefed with the Archdeacon on sundry emerging concerns.
  • Consulted with the Administrator on various details regarding the upcoming diocesan synod and a clergy/musicians conference in November.
  • Cleared the "snail mail" off my desk and processed some materials I brought back with me from Cincinnati.
  • Took a phone call on some Nashotah House-related business.
  • Assembled, prepared, and sent (electronically) materials on four more potential candidates to the search committee chair at St John the Divine, Champaign.
  • Completed and refined my sermon for tomorrow night's ordination of Bruce DeGooyer to the priesthood.
  • Evening Prayer (memorized short form) in the car on the way home.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Tuesday

Finished up with the Forward Movement board meeting around 3pm (eastern). I had planned to spend another night in Cincinnati and drive home tomorrow, but that was assuming a dinnertime completion of our work. As it was, I did some quick mental math and determined that I could make it home at an eminently reasonable hour, so I fit the road and pulled into the driveway a little past 8:30. Very excited about a new project that FM is taking on. Details will emerge in due course.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Monday (St Remigius)

Got a late start to the morning (late arrival last night in Indianapolis, plus losing an hour to the time zone), but still made it to Cincinnati in time for lunch, and the beginning of the Forward Movement board meeting. It continues all day tomorrow, at the retreat house operating by the Community of the Transfiguration, an Episcopal religious community for women.