Sunday, March 31, 2013

Easter Day

Preached both Masses at the cathedral, and celebrated at the later one as well. Then we enjoyed the hospitality of some cathedral parishioners for some very classic American comfort food. Eventually, it was home for a nice nap, trying together a few work-related loose ends, and easing into down-time mode. Going dark now in this space until Friday.

Easter Homily


St Paul's Cathedral, Springfield

After my first year in seminary, in 1987, I spent a long, hot summer working as a chaplain intern at a mental hospital in Madison, Wisconsin. There were five of us sharing this wonderful experience, and we met as a group every weekday morning to, among other things, articulate and process our feelings about our work with patients and staff on the units to which we were assigned. I have, mercifully, forgotten much of what went on that summer, but one thing that our supervisor taught us, over and over again, has stuck with me, because I've found it to have a ring of truth. He said that, even though it may seem as though we experience dozens of different and distinct emotions, they can all be boiled down to only four. These four essential feelings are: happiness, sadness, anger, and fear.

I am by no means a psychologist, professional or amateur, but if I were to in any way refine this simple observation, it would be to say that there is one greater feeling that heavily influences, even controls, the three lesser feelings. Can you guess what the greater feeling is? I would say it's fear. Our feelings of happiness, sadness, and anger are largely determined by how much and what kind of fear we are experiencing. 

Fear, of course, is an anticipation, a reaction in advance of the fact to some pain, either physical or mental, that we might suffer in the future. Falling onto a concrete driveway from twenty feet in the air would cause me great pain, so I'm afraid of climbing on a roof. If I'm convinced that there's a good reason for me to climb onto the roof, I may have the resources to overcome my fear. But it will probably motivate me to take extra precautions, like making sure I'm wearing appropriate shoes, for instance. Fear of this sort is a good thing. It keeps us out of a great deal of trouble. 

But there's another kind of fear that's unhealthy, and gets us into more trouble. It's a kind of fear that pervades every area of our lives and seeks to control every decision we make and every action we take. When we are dominated by fear, we are poisoned, we become dysfunctional, at every level of our being. This is clearly evident, on a grand scale, at various places in the world. Consider Syria and Nigeria in recent months, where civil strife—in Nigeria’s case, motivated by religious differences—has led to unspeakable violence and horrific treatment of human beings by other human beings. We could add Pakistan and Sudan to the mix here as well. What people are capable of doing to one another truly boggles the mind. Do you think all this bad behavior is motivated by happiness?  By sadness? By anger? — on the surface, perhaps. But the atrocities that we read or hear about nearly every day in the news are rooted in fear—fear that has been allowed to dominate and control. Ask what lies at the heart of any other political conflict—from the national debt to the Illinois pension quagmire—and the answer will be the same:  fear. 

But it's not necessary to look in such faraway places for examples of how fear controls us and leads to behavior that is destructive of ourselves and others. We fall prey to addiction and co-dependency because we're afraid of facing unvarnished reality. We misbehave sexually because we're afraid of being rejected or abandoned.  We become compulsive workers because we're afraid of failure or being found unworthy of some standard that we have set for ourselves. We even hold back from committing ourselves unreservedly to Christ in the fellowship of his church because we're afraid of what he might ask us to do. So we end up with just enough faith to produce guilt but not enough to produce joy, just enough religion to make us miserable, but not enough to make us happy! 

The list could go on. Fear is the scourge of human experience. But there is an ultimate fear, a fear that is ultimately controlling, because it subsumes into itself all our other fears. I speak of the fear of death. Death is without peer as a source of fear. Let me count the ways why this is so.  First, death is very often accompanied by physical pain, and one of our basic human instincts is to avoid pain. Second, our own death is likely to cause emotional suffering for those who are close to us, and that prospect becomes a source of present suffering to us.  Third, we don't know when we're going to die. At some point, we may get a hint, probably from a doctor, but it could come unannounced, at any second, as it did for my own younger brother just two weeks ago. When an unpleasant future even can be squarely faced and dealt with, it is less fearsome than when it remains in the great unknown. Finally, death is one role we have to play without the benefit of a complete script. Even when faith supplies a general idea of how the story ends, we are still not privy to the twists and turns of the plot along the way. The fear of death is the mother of all fears. It feeds all our other fears, which in turn feed the myriad destructive behaviors which separate us from the love of God and, in a cruelly ironic twist, render us singularly unprepared to face the prospect of death and judgment. 

Are you ready for some good news?  Easter ... is about liberation from fear! The message of the empty tomb is that you and I are no longer slaves to fear—fear of death, fear of failure, fear of loneliness, fear of reality, fear of anything! Just as Moses, in the first Passover, liberated the nation of Israel from bondage, from slavery to their Egyptian overlords, so Jesus, in the second Passover, liberates us from bondage, from slavery to fear. Jesus faced the ultimate fear. He experienced it fully. He descended into the very jaws of death, which then shut themselves upon him. The body that was taken down from the cross and laid in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea was stone cold dead-as-a-doornail. The electro-chemical network in his brain that stored his memory and personality was disintegrated. The amino acids in his cells were unraveling. 

But sometime before the morning of the third day, in the darkest hours of the night, a light shone in the darkness and cursed it. That same body, with nail-wounds still in its hands and feet, walked out of that tomb alive. And death would never be the same. It choked on itself the way a snake can choke to death on its own tail. Death is swallowed up in victory. 

Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and upon those in the tomb bestowing life.  Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and setting free those in bondage to fear.  We are no longer slaves to fear of death, because death itself has been enslaved. It is no longer the end of life, but the gateway to new life, and a new kind of life. And if we are no longer slaves to the ultimate fear—fear of death—then what other lesser fear can possibly enslave us?! All our fears, all our sins, all our destructive behaviors were nailed to the cross with Jesus and laid in the tomb with Jesus, but when he rose from the dead, he left them there, dead and buried. We are set free to be who we indeed are: sons and daughters of the most high God and co-heirs with Christ of his eternal kingdom, adopted into his family in the waters of baptism.
                       
                        Christ our Passover has been sacrificed for us;  
                          therefore let us keep the feast . . .
                        Christ being raised from the dead will never die again;
                          death no longer has dominion over him.
                        The death that he died, he died to sin, once for all;
                          but the life he lives, he lives to God.
                        So also consider yourselves dead to sin,
                          and alive to God in Jesus Christ our Lord.
                        Alleluia!

Christ is risen!     Amen!

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Holy Saturday

  • Slept in until around 8.
  • Did NOT do my customary Saturday exercise routine, as I am for the time being forbidden from accelerating my heart rate.
  • Looked at some emails, read the paper, chatted with Brenda.
  • Showered, dressed, and headed in to the cathedral, where I met with the Provost and the Verger and did some on-site tactical planning for tonight's Easter Vigil.  Stayed for some personal quiet time.
  • Did some sermon work and prepared some website content from my recliner during the afternoon hours.
  • Returned to the cathedral complex at 6:30 after a light supper. Read Evening Prayer in my office, then participated in the liturgy rehearsal.
  • The Easter Vigil was at 8pm. It's always so powerful to hear the familiar narratives of God's ever-ingenious and opportunistic project of redeeming us from the power of sin and death. It was a spirited liturgy.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Good Friday

  • Devotions in the cathedral, some prayer time in front of the Most Blessed Sacrament on the Altar of Repose, and Morning Prayer in the nave.
  • Produced and printed the service leaflets for my brother's funeral next week in the Chicago area.
  • Refined and printed my homily for Easter (Vigil and Sunday morning).
  • Walked the Stations of the Cross as a member of the congregation in the cathedral at 12:15.
  • (Went home for the rest of the afternoon.)
  • Performed a chore having to do with the ordination process.
  • Fine-tuned the fourth of my five retreat addresses in the Diocese of Albany in mid-April.
  • Worked a bit on my homily for Easter VII (May 12 at Christ the King, Normal).
  • Caught up on some email.
  • Took care of some routine personal organization chores.
  • About 5:15 I headed back to the cathedral-office complex: read Evening Prayer, then took part in a rehearsal for the Good Friday liturgy.
  • Presided (while the Provost preached) at the Proper Liturgy for Good Friday. It was done with dignity and grace.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Maundy Thursday

  • Met the morning still feeling traumatized by my hospital stay, from which I was released a midday yesterday. 
  • Surveyed the 52 items on my to-do list for what's left of this week and, exercising some rather ruthless triage, reduced it to 24, trying to observe multiple admonitions from multiple sources to "take things easy." Pared my task list down even further by delegating some to my intrepid Archdeacon, who promises me that I'm not exploiting him. 
  • Read Morning Prayer in the cathedral. 
  • Called my doctor's office, attempting to be faithful to my discharge instructions. 
  • Refined and printed my sermon for tonight's liturgy. 
  • Lunch from TG, eaten at home.
  • Wrote a short opinion piece for the State Journal-Register, in response to a recent article by Tom Erich, a columnist for Religion News Service who happens to be an Episcopal priest. It should run early next week.
  • Got down to the sad but necessary task of planning my own brother's funeral service, which I am conducting next Tuesday in suburban Chicago.
  • Read Evening Prayer in the cathedral chapel.
  • When home for a light supper.
  • Returned to the cathedral for the Maundy Thursday liturgy, at which I was only the preacher, and otherwise took things easy. As it turned out, I began to feel much stronger into the evening than I had for most of the day. I'm getting some of my pep back ... but promise not to overdo. 
  • The details of my medical future are still unresolved.

Sermon for Maundy Thursday


St Paul's Cathedral

There probably isn’t a day that goes by in which any of us do not experience a sensation that we would name as hunger. It may be a faint rumbling in the stomach before downing a cheese Danish in the morning, or it may be a feeling of weakness and low energy and stomach rumbling that can be heard across the room! Hunger is an elemental, visceral experience. Only oxygen, immediate personal safety, and water rank as needs more basic than food. When my wife’s 13-year old orange tabby notices that he can see the bottom of his food bowl, even if there’s actually quite a bit of cat chow left in it, he makes everybody in the house aware of his displeasure. He doesn’t want to take the risk that he might ever be hungry!

But let’s face it—the chances are that everyone in this church tonight is very well fed. A case could be made that few of us even really know what true hunger is. For a good percentage of the world’s population—maybe even half or more—hunger is the number one life issue. It is an all-consuming concern. Everything else fades in comparison. Finding food, on a day-to-day basis, is a full-time job. When you and I say “I’m hungry,” we’re talking about a temporary state which we have every intention of alleviating in the next few minutes with a trip to the refrigerator or the fast-food outlet down the street. Then we’ll be satisfied; we won’t be hungry anymore—for the next few hours, at least. When most people in the world say “I’m hungry,” they’re referring to a permanent life condition, something that never completely goes away. It is a hunger that is never fully satisfied.

The way you and I experience genuine hunger—hunger that is all-consuming—is at a metaphorical level. For example, we experience a desire for material comfort—to be warm and dry and clean, to have privacy, and a peaceful place to get a good night’s sleep, the assurance that we won’t be poor in our old age. This much is certainly not too much to ask. But soon we want convenience—a domestic infrastructure that doesn’t call attention to itself. We want beautiful things—a garden, a deck, nice clothes and a nice car. Gradually, a simple and honorable desire is transformed into an insatiable hunger for wealth, and we begin to acquire things simply for the sake of having them. We’re never satisfied; there’s never quite enough. And along the way, we never think of ourselves as rich—the rich are those who have more than I have. But we’re still hungry, and it won’t go away.

We experience a desire for freedom, for personal autonomy. We want the freedom to live and work where and how we see fit. This much is certainly honorable, and not too much to ask. Liberty of this sort is a value that is deeply ingrained in our sense of who we are as Americans. But the desire for freedom can easily be corrupted into an appetite for power that knows no bounds. We are hungry to control our environment, and everyone in it. We seek to control things and we seek to control people, and we’re never satisfied. If another person has one unit of power, we take that as a personal failure, because it’s a unit of power we don’t have until we possess it. Even the most ruthless dictator on earth doesn’t feel like he has enough power. He’s still hungry, and it won’t go away.

We experience a desire to be in relationship with other people. We want to authentically connect with someone outside ourselves, to transcend the barrier of loneliness that separates us as individual human beings. We want to be intimate—to know somebody fully, and to be known by them. This is an honorable desire, and not too much to ask. Yet, this impulse to connect, this instinct to love, is so often, and so easily, distorted into lust. Lust is disordered love, turned in a twisted direction. In a desperate desire to connect, to jump-start and accelerate the process of interpersonal intimacy, lust short circuits, and turns back on itself, and, in tragic irony, fails to establish anything but temporary and shallow connection. It becomes an insatiable hunger that litters the landscape with broken promises and broken hearts. It’s a hunger that is never satisfied, because maybe the next hook-up, the next relationship, will be the “real thing.”
           
This last sort of hunger—which, to put a label on it, we might name as sexual hunger, whether in the pure form of love or the distorted form of lust—sexual hunger is an important sign to take note of, because it most readily resembles the hunger that is truly the deepest hunger in every human heart, which is for a connection with the one who is completely transcendent and
Wholly Other—in a word, God. This one hunger, the hunger for God, incorporates into itself everything else that may pass as hunger. All forms of hunger, both literal and metaphorical, even physical hunger itself, is but a reminder that full humanity is realized only in relationship with the One who created it. So if we look to have that hunger satisfied any place else but in God, well … we’re “lookin’ for food in all the wrong places.” Or, in the immortal words of St Augustine, “Our hearts are restless, O Lord, until they find their rest in you.”

This observance of the Paschal Triduum—these three sacred days in which we participate in the dying and rising of our Lord and Savior—is all about our hunger for God, and how that hunger gets satisfied. Particularly in tonight’s liturgy, as we celebrate the Eucharist in specific remembrance of the very institution of this great sacrament, we share in the mysterious reality that it is God Himself, in the person of His Son Jesus, who satisfies that most profound hunger in our hearts.  In Holy Communion, He gives us what Psalm 78 calls the “bread of angels.” Jesus tells us that he is himself the “true bread come down from heaven,” which is to say that he doesn’t just feed us, he doesn’t just give us bread; he is the bread. He gives himself, his own Body and his own Blood, the nourishment that is ultimately satisfying, the food that leads to eternal and abundant life.  When we eat this bread and drink this cup in Holy Communion, we have such an experience of the fullness of life that all our other hungers are satisfied in the process.

In response to such a gift, the gift of life itself, we cannot but adore Christ. Adoration is one of the seven traditional forms of prayer, and defined in our Prayer Book catechism as “the lifting up of the heart and mind to God, asking nothing but to enjoy God’s presence.” … lifting up of heart and mind … asking nothing … enjoy God’s presence. That lamp that hangs over the sanctuary is in indication that we have an opportunity to adore Christ in a tangible way, right here in this church, 363 ½ days per year. The Lord Jesus is sacramentally present, under the forms of bread and wine reserved from previous celebrations of the Mass, and it is “meet and right” that we adore him, in our hearts, and with our bodies—by genuflecting (if we are physically able), that is, bending the knee when we approach the altar.

 We can also adore Christ as he is present in other people. One of the baptismal promises that we will renew at the Vigil two nights from now is to “seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving our neighbors as ourselves.” The next part of our liturgy this evening will be an enactment of that vow, as Father Roderick, your immediate pastor, representing Christ, will honor the presence of that same Christ in twelve other members of this congregation by washing their feet.

I’m hungry. You’re hungry. There’s food here tonight, food that satisfies. Come, let us adore him who gives us himself in that food. Amen. 

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Tuesday in Holy Week

A chain of events beginning with shoveling snow yesterday has landed me in the cardiac unit of St John's Hospital. The good news is I did NOT have a heart attack. My coronary arteries are perfectly normal. But my aortic valve, which has had a murmur since birth, is now problematic, and needs to be replaced. This requires open heart surgery, which, from visiting many people in the hospital after such a procedure, I know is not exactly a walk in the park. Not an emergency, so ... sometime next month. I stand amazed by how God has exploited to events of my brother's untimely death by heart attack and a record spring snowfall. Were it not for both circumstances, I would likely not be aware of what a serious medical condition I have, and be on a path toward fixing it.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Sermon for Palm Sunday


St Paul's Cathedral, Springfield

I always feel a little awkward as I begin to preach on Palm Sunday, because a sermon seems like such an anti-climax after the dramatic reading of the Passion. In a way, I would almost rather just sit down with you and have a discussion about our thoughts and feelings in the light of such a powerful experience. In particular, I would want to know how you felt when you had to speak the lines assigned to the crowd: “Crucify him! Crucify him!”

My guess is that it would affect each of you in a slightly different way. Perhaps you’re just apathetic about it; it didn’t move you any more than reading the ingredient list on a jar of peanut butter. If Jesus is just an abstraction to you, just a historical figure, if you don’t have a personal relationship with him, then apathy is a quite understandable response to the reading of the Passion.

Then again, perhaps it caused you sorrow or sadness. You sympathized with an innocent man being tried in a kangaroo court and sentenced unjustly to cruel torture and slow death. How could they have been so unfair? How could they have been so mean?

Or maybe the words got caught in your throat.  I would never have been part of that crowd! Not me! I would never have been one to shout “Crucify him!” then, so why should I do it now? I am not an accomplice in the death of Jesus, I bear no responsibility for it.  It’s something “they” did, and I wouldn’t have gone along with it. I wouldn’t have approved of it. I would have tried to save Jesus. 

This is the response of denial. Yet, the stark, if unpleasant, reality is that if we are in denial of our contribution to Jesus’s crucifixion, we are in denial of the truth. Before the reading of the Passion, we sang the classic Holy Week hymn, “Ah, holy Jesus…”. The second verse gets right in our face with the undeniability of that which we would like to deny:
Who was the guilty? Who brought this upon thee?
 Alas, my treason, Jesus, hath undone thee.
 ‘Twas I, lord Jesus, I it was denied thee:
I crucified thee.
My treason hath undone thee. I crucified thee. It is true that, without the particular sins of the particular Roman and Jewish authorities who put Jesus to death, without the particular voices of the individual members of the mob who shouted “Away with him! Crucify him!” Jesus’s death would never have been possible. But without the endemic sin of all of us, which includes the particular sins that you and I will yet commit this very day—without our sins, Jesus’s death would never have been necessary. “Their” sin made it possible; “our” sin made it necessary. Sin— “ours” as well as “theirs”—put Jesus on the cross.

Yet, we also know that a great battle took place on the cross, a battle of cosmic proportions, a battle in which the whole created order had a stake in the outcome.
As is invariably the case in a battle, there were casualties. The participants did not finish the battle in the same condition in which they entered it. Death happened on the cross. That much we know. But what is more difficult for us to see is that Jesus is not the only one who died there. Sin itself died on the cross as well, because Jesus forever robbed it of its power.

How does this happen? It is truly a great mystery, and I will not pretend to solve it for you. But I offer you one image that may help point us in the right direction. Think of germs—viruses and bacteria and the like—those nasty little microbes that carry the power to inflict disease and suffering and death. These same germs can often be manipulated into becoming the agents of the destruction of their own kind. When used in a vaccine, the organisms that they might otherwise infect develop an immunity to them. Through effective and widespread use of a vaccine, a disease can be virtually eradicated. Germs are used as the instruments of their own genocide. In the passion of Christ, sin—both “their” sin and “our” sin—becomes the instrument of its own destruction.

The particular sins of the Jewish and Roman authorities and the people in the crowd put Jesus on the cross. The particular sins of each one of us in this church today also put Jesus on the cross, because they helped make his death necessary. Yet, the end result of all these sins—namely, Jesus’s crucifixion—is the very means by which the death grip stranglehold that sin has over you and over me is broken. The most gruesome result of our sin—the execution of God incarnate—is transformed into our liberation from sin.  And if this is not gospel, if this is not “good news,” then I don’t know what is!

As we move now into Holy Week, both our minds and our hearts—but especially our hearts, perhaps—will be challenged. There will be occasions for tears, occasions for sorrow, occasions for profound gratitude. This is all well and good, and I invite you to let your feelings go in the liturgies of the next week. But let it not be mere sentimentality that we’re engaged in. Never lose sight of the fact that this old, old story that we are rehearsing, this paschal mystery that we are celebrating, is not some Shakespearean tragedy, no tear-jerking made-for-TV movie, but is the means of life and hope for those of us, all of us, who must deal daily with the awesome power of sin and death. In the cross of Christ, the instrument of shameful death is turned into the means of life and peace.

Thanks be to God. Amen.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Saturday

  • Up and out in the usual weekday pattern; a busy Saturday was in the chute.
  • Morning Prayer in the cathedral, along with making last-minute preparations for the Chrism Mass. Greeted clergy, spouses, and various others as they began to arrive on the scene.
  • Banged the gavel on the February meeting of the Diocesan Council--delayed a month by snow a month ago--precisely at 10am. We got accomplished what needed to get accomplished in about 30 minutes.
  • Presided at the Mass of Chrism, with the new cathedral Provost, Fr Keith Roderick doing a fine job as the preacher. It was a lovely liturgy.
  • Joined clergy and spouses in the Great Hall for a delicious catered lunch. Surprised Fr Bill Malottke with the announcement that he is being made an honorary canon of St Paul's Cathedral, in recognition of his long service to the diocese (he's our senior living priest, having been ordained by Bishop Clough, my predecessor four times removed).
  • Met with Fr Scanlon, wearing his hat as Ecumenical Officer.
  • Made some phone calls pertaining to an important renewal event scheduled next month, planned by our Spiritual Vitality Team.
  • Refined and printed a working script for my Palm Sunday homily (I'll be at the cathedral).
  • Finally got out of the office around 3:30. Collapsed in front of a pretty mindless action-adventure movie called Sahara. It wasn't high art, but it was pretty much what I needed.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Friday (James DeKoven)

  • Still minding the menagerie in the Zookeeper's absence, which, if nothing else, means I rack up a few more steps on the pedometer each day.
  • At the Cathedral-Roundhouse complex at a decent hour, but instead of praying the morning office, I got distracted by consultations with the Provost and the Verger  over physical preparations for tomorrow's Chrism Mass.
  • The rest of the morning was consumed by various iterations of administrivia.
  • Lunch at home (leftover chili--one of the few things that gets better with age in the refrigerator).
  • Most of the afternoon was spent producing a first draft of a homily for the Second Sunday of Easter (April 7 at St Andrew's, Edwardsville).
  • Did a fruitful lectio divina on Jeremiah 29.
  • Evening Prayer in the cathedral.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Thursday (Thomas Ken)

  • Up at the regular hour, but with the Zookeeper I live with visiting New York, I have extra pet care duties in the morning.
  • Customary Thursday exercise, breakfast at home, in at the office around 9:15. Devotions in the cathedral, but Morning Prayer fell victim to the distraction of new Archbishop of Canterbury's enthronement, live-streaming on the BBC website.
  • Processed several emails (while viewing the Canterbury livestream, so the processing was not particularly efficient).
  • Met with Kathy Moore, our Youth Department chair.
  • Lunch (and dog-walking) at home.
  • Re-engaged my sermon for the Seventh Sunday of Easter (May 12 in Normal), arriving at a main message point.
  • Took some actions in preparation for a June 1 Clergy Day.
  • Took some actions in anticipation of a couple of potential ordinations in May.
  • Fleshed out and solidified the third of my five retreat addresses in Albany next month.
  • Evening Prayer in the cathedral.
  • Spent some time preparing for my role in tonight's meeting of the Cathedral Chapter.
  • Stepped out for a drive-through Italian beef sandwich (Chicago-style).
  • Attended the Chapter meeting.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Wednesday (St Cuthbert)


  • Arrived at the Cathedral-Roundhouse complex at my usual time, but instead of heading in for Morning Prayer, I was diverted into assisting with the move of an unused baby grand piano out of the cathedral and the altar we retrieved several weeks ago from St Andrew's, Paris in to be used as a chancel altar at this Saturday's Chrism Mass. It will look quite handsome.
  • Devoted most of the rest of the morning to preparing for tonight's Lenten teaching presentation in Bloomington.
  • Took phone calls from two priests of the diocese over sundry matters. Made one pastoral check-in phone call to another.
  • Worked on a draft of my Easter homily.
  • Lunch at home--leftovers. Stayed home the rest of the afternoon.
  • Attended to some chores related to the ordination process.
  • Took care of some Nashotah House-related business.
  • Assisted with getting Brenda to the Amtrak station. She caught a train to Chicago tonight in advance of a very early AM flight to NYC in the morning.
  • Hit the road to Bloomington. While en route, spoke by phone with a representative of Global Episcopal Mission about what that organization is trying to accomplish.
  • Delivered the last of my five Lenten teaching presentations at St Matthew's, Bloomington. Back home 8:45, where I now have dog-walking duties until Brenda returns on Monday.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

St Joseph

This was a fairly productive day, but it was mostly in the category of "administrivia," though I did work on my homily for Maundy Thursday and made a pastoral check-in phone call to one of our clergy who has recently undergone a fairly serious surgical procedure. The highlight of the day was presiding and preaching at the regular 12:15 Mass in the cathedral chapel, this being St Joseph's Day, and St Joseph's Day being the second anniversary of my consecration. Of course, everything is under a bit of an emotional cloud, given the news I received Sunday of my brother's sudden death. I'm not quite firing on all cylinders.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Fifth Sunday in Lent

No post from yesterday, as the wi-fi connection at Todd Hall got really wonky. But we had an energetic retreat time with about 30 women from the diocesan ECW. It was my privilege to walk them through the "epistle of joy"--St Paul to the Philippians.

We got home around 3:30, and as I was still unloading the car, the kind of phone call that we all dread came. My (younger) brother Phil ... did not wake up this morning. We knew he had heart disease, so we are not shocked, but, nonetheless, surprised. He lived in Florida with our mother, and had three children and five grandchildren in the Seattle area. Please hold us all in your prayers as we walk through the valley of the shadow of death.

Sermon for Lent V


ECW Retreat, Toddhall Retreat Center--Philippians 3:8-14, Isaiah 43:16-21, Psalm 126, Luke 20:9-19

Have you ever stopped and thought about how crazy it is that we’re here at this moment doing what we’re doing? We’re not at work, directly contributing to the economy. We’re not at leisure, being entertained. We’re not getting any chores or projects done around the house. We’ve given up precious time—time for which we could easily think of a number of different uses—we’ve given up valuable time to gather in this rather odd building that has little or no practical or functional use, and participate in rituals and ceremonies that don’t feed a single hungry person or educate one illiterate immigrant or add one dime to the gross domestic product. Some of us are even dressed in costumes that haven’t been fashionable since the Roman Empire. What could we possibly be thinking?

What we’re thinking, of course, is that “the Lord has done great things for us, and we are glad indeed.” What we’re thinking is that there’s an awful lot in the world that is broken, there’s an awful lot in our experience that makes us weep, there are an awful lot of people out there who are in pain of various kinds. And we come here to worship and pray to a God who specializes in fixing things that are broken, drying the tears of those who weep, and bringing comfort to those who suffer. We come here to worship and pray to a God who makes old things new, who lifts up those who have been cast down, a God whose nature is to redeem and restore. The deepest desire of God’s heart is to put right the things that are wrong, to make things that are out of things that are not, to bring strength out of weakness, truth out of error, hope out of despair, health out of the sickness, light out of the darkness, and life out of death. Listen to the word of the Lord as revealed to his prophet Isaiah:
Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth…I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. The wild beasts will honor me, for I give water in the wilderness, rivers in the desert, to give drink to my chosen people, the people whom I formed for myself that they might declare my praise.
This is a theme echoed by the Psalmist:
When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion, then were we like those who dream. Then was our mouth filled with laughter, and our tongue with shouts of joy. Then they said among the nations, “The Lord has done great things for them.” 
This, precisely this, is why we are giving up valuable time and energy and money so that we can come and waste time here in this strange building doing these strange things. “The Lord has done great things for us, and we are glad indeed.”

In our gratitude and in our joy, however, it is easy for us to be deceived. It is easy for us to come to see our salvation—all this good stuff that God wants to do and is doing, all this work of righting wrongs and lifting up the lowly and forgiving sins and healing relationships and bringing something out of nothing and making us fit to live with him in Heaven—it’s easy for us to see our salvation as something that comes to us magically and painlessly, as if God just waves his wand and says, “Make it so.” God just waves his wand and a deadbeat dad goes back to his wife and children. God just waves his wand and the heart of a racist is melted in love toward those who are different from himself. God just waves his wand and there’s an abundant wheat crop in Canada that wards off a famine in Africa. God just waves his wand and I lose my predisposition toward anger or lust or envy or greed or whichever of the deadly sins I happen to be susceptible to.

These things happen, of course. They happen every day. But there’s no wand-waving involved. Last week we heard the parable of the Prodigal Son, and we saw the “cost” that God bears in procuring our redemption. But it also costs us something. Now I realize that sounds like heresy to ears that are at all formed by the theology of the Reformation. It sounds like an offense to the concept that, as a song says, “Jesus paid it all.” So I’m certainly not suggesting that we can come anywhere close to footing the bill for our redemption ourselves, and just need a little bit of help from Jesus to push us over the top. No, God’s grace is both free and sufficient. But, we do need to cooperate with that grace. We need to give our active and ongoing consent to the work that God wants to do in our souls that will bring us to the holiness for which we are destined.

When we attend closely to parables like today’s—the one about the vineyard owner who sends a series of representatives to his rebellious tenant farmers, until finally he sends his son and they kill him—and when we attend closely to the theology that St Paul lays out for us in his letter to the Philippians, we learn the particular way in which God redeems and restores us.  There is a particular shape to God’s saving work, and that shape is defined by the cross. It is the shape of the cross that provides the template for all the good work that God wants to accomplish—in your heart, in my heart, and in the very fabric of the universe. St Paul puts it this way, when he expresses his desire “that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that if possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.”  Sharing the sufferings of Christ, becoming like him in his death—this is the experience of conformity to the cross of Christ that God uses to save us.

Let’s face it: We wish there were another way. Getting crucified hurts. We wish it were a matter of waving a wand, magically and instantaneously making us whole, and the entire universe at the same time. In God’s wisdom—which is foolishness to humans, St Paul says—in God’s wisdom, it doesn’t work that way. The path to life is through death—not around it, but through it. The path to success is through failure, the path to victory is through surrender, the path to strength is through weakness. It is the way of the cross—not some other way, but the way of the cross—that is none other than the way of life and peace.

Learning to walk this way, the way of the cross, requires us, first, to take up our cross—not to evade it, but to embrace it.  This is the cross of our lifetime, a cross we may not even be able to recognize fully until we are well into our lifetime. This might be the cross of chronic illness, the cross of disability, the cross of unfulfilled dreams or aspirations for career or a particular kind of career, for marriage or a particular kind of marriage. The cross of a lifetime is unique to each of us, yet it is never anything except a cross, and crosses are for suffering and dying. “…that I may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death…”

Walking the way of the cross is also about bearing our cross. Here we’re talking about not so much the cross of a lifetime, as the several crosses that come to us and demand to be carried about each and every day. This is the daily struggle of resisting temptation, of learning good habits and unlearning bad habits, of cultivating virtues such as courage and patience and kindness and generosity. This is the ordinary work, the routine maintenance, of the spiritual life. When we forget this—or never learn it—when taking up our cross and bearing our cross is not part of our spiritual hygiene, we find ourselves at a disadvantage.
We find ourselves bereft of any spiritual tools for coping with the suffering that inevitably does come our way.

You see, here’s the deal: We are going to suffer. Bad things are going to happen to good people, not to mention bad people (and there are times when the latter category includes each of us). The only question is, will our suffering be redemptive, or will it be meaningless? Among the saddest moments in my work as a pastor have been when I’ve been with an older person who is undergoing great suffering—perhaps the suffering the leads up to the terminal crisis of his or her life—and they have never cultivated a spirituality of redemptive suffering. In that moment for them, God is only God if he gets them out of what they’re going through. Sometimes God does get us out of it, but sometimes God does not. And if we have never learned conformity to the shape of the cross, if the shape of the cross has not been branded into our souls, then suffering leads only to bitterness, and not to hope. 

Our invitation, then, at this late stage in Lent, is to keep the cross before our eyes, to ask the Holy Spirit to increase within us a desire to share the sufferings of Christ, to become like him in his death, that we may also know him in the power of his resurrection, sharing with him in his eternal life. If we can accept this invitation, we have the opportunity to put our suffering into a context of meaning and hope, giving us true joy and abiding peace. This is surely my hope and prayer for each one of us as we approach Holy Week. Amen.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Friday

  • Usual AM routine; Morning Prayer in the cathedral.
  • Preliminary planning and plotting for a June 1 clergy day, which will focus on the "Marks of Discipleship."
  • Took (surprise) delivery of a re-conditioned antique monstrance. I rescued it from a cupboard at Redeemer, Cairo some months ago and engaged Catholic Church Supply of St Louis to repair and replate it, and fabricate a new luna. It looks splendid, and will be put to use in a very special endeavor of prayer and spiritual renewal in the diocese.
  • Weeded out the snail mail (periodicals, form letters, etc.) that had arrived while I was away at House of Bishops.
  • Lunch at TG, eaten at home, where I remained for the afternoon.
  • Did some important ancillary work in connection with the priests retreat that I will lead next month in the Diocese of Albany.
  • Packed and headed south with Brenda for Toddhall Retreat Center in Columbia (a ministry of St George's, Belleville), stopping in Litchfield for dinner at our favorite "casual dining"chain, Ruby Tuesday.
  • Delivered the first of four addresses at the annual retreat of the diocesan ECW. The theme is "Joy Overflowing," and the four talks are based on the four chapters in St Paul's letter to the Philippians.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Thursday

After a week away from the office, it was "one of those days." Lots of things to catch up on with staff, and lots of emails to process. Met with the Provost, Verger, and Altar Guild Directress of the cathedral in order finalize plans for the liturgies of Holy Week and Easter. Tightened up my addresses and sermon for the ECW retreat that begins tomorrow evening. Journeyed to Havana in the late afternoon with the Archdeacon for a 6pm meeting with the priest and Bishop's Committee at St Barnabas. Other than all that, I was consumed with technology issues. There's evidently a step in the process of downloading and editing video files from a camcorder that I have forgotten, because I've done it twice successfully, and today nothing works. Grrrr.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Wednesday

This was mostly a travel day. I packed, had breakfast, and caught the 9am shuttle run from Kanuga to the airport in Asheville, ahead of a 10:30 flight to Atlanta. There were about a dozen bishops on that flight, and it was only a regional jet. My layover in Atlanta was three and half hours, so I was grateful to be invited to join the Bishop of Northern Indiana, Ed Little, as his guest in the Delta Sky Club, which has a rather more commodious ambience than the general concourse. It was there that we saw the white smoke billow from the Sistine Chapel and sat on the edge of our chairs for the next hour. Right before I had to report to my boarding gate, the identity of the new Pope was announced. There was an audible buzz in the lounge at that moment; it was almost like being in a sports bar when a home run it hit or a touchdown scored. So I got on a plane to Bloomington, where we landed right at 5pm, just in time for me to get to St Matthew's for my Lenten series presentation. Home (sweet home) at 8:30. Very glad to be here.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Tuesday (St Gregory of Rome)

  • The morning's retreat address was provided by Jon Bruno, Bishop of Los Angeles, on "godly leadership in the midst of personal loss." (Bishop Bruno has battled significant health issues over the last few years, most recently a rather miraculous recovery from leukemia.) His testimony was powerful.
  • After lunch, we gathered for a meeting styled as as a Town Hall. Bishop Stacy Sauls, Chief Operating Officer at the national church office gave us a lengthy briefing on the life and work of the staff there. Various other bishops had other items--some long, some concise--that took us to a planned 3:00 break time.
  • After the break we convened in a formal business session--Roberts' Rules, the PB in the chair. There really wasn't much to do. We recognized bishops new to the house, those who have died, and those in transition to retirement or other assignments. The session lasted about 15 minutes.
  • We returned to Town Hall mode for a few more items, adjourning around 4:30.
  • Closing Eucharist at 5:00, followed by a slightly-upscale dinner, for which the prevailing uniform seems to be navy blue blazer and bow tie. I'm not a bow tie kind of guy.
  • Looking forward to going home tomorrow. A lot.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Monday

It rained steadily today, so no unnecessary walking.

The morning retreat meditation was from John Tarrant, Bishop of South Dakota, speaking on godly leadership in the midst of emotional loss. He was able to draw on his experience working among Native American Episcopalians in his diocese. Some of the stories are heart-breaking. He reminded us of the importance of simply "showing up" where there is suffering, not so much to do as to just be.

After lunch, the Communion Partners bishops met for a couple of hours. We had a great deal to discuss as we attempt to coordinate effective witness to an understanding of Anglican identity that is grounded organically in our tradition. 

The evening meeting was an Executive Session ... which means I can't say very much, if anything at all. But you can use your imagination, and surmise that we finally got to what I believe are the actual substantial issues that should have had a lot more time and attention devoted to them than is the case. It lasted 90 minutes, and we adjourned to "hospitality" up in the main lodge.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Fourth Sunday in Lent

The only scheduled items on the agenda were the celebration of the Eucharist at 10am and an event known as a "Fireside Chat" at 7. 

The preacher at the Eucharist was the Bishop Suffragan of Haiti, where they surely know something about leadership in a time of loss. Oge Beauvoir wisely reminded us that "communities rise and fall on the quality of their leadership."

Mealtimes, of course, are wonderful occasions for conversing and connecting. Unlike parish clergy, most of whom are able to sustain relationships with nearby peers, bishops mostly work in isolation from others who share the same challenges. So the opportunity just to be together is life-giving.

After lunch, I took a brisk hour-long walk by myself. Since I'm away from my treadmill, I'm grateful for every opportunity to exercise. After a bit of a nap (had to get that hour of sleep lost in the time change back!) I toted my laptop to a lounge area and worked on a blog post regarding the Title IV accord, mixed in with conversations with bishops coming and going from that area. 

After dinner, we gathered in a large room where there is indeed a large fireplace with a fire in it. The room is really too small and there were several who had to stand along the walls. The Presiding Bishop had a few items of her own to share, after which she opened up the floor, passing around a wireless microphone. (Even those, like YFNB, whose voices naturally carry had to use it for the sake of the translators.) I was glad somebody introduced the subject of the South Carolina debacle. I piggy-backed on this to make the observation that this is indeed the elephant in the room, and if our theme is godly leadership in a time of loss, there is probably nothing more important for us to discuss. I was assured that there may yet be an opportunity for us to do this before we leave Kanuga.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Saturday (St Gregory of Nyssa)

This was a day for low-key connecting.

  • The meditation at Morning Prayer was given by George Councell, Bishop of New Jersey, his theme being "godly leadership in the wake of natural disaster" (Superstorm Sandy battered the area of his diocese late last year). It was a moving and profound reflection, culminating in this stunning poem by R.S. Thomas. Also memorable was how he began his remarks expressing gratitude for "doing what I love for the One I love with the people I love." My sentiments exactly.
  • I then took a two-miles leisurely walk around the lake with my long-time friend and colleague Ed Little, Bishop of Northern Indiana.
  • Right before lunch we gathered back at our table groups to ponder together the theme of Bishop Councell's reflection.
  • During lunch, we met sat together by Province, so I was with my colleagues in Province V.
  • After lunch, it was another walk around the lake, this time with Bill Love, Bishop of Albany, who serves as my three-year "peer coach" in the College for Bishops program.
  • Brief nap, followed by some time with the novel I'm currently reading, then some spontaneous conversation with two colleagues.
  • Dinner for the "Class of 2011" (all bishops elected during 2010; there are twelve of us) was at the home of Jay and Carolyn Magness. Jay is Bishop Suffragan for Federal Ministries (his main work is supervising Episcopal military chaplains). Most of the time they live in the D.C. suburbs, but this, they say, is their real home. I am blessed to be in an exceptionally compatible and well-bonded class of bishops and spouses. We really enjoy one another.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Friday

Day One of spring 2013 House of Bishops.
  • Morning Prayer at our tables, with a retreat-style address from Laura Ahrens, Suffragan of Connecticut, in the spot where the homily would go. She integrated her experience in Sandy Hook on December 14 with the overall retreat theme of "godly leadership in a time of loss."
  • "Check in" with table groups (i.e. "This is what's going on in my life..."). Table groups are re-assigned at the meeting following General Convention every three years. This time I'm with the bishops of Western Michigan (about to retire), Western North Carolina, El Camino Real, and Missouri (not yet here). We then discussed some pre-assigned questions regarding godly leadership. This session broke up around 10:30, and we were unscheduled until lunch. 
  • After lunch, a group photo. With the 120 or so bishops who here, this is not an uncomplicated event. 
  • The afternoon session was devoted to the subject of gun violence. We heard from a guest, a head of Faiths United Against Gun Violence, then from a panel of bishops in response to the talk, then discussion in table groups. 
  • Eucharist, commemorating the trial use lesser feast of Geoffrey Studdert Kennedy. 
  • Time after dinner was unscheduled, leaving room for spontaneous conversations, catching up on email, and such like. 
  • During the morning, the Presiding Bishop's office released the text of the Title IV Accord I have been involved in.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Thursday (Ss Perpetua & Felicity)

  • Usual morning routine; MP in the cathedral.
  • Did the fine finish work on the second of five retreat meditations I will deliver in the Diocese of Albany next month.
  • Made air travel arrangements to visit, along with Fr Mark Evans and Sandy Moore, our companion diocese of Peru in late April.
  • Lunch at home. Leftovers.
  • Packed, then hit the road for Central Illinois Regional Airport in Bloomington at 2:15.
  • Boarded on schedule for a 4:30 departure, but then sat on the runway for an hour while a traffic overload in Detroit was cleared out. Made my connection to Asheville just in the nick of time.
  • Now ensconced at Kanuga, an Episcopal retreat and conference center in the mountains of western North Carolina. The semi-annual meeting of the House of Bishops begins tomorrow.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Wednesday

  • Usual morning routine; MP in the cathedral.
  • Debriefed with the Archdeacon on a couple of ongoing administrative matters.
  • Completed preparations for next week's Lenten series presentation in Bloomington (since I'll be tied up with House of Bishops between now and then).
  • Reviewed the Mission Strategy Master Plan and made a few notes for followup actions.
  • Laid down the broad strokes of a sermon for Maundy Thursday.
  • Made a phone call in connection with someone in the ordination process.
  • Lunch from La Bamba, eaten at home.
  • Dental hygiene appointment.
  • Bought an extra SD card for the video camera (having lost one in the mail).
  • Back at home, plotted the main moves of my homily for Easter II (St Andrew's, Edwardsville).
  • Hit the road for Bloomington at 4:15, ate with the folks at St Matthews, then made my teaching presentation. Back in the car by 7:20 and home at 8:35. Pretty tired.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Tuesday

  • Usual Tuesday routine: weekly task planning and making a dent in the emails at home, MP in the cathedral.
  • Stopped by the cathedral office to greet Fr Keith Roderick, the new provost, on only his second weekday in the position. We touched on some practicalities related to the Chrism Mass and Holy Week.
  • Resumed email processing, which generated a couple of substantive phone calls.
  • Got to work on revising the Chrism Mass bulletin. We are moving it to a Saturday this year in the hope that more lay people will attend. (March 23, 11am, at the cathedral),
  • By a few minutes past noon, the office was deserted, as it was snowing hard and the predictions for the afternoon were grim.
  • Lunch from TG, eaten at home.
  • Resumed working on the Chrism Mass bulletin and sent it off electronically to the cathedral office.
  • Roughed out my Lenten series presentation in Bloomington for next week (3/13), since I'm going to be out of town most of the time between now and then.
  • Produced a rough draft of a homily for Lent V, which I will deliver at the ECW retreat.
  • Laid down the broad strokes of  a sermon for Easter (Vigil and Day).
  • Evening Prayer in my study at home.
  • As it turned out, we missed the brunt of the snow. My driveway is bare and dry this evening.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Third Sunday in Lent

Augmented my scheduled visit to St Bartholomew's, Granite City with an unscheduled appearance at St Thomas', Glen Carbon given that Fr Tony Clavier, who serves both missions, was on doctor-ordered rest for a bronchial infection. Left home at 6:45, got back at 12:45. Had a good hard nap. Then, channeling the Puritan forebears I must surely have somewhere, I got back to work, processing emails, adding some content to the diocesan website, and working on the "aspirational" liturgical customary for the diocese that is slowly taking shape. I promise I will take tomorrow completely off.

Homily for Lent III


St Bartholomew's, Granite City--Luke 13:1-9

In many churches, Lenten worship, at one time or another involves a prayer text called the Great Litany. Whenever I pray the Great Litany, it seems like a different petition glows more brightly for me than any of the others. Most recently, it’s been, “From dying suddenly and unprepared: Good Lord, deliver us.” We all have to die; that much we know. But there are, I think most of us would agree, good ways to die and not-so-good ways to die. We all know our mortality—in our minds, at least—and many of us are at relative peace with the idea of having died. It’s actually dying—the process of dying, the act of dying—that we’re not so sure about, because there are various ways of getting to that destination, and a lot of those ways are particularly more frightening than the others, “suddenly and unprepared” being one of them.

If I were to describe what I consider the ideal death, a holy death, it would look something like this: It takes place at home, not in a hospital or other facility. There’s plenty of warning—several weeks, at least, if not a few months—and, of course, it’s happening at a ripe, old age and after a full and productive life. There’s no pain involved, just a quiet and dignified slipping away. The person is mentally lucid, and verbal, until the very final moments, and is surrounded by loved ones, and a priest is there, offering the last rites of the church, and giving final Holy Communion—food for the journey. There are no regrets anywhere in the room, no unresolved issues. Everything that needs to be said has been said.

Doesn’t that sound like the ideal way to go? But how often do you suppose that actually happens? Not very. In fact, I think it’s safe to say, hardly ever. In reality, death very often comes quite suddenly. By eavesdropping on a conversation between Jesus and some of his followers, recorded for us in St Luke’s gospel, we can see what some of the headline news of the day was. Apparently the Roman governor of Judea, Pontius Pilate (with whom Jesus would soon have an encounter of his own), had attempted to bolster his power by making an example—a particularly bloody and horrific example—of some Galileans whom he believed had defied him in some way. And, “in other news,” a construction accident in the community of Siloam had claimed eighteen lives when a tower collapsed, taking all the workers down with it. With a little effort and access to a local newspaper, we could easily pull similar headlines from our own recent experience.

But sometimes, of course, as we know all too well, death comes slowly or painfully or slowly and painfully.  We may leave this world in a mental fog induced by pain-killing drugs. We may leave this world too soon. And the definition of “too soon” keeps changing. I heard an interview with the author Studs Terkel some years ago on the occasion of his 90th birthday. The reporter, somewhat insensitively, observed that many people think to themselves, when they’re young, “Who wants to live to be 90, anyway?” to which Mr Terkel replied, “Most everybody who’s 89!” We may leave this world with more than our share of regrets and unfinished business, feeling like we’ve accomplished way too little in the time that has been allotted to us. In many ways, we may feel like the fig tree in the parable Jesus tells right after the news about the massacre of Galileans and the construction accident in Siloam. After several years, well past the time when it should have been producing some fruit, the tree is still barren. So the grower says to his field hand, “Chop it down. I’m not going to sink any more money and energy into it. I need the space for something else.”

So, whether we die suddenly and unprepared, or slowly and unprepared, or slowly and prepared—or, in what is probably the rarest circumstance, suddenly and prepared—the result is the same. Our journey through this world is ended, and we are on our way to, as the saying goes, “meet our Maker.” And none of us know when that final trip down the hall will begin. So, what this liturgy for the Third Sunday in Lent this year reminds us of is that every extra year, every new day, every moment, every nanosecond of life is a precious gift from God. Each of these gifts represents an opportunity to become either more prepared, or less prepared, for our passage from this world into the world to come. Each one of us has the freedom to use this resource—this resource of time—wisely and well, or foolishly and poorly. Will we be good stewards of what we have been given, or will we squander it?

The fact that God actually spares us from one day to the next is a sign of his loving mercy. We usually take our own being for granted, do we not? We act as though our “default mode” is to be alive and kicking, and something extraordinary has to happen in order to cause our death. In reality, though, it’s the other way around. Our default mode is to turn to dust. We began this Lenten season with a tangible sign that it is from dust that we were made, and it is to dust that we will return. Dust is our default mode, and something extraordinary has to happen to keep us alive from one moment to the next. The field hand in our Lord’s parable is a figure for Jesus himself. He intercedes with the grower on behalf of the fig tree. He says, “Boss, give me one more year, OK? I think I know some things that might work. If not, then we’ll chop it down.”

Jesus continues to intercede for us. He intercedes for us even through this very Eucharist that we are in the process of offering. He is at this moment pleading on our behalf before the Father, and the Father’s merciful response presents us with an opportunity—an opportunity to take steps such that we will leave this world having no regrets—no regrets either with respect to coming into the nearer presence of God, and no regrets with respect to being separated from an immediate relation to the people in our lives, those whom we have come to love. We give thanks to God for this moment, when we can be here together and be reminded of the wonderful gift we have been given. Praised be Jesus Christ. Amen.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Saturday (St Chad)

With the morning devoted to relaxation and my normal workout routine, I was fairly productive in the afternoon, processing several emails, making flight arrangements for my trip to upstate New York in April, attending to some administrative details regarding the ordination process, and doing some personal organization scheduled maintenance. I also embraced the learning curve of Apple's iMovie software, the (imperfect) fruits of which you can see here and here. I expect to become more adept at this in due course.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Friday (St David)

This day got eaten by technology. First on my task list was to prepare for next Wednesday's Lenten series presentation in Bloomington. An implied part of this was to download the video of this week's presentation from the camcorder and process it to a point where it can be uploaded onto YouTube. There's this wonderful app called iMovie that is designed to make this easy--which it does after one has mastered the learning curve. So today was an investment in the learning curve. In the ideal world of my plans, this is something I would delegate. But I learned last night that the SD card I had mailed to our unofficial diocesan videographer got eaten by the USPS en route. Fortunately, I had downloaded it from the camera last week and uploaded to YouTube unedited, so it's not lost. But it made me wary of putting a second SD card in the mail. 
So I got it done, but that's pretty much all I did, save for spending an enjoyable couple of hours in the afternoon with my good friend Christopher Wells, editor of The Living Church, who was passing through on his way to a dinner engagement in St Louis. I had a lot of other items on my to-do list, and I'm trying to take this in stride.