Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Wednesday

  • Morning Prayer in the cathedral.
  • Prepared readings, prayers, and homily for the cathedral chapel midday Mass at which I was scheduled to be the celebrant.
  • Took part in a scheduled conference call with some other board members of the Living Church Foundation.
  • Produced a finished rough draft of my homily for Advent II (8 December at St Thomas', Glen Carbon).
  • Attended to some routine end-of-month personal organization chores.
  • Spoke by phone with my U.S. Trust contact over some Putnam Trust issues.
  • Celebrated and preached the scheduled Mass.
  • Lunch at home--leftovers.
  • Remained at home to work the rest of the day, which was mostly consumed with producing an Advent message for the diocesan website (and, in due course, for the Current).
  • Into the evening, I completed an illustrated travelogue of our recent visit to Tanzania.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Tuesday

  • Weekly task planning and organization at home.
  • Consulted with the Treasurer and the Archdeacon on a financial/administrative matter.
  • Morning Prayer in the cathedral.
  • Processed my email inbox.
  • Refined and printed a draft of my homily for this Sunday at All Saints, Morton.
  • Spoke by phone with a representative of U.S. Trust, co-trustee with YFNB of the Putnam Trust, which benefits two of our congregations, over some policy details. Not quite resolved, but getting there.
  • Took care of a small pastoral/administrative matter.
  • Lunch at home, leftovers.
  • Returned a phone call from a retired priest, an old friend who is serving as an interim in another diocese. We had both forgotten what the original purpose of our trying to reach one another by phone was, but we always manage to find something to talk about!
  • Posted musical settings of several Psalms to the website. This now complete the project; they're all up there now, or should be.
  • Attended to some administrative details pertaining to a clergy deployment situation.
  • Responded to a snail mail letter with a snail mail reply. I do wish people would use email, however. Much easier to reply.
  • Worked on the still-evolving (but now largely complete) "aspirational customary" for celebrations of the Eucharist in the diocese.
  • Greeted and visited with a Nashotah House seminarian and former parishioner from my Stockton, CA years as he was en route to spend Thanksgiving with some extended family in the Illinois environs of St Louis.
  • Evening Prayer in the cathedral.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Sermon for Christ the King

Emmanuel,  Champaign--Luke 19:29-38, Jeremiah 23:1-6, Colossians 1:11-20

One of the frustrations of life in this technological age occurs when something goes obviously wrong with us, or with one of the things we use, but it’s not at all obvious what the problem is. That strange feeling that you get when you turn your neck to the left needs to be diagnosed. That strange sound that your car makes when it’s backing up needs to be diagnosed. But diagnosis is more of an art than a science, and often involves a good deal of plain old trial and error. I know this is completely irrational, but sometimes I feel like we should declare a day when all the auto mechanics report to the clinics and hospitals, and all the physicians report to the garages and repair shops, and we could see whether the diagnostic outcomes are actually any different!

But I’m sure the frustrations of these professionals to whom we entrust our bodies and our cars—I’m sure the frustration of these professionals is compounded when the patient or the customer has already done the diagnosing and prescribing and is only showing up to get the treatment. I’ve done it myself. I’ve walked into an emergency room and announced that I had a kidney stone and needed an intravenous dose of a particular narcotic analgesic. Now, it happens that I was absolutely right, both in the diagnosis and the prescription. But I’m happy to say that they didn’t just take my word for it—they ran the proper tests first. To do otherwise would have been irresponsible on their part, and for me to insist that they do otherwise would have been foolhardy on my part.

Today is the feast of Christ the King, and if we are not careful, we might very easily find ourselves in the position of that foolishly know-it-all consumer of medical services or automotive care. Even those who are blessed with sufficient wisdom to avoid diagnosing their own physical or automotive symptoms are still susceptible to the temptation to prescribe just what kind of king we need and expect Jesus to be. If our eyes are open only to the sort of king who might more accurately be described as a dictator—one who prescribes everything we must think and feel and do, leaving us with no personal discretion, then we will simply not see a king who entrusts us with vast freedom, and therefore vast responsibility. If our minds are open only to the sort of king who will rule and direct the lives of others—keeping them in line, because it’s clear they need some help in that department—a king who rules others, but leaves us pretty much alone, then we will simply not recognize as a king anyone who takes a direct interest in our lives and wants to have an intimate daily relationship with us.  If our hearts are open only to the sort of king who throws his power around to “fix” things—and fix them our way—then we will not respond to a king who groans with his kingdom and weeps over it and suffers repeatedly at the hands of its citizens. If we have already diagnosed the ailments of this world and prescribed the kind of king it needs, then we will probably be disappointed in Christ the King.

We will be like the multitudes of first century Palestinian Jews who thought the time was more than ripe for a king who would be a political savior, one who would lead them in throwing off the oppressive yoke of the Roman Empire and restore the nation of Israel to the glory days it enjoyed under the kings David and Solomon. They thought Jesus might be that king, and when he entered Jerusalem, it had all the symbolic earmarks of a triumphant royal procession, a conquering hero who was entering the city to take possession of it. They acclaimed him with shouts of “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the Name of the Lord.” Five days later, Jesus was being mocked and crowned with thorns and given a fake scepter and a fake royal robe by the soldiers who beat him within an inch of his life, and then the same crowd that had welcomed him into the city on Palm Sunday shouted “Crucify him!” as he was led away to his death.  He was not the kind of king they wanted. He did not fit either their diagnosis or their prescription, and they were not in a mood to be forgiving for leading them on falsely.

People who are newly married learn quickly about this clash between expectation and reality. Even before we meet the person we eventually marry, we carry around in our imaginations an idealized conception of what this person will be like. While we’re dating and while we’re engaged, we tend to feed this ideal, and see only those characteristics in the one we’re with that conform to that ideal, filtering out those that clash with it. After being married for a while, however, we can no longer afford that luxury. Sooner or later, we have to face the concrete reality of the actual person we are married to. This is not easy. It’s dangerous territory, and it’s a place where many marriages crumble. But couples that make it past this crisis find that there is a dimension of depth and connection in their relationship that is far more satisfying, far more rewarding, than the ideal for which they struggled so hard. What they end up with is actually better than what they had to reluctantly let go of.

The same can happen with the kingship of Christ.  If we are prepared to receive Christ as the king he actually is, then we will discover that he is the very king we need. We will discover a king who is indeed a ruler. His rule, however, is not harsh like that of a tyrant. Rather, it is loving and gracious and tender, like that of a shepherd. We will discover a king who provides order and discipline for our lives, and gives us a map—a paradigm, an interpretive framework, if those terms mean anything to you—a map by which we can negotiate the spiritual geography of this crazy world we live in. We will discover a king who stands ready to help us grow into the fullness of what it means to be a human being. We will discover a king who is also a physician, and who knows where it hurts before we even open our mouths to tell him. We will discover a king who
connects with the depth of our woundedness, who entrusts us with responsibility that we never knew we could handle, and who kindles in us a passion for his justice and his righteousness. We will discover the king Jesus actually is, not our idealized conception.

Like those who welcomed Jesus in his triumphal entry into Jerusalem, we will welcome and cheer his arrival. We will welcome and cheer the arrival of the infant Jesus, the incarnate Son of God, at this very altar on Christmas Eve. We will welcome and cheer the arrival of the risen and ascended Christ on that same altar, and in our midst, in the sacrament of the Eucharist, both at this celebration, and every celebration we attend in the future. And on that great day when Christ the Redeemer returns as Christ the Judge, we will welcome him as he comes with power and great glory.  All hail King Jesus! Amen.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Saturday (St Clement of Rome)

  • Arrived at the cathedral/office complex around 9:45.
  • Celebrated the 10am Diocesan Council Mass (observing the day's lesser feast).
  • Presided over the quarterly Diocesan Council meeting.
  • Met briefly with one of our clergy who is experiencing a peculiar amount of personal stress.
  • Met with the Archdeacon and one of our Rural Deans over a deployment situation in that deanery.
  • Met briefly with the Standing Committee regarding a specific piece of business they needed to conduct.
  • Met with the Bishop's Warden of one of our missions, along with the Archdeacon and the Treasurer, regarding an emerging (an unwelcome) financial contingency.
  • Grabbed a quick lunch at Taco Gringo with seminarian Ben Hankinson, now officially approved for the ordination to the transitional diaconate on January 30.
  • Drove to Champaign, through one patch of horizontal snow.
  • Met with the search committee at Emmanuel at 3pm, the Vestry at 4pm, the Deacon and Interim Rector at 5pm, then to the home of a parishioner for a vestry dinner.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Friday

  • After the better part of three weeks out of the office, there was a good deal of catching up to do with the Archdeacon and the Administrator.
  • Morning Prayer (late) in the cathedral.
  • Began to process a batch of emails that had been accumulating. Time-consuming.
  • Took a phone call from Fr Ralph McMichael, giving me a status update on his interim ministry at St Andrew's, Edwardsville.
  • Lunch from La Bamba, eaten at home.
  • Refined and printed my homily for this Sunday (Emmanuel, Champaign).
  • Made various preparations for tomorrow's Diocesan Council Eucharist.
  • Finished cleaning out my inbox,
  • Friday prayer: Ignatian meditation on today's daily office gospel reading.
  • Evening Prayer in the cathedral.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Thursday

  • Preached at the Eucharist that closed the Diocese of Albany priests retreat.
  • Enjoyed a visit to All Saints Cathedral in downtown Albany, the first Episcopal Church building constructed intentionally as a cathedral (1888).
  • Uneventful flights from Albany to Chicago and Chicago to Springfield.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Wednesday (St Edmund)

Still in the Diocese of Albany. It's cold here--never got much above freezing today, though the sun shone brilliantly. I delivered the final two of my five retreat addresses, and joined in worship and meals with the diocesan priests (plus the Bishop of Albany, the retired Bishop of Albany, and the Suffragan Bishop of Peru). Enjoyed a long and vigorous walk in the afternoon. I have been very graciously welcomed here; what a blessing it is to be able to exercise this ministry.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Tuesday (St Elizabeth)

Delivered two retreat meditations, presided at Mass for the feast of St Elizabeth of Hungary, and participated in a healing service in the context of Benediction. On balance, a pretty awesome day at the Diocese of Albany Priests Retreat.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Monday (St Hilda of Whitby)

Up ridiculously early to catch a 6am flight from Springfield to Chicago, then Chicago to Albany, New York. I'm at the Christ the King Spiritual Life Center of the Diocese of Albany, where I am giving the addresses at a retreat for priests of the diocese, on the theme of the "Iconography of the Priesthood." My body still doesn't know what time zone it's in, though this will all sort itself out in due course.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

The Lord's Day (XXVI Pentecost)

Woke up in my Effingham hotel room and hied over to St Laurence's Church to preside and preach at the 8am liturgy. It's a very small congregation, but proclaiming the Word and celebrating the Sacrament is an inestimable privilege under any circumstances. Then it was down I-57 to Salem (past more deer roadkill than I think I have ever seen), where the people of St Thomas' Church, along with St John's in Centralia, have been doing a mating dance this weekend with a recently retired priest from outside the diocese who looks like he's a good fit to take pastoral charge of those communities. When the tornado warning siren surrounded around noon, we were already in the basement, which is just where we needed to be. Home around 5:00. In the evening, I had to be about packing, as I have a 6am flight from SPI to O'Hare, and then on to Albany, where I will be leading a retreat this week for the priests of the diocese of the same name.

Sermon for Proper 28

St Laurence, Effingham--Luke 21:5-19, Malachi 3:13—4:2a,5-6; II Thessalonians 3:6-13

One of the blessings of our Anglican and Catholic tradition is the church year. It systematically takes us through the mysteries of our faith, and if we pay attention to it, and allow it to spill over into the rest of our lives, it draws us closer to Christ in the fellowship of his Church. If you have been an unusually attentive observer of the subtleties of the liturgical calendar in the past, you may know that we are in that time during the year when our attention is drawn to that article of the Creed in which we profess our belief that the same Christ who came as a vulnerable infant two thousand years ago will come again in glory, this time to judge the living and the dead, and that his kingdom will have no end. When he comes, all wrongs will be put right, all injustices will be corrected, and all tears will be wiped away. Justice, peace, and love will prevail throughout the created order.

In the meantime, though, things are in a bit of a mess, aren’t they? People in the Philippines are digging out from a catastrophic typhoon. Civil war is causing anarchy in Syria, with a huge cost in suffering and lives. Human trafficking, which is just a cleaned-up name for slavery, seems to be thriving in many parts of the world. Iran seems resolved to develop nuclear weapons, daring the rest of the world to try and stop them. And, of course, there’s Israel and the Palestinians—creating an environment that is the incubator of 98% of worldwide terrorism.

And on top of these global catastrophes, ordinary bad stuff still happens every day to ordinary people. We get sick, we get old, we die. Along the way, we make stupid financial decisions and mouth off to the wrong people and try to hang on to jobs that we find boring at best because somehow we’ve got to pay the bills. In my case, a bad day is defined by how well the technology I depend on works. If I have computer or internet connection problems, it sucks up huge quantities of valuable time and energy.

With all that’s going on, globally and locally, it can be exceedingly difficult to find faith and keep faith. We say we believe that Christ will come again to judge the living and the dead, to reign as King of kings and Lord of lords, to rescue the downtrodden, reward the righteous, and crush the oppressor. We say we believe in the communion of saints and the life of the world to come. But it is awfully challenging to maintain those beliefs in the face of everything that confronts us.

We may be forgiven for assuming that, since we have the benefit of twenty centuries of experience since the first coming of Christ, we have a unique perspective that the earliest generations of Christians didn’t have. That may be, but we are by no means alone in our inability to cope with the need to wait, to hope, to persevere, to keep on keeping on. We are not alone in our desire to just have it be done with. The very earliest generation of Christians was led to believe that the second coming of Christ was going to happen …pretty much…next week, or the week after, at the latest. Some of them decided to quit working, to no longer invest time or energy in the long-term fabric of their earthly lives, because, after all, what’s the point? If Christ is coming very soon, why break a sweat over a roof that isn’t going to actually start leaking until next winter? St Paul, in his letters to the new Christians in Thessalonica, had to gently reprimand these folks and tell them, If you don’t work, don’t expect to eat!

The Jewish community 500 years before Christ also had to deal with their own version of the same problem. Their world was just as chaotic and just as unsettling to them as ours is to us. They were waiting for the Lord to send his long-expected Messiah—in Greek, the Christ—who would restore the national glory that they enjoyed under King David another five centuries or so earlier. Listen to how cynical they were getting as they waited:
It is vain to serve God. What is the good of our keeping his charge or of walking as in mourning before the LORD of hosts?  Henceforth we deem the arrogant blessed; evildoers not only prosper but when they put God to the test they escape.
This sounds like the voice of a people who have nearly reached the end of their rope, and we empathize with them.

Even the very contemporaries of Jesus felt the pressure. They were going around with him day by day. Many of them had sacrificed their livelihoods and put their personal lives on hold in order to follow him. They had high hopes that he was indeed the Christ, the one who would deliver them from the yoke of Roman oppression. In the days just prior to his crucifixion, Jesus and his followers are looking at the magnificent Jerusalem temple, and he says something quite remarkable: “…the days will come when there shall not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.” As you might imagine, that got a conversation going, and Jesus took the opportunity to explain that things would definitely get worse before they got better:
…when you hear of wars and tumults, do not be terrified; for this must first take place, but the end will not be at once….Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and pestilences; and there will be terrors and great signs from heaven. But before all this they will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors for my name's sake. This will be a time for you to bear testimony.
Quite a bit to look forward to, isn’t it? Very often, we’d just rather not. Can’t we just “fast forward” through that stuff? Isn’t there a pill we can take and have someone wake us when it’s all over? The fact that we have company in our misery may or may not be comforting, but we do: Christians have been waiting for 2,000 years. The Jews waited for the first coming of the Messiah another thousand years before that. And the whole human race has been waiting since before the dawn of recorded time. We read about the first promise in the Book of Genesis: As the Lord is banishing Adam and Eve and the serpent from the Garden of Eden, he tells them that a descendent of the woman will crush the head of the serpent. The Church has always considered this the first promise of a divine Savior, the first premonition of the gospel. And now we wait. We continue to wait.

And Jesus encourages us in our waiting. He tells us that, as we bear witness to him until he comes again, he will supply our needs—in this case, particularly our need to know what to say when the world challenges our faith in all the ways it does. On the surface, this means that the Spirit will give us words in moments of direct confrontation. Underneath the surface, it suggests that the Spirit will give us words to repeat to ourselves in moments of doubt and fear and frustration:
I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which none of your adversaries will be able to withstand or contradict. You will be delivered up even by parents and brothers and kinsmen and friends, and some of you they will put to death; you will be hated by all for my name's sake. But not a hair of your head will perish. By your endurance you will gain your lives.
By your endurance you will gain your lives. This is God’s good news to us today as we mark this season of special attention to the second coming of Christ to put all things right, the descent of the heavenly Jerusalem as a bride adorned for her husband. “By your endurance you will gain your lives.” Hang in there. I will meet your needs as they arise. Not before they arise, but as they arise. Trust me. Be faithful. Your perseverance will be rewarded. And, believe me, what’s coming is well worth waiting for! In the words of Malachi’s prophecy:
Behold, the day comes, burning like an oven, when all the arrogant and all evildoers will be stubble; the day that comes shall burn them up, says the LORD of hosts, so that it will leave them neither root nor branch. But for you who fear my name the sun of righteousness shall rise, with healing in its wings.
May we not grow weary, my brothers and sisters. May we not lose heart. Christ is coming. Our salvation is at hand. Amen. 

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Saturday (St Margaret)

Made substantial, but not total, progress on re-entry to my familiar life in the developed world. I rejoice in the blessings that are mine, but will be forever changed as a result of the Tanzanian sojourn I have just been on. Everything is unpacked. Photos and notes are safely in the cloud. My brain is back on central standard time. Not exactly sure where my body is. And I'm spending Saturday night in a hotel room, which, for me, is not that unusual. One day at a time.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Sermon in Tabora Cathedral (Tanzania)

Acts 19:1-7, John 14:15-17

In the Name of the Living God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

My dear brothers and sisters, I am filled with joy and gratitude at the opportunity to open up the word of God with you here today. My wife, Brenda, is here with me, and my colleague, Father Dave Halt, is here as well. We consider it a privilege to visit your diocese and your cathedral, and to receive the marvelous hospitality of your bishop and everyone else whom we have met. Praised be Jesus Christ!

You and I come from different parts of the world—sometimes it feels not just like different parts of the world, but different worlds!—and our experience of life is very different. In North America, we are beginning to experience a changed environment in which Christians no longer enjoy that status and privilege in society that we have long taken for granted. It is more challenging to be a Christian in American culture now than it was when I was growing up in the 1950s and 1960s. But I know that, in many parts of Tanzania, and in many other places in Africa, dealing with a social environment that is hostile to Christianity—hostile to our Lord Jesus—is not anything new, but quite common, quite ordinary. So I am humbled to be among you. We honor you for your courageous witness to the gospel of Jesus Christ even in the midst of very challenging and difficult circumstances.

Yet, despite our difference, there is one part of our experience that we hold very much in common. We both have Jesus! We have been made new in the waters of the sacrament of baptism. As St Paul tells us, we have “clothed ourselves in Christ” as we have come under the waters of baptism. In our baptismal liturgy in America, we speak of being “sealed with the Holy Spirit in baptism, and marked as Christ’s own forever.”

Marked as Christ’s own forever! This is what Christian disciples share, no matter what time zone or latitude we live in. When I began my ordained ministry nearly 25 years ago, I was a chaplain in a parish school. The mother of one of our students sent her son to me for counseling because he was suffering from recurring nightmares in which demons were attacking him. I prayed with him, and reminded him of his own baptism. I reminded him that when he was baptized, he was sealed with God’s Holy Spirit and marked as Christ’s own forever. The priest who baptized him signed his forehead with the cross. I reminded this boy that even though he could no longer see that cross on his forehead when he looked in the mirror, the devil and all his demons can see it, and they know that they cannot hurt him because he belongs to Jesus. He has been marked as Christ’s own forever, and none of the spiritual forces of wickedness in high places can hurt him. His mother told me a little while later that there were no more nightmares!

When we “put on Christ” in baptism and are marked as Christ’s own forever, we are sealed with the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit of God takes up residence in our hearts. We are possessed by the Holy Spirit. We read today in the Acts of the Apostles about a time when St Paul encountered a group of believers who had been baptized, but only with the baptism of John the Baptist. People who had gone to John the be baptized did so as a sign of repentance for their sins, and it was good for them to do so. But even John realized that the baptism he was offering was incomplete. It was a sign of repentance for sins, but it did not provide any forgiveness for those sins. But, John said, there was One coming after him who would baptize with the Holy Spirit, one whose baptism would carry with it the forgiveness of sins. So St Paul explained to these believers that, yes, they were following the truth, but not the whole truth. They did not have complete information. Acts tells us that not only had they not received the Holy Spirit when they were baptized by John, but they did not know there was even such a thing as the Holy Spirit!

I do not know what it’s like in your world here in the Diocese of Tabora and the Anglican Church of Tanzania. But in my world, in the Episcopal Church in the USA, and among many other Christian bodies in America, it often seems like there are a great many people who are baptized, and who are active Christians, active in church communities, but who have never heard that there is such a thing as the Holy Spirit! Of course, this is not literally true; I’m exaggerating to make a point. Everyone has heard of the Holy Spirit, and would say they believe in the Holy Spirit. But many times we go about our work, in the church and in the world, as if the Holy Spirit is only an imaginary being. We do everything as if the fruit of our labor depends completely on our own efforts. We give lip-service to God, and maybe even lip-service to the Holy Spirit, but we think and act as if the entire burden rests on our shoulders. This is a guaranteed formula for depression and fatigue and what we in America call “burnout.”

That is certainly a mistake, but there is another equally serious mistake we can make in the opposite direction. We can use the Holy Spirit—perhaps I should say we can exploit or abuse the Holy Spirit—to justify nearly anything we would like to do. This is particularly dangerous in times of controversial votes or elections within the life of the church. When people agree with the outcome of a vote or an election, it’s tempting to say, “The Holy Spirit has spoken!” But we are presumptuous and prideful when we do that. God has given us no guarantee that the Holy Spirit will always work his sovereign will through the majority vote in an election. Perhaps this is only a problem in American; perhaps this is not something you have to worry about in Tanzania. I hope so!

So, after Paul explained the whole truth to believers who had only been baptized with the baptism of John, he baptized them in the name of Jesus. And then what happened? Scripture tells us that they immediately began to prophesy and speak in tongues. They began to manifest the power of the Holy Spirit. They began to experience some of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. The truth that we are called to lay hold of here is that we who are baptized into Christ are called to live in the power of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is not just a nice idea. The Holy Spirit is not just an abstract theological concept. The Holy Spirit is God’s gift of himself—to encourage us, to strengthen and empower us, to lead us and guide us, and to reassure us constantly, no matter what happens, that we are marked as Christ’s own forever.

Listen to what Jesus tells us in the words of the Gospel according to St John: “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.” This is at the same time tremendously comforting—to be given “another Helper,” because we need all the help we can get!—but also very difficult, very challenging. The gift of the Holy Spirit is a gift of great power, and we want to know how to use that gift carefully and well. I have a priest in my diocese who is very skilled at make things from wood—furniture for homes, as well as furniture for churches: altars, baptismal fonts, communion rails, and various other items. His work decorates many of the churches in my diocese. This priest has many wonderful and sophisticated tools in his shop—different kinds of saws and drills and planes and lathes and others I cannot even imagine. But if I were to enter his workshop, it would be quite dangerous for me to use any of those tools. I do not have the proper training and I do not have the proper skill. The same tools that are marvelous in Father Tim’s hands would be weapons of destruction in my hands!

The gifts of the Holy Spirit are powerful. They can be powerful and marvelous tools for the proclamation of the gospel to the world and for the building up of the Body of Christ. The disciples whose baptisms we read about today in Acts prophesied and spoke in tongues after receiving the Holy Spirit. I have no doubt that many among you have experienced those same gifts, and that these gifts have been faithfully used to build up the Body of Christ in the Diocese of Tabora. And there are other gifts of the Holy Spirit. Some are spectacular and miraculous, like the gift of healing. Perhaps some of you will be able to tell me stories of how the spiritual gift of healing has been exercised among you.

Many of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, however, are quiet, and do not command our immediate attention. Some have the gift of teaching. Some have the gift to be evangelists; and what an important gift that is everywhere, but particularly in a culture like you have in Tanzania. Some have the gift of service or administration. Others have the gift of hospitality, being able to joyfully welcome others into their homes. All the gifts of the Spirit, both the spectacular ones and the quiet ones, are important and powerful. All are necessary to the health and vitality of the church, of the Christian community. All are vital in the witness we bear to the world of the saving love of God in Jesus Christ.

The Holy Spirit is sovereign. Like the wind, the Spirit will blow wherever the Spirit wills to blow. But as faithful disciples of Jesus, we have a responsibility to become skilled in how we exercise the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Powerful tools need to be in the hands of mature, well-trained, and highly-disciplined people. So I encourage you, my brothers and sisters, to continue to grow up in all ways into Christ, to become mature disciples, able to distinguish between truth and falsehood, overflowing with both courage and wisdom. Please know that we in the Diocese of Springfield hold you in the Diocese of Tabora in our prayers on a regular basis. In every church, on every Sunday, we pray for Bishop Elias by name, and we pray, in turn, for each of your parishes and churches. I would also be grateful and humbled to know that you also pray for us, because we desperately need your prayers. We desperately need to experience the power of the Holy Spirit in our diocese. Pray that we will become mature disciples, able to effectively use the powerful gifts that God shares with us through his Holy Spirit. Praised be Jesus Christ! Amen. 

Friday, November 1, 2013

All Saints

  • Morning Prayer for All Saints Day in the cathedral.
  • Left a voicemail with a colleague bishop on something I'd like to talk with him about, but it will now have to wait a few weeks until my travel schedule settles down.
  • Spent the rest of the morning processing my (physical) inbox. It's been about a month, so it was quite a pile. As usual, this involves a lot of scanning and tossing, but it did generate a couple of emails and phone calls.
  • Lunch from ChiTown (Italian beef), eaten at home.
  • More inbox processing, finally finishing around 3:30.
  • Did some routine personal organization maintenance related to the transition from one calendar month to the next.
  • Did some more personal organization maintenance that just needs to be done from time to time (cleaning out the "Bucket" notebook in my Evernote account).
  • Got into the prayerful spirit of the day by finding some nice rendition of For all the saints ... on YouTube.
  • Evening Prayer in the cathedral.
  • Attended, just as part of the congregation, the 5:30pm sung Mass for All Saints' Day at St Luke's.
The plan is to catch a plane in Chicago late tomorrow night for Istanbul, then to Dar es Salaam, then to Tabora (Tanzania), arriving around 8:30am local time Monday morning. I don't know what sort of access we will have to internet connections while there, so postings to this spot may be sketchy Full details after we return, however, which will be on the 15th.