Sunday, June 29, 2014

Sermon for Proper 8

St Thomas', Glen Carbon--Matthew 10:34-42

Of all the liturgical changes that we experienced in the Episcopal Church during the 1970s, leading up to the introduction of the Prayer Book that we’re using this morning, the one feature that I suspect has enjoyed the least actual use across the church is the so-called “contemporary” version of the Lord’s Prayer. Even in congregations where the rest of the service is in contemporary English, which is the case in the overwhelming majority in our diocese, the Lord’s Prayer is still usually said or sung using the traditional version. I won’t attempt to speculate on why this is, but I will observe that there are portions of the “new” Lord’s Prayer where the meaning is much clearer than in the familiar form, and in my private prayers, that’s the one I use. We are accustomed, for example, to say “lead us not into temptation,” and this has always troubled me because, biblically and theologically, it’s clear that God is never the source of temptation to sin, so it seems a little odd to be asking God not to do something that is contrary to God’s basic nature anyway. The contemporary form of this line reads, “save us from the time of trial,” and it’s really a more accurate rendition of the original Greek text. I think that if it said, “save is in the time of trial” it would be even more accurate, but that perhaps amounts to quibbling.

The point is that “time of trial” is rather more helpful than “temptation.” In all likelihood, what this petition refers to is end of history, the Last Judgment, the time when all will be revealed and brought to light, the time when wrongs will be put right and the secrets of every heart laid out in the open before the throne of God. The scriptures of the Judeo-Christian tradition, whether they speak literally or metaphorically, characterize this time as one of great stress and conflict and tribulation, with wars and natural disasters and plagues and that sort of thing. So, when Jesus gave us this prayer, he was encouraging us to ask God to see us through that difficult time, the time when we will be judged, the time when all our works will be put on “trial” and judged according to the standards of God’s righteousness and God’s justice and God’s love.

I don’t think it’s too long a leap, however, for us to understand the “time of trial” in a secondary way as well, one that refers to adversities that believers in and disciples of Jesus might be prone to in this world, before the cataclysmic crises of the end of the age. It’s probable that this is what Matthew had in mind when he wrote the gospel that bears his name, and which we are working our way through methodically during the summer and into the fall, and, more specifically, the experience of suffering persecution for the sake of the gospel. To the original readers of Matthew’s gospel, that was a very real possibility, and would certainly have constituted a “time of trial” from which they hoped to be delivered. Sadly, many of our Christian brothers and sisters in other parts of the world also know persecution as a present reality, even today. None of us in this country suffer overt persecution for our faith, though, as our society continues the ongoing process of dechristianization, covert and subtle persecution is becoming quite ordinary. Yet, our understanding of the “time of trial” from which and in which we hope to be saved can even cover more than persecution. It can cover grief, disappointment, failure, shame, anxiety, fear, or even just everyday stress.

So the question arises, How are we going to hold up when the time of trial arrives? How should we deal with the prospect—the threat, actually—of being tested, of having what we’re really made of revealed in the crucible of adversity? In a passage from Matthew’s gospel that, if we pay close attention to it, we should find quite troubling—quite challenging and even distressing, really—Jesus gives us a strong hint as to how we might find ourselves prepared to be saved in and/or saved from the time of trial. He says, “Do not think that I have come to bring peace on earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.” Well, right away, that gets our attention, because it flies in the face of our image of Jesus as Mr Nice Guy who doesn’t want to hurt anybody’s feelings and wants everybody to just get along. “I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.” But it gets worse. He continues, “I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man's foes will be those of his own household.” If there’s anything we hold almost universally sacred in America, it’s the family, and in this passage, Jesus seems to be putting a bullet right between the eyes of the family. “A man’s foes will be those of his own household.” Well, from the context of other passages of scripture, I think it’s safe to say that this is not in fact what Jesus is doing. He’s using literary hyperbole, intentional exaggeration, to make a point. And the point is this: Being a Christian, being a disciple of Christ, means that we prefer Christ above all other commitments and ties, even the blood ties of family. When the crunch time comes, when the time of trial arrives, our brothers and sisters and aunts and uncles and parents and grandparents are those who are walking with us on the road of Christian faith and discipleship. If they happen also to be blood relatives, or spouses and in-laws, so much the better. But our primary connection is to Christ, and our primary loyalty is to Christ and the community of Christ-followers.

The alternative to preferring Christ is to follow our own basic human instincts. These are the instincts that, among other things, cause us to love the members of our family, and they are generally good things. The only problem is, they are also distorted by sin. It’s like a mixture of cancerous and healthy tissue—you can’t touch one without also touching the other. The fact is, we simply cannot trust our instincts, because we are all born in sin, and our instincts are corrupted. Our human instincts lead us to compartmentalize matters of faith and religious practice. They lead us to think of our life of discipleship as just one more in a long list of priorities that we need to somehow keep in balance—priorities like work, sports and leisure activities, civic and community service, political activity, exercise and health, and, or course, family.

Mind you, these can all be good things. There’s nothing inherently wrong with any of them. They are just not the best thing; they are not the one thing needful. We need to think of them, not as other priorities alongside God and our commitment to the people of God, but, rather, as gifts that we have surrendered to God, and then received back from his hand, transformed and made holy and consecrated to him. If we are not willing to first surrender them, no strings attached, then these severe words of Jesus are for us: “He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and he who loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and he who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.” Like I said, these are severe words, and they certainly seem counterintuitive to us, even going against nature. But they are, in fact, the very font of life and health and joy and peace—a fact that will become evident to us only when the time of trial arrives.

If we are not able to make this gift to God of all that we are and all that we have—our bodies, our affections, our family relationships, our hopes and aspirations—if we choose to follow instead our own sin-corrupted human instincts, we will find the time of trial—whether it’s a momentary affliction in this life or final judgment at the end of the age—we will find the time of trial quite “trying” indeed. If our faith and Christian discipleship are only compartments within our lives, and not the very center of our lives, when the stress of adversity comes, we are at risk of losing even what faith we have. And in the last time of trial at the end of time, we will find that we have rejected the gift of salvation that God has so freely offers us.

Jesus says,”Whoever gives to one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he shall not lose his reward." Our modern ears tend to hear the phrase “little ones” and think automatically of children. But this isn’t what Jesus means here. The “little ones” are those who have put their faith in Christ and set out to follow him as disciples. Maybe it’s a very simple and not very educated faith. Maybe the discipleship is inept and inconsistent. We’re not talking about heroic Christians here, people who have their names in the liturgical calendar. We’re talking about ordinary folks, not “super disciples,” but “little ones.” Jesus is saying that not only will these little one not lose their reward, but even those who somehow help them along the way will also be rewarded. Honest discipleship, even if it’s imperfect, enables us to hang on to our saving faith when the time of trial arrives. Lord, save us from the time of trial. Amen.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Friday

  • Devotions in the cathedral; Morning Prayer in the office.
  • Arranged for a couple of checks from the Discretionary Fund to meet some incipient needs.
  • Spent some more time with the readings for Proper 13 (August 3 in Marion) with the intent of close reading and consultation of commentaries. But, once in a great while, what needs to be preached about just jumps out at me prematurely, and this was one of those times. So I dispensed with the usual exegetical work and went right to the development of a central message statement.
  • Responded in some detail to some technical questions from one of our clergy regarding the liturgy for my upcoming visit to the parish he serves.
  • Took part in a three-way email volley (I was the only one who knew it was three-way) with the bishop of one of our companion dioceses and the chair of our Department of Global Mission. Some important decisions got made in the process.
  • Attended to a bit of administrivia pertaining to my membership on the board of the Living Church Foundation.
  • Lunch at home. Leftovers. I remained at home for afternoon work.
  • Examined, via email and internet, and in fair detail, a potential resource, brought to my attention by a friend, for discipleship formation in the diocese.
  • Spent some quality time on the treadmill.
  • Departed with Brenda at 3:30 for points south. We attended the farewell banquet for Fr Gene and Deb Tucker at Trinity, Mt Vernon. It is a poignant transition for both the Tuckers and Trinity, one that they are all embracing with maturity and faith. Back home later than we like ... in the area of 11:30.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Thursday

  • Quality time on the treadmill before heading into the office. I've noticed that all the walking I did while in England had a salubrious effect on my blood sugar, so I'm making an effort to ramp up the exercise.
  • Angelus and Visitation in the cathedral (part of my usual morning devotional routine, though I seldom mention it here), but Morning Prayer in the office because of the heat in the church.
  • Worked on revising and reconditioning a prior year's homily for Proper 10 (13 July at Redeemer, Cairo). Yes, I do this from time to time. And I'm not embarrassed.
  • Dealt with some Nashotah-related business.
  • Crafted a word of greeting, and sent it via email, to the upcoming synod of the Diocese of Tabora, one of our companion relationship partners.
  • Lunch from Hy-Vee, eaten at home.
  • Walked down to Illinois National Bank to wire some funds that we have been holding for Tabora.
  • Dealt with two important and long-delayed tasks pertaining to our mission strategy implementation.
  • Processed a handful of emails.
  • Evening Prayer in the office; Angelus in the cathedral.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Wednesday

  • Task planning at home.
  • Morning Prayer in the cathedral. Brief check-in with Fr Tucker, newly at the reins (and I say this with great gratitude) of St Paul's Cathedral as Interim Provost.
  • Prepared for the celebration of the midday Mass (preparing the missal, preparing and printing the readings, mentally laying out a homily).
  • Took a first pass by the readings for Proper 13 (August 3), in preparation for my homily when I visit St James' Chapel, Marion.
  • Began to work on notes to clergy and spouses with July birthdays and anniversaries.
  • Presided and preached at the midday Mass. 
  • Lunch from McDonald's, eaten and home. (Still grieving the loss of hot mustard sauce for my McNuggets).
  • Completed the clergy nodal event cards.
  • Went back home to get some time on the treadmill, but was waylaid by a phone call from a friend, so the walk never happened.
  • Left at 4:30, with Brenda, for Urbana, when we enjoyed a lovely dinner at the home of John and Linda Buzard (members and musicians at St John's Chapel there). Home right around 11.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Nativity of St John the Baptist

  • Back to a "normal" routine (whatever that is), following a wildly successful youth pilgrimage to England. 
  • Organized tasks before, during, and after breakfast at home -- mostly this involved turning a mountain of emails into tasks, then deciding which ones are more urgent and which ones less urgent.
  • Brief devotions in the cathedral followed by Morning Prayer in the office--too hot in the church!
  • Responded to some emails regarding Communion Partners, Nashotah House, and Youth Department issues.
  • Reviewed and suggested a tweak to the service bulletin for this Sunday's visit to St Thomas', Glen Carbon.
  • More administrative followup on the Youth Department issue.
  • Answered some more emails.
  • Attended the midday Mass for this major holy day.
  • Lunch from Taco Gringo, eaten at home.
  • Beefed up, tweaked, refined, and printed a working script for this Sunday's sermon.
  • Attended to some Living Church Foundation-related administrivia.
  • Took care of some routine end-of-the-month personal organization chores.
  • Evening Prayer in the office.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Monday

When you travel westbound across the Atlantic, it's always "the longest day." All our Canterbury pilgrims assembled in the hotel lobby at 5:45am GMT and boarded our bus for the nearly three hour drive to London Heathrow (much of it in morning rush hour traffic). It dawned on me en route that there are no highway billboards in England. It makes for a much different experience. We made it to the airport in plenty of time to check in, take our leave of our tour manager Michael, of whom we had become very font, and board our 11am departure on Virgin Atlantic. The flight went smoothly, and after clearing passport check and customs, those who were being met there said their goodbyes to those who still had a train journey ahead of them. That group negotiated airport transit, then CTA, then a walk to Union Station, where more goodbyes were said, as some were on the 5:15 train for St Louis and others on the 8:00 departure to Carbondale. It was a joy to lead twelve young people in connecting with their Anglican roots and creating memories that will last a lifetime. Already thinking about the next one.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Second Sunday after Pentecost

This was a bit of a low-impact morning, which most of us rather needed after yesterday's strenuous activity. We were up and out in time to make the trek into town for the 11 AM Choral Eucharist in the cathedral. I was thrilled that our small group of pilgrims got to be about 15 yards from the high altar, with the imposing chair of St. Augustine looming just a few steps away further in the distance. We then had the afternoon to ourselves. After lunch, and some further poking around in the historic city center, some of us returned to the cathedral for evensong at 3:15. Yes, that does seem a little early for evensong, but it's rather standard practice in these parts on Sundays. As always, the choir was spectacular. Brenda and I enjoyed walking along the old city wall and through a local park, where we saw an extended family attempting to play what looked for all the world like baseball. Imagine that! 

Just outside the Westgate of the city, there's a pub called The Bishops Finger, which features a local ale of the same name. Brenda and I had arranged to meet Michael Barker, our omnicompetent tour manager, there for a pint before dinner. Although room temperature ale is not something I would ordinarily choose to order, it seemed just the thing to do on this occasion. Soon thereafter, the whole group re-gathered for a prearranged farewell dinner. It's going to be an early morning, as we need to have the wheels of the bus rolling by 6 AM in order to arrive at Heathrow in time to make our flight.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Saturday

We're soaking in the atmosphere of Canterbury and the surrounding area, a region that is incredibly rich with history that extends even before the introduction of Christianity here during the Roman era.  We boarded a bus this morning after breakfast and headed about 20 miles out of town to Aylesford priory, a Roman Catholic Carmelite community that is extremely hospitable to visitors and tourists. One of the friars gave us a brief historical overview, and took us on a tour of the lovely grounds and its three chapels. I was particularly entranced by St. Joseph's Chapel, as St. Joseph is the patron saint of my episcopate (I was ordained on St. Joseph's day in 2011). We then had an hour or so to luxuriate in the peace of the place before being served a hearty lunch.


A short bus ride later and we were at an entry point of a walking path that stretches all the way from London to Canterbury. This is the route walked by pilgrims to Canterbury in the middle ages, and possibly even by pilgrims to Stonehenge in the late Neolithic era. Our goal was to make it to Charing, approximately a 6 mile journey. The path took us through wooded areas, and between fields of wheat and rye and beans. For most of the way, there was a gorgeous vista of a valley to the south of us stretching to a range of hills beyond it. At times the way was rough and we had to be careful where we stepped. By the end, we were all well worn out (it took us more than 3 1/2 hours, rather longer than we had anticipated) but now more concretely aware of what ancient pilgrims endured in order to reach their goal.


We eagerly greeted our bus and it's driver, who drove us all the way into the center of Canterbury rather than take us back to our hotel so that we could eat dinner promptly. It was a full day, and I expect we will all sleep very well tonight.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Friday

This was the first of three full days in Canterbury. Our hotel is a good hike – probably a mile – from the ancient city wall. We gathered at 9 AM, and made the trek, ending up at the striking Christchurch gate to the cathedral precincts. We were met by a guy, who promptly handed us off to another guy, who walked us out the opposite city wall from the one we had entered, passed the ruins of the once great St. Augustine's Abbey, and onto the parish church of St. Martin. This is, quite simply, the oldest Christian church in the British Isles. It was originally a Roman building, which was given to the Christian Frenchwoman Bertha, when she married to Saxon king of Kent, Ethelbert, in the late sixth century. When Pope Gregory's emissary, Augustine, arrived in England in 597 A.D., this building was Bertha's church. It has been enlarged and altered many times over the last 1400 years, but, amazingly, it remains a functioning parish church, with regular worship and a stable congregation. What an experience it was to touch those walls.

We then retraced our steps back to the ruins of St. Augustine's Abbey. Only the foundations, and part of one wall, of what was once an impressive collection of buildings, remain to be seen and explored. The audio tour is exceptionally informative and well-done. We were then turned loose to find lunch on our own in the bustling ancient city center.

At 2 PM, we reconnected with our original tour guide, led us around the exterior of the cathedral, through the cloister and parts of the old monastery. In a rather dramatic fashion, she recounted to us the relationship between King Henry II and Archbishop Thomas Becket, including his assassination in 1170. Immediately after that, we walked about 50 feet through the cathedral towards into the very place of that martyrdom. She then led us around the rest of the interior of the cathedral, including the historic crypt, which dates back to Anglo-Saxon times. At about 330, she turned us loose to explore on our own. Some remained in the building for a bit, but most seemed intent on checking off some items on their gift shopping list.

We gathered next at 5:15, and entered the choir of the cathedral, where a block of seats was reserved for us for choral evensong. The choir of men and boys was spectacular, and, appropriately enough, given all the history we have been absorbing, the music was mostly from the 16th century Tudor era. Our prearranged dinner was just across the street at an Italian restaurant. After eating, we hiked back to our hotel, grateful for the long-lasting daylight at this time of year.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Thursday

We have now put more than 800 miles on our Mercedes bus. With an 8 AM departure from our oxford hotel, we headed south toward the County of Wiltshire. A few miles west of the city of Salisbury, lies the iconic collection of prehistoric stones known as Stonehenge. It's only a couple of hundred yards from a busy four-lane highway, so people on ordinary business in the 21st-century drive past it every day; a monument that goes back 5000 years. It was an amazing experience, on a bright and warm day just prior to the summer solstice, which figures so heavenly in the history of this place.

We boarded our coach at 11:30, we headed toward the city, stopping first at the ruins of an ancient castle known as Old Sarum. For centuries it was well used by English monarchs, but was dismantled by Henry VIII I'm the 16th century, so that the stone facing could be used in other places. What is left are some flint foundations, interesting historical signs, and an amazing view of the surrounding countryside. We then went our separate ways to find lunch around the area of the market square in the middle of Salisbury.

Salisbury boasts one of the most prominent of the English cathedrals, and we enjoyed a guided tour by inexperienced volunteer. My only regret is that we were not able to stay long enough to enjoy choral evensong.

From the south central part of England, just 20 miles from the coast, we headed east through the countryside, bypassing London on a six lane freeway, and arriving in Canterbury, in the extreme south east of the country, at 8 PM. A three course prearranged dinner was waiting for us, for which we are all grateful. 

We are now on the outskirts of our pilgrimage destination point, the magnificent cathedral church of Christ, Canterbury.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Wednesday

Up and out from our Peterborough hotel (which, by the way, was a welcome relief from our quite cramped London lodgings with unreliable wifi) promptly at 8:30. On to Coventry, where we arrived a couple of hours later. This city was heavily bombed by Germany in 1940, so there isn't much left of the old medieval fabric. Among the material losses was the medieval cathedral church of St Michael & All Angels. When the dust settled, instead of rebuilding, they constructed an entirely new edifice, in a very modern style, And ... they left the bombed out ruins standing, such that a visitor has to walk through them in order to get to the main entrance of the new cathedral. It is a stunning juxtaposition, and a deeply moving testament to the essential gospel ministry of reconciliation.

Right at noon, we got back in our familiar bus and drove another hour or so to the town of Warwick, in the West Midlands. We went our varioius ways for lunch in the area of the town square, and the reboarded for a brief drive up a nearby hill to the 11th century Warwick Castle, in use for most of its history, but now turned into a sort of theme park under the management of Madame Tussaud (of wax museum fame). It was a gorgoes day, and it was a beautiful place. I could have done with a little more historical information and a little less Disneyfication.

We pushed ahead for another couple of hours, through towns and over canals and streams and, for a while, following the path of an ancient Roman road, arriving at our hotel in Oxford at 7, with a pre-arranged banquet-style dinner in their restaurant. My only regret is that we won't be able to spend some actual viewing time in this incredibly imporatant city. We have an early departure tomorrow for Stonehenge and Salisbury.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Tuesday

The unreliability of the wifi internet connection in our London hotel lobby was annoying to us all, to say the least. It was impossible for me to get a post out either of the last two nights. But Sunday was was a good day. We attended the 11am Sung Eucharist at Holy Trinity, Sloane Square, a lively parish in a vibrant shopping district, and it was my joy to accept the invitation of the rector to be the celebrant for the liturgy, a great honor. (The photo of us all before the service is on the diocesan Facebook page.) Afterward, we hopped on our bus and made our way to a dock on the Thames right across from the iconic ferris wheel (the Eye), and boarded a tour boat for a cruise down the river (yet, oddly, against the flow, as the tide was rising strongly), disembarking at the Tower of London (the Traitor's Gate, through which once passed many malefactors and other enemies of the state, is no longer accessible via the river). After self-selecting into smaller groups for the purpose of finding lunch, we passed through the admission gate and spent the next two hours in this place that is so historically important. At 5:15 we returned to our bus and were driven to All Saints' Church, Margaret Street for Choral Evensong & Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament. All Saints' was one of the standard bearers of the Catholic Revival in the Church of England in the 19th century, and is a feast for the senses--visually, musically, and olfactorily. We were warmly welcomed. We got back to the hotel around 7:30, and went various way (under benign but vigilant supervision) in the neighborhood for dinner. Many chose Indian, others pizza.

Yesterday we reported to the bus at 9:15 and were taken to St Paul's Cathedral, the seat of the Diocese of London (and its some 900 parish churches), and the 17th century architectural masterpiece of Sir Christopher Wren. We had a wonderful unscheduled guided tour from a volunteer docent who just happened to be available. The young people particularly enjoyed the opportunity to climb the stairs to the Whispering Gallery in the cathedral dome, and two or three intrepid ones further up to an outdoor observation area. We then walked across the Millennium Bridge (pedestrians only) to the Tate Modern art museum. We didn't go there to look at art, but to avail ourselves of the various eateries for lunch. Then, at 1pm, it was next door to the Globe Theatre--not Shakespeare's original, but an accurate replica thereof. We enjoyed another splendid guided tour, and got to watch part of a dress rehearsal for a production of "Julius Caesar." Then, after some down time in the hotel area, we were driven to the Victoria Station area for dinner, and then the musical "Wicked" at a nearby theater. Another memorable day.

This morning our call time was earlyish--7:45am, with bags packed, having already availed ourselves of the hotel breakfast. We loaded up the coach and wound our way through central London traffic toward Cambridge, which is only 45 minutes by express train, but it took us two hours because there is nothing that Americans would call a freeway or expressway that actually comes into the heart of the city, so there are a lot of what Californians call "surface streets" to negotiate before getting to the open road. We were  greeted in Cambridge by another splendid guide, who took us on a walking tour, the highlight of which was the magnificent chapel of King's College, with its full complement of original equipment stained glass still intact, the only collegiate chapel or cathedral in England that was not ravaged by the Puritans. We enjoyed lunch in the market square area, and then re-boarded our coach and continued northward and eastward into rural Norfolk, arriving in the ancient village of Walsingham around 3:30. We walked the final half-mile or so of the medieval pilgrimage route to the Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham. There we were greeted energetically by Bishop Lindsay Urwin, who was kind enough to share with us the experience of drinking and being signed with and otherwise reveling in water from the medieval well, which has long been said to be one of those "thin places" where the Holy Spirit ministers healing in a special way. We were all deeply moved. We then joined in the regular 5pm celebration of the Eucharist. After some time to enjoy the grounds, it was back in the bus for about a 90 minutes drive from Norfolk and Lincolnshire into the fens and the cathedral city of Peterborough. We checked into a lovely hotel called The Bull, and enjoyed a pre-arranged dinner in their restaurant. 

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Saturday

A day long anticipated. The four chaperones (including YFNB) and twelve youth pilgrims successfully made our way to O'Hare in Chicago yesterday, experienced some concourse bonding via a game of cards on the carpeted floor, and boarded the 6:45 departure for London Heathrow on Virgin Atlantic. About eight hours after takeoff, we were clearing UK Border Control, and meeting our tour manager, Michael, and our bus driver, Simon. It has, of course, been challenging to stay awake, but they kept us mostly on our feet, so it was rather necessary. We were met by a local tour guide, Marian, at Westminster Abbey, and she led us on about as expert a run-through of that historic and maginificent building as could be accomplished in under an hour. We then walked into St James' Park, which is crowded enough under normal circumstances on a Saturday, but today happened to be the ceremonial birthday of the Queen, so there were tens of thousands of people on hand. Keeping an eye on Marian's polka dot umbrella, we were in front of Buckingham Palace in time for an impressive fly-by of a series of aircraft in formation--from vintage World War II planes, to the best (I surmise) of what the RAF has going presently. We missed seeing Her Majesty wave from the balcony, but found ourselves well-stationed to grab a glimpse of the Prince of Wales and his wife and their vehicle drove by. Later, from a distance of a couple of hundred yards, we thought we might have seen Prince William and his bride getting into a car, but we weren't sure. Then it was back to the Abbey area to obtain some local currency and enjoy lunch at a ubiquitous chain called Pret a Manger. By that time, back on our bus, we made our way up Whitehall past Trafalgar Square (slowly, on account of several hundred naked bicyclists engaged in some sort of protest ... and under police protection, it appeared!), to our hotel in the Mayfair neighborhood. We all checked in, got some rest, and gathered on the lower level for a catered dinner. We're all thinking we will sleep very well, but jetlag is an unpredictable animal.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Thursday

  • Over the past few weeks, Brenda and I have morbidly joked about the parallels between the complexities of caring for her declining dog and caring for her declining mother. Earlier this week, we had to say goodbye to the dog. We were awakened by a phone call at 4:45am with the news that late last night, her mother also slipped away. Eery. Susanne Frantz Hansen was closing in on her 98th birthday, lived an incredibly rich life with lots of love, suffered enough to make her more like Jesus, and now rests in his peace.
  • After beginning to process this development, both practically and emotionally, we went ahead with the day. I arrived at the office/cathedral complex at the usual time, and read Morning Prayer in the cathedral.
  • Made an important call to the Vice-Chair of the Nashotah House board of trustees over an emergent matter.
  • Spent an inordinate amount of time on the AT&T and Verizon websites trying to get my mobile phone and Brenda's configured so that we can use them for data and texting and (very limited) voice use while in England. The companies do not make it easy, though I will say that AT&T won this particular context.
  • Carefully drafted an important letter (via email) to a cleric of the diocese summarizing a recent meeting we had with one another.
  • Lunch from McDonald's, eaten at home. Still no hot mustard. I'm told it's back in some areas, but not in Springfield.
  • Responded to a short stack of emails.
  • Attended to some chores pertaining to the ordination process and clergy deployment.
  • Took a significant Nashotah House-related phone call.
  • Evening Prayer in the cathedral.
  • Tomorrow morning we're set to catch a morning train to Chicago, rendezvous at various places with various Canterbury Pilgrims, both youth and chaperones, and end up on the 6:45pm departure from O'Hare to Heathrow. With any luck, I should be posting next on Saturday night from London.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

St Barnabas

Up and out of the Hampton Inn, Joliet in time to continue westward on I-80 for a 9:30 breakfast meeting in Peru with the chief financial officer and the chief fundraising officer of Nashotah House. We occupied the booth for about two and a half hours, and I believe it was a productive time as we face some daunting but surmountable challenges at the House. At noon, I pointed the YFNBmobile southward on I-39, and arrived at the diocesan center with about 10 minutes to spare before my 2pm appointment with a layperson from one of our Eucharistic Communities. This is about a fairly weighty pastoral matter, and I spent a little over 90 minutes with her. By this time, my introversion was in the red zone, and I really wasn't good for anything else than fending off emails and trolling Facebook. Consulted a bit with the Archdeacon, then left the office a little past 5:00, which, for me, is on the early side. Poured myself a stiff drink at home.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Tuesday (St Ephrem)

  • We're still trying to get out domestic bearings after having had to make the decision late yesterday to say goodbye to Lucy, Brenda's border collie who has shared our home in three states for more than 13 years. She wasn't my dog, but I was very fond of her, and she definitely had a thing for me. What a sweetheart. It just isn't the same not having her around.
  • Consulted briefly with the Treasurer over an administrative issue as I arrived at the office.
  • Morning Prayer in the cathedral.
  • Took care of a piece of Nashotah-related business.
  • Reviewed and approved a Marital Judgment request.
  • Responded to an email over an administrative issue.
  • Prepared, by reading a substantive book review online, for a meeting later in the day.
  • More administrivia via email.
  • Met briefly with Frs Halt and Wetmore regarding their work in developing a Springfield iteration of something called the St Michael's Conference--a six-day intensive catechetical experience for youth that has a track record of deepening faith and changing lives. Very excited about this.
  • Put some meat on the bones of a homily for Proper 8 (June 29 at St Thomas', Glen Carbon).
  • Spoke by phone briefly with my Bank of America co-trustee for the Putnam Trust, which benefits two of our congregations.
  • At around 1pm, stopping for lunch at Freddy's Steakburgers, I headed north and east for a 6pm dinner engagement in LaPorte, Indiana. I am one of a community of pastors and scholars, clergy and lay, who contribute to the blog Covenant, operated by the Living Church Foundation. This was the first evening of a three-day retreat, but my appearance was only a cameo. The Covenant authors are mostly young, exceptionally bright, excitingly committed, and most of the reason I still have some hope for the future of the Episcopal Church. It was hard to leave them, but I did so at 9:00 and got back on the road westbound on I-80, camping out for the night in Joliet, ahead of meeting tomorrow morning in Peru, about an hour further west, with two members of the Nashotah House administration.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Pentecost Homily

Alton Parish--John 20:19-23, Acts 2:1-11, I Corinthians 12:4-13

About a dozen or so years ago, it became very fashionable for groups of all sorts—corporations, schools, government agencies, churches, and even families—to adopt mission statements. Even now, it’s pretty much impossible to avoid them. You can check into a hotel and find the mission statement of the corporate owner prominently displayed in the lobby. I’ve even seen mission statements in fast food restaurants. The idea is that, if you don’t have a clear idea of what you’re supposed to be doing, you’re probably not going to be doing it. You’ll probably feel busy, but you might be busy at the wrong thing.

This can all be taken to a bit of an absurd extreme of course. It actually wouldn’t surprise me to hear about a pre-school play group working on a mission statement. And I suspect that, to some extent, the faddish aspect may have run its course. But in principle, I believe in mission statements. Many dioceses and parishes have mission statements. And, we could say, the whole Church has a mission statement. It could probably be expressed several different ways, but we may as well start with the version contained in our catechism, in the back of the Prayer Book: “The mission of the Church is to restore all people to unity with God and each another in Christ.”

So let’s take this apart and look at it more closely. As the Church, we are to be about restoring all people to unity—with God, and with one another. Another way of saying this, to borrow the language of St Paul in his second letter to the Corinthians, is that we have “the ministry of reconciliation.” Or, to borrow the language of a Ford Motor Company slogan from the 1980s, “Reconciliation is Job 1.”  And how are we to pursue this ministry, this mission, of reconciliation? Well, the catechism helps us out here as well: “The Church pursues its mission as it prays and worships, proclaims the gospel, and promotes justice, peace, and love.” So there we have it; that’s what we’re about: liturgy—which is what we’re gathered here for today, evangelization—telling others the good news that “Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again”; and the promotion of justice, peace, and love.

This activity, this ministry of reconciliation takes place in many different forms and at many different levels. It’s a dynamic interplay between individual effort and corporate effort. St Paul makes this point most compellingly in his rich and memorable metaphor of the Church as a body. A body is a complex organism. As Paul puts it, “…the body does not consist of one member but of many. …If all were a single organ, where would the body be?” Yet, Paul also says, “As it is, there are many parts, yet one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you,’ nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’”  In order for a body to be healthy, and to function as it’s supposed to—in other words, in order for a body to fulfill its mission statement—all the different parts have to be pulling in the same direction, they have to work as members of the same team. When they don’t, we call it cancer, and it’s a serious problem. So, the various gifts and talents and resources that we have as members of the Body of Christ are never simply for our own benefit.  They are for the benefit, the overall health and vitality, of the whole body.  This is not to say, however, that the exercise of our gifts and the development of our talents and resources does not have any impact on us personally. Quite the contrary: Employing our gifts for the glory of God and the benefit of the Church’s mission is invariably a means of grace that perfects our own holiness. We need to exercise our spiritual gifts in order to become more like Jesus, to mold our inner being, our character, into the pattern of his own life and being, to be made ready to live in the unfiltered presence of God. That is our destiny.

It is an ambitious project—the reconciliation of the world and the salvation of our own souls. And the fuel for this endeavor is the very gift of the Holy Spirit—God’s gift to the Church. The gift of the Holy Spirit is what we are celebrating today, on Pentecost. The Holy Spirit is God’s gift to the Church, and we actually have two distinct versions of that gift being presented: one quietly and privately, as Jesus appears to the disciples in the upper room on the very day of his resurrection—this is the account in St John’s gospel; and one publicly and dramatically, on the day of Pentecost itself, when the apostles were miraculously able to proclaim the gospel in a multitude of languages, according to the needs of the rather cosmopolitan group gathered in Jerusalem that day—this is the account we read in the book of Acts.

But the gift of the Holy Spirit is not only God’s gift to the Church corporately; it is His gift to individual Christians, personally. This is the angle St Paul emphasizes in his letter to the Corinthians:
[T]he body does not consist of one member but of many.  If the foot should say, "Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body," that would not make it any less a part of the body.  And if the ear should say, "Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body," that would not make it any less a part of the body.  If the whole body were an eye, where would be the hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell?  But as it is, God arranged the organs in the body, each one of them, as he chose.  
Whenever we gather to celebrate Holy Baptism, we pray for the candidates lavishly and at great length, and we believe that in response to our prayers, and according to His promise, God faithfully sends His Holy Spirit into those who come to the font, and that Spirit will come bearing gifts. We can’t in the moment say what those gifts will be. That will be revealed over a period of years. Whatever those spiritual gifts are, however, they are just what those who are baptized need for their own salvation, the perfection of their development into the full image and stature of Christ. As they exercise their gifts, these reborn children of God cooperate with the Holy Spirit in a process that will conclude only when they can look God in the eye and not die.

But the only context in which the exercise of our spiritual gifts will be effective for our salvation is the context of whole Church into which we were  initiated in the baptismal liturgy. The gifts they receive in the sacrament are for the benefit of the whole. They are for the Church’s mission, her ministry of reconciliation, of restoring all people to unity with God and each other in Christ. Indeed, the gift of the Spirit cannot be separated from mission. Jesus breathes on his disciples, we’re told in St John’s gospel, and say, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” But this only happens in the context of his first having told them,  “As the Father has sent me, even so I send you." One is for the other. The gift is for the purpose of mission.

When we forget this—when we forget this indissoluble bond between spiritual gifts and the Church’s mission, her ministry of reconciliation, spiritual gifts get turned in on themselves. In a sense, we might say they “go bad,” like a carton of milk forgotten in the back of the refrigerator for too long. They turn sour, and become the occasion of sin, and can, without the intervention of grace and repentance, lead eventually to a soul’s destruction.

So I want to leave you with a question, a question to which I do not presume to know the answer, but one which each of us, each of us who are members of the one body, must be asking if we are at all concerned with the Church being faithful to her mission statement. The miracle of Pentecost was that people from a dozen different language groups around the eastern Roman Empire heard the apostles speaking their languages. Each one heard good news that held out the promise of making a positive change in his or her life. Many lives were forever changed that day because of the gift of “tongues” that was given by the Holy Spirit to the apostles. What might that gift look like today? There are no longer any Parthians or Medes or Elamites or Mesopotamians in the world today. But there are Pakistanis and East Timorese and Swedes and Brazilians and South Africans. There are no longer any distinct language groups representing Cappadocia and Phrygia and Pamphylia, but there are certainly Baby Boomers and Generation Xers and those who are fluent in the language of alienation and cynicism and post-modernism. How are all these people, who are defined either geographically or culturally, going to hear the gospel, each one in his or her own “language”?  What is the nature of the gift of  “tongues” that the Church needs today, so that we as the Church, we as the Body of Christ, can be focused on and faithful to our mission statement—being ministers of reconciliation, restoring all people to unity with God and each other in Christ? I invite you to join me committing that utterly crucial question to prayer in the weeks and months that lie ahead—as it applies to the Episcopal Parish of Alton, to the Diocese of Springfield, and to the whole Church throughout the world. Come, Holy Spirit, come. Alleluia and Amen.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Saturday

Lazy morning ... surfed the 'net ... long, hard walk ... some TV while eating lunch .... cleaned up my email inbox .... routine household financial chores .... packed and out the door for points such (with Brenda by my side) at 4:30 ... dinner with vestry and spouses from the Episcopal Parish of Alton.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Friday

  • Morning Prayer in the cathedral.
  • Met with the Archdeacon and Administrator to review "elections and appointments." The countdown to our annual synod in October has begun, and part of that is making sure that we have at least one nominee for each elected office, and people in the pipeline for positions that are appointments of the bishop. For the elections, of course, there is a process for multiple nominations, and that's fine; we just want to ensure that we don't come up empty on any of them. I mean, seriously, who's going to volunteer to run for the Disciplinary Board?
  • Spoke at length by phone with a cleric of the diocese over an emergent pastoral/administrative issue.
  • Took care of some business pertaining to my membership on the Living Church Foundation board.
  • Lunch from La Bamba, eaten at home.
  • Sent out a handful of emails and posted some messages about a pipe organ that needs a good home. It's the one we removed from the former St Alban's, Olney. It has the potential to be a fine instrument in a small-to-medium size building, though it will require some work to bring it back to playing condition.
  • Worked on a significant updated of the section of our website pertaining to our mission strategy vision.
  • Attended to some small bits of administrivia.
  • Friday Prayer: the Luminous Mysteries of the Rosary.
  • Took care of some Nashotah House-related business.
  • Evening Prayer in the cathedral.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Thursday (St Boniface)

  • 45 minutes on the treadmill to begin the day.
  • Morning Prayer in the cathedral.
  • Took the time to respond to some recent, but fairly urgent and important, emails.
  • Conceived, hatched, and dispatched and article for the next issue of the Current, but you can see it now on the website. This took me pretty much until 1:00, though I laid it aside in order to take a couple of phone calls.
  • Lunch of Italian beef from Chitown's Finest, eaten at home.
  • Made my annual cameo appearance as an "ecumenical guest" at the assembly of the Central and Southern Illinois Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, which is always held at the Crowne Plaza on Dirksen.
  • Processed, mostly by scanning, the pile in my physical inbox. This is a time-consuming and pretty mundane chore, but it invariably spins off other tasks, and generally makes me less paranoid that something important is going to get by me. 
  • After brief devotions in the cathedral, came home to retrieve Brenda just before 5:00, parked in the Christ Church lot on Jackson just off 6th, and walked across the street for dinner at Obed & Isaac's. (My favorite brew of theirs is called Ditzy Blonde.) Then back to Christ Church to preach, confirm four adults, and preside at the Eucharist. It was fun to use the readings for Confirmation, and preach on its meaning, since we weren't celebrating a Sunday or major feast. (Apologies to St Boniface.)

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Wednesday

Wow. A day back in the office. Seemed exotic.
  • Initial processing of accumulated letters, magazines, promotional pieces, and other detritus from my absence.
  • Morning Prayer in the cathedral.
  • Substantive debriefing conversation with the Archdeacon on an emerging clergy deployment matter. (This is a happy one, which I very much look forward to being able to announce as a done deal.)
  • Wrote out notes to clergy with birthdays and wedding anniversaries in June. The spouse birthdays and ordination anniversaries will have to enjoy the wayside this time around. It's the thought that counts. So ... to all the clergy of the Diocese of Springfield with an ordination anniversary in June (and there are a bunch, which means some are probably reading this): May you experience a fresh sense of the reality and holiness of your vocation. Sing or listen to the Veni creator spiritus, and rekindle the moment in the imagination of your heart. And to the clergy spouses with birthdays: Ad multos annos.
  • Prepared a sermon in my mind for delivery tomorrow night at a special liturgy of Confirmation at Christ Church, Springfield.
  • Lunch at home Leftover Thai food.
  • Refined and printed (and stowed in my car) a working script for this Sunday's (Pentecost) sermon at the Episcopal Parish of Alton (Trinity Chapel and St Paul's Church).
  • Listed all the individual actions to which I will need to attend in preparation for the annual synod of the diocese ("convention" in most other dioceses) in October. Assigned a date to each. Viewed in aggregate, it seems daunting. That's why I break it up into bite-size chunks. Also plunged into making decisions, prompted by an email from the priest of the host parish.
  • Responded to a small stack of emails.
  • Took care of some routine turn-of-the-month personal organization hygiene.
  • Took the time to read an online article that one of our priests had sent me a link to a couple of months ago. The wheels often grind slowly, but they do grind.
  • Evening Prayer in the cathedral.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Tuesday (Martyrs of Uganda)

We concluded our Province V bishops meeting at 11am, having talked about subjects ranging from diaconal ministry to confirmation to anti-racism training to the General Ordination Exams to the September HOB meeting in Taiwan. Via a combination of taxi, CTA Blue and Green and Red lines, and my own two feet, I made in to Northwestern Memorial Hospital in time for my 1pm appointment for a one-year post-op follow-up visit--not for my benefit, strictly speaking, but for the benefit of the clinical trial that I agreed to participate it. After letting them draw blood and enduring an echo-cardiogram (those things are *so* not fun), I was released at 3, which allowed me time to walk all the way to Union Station (from the vicinity of Ohio and Michigan Avenues), stopping for lunch along the way at an Elephant & Castle. I boarded the 5:15pm southbound Lincoln Service train, which departed on time, but managed to arrive in Springfield right a 9:00, about 21 minutes late.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Monday (Martyrs of Lyons)

Up and out a couple of hours early, aiming for the 6:32 northbound Amtrak departure from Springfield (which didn't actually leave until almost 7:00). The Lincoln Service is pretty much wi-fi enabled these days, so, with my Macbook, I was able to be fairly productive, which has the added advantage of making the travel time seem to pass quickly. Arriving at Union Station in Chicago about 10:30, I hiked the eight blocks or so to the CTA Blue Line station on Dearborn near Jackson Blvd. and rode the train out to Rosemont, whereupon, in deference to the threatening weather, I grabbed a taxi for the final jaunt to the Sheraton on Manheim Road. Beginning with lunch, the bishops of Province V (most of us, at any rate) came together, as is our wont a couple of times a year, for loosely-structured conversation over a 24-hour period. We discussed the Title IV disciplinary canons (which nobody seems to like), the way business comes before the committees of General Convention, confirmation practices (most bishops would like to have regional confirmation services, while most clergy and laity would like them in parishes on Sunday morning), and other things. We'll pick it up again tomorrow morning.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Seventh Sunday of Easter

Today's visit was to St John's, Albion, where the congregation worships in a building constructed in 1842 and is the oldest Episcopal church building in Illinois in continuous use. The parish (and, to some extent, the town) was founded in 1838 by the Revd Benjamin Hutchins, who continued to serve until his death in the 1890s. The celtic cross pictured below marks his grave. To the right, the smaller headstones mark the graves of eight of his children, who perished of an unknown malady within a month of each other. (He and his wife had but one offspring survive into adulthood.) Sometimes I feel as though as stand on the shoulders of giants (Bishop Philander Chase braved harsh conditions in old age to travel to Albion for the consecration of St John's). As I walked out of the cemetery, I invoked Fr Hutchins' prayers for the heirs of his ministry. Today, the congregation of St John's is quite small, coming from all the surrounding communities except Albion itself, but they are fine people, keen on being faithful disciples of Jesus. 



Sermon for Easter VII

St John's, Albion--John 17:1-11

If you pay even a modest amount of attention to the life of the Diocese of Springfield—perhaps through the quarterly newsletter, the Current, or the website, or the Facebook page—you will be aware of the emphasis we are placing on faithful Christian discipleship. We have embraced the notion that every baptized Christian is called to be a disciple—a follower—of Jesus Christ. We have identified seven marks by which discipleship naturally expresses itself in the lives of baptized Christians. If you’d like, I can talk about those seven marks during coffee hour; just give me the thumbs up!

Of course, embracing discipleship means that we have embraced a high standard of fidelity and ethical living. It’s not easy to live up to such a standard. We are constantly aware of our failure to do so, and it can become discouraging. We have a sense that God is watching, ever hopeful, and is perpetually disappointed with our efforts. Our default assumption as to God’s opinion of us is that we are a community that is never able to live up to God’s expectations.

The applies at all levels, beginning at the level of the nuclear family. There isn’t one of us who hasn’t been touched in some way by a failed marriage, even if we haven’t personally gone through the trauma of divorce. There isn’t one of us who hasn’t been touched by a breakdown in parent-child relationships. In our domestic lives, we have failed to be faithful disciples. We have fallen short of the calling of our marriage vows and our responsibilities as parents and grown children, and we are aware of having thereby grieved the heart of God.

Failure in discipleship also applies and the level of the parish, the local church congregation. I’ve been an active participant in eight different local church communities during my life, with the diocese of Springfield now being the ninth. Never have I encountered one that has not been seriously affected by chronic anxiety and almost constant conflict of one degree or another. It hasn’t often been open warfare, thank God, but it’s been all too apparent that churches are definitely hospitals for sinners and not country clubs for saints.

And need I even mention the distress that the Episcopal Church nationally, along with the worldwide Anglican Communion, has been going through in recent years? Whenever Anglicanism makes the news I want to stop up my ears. Yet, we certainly don’t have a monopoly on this sort of thing among Christian bodies; we are hardly unique in this regard. But we are nonetheless vulnerable to a downward spiral of discouragement and self-contempt. As regards our personal failures, the language of the traditional form of the General Confession—“the remembrance of [our sins] is grievous unto us, the burden of them is intolerable”—as regards our personal failures, this language might strike us at times as a little over the top. But as regards our collective failures as a church, it strikes me as right on the mark.

You’re no doubt familiar with the old saying that a preacher’s job is to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. I can tell you from experience that afflicting the comfortable is a tricky maneuver to get just right and not have it backfire, for obvious reasons. But I have to say, comforting the afflicted is sometimes even harder, because, all too often, people seem to have a strange loyalty to their affliction. People will defend their abject unworthiness, their status as worms in the sight of God, with a surprising degree of passion. When I was in seminary, we had a retreat conductor who posed a question—indeed, gave us an assignment—that he knew would be difficult for us. I found it a lucid moment, and I have asked the same question of others many times in the course of my ministry. The question is this, What is it that God wants to thank you for? What is it about you—the way you are, things that you’ve done—that would motivate God to want to express gratitude to you? This is a hard question precisely because it calls us to lay aside our obsession with our own unworthiness, our pervasive sense of having cosmically let God down, and calls us to live more intentionally and more fully into our baptismal identity as the community of those who have been buried and raised with Christ and become adopted sons and daughters of the most high God and heirs of the kingdom of Heaven.

Today we have before us a quite extraordinary passage from St John’s gospel. In “literal time” it narrates an event that took place as part of the Last Supper, the night before Jesus was betrayed. In “liturgical time,” we read it three days after the feast of the Ascension, which celebrates Jesus’ return—bearing our human nature with him—to the “right hand of God,” there to ever make intercession for us as our great High Priest. So this passage is part of what is known as the “high priestly prayer” of our Lord. And in this prayer, we are assured that we are a community for whom Jesus prays. Now let that sink in for a moment, because it really is a quite astonishing thought. We are a people for whom Jesus prays. Jesus our High Priest holds us up before the Father and intercedes on our behalf.

The NCAA basketball tournament, “March Madness,” is still a relatively fresh memory, so imagine, if you will, a college basketball coach in a very successful program. This coach has a record of being very demanding of his players. He works them hard, and holds them to the highest standards of dedication and performance. It often feels to the players like he doles out praise only very sparingly, and they have a constant sense of not being able to live up to the expectations to which their coach calls them. They realize that they disappoint him regularly. Yet, this coach is constantly working on their behalf, constantly interceding for them with the Athletic Director, with the college president, with the alumni. He works hard to ensure that they have the highest possible quality practice and training facilities, that the players who are struggling academically get the tutorial help they need, that they travel in a reasonable degree of safety and comfort—in short, that they have all the support they need to be able to focus on playing team basketball to the best of their ability—indeed, beyond what they believed was their ability—without being distracted by other concerns.

My beloved, for us, Jesus is this coach! He calls us to high standards of discipleship, standards that we regularly and frequently fail to meet. Yet, he is in our corner, constantly interceding on our behalf that we have all the support we need to live out our vocations as faithful Christian disciples. We are those for whom Jesus prays.
This applies at the level of the nuclear family: Jesus prays to the Father for your family to be healthy and happy and to grow in love, because this glorifies him and the Father. It applies at the level of the parish: Jesus prays to the Father for St John’s to succeed in its mission and vision and goals; he wants you to grow and prosper and be happy and healthy, because this glorifies him and the Father. It applies at the level of the diocese: Jesus prays to the Father for the witness and vitality of the Diocese of Springfield, because this brings glory to himself and to the Father. It applies at the level of the province: Jesus prays for the Episcopal Church and the Anglican communion, and for all churches everywhere, that we be faithful to the gospel in every respect, because this brings glory to himself and to the Father.

This realization that Jesus is our 24/7/365 intercessor enables us to change our perception of who we are, and what we expect for ourselves, and how we live together.  We are called to faithfulness in all things. There is no relaxation of the expectations or standards of discipleship. They are demanding. But the burden is not all on us! We have support. We have the resources we need to fulfill our mission—individually and corporately. Jesus is praying for us! Alleluia and Amen.