Sunday, February 28, 2016

Third Sunday in Lent

Up and on the road (solo) at 7am, enough time to make the regular 8:45am Eucharist at St Bartholomew's, Granite City--but not enough time to have technological navigational difficulties and still arrive with time to spare. So I arrived, but not with time to spare. It ended well, however, and it was a joyful visit with a small but spiritually vibrant Eucharistic Community. Back home right at noon. Took advantage of the spring-like weather and enjoyed a long walk with Brenda.

Sermon for Lent III

St Bartholomew's, Granite City--Luke 13:1-9, I Corinthians 10:1-13

For most of my adult life, I have been an avid student of human motivation.  What makes people do the things they do?  It's quite an industry.  People have gotten rich writing books about it, and some have gotten even richer giving seminars and providing consulting services.  But no matter how sophisticated it all gets, it's hard to top an old expression that comes, presumably, from those who have tried to train rabbits.  There are basically only two motivational tools: the carrot and the stick.  You can motivate people positively, by holding out something desirable and attractive in front of them, or you can motivate people negatively, by creating fear of pain or other unpleasantness.  The carrot …   and the stick.

Jesus, arguably among the top “motivational speakers” of all time, was not above using both of these tried and true techniques. One of his great concerns during the days he walked this earth was to lead his followers to something called “repentance.” I’m not talking about just feeling sorry for some wrong that you’ve done. Repentance is much more profound than that. Repentance is conversion: conversion of mind, conversion of heart, conversion of will, conversion of action. It is deep personal change, from top to bottom, stem to stern. Repentance is a major overhaul, and a follower of Jesus, a “Christian,” is called to be in a continuous state of repentance. One day, the headline on the Jerusalem Post read: “Eighteen die as tower collapses,” and Jesus saw an opportunity to do some more motivational speaking about repentance, and he decides, in this case, to use a stick rather than a carrot. “Take those eighteen people who got killed in a construction accident,” Jesus says to his followers. “Do you suppose they deserved it?  Do you suppose they were any more sinful than everyone else who didn't die there?”  Now that may sound like a no-brainer to us, but to the Jewish way of thinking at that time, it was a good question.  They were used to thinking in terms of specific disasters being a punishment for specific sins. But before they can get a word in, Jesus gives them the answer, and the answer is “No.”  The survivors are just as guilty, just as sinful, as the victims. It isn't that the victims got what they deserved, but that the survivors did not get what they deserved. The survivors have another opportunity for repentance, another opportunity to escape the very undesirable fate of dying suddenly and unprepared.

Jesus apparently felt the need to jolt some of his followers out of a false sense of complacency. They felt they had no need for repentance. St Paul, another great motivational speaker, had a similar concern for the Christians in Corinth, and we hear today an excerpt from a letter expressing his concern. He reminds them of the children of Israel, who had experienced the grace of deliverance from slavery, and who were blessed with the Old Testament equivalents of the sacraments of baptism and the eucharist.  Yet most of them fell away from God, and suffered very unfortunate consequences. Christians may rest absolutely secure in the love of God, and in the sufficiency of the grace available in Christ.  But we cannot give up repentance until that work of salvation is brought to completion, until we have been fully made over into the image and likeness of Christ. As long as we have free wills, and as long as those free wills are tainted by sin, there is the possibility of falling away. Spiritual complacency is a hazard to our souls. 

It’s not much of a secret that I am a virtually lifelong fan of the Chicago Cubs.  I've even integrated my attachment to the Cubs into my theology. For instance, why was there an earthquake in San Francisco in 1989, during the World Series? It's because the Cubs, and not the Giants, were supposed to be in the series against the Oakland Athletics! 1989 was a painful year for Cubs fans. Of course, so were 1984 and 2003 and 2006 and 2007. But all of these wounds are trivial in comparison with the continuing open sore of 1969.  1969 happened to be the year that I graduated from high school and started college. At the beginning of September, when I boarded a plane in Chicago, bound for college in Santa Barbara, the Cubs enjoyed an eight game lead in the Eastern Division of the National League. Eight games, by most standards, is a comfortable lead for the first of September, virtually a done deal. But if you research the statistics, you will find no mention of the Chicago Cubs in the playoffs or World Series of 1969. Did they become too complacent? Did they depend on their eight game lead to save them, rather than their continual “repentance,” continual turning away from distractions and toward the race that is being run?  I don't know, but the possibility certainly makes a good illustration of the need to guard against falling asleep spiritually. The consequences are horrendous. The consequences of spiritual complacency are not only that we are exposed to sudden and unprepared death from falling masonry. Spiritual complacency also exposes us to facing a number of hazards suddenly and unprepared: moral and ethical dilemmas, intellectual crises, the stress of poor health, and the crushing pain of grief.  These events don't always come with any warning, and our very souls are at risk if they catch us with our spiritual armor and weapons scattered all over the ground. And how can we ensure that we can weather these storms when they arise?  Through repentance.  Through conversion.  Through following Christ.

If the consequences of falling asleep spiritually are a motivational stick, and that stick persuades you to change your ways, then thanks be to God! But if you're the type who responds better to carrots than to sticks, well, God has one of those too. A line from our Psalm this morning expresses it beautifully: “The Lord is full of compassion and mercy; slow to anger, and of great kindness.” Jesus tells a parable about a fig grower. One of the trees in the orchard is particularly unproductive, and the grower tells his employee to cut it down and chop it up for firewood. The employee has a soft spot for that fig tree and he says, “Boss, just give me one more year with it. There are some tricks I haven't tried yet.  Maybe I can get it to grow decent figs. If not, then we can cut it down next year.”  The boss was persuaded, and that tree is us: us as individuals, St Bartholomew’s as a parish, us as the Diocese of Springfield, us as the Episcopal Church, and us as the church throughout the world. We are unproductive fig trees, and the economics of farming suggest that we should be cut down. But the Lord is full of compassion and mercy; slow to anger, and of great kindness.

From time to time I meet someone who seems genuinely aware of his own need for repentance, but remains unmotivated to make a change. What's the use?  I’m too far gone. God couldn't possibly forgive what I've done. I really need to repent, so much so that there's no way I can even think about doing it. If the 1969 Chicago Cubs are a metaphorical image for spiritual complacency, then the New York Mets of that year are an image of not surrendering to spiritual despair. On the first of September, they were the team that was eight games behind the Cubs. At that point, the temptation to, if not give up in despair, at least to slack off, is almost irresistible. But baseball fans remember 1969 as the year of the “miracle Mets,” who went on to win not only the National League pennant, but the World Series. I’m sure it was the unknowable sovereign will of God, rather than any intrinsic moral virtue on their part, that enabled the Mets to persevere. Nevertheless, they are a sign of refusing to accept the notion that it's too late to repent, that conversion is of no use when one is eight games out on the first of September. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy; slow to anger, and of great kindness. For the 1969 Mets to have given up would have been a mistake. But for a human being to give up on God's love, to give up on the chance for repentance and conversion, is a monumental blunder! To be so near the kingdom; indeed, to be actually inside the gate by means of the sacrament of baptism, and then to slip away through despair, is an unspeakable tragedy.

Have we not become a bit too casual about the fact that this parish, and every parish, has “lapsed” members? What is a “lapsed” member? If we lose an arm or a leg to accident or disease, do we call that arm or leg a lapsed member? No, we call it a horrible tragedy. A lapsed member of the church is a scandal! A lapsed member of the church is one who has turned aside from the freshest, juiciest carrot in the universe in favor of a fake carrot made of plastic and orange paint.  The Lord is full of compassion and mercy, slow to anger, and of great kindness.  Oh, let us not forget that blessed fact!

It is so difficult, sometimes, to keep our perspective. It is so easy to see only what's immediately in front of us, and to hear only what is closest to our ears, to be caught up in the conditions of the moment. A great many women, in the midst of labor pains, have made their husbands swear never to let them go through that experience again. They are, understandably, caught up in the conditions of the moment. Yet, see how many families there are with more than one child! When the pain subsides, they're able to regain perspective. The divine perspective on our lives enables us to see, first, that we all need to repent, to be continuously converting disciples of Christ; and, second, that it is never too late to repent, because the Lord is full of compassion and mercy; slow to anger, and of great kindness. God offers us abundant opportunity for repentance. That opportunity is available to us even right here and right now. What motivates you, the carrot or the stick, or perhaps a combination? Whatever it is, God has the tools, and he's ready to use them!  It is a wholesome practice to approach the altar with a specific intention for the grace that is dispensed there in Holy Communion. I invite you to form your intention as the elements are prepared during the offertory hymn. Call on Jesus the motivational speaker to move your stubborn heart and will to repentance, by whatever means are necessary. Amen.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Friday

  • Devotions in the cathedral; Morning Prayer in the office.
  • Got to work seriously planning the details of the Chrism Mass liturgy (readings, hymns, service music).
  • Registered online for an April Communion Partners event in Orlando.
  • Roughed out my Lenten teaching series presentation at Trinity, Lincoln next Thursday.
  • Hand-wrote notes to clergy and spouses with March birthdays.
  • Left the office at 11 to go home and pack for an overnight. Collected Brenda and hit the road north and east with a destination of South Bend, Indiana. We enjoyed a wonderful retirement farewell banquet for Bishop Ed Little, whom I met 21 years ago when we were both rectors in the Diocese of San Joaquin. He then became my bishop for 3+ years, and finally a colleague again, as he was one of my co-consecrators five years ago next month. Later we enjoyed drinks in the hotel bar with Bishops Russ Jacobus and Steve Miller and their wives. 

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Thursday

  • Customary Thursday morning date with the treadmill.
  • Devotions in the cathedral; Morning Prayer in the office.
  • Finished preparations for tonight's Lenten teaching series presentation at Trinity, Lincoln (a practicum on the Daily Office).
  • Continued to process some of the action items that landed on my desk in the wake of last Saturday's Commission on Ministry meeting.
  • Walked up to Illinois National Bank (much colder walking into the wind northbound than returning with the wind at my back) to arrange for a wire transfer of some funds that have been collected for our companion diocese of Tabora (Tanzania). 
  • Responded by email, with some rather concrete specifications, to one more potential database system vendor.
  • Processed some accumulated emails.
  • Lunch at home. Leftovers.
  • Said my prayers and got to work on a homily for the Chrism Mass. Serendipitously, the occasion this year coincides with the fifth anniversary of my consecration, the feast of St Joseph, so there were some interesting themes to work with. I eventually emerged with a reasonable facsimile of a rough draft.
  • Wrote a letter to the bishop of one of the Roman Catholic dioceses that includes part of the territory of the Diocese of Springfield over a development that may have some minor ecumenical implications.
  • More followup on the COM meeting.
  • Evening Prayer in the cathedral.
  • Up to Lincoln, via the Hardee's drive-thru. Back home by 8:45, having been entertained en route by the GOP debate.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

St Matthias

  • Usual weekday AM routine. Morning Prayer in the cathedral.
  • Made the necessary preparations to preside and preach at the midday Mass.
  • Needing to write a relatively brief message to one of our clergy about a policy issue, I burned an inordinate amount of time searching for a previous iteration of it. I could have rewritten the whole thing in about 10 minutes, which is what I ended up doing, since my search was unsuccessful.
  • Participated with the Administrator in another database software presentation via videoconference. We will probably do one more before we make a decision.
  • Presided and preached at the cathedral chapel Mass, keeping the major holy day of St Matthias the Apostle.
  • Lunch from McD's, eaten at home.
  • Stopped by Walgreen's en route back to the office to pick up a new prescription. Found out recently my blood is rather low in iron, which accounts for the way I've been feeling.
  • Took care of a small administrative chore in connection with my trusteeship of the Putnam Trust.
  • Under a deadline gun, wrote my customary "From the Chairman of the Board" column for the Easter edition of the Nashotah House quarterly magazine, The Missioner.
  • Responded to an email from one of the clergy about an ongoing and rather vexing administrative-pastoral issue.
  • Executed a form giving my consent to the consecration of the Bishop-Elect of Eastern Oregon.
  • Took a prayerful first pass at the readings for Easter V, in preparation for preaching on April 24 at Trinity, Yazoo City, MS (where I have a DEPO relationship).
  • Evening Prayer in the office.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Tuesday (St Polycarp)

  • Weekly task planning at home.
  • Morning Prayer in the cathedral.
  • Debriefed with the Archdeacon on a small range of administrative and pastoral concerns. 
  • Spoke by phone with a lay leader from one of our Eucharistic Communities over an issue of specific concern to him.
  • After exchanging emails with the Rector's Warden of Trinity, Jacksonville, and consulting with the Archdeacon and the Cathedral Provost, I made the decision to excuse myself from Easter morning duties at St Paul's in order to cover Trinity, which is without a priest at the moment.
  • Refined and printed a working copy of what I thought was going to be this Sunday's sermon at St Bartholomew's, Granite City. (See below for an explanation.)
  • Took a substantive phone call from the Dean of Nashotah House. It was all positive. He's doing good work.
  • Lunch from KFC, eaten at home.
  • While reviewing the bulletin draft for this Sunday at St Bartholomew's, I noticed a discrepancy between the listed gospel and the one I was planning on preaching on. Some frantic research revealed that I had actually prepared a sermon on the Fourth Sunday in Lent, a week later. No ultimately wasted effort, as I can used what I'd prepared at Trinity, Mt Vernon on March 6. But I had to scramble to find a homily for Year C, Lent III from sometime in the last millennium, do some major surgery to search and replace dated cultural references and no-longer-pertinent illustrations, then work it up into both printable/postable and "preachable" formats (there are some significant differences between the two). Like I said, no wasted effort, because the time I lost today I will gain back next week. But it was frustrating, and took me off my game.
  • Wrote my regular "From the Bishop" column for the next issue of the Springfield Current. (You can see it here.)
  • Talk a walk around the block.
  • Began to process the considerable amount of administrative detritus left in the wake of last Saturday's Commission on Ministry meeting.
  • Spoke by phone with one of our rectors over a pastoral concern.
  • Evening Prayer in the cathedral.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Second Sunday in Lent

Up and out on a three-mile commute to Christ Church, Springfield in time for their regular 8am Eucharist. Presided and preached, then had a lively 45 minute conversation in the adult Christian Education hour, after which I presided, preached, and confirmed at the 10:15 liturgy. Two of the four confirmands were the rector's twin daughters--Brigid Kildare and Bernadette Lourdes. I mention their names only because I think they are so incredibly cool. Home a little past noon, after which ... let the Bishop's sabbath begin.

Sermon for Lent II

Christ Church, Springfield--Genesis 15:12, 17-18; Philippians 3:17-4:1, Luke 13:31-35

Ten days ago, on Ash Wednesday, Christians gathered in churches all over the world and participated in a liturgy of public penitence. In many of these penitential rites, including those that took place in Episcopal churches, the congregation sang or recited the fifty-first Psalm: “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your loving-kindness; in your great compassion blot out my offenses.”  This was King David’s lament upon being held accountable by the prophet Nathan for his adultery with Bathsheba, and his arrangement of her husband's death. David continues, "For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me." 

My sin is ever before me. 

For most of us, most of the time, our sins are ever before us. And not only our sins, but all of our inadequacies and fears, those that we are responsible for and those that we are victims of. We call ourselves “persons.”  The word "person" is derived, ultimately, from the ancient Greek word for mask. It referred to the mask that actors wore during dramatic productions. So, we are all persons, we all have our masks that enable us to function in the day-to-day world without being hopelessly crippled by the fact that our sins are ever before us. 

We put up, more or less, good façades for others (who are also putting up façades for us), but we rarely fool ourselves. Nor, we presume, do we ever fool God. We know that God sees past our façades, and sees what we see, and that's the problem, that's the root of a good deal of human spiritual anxiety. We assume that if God sees what we see, then he's just as disappointed, just as disgusted, with us as we are with ourselves. We picture God as a determined and ambitious district attorney who's prosecuting the trial of his career and is going to try and get the judge to hand down the maximum possible sentence. Only in this trial, the prosecutor is the judge, so we're really in trouble! And since our sins are ever before us, and we think they're also ever before God and we know if that's the case he is not at all amused or happy about what he sees, we're willing to accept a plea bargain. I mean, why fight it? We're willing to settle for second or third or fourth best for ourselves in a whole bunch of ways. When it comes to spiritual or moral or religious experience, we figure the expression “beggars can't be choosers” was tailor-made just for us. 

Do you remember The Beverly Hillbillies, the TV show from the 60s? They were poor backwoods subsistence farmers who struck oil on their land and “loaded up the truck and moved to Beverly ... Hills, that is...”  They were fabulously wealthy and lived in a huge mansion, but they always thought of themselves as subsistence farmers living in the backwoods.  They drove around in a flatbed truck and Granny washed everyone's clothes in lye soap in a wooden tub. They settled for an impoverished material experience when the top-of-the-line was theirs for the taking. Their inability to grasp the implications of their newfound wealth was the whole comic point of the show—that's what made it, supposedly, funny.

But you and I are not too unlike the Beverly Hillbillies. We don't see the implications of the spiritual wealth that God has showered upon us, so we settle for less, much less, than the best, much less than we can “afford.” Very often we mask — here we are being persons again! — very often we mask our acceptance of second-rate spiritual experience by claiming to just not be very “religious,” or saying that we don't need formal structures like creeds or liturgies or Bible study or prayer. But when we say that we're “just not very religious” or that we can find God just as easily out in the woods or on the golf course as we can in church, we're just making a virtue out of perceived necessity. Not real necessity, mind you, but perceived necessity. We don't believe we really have a choice in the matter. Beggars can't be choosers. 

My friends, our God is too small! God is not too small, but the God we envision is too small. And because the God we envision is too small, God's love for us is too small. Or so we perceive. But the real love that the real God has for us is wastefully lavish, it's never-ending, and it's rock-solid. If our perception of God's love is like raindrops in a puddle, then God's real love is like thirty-foot waves crashing on the rocks. If our perception of God's love is like a battery-operated toy train, then God's real love is like a diesel locomotive bearing down at full throttle. If our perception of God's love is like a housecat, then God's real love is like a roaring lion. True enough, God sees everything we see. Our “persons,” our masks, don't fool him. But he also sees much more than we see. God overlooks our sins—not in the sense of not seeing them, or pretending that they don't matter, but in the sense of seeing beyond them. God sees past the sins and fears and inadequacies that are “ever before us.” He knows that his love is bigger than they are, and that his love and not our sins is the last word in the conversation, the final act in the drama. 

The distilled essence of the good news for today is this: God wants the best for us. God wanted the best for Abraham, the wandering and prosperous sheep and cattle and camel herder whom God had called away from his native land, and away from his native people, down to the land of Canaan, for the purpose of making him the father of a great nation. Well, Abraham was getting quite old and he still didn't have a legitimate heir. It looked like he was going to have to adopt one of his own servants as his son in order to perpetuate his name. He wasn't complaining at all. He was willing to die and be buried in a modest cave and have his wealth pass to his adopted heir. Life had been good to him, and, in this matter, he was willing to settle for second best. Like the Beverly Hillbillies. Like you and me. 

But God had other plans, and he took Abraham and said, "Look here, Abraham, I appreciate the faith you've had in me. I appreciate your willingness to leave your country and your people behind and come down here to this strange place. I know you're an old man, but I am going to reward you for your faithfulness in the way that I originally promised. I am going to make of your descendants a great nation that will inhabit the whole expanse of this land, all the way from the river of Egypt to the Euphrates." If you look on a map, that's a big bunch of real estate! God was saying to Abraham, “You've got to raise your sights. You're thinking too small. You're too willing to settle for too much less than I want to give you! I've got more love for you than you're ready to receive.”

I've got more love for you than you're ready to receive. This is essentially the same thing Jesus was saying when he thought of Jerusalem, the holy city of his people that he knew would be the place of his suffering and death: “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, killing the prophets and stoning those who are sent to you! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not! Behold, your house is forsaken." Jesus oozed with love for Jerusalem, whose people God had loved with more love than they had ever been willing to accept. He knew that their habit of killing the prophets and stoning God's messengers was their way of saying “I'm just not very religious.” It was their way of settling for second-best, for less than what God wanted to give them, because they didn't think they had a choice. Their sin was ever before them, and they saw themselves as beggars who couldn't afford to be choosy. 

The theologian and scholar of the last century, Louis Bouyer, said, “It is love itself, by its very presence, that pronounces judgment.” Which is to say, the only unpardonable sin, the only sin that God cannot overlook, cannot see beyond, is our refusal to accept his love. 

So we have the opportunity, this Lent, to bring our vision for ourselves in line with God's vision for us. We have the opportunity to raise our sights along with Abraham and begin to survey the utter expansiveness of what God wants to share with us. It won't do to remain “spiritual Beverly Hillbillies,” settling for second-best because we don't think we have a choice. We're not beggars! We're adopted daughters and sons of the Most High God and brothers and sisters of Jesus, the one who on the cross bridged the gap between God's love and our sins. All that is his is ours. We're rich! It's time for us to start thinking and acting accordingly. 

Let the words of St Paul ring in our ears until we can't ever forget them: “Our commonwealth is in Heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will change our lowly body to be like his glorious body by the power which enables him even to subject all things to himself. Therefore, my brethren, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved."  Amen.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Friday

  • Morning Prayer in the cathedral.
  • Tweaked, refined, and printed working notes for my sermon this Sunday, at Christ Church, Springfield.
  • Laid down the broad rough strokes of next week's Lenten teaching series presentation at Trinity, Lincoln.
  • Performed necessary surgery on some sermon material for Lent III used in a prior yet, in preparation for preaching at St Bartholomew's, Granite City on the 27th.
  • Kept an 11am appointment with my primary care physician, following up on "Drama in Danville" the Sunday before last.
  • Lunch from Qdoba, eaten at home.
  • Packed for an overnight and processed a few emails.
  • Hit the road northbound with Brenda just past 2:30, headed for a 6pm dinner engagement with one of our postulants and his family in the inner ring Chicago suburb of Riverside (actually, just a few feet from an apartment where I lived for a year nearly 60 years ago. I still have some rather vivid memories of that place.
  • Bedded down in Schaumburg, ahead of tomorrow afternoon's celebration of my mother's 90th birthday.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Thursday

  • Some email processing and task planning at home; Morning Prayer in the cathedral.
  • Responded to a Nashotah-related email.
  • Last minute prep for the main work of the day: Intensive time of theoretical and practical formation in pastoral liturgy for two of our ordinands. This went roughly from 9:30-3:30, at St Luke's, with lunch across the street at Clay's Popeye's BBQ.
  • Back to the office for about 30 minutes to get on top of the ever-accumulating emails.
  • Home in time to take a scheduled phone call from a priest outside the diocese seeking pastoral counsel. Yes, this does happen from time to time.
  • Brief period of rest before heading out the door northward to Trinity, Lincoln for my second Lenten teaching series engagement. Tonight's topic was corporate prayer. Home around 9:00, a full very full day.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Wednesday (Janani Luwum)

My main obligations of the day were simple, and they allowed for a leisurely morning, which was a good thing, given that hour that I had arrived at the Hampton Inn Times Square. So I prayed the morning office in my room and otherwise pulled myself together to be on the street by 10:30. Walked eastward several long crosstown blocks (about 25 minutes) to a taco joint call Tres Carnes at 817 Second Avenue. There I met my colleague from North Dakota, Michael Smith. We were supposed to be joined by Greg Brewer of Central Florida, but he got caught in traffic until about 11:40. By that time, and according to plan, my daughter Sarah, who lives and works in New York, arrived, and she and I had lunch together. Bishops Smith and Brewer retired next door to the Episcopal Church Center for a 12:15 Eucharist. After lunch with Sarah, I joined them for our 1pm meeting with Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, the purpose of the trip. We were representing the Communion Partners group of bishops (and associated rectors). It was, in my estimation, an excellent meeting that lays the groundwork for some good things in the future. Around 2:30, I hailed a cab and rode back to La Guardia. There was a little time to kill, since my flight wasn't until 5:00, but everything went smoothly. A two hour layover at O'Hare afforded time for some dinner, and I was home just past 10:00.

Tuesday (Martyrs of Libya)

  • Morning Prayer in the cathedral.
  • Devoted the bulk of the morning to reworking and repurposing some homiletical material from a prior year for use as a sermon this Sunday at Christ Church, Springfield.
  • Reviewed and responded to a short stack of emails.
  • Passed on to a chair of the Commission on Ministry some materials related to their meeting this Saturday.
  • Lunch from China 1, eaten at home.
  • Did some last minute prep for a conference call of the Nashotah House Board of Directors.
  • Presided over said conference call, which last around 90 minutes.
  • Dashed home, packed quickly for an overnight trip, and headed to Abraham Lincoln Capital Airport.
  • Caught the 5:20 departure for Chicago O'Hare, then the 7:20 departure for New York La Guardia, only it didn't actually leave  until 8:50 ... which meant we didn't touch town in NYC until 12:15am and I didn't get to my midtown west hotel until after 1:00.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

First Sunday in Lent

Knowing that it was predicted to snow during the night, I set my alarm for 0-dark-thirty. Happily, there was only about half an inch of snow on the driveway, and it was more efficiently handled by the push broom than by firing up the snow blower. We were showered, dressed, and wheels on the road by 6:20am, however, en route to the 7:30 early liturgy at St John's, Decatur. I-72 felt like a private road at that hour, with one lane nicely cleared the whole way there. We duly "beat down Satan under our feet" via the Great Litany opening both services, with some adult class time in between. At the principal Mass we confirmed a young wife and mother of two adorable children. St John's is a happy place under the fine pastoral leadership of Fr Dick Swan. Since snow began to fall again before 10 o'clock, getting home was more of a challenge. It took a little longer than usual, but we accomplished without incident.

Sermon for Lent I

St John's, Decatur--Deuteronomy 6:5-11, Romans 10:8b-13, Luke 4:1-13

When I was in school, and studied world geography, I learned that there was a country in eastern Europe—north of Greece and across the Adriatic Sea from Italy—called Yugoslavia. It was communist, and ruled by a dictator named Tito, and that was about all we needed to know. In 1984, Yugoslavia hosted the winter Olympics in the city of Sarajevo. There was the usual skiing and skating and sledding, and not much mention of politics. A decade later, Sarajevo was literally a war zone, virtually in shambles, as was the supposed “nation” of Yugoslavia. In its place were new countries we never learned about in school—Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia, Montenegro, Macedonia, and Bosnia-Herzegovina. And inside Bosnia, as we later learned in a terrible way, is the region of Kosovo, with its own claim to distinctive identity. It’s as if a strong wind blew through Europe and swept away the façade of Yugoslavia, and exposed the underlying reality of, not one nation, but several nations, stitched together in a rather crude and artificial manner.

What we have learned is the difference between a state—which is a political entity—and a nation, which is rooted in blood. A nation, at its heart, is a distinctive people, a tribe, a clan, an ethnicity, with a common culture, a common language, and, most significantly, a common story, a shared history. If we learned anything in the final decade of the twentieth century, and in the first decade of the twenty-first, it was that the power of ethnicity cannot be taken lightly. Not only in Yugoslavia, but all across the world—the former Soviet Union, Northern Ireland, Palestine, Sudan, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Rwanda, South Africa, Iraq, the Mexican state of Chiapas, and in other places too numerous to mention—ethnicity is at the heart of people’s sense of identity and at the forefront of their consciousness, and, sadly, at the root of civil strife and terrorism and incalculable suffering. Ethnicity is a volatile force, and it will be a long time, I suspect, before anyone can put that particular genie back into its bottle.

The ancient Hebrew people, whose descendants are now more familiarly known as Jews, knew a great deal about the power of ethnicity. The evolution of their national consciousness, their self-identity as a people, took place in a matrix of divine call and human response, rebellion and disobedience, faithfulness and forgiveness, distress and deliverance. Across the generations, these experiences of interaction between the Lord and His people coalesced into a coherent narrative, a compelling story, in which the Israelites could see not only their ancestors, but themselves, and one another. In the twenty-sixth chapter of the book of Deuteronomy, we find this story in a nutshell: 
A wandering Aramean was my father; and he went down into Egypt and sojourned there, few in number; and there he became a nation, great, mighty, and populous.  And the Egyptians treated us harshly, and afflicted us, and laid upon us hard bondage. Then we cried to the LORD the God of our fathers, and the LORD heard our voice, and saw our affliction, our toil, and our oppression; and the LORD brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, with great terror, with signs and wonders; and he brought us into this place and gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey.
This declaration is so compact and concise, it summarizes so much history, that is has the character not so much of a story, but of a creed. It is a veritable Israelite confession of faith. But it is not an abstract or propositional creed. It is not about a static or conceptual God. It confesses and bears witness to a dynamic God, a God-in-motion, a God who acts, a God who is constantly bringing His “chosen people” into existence.

This is the very image that St Peter picks up in his first epistle, but, by extension, applies it, not to the Jewish nation, but to the Church: “You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people . . .” Those of us who are not related by affinity of blood, but affinity of water—that is, the water of baptism—we constitute a tribe, a clan, a nation, an ethnicity. As the Christian “nation”—and please don’t misunderstand me; I’m not talking about America or any other political entity that may ever have considered itself a Christian nation, I’m talking about the Church, scattered throughout the world, in every land, as the Christian nation—we have our culture, our language, our common story and shared history.

On the surface, our creeds may appear more abstract and propositional than the one which begins “A wandering Aramean was my father...”, but they are, in fact, not mere collections of propositions requiring our intellectual assent. They are our story. They make us, they constitute us as the people of God. The creed we are most familiar with is the one which we proclaim during the celebration of the Eucharist on Sundays and holy days, the Nicene Creed. Do you know the story that lies behind the Nicene Creed? In the early years of the fourth century—we’re talking 1,700 years ago—just after the persecutions ended and Christianity became legal in the Roman Empire, an Egyptian priest named Arius began to publish and preach to the effect that the divine being known as the Logos, or the Son of God, and who became incarnate and took human flesh in the person of Jesus, this Logos was not actually equal with God, but was himself created by God before the beginning of time. Another Egyptian cleric by the name of Athanasius, who was at that time a deacon, but later became bishop of the important diocese of Alexandria—Athanasius took great exception to the views of Arius. He responded that if Jesus is not fully God, sharing utterly and completely in the essential nature of God, equal with God in every way, then he cannot be our savior, because he does not bridge the gap between God and Man. A great controversy arose between Arius and his followers and Athanasius and his followers, and it spread throughout the church. The Emperor Constantine, who was himself a Christian, was disturbed by the controversy, and wanted it settled, so he summoned all the bishops to the Mediterranean port city of Nicaea for a solemn council in the year 325. The bishops met, and argued for weeks on end, but the consensus of opinion finally swung in the direction of Athanasius. The views of Arius were repudiated as heresy, and a document was issued which is the basis for what we know as the Nicene Creed. Every Sunday, phrases like “God from God, light from light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, of one being with the Father,” roll off our lips, and we tend to take them for granted. But in that they assert the full divinity of Christ, and were chosen not in the cool ambience of academia, or in a casual committee meeting, splitting the difference between opposing positions, but, rather, in the heat of prayerful and passionate debate, for which was spilt tears and sweat and, one might suspect, blood, these words of the creed are as much story as they are theology. They bear within themselves the weight of our heritage, they are a narrative shorthand for our history as the “Christian nation,” the Christian ethnicity. The more familiar we are with that story, the more emotional we will be about the Creed!

Of course, the kernel, the nugget, of our story is simply this: Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again. This is the essential Christian confession of faith, the “no frills” form of the creed. The Jew begins his or her story with the words, “A wandering Aramean was my father.” The Christian begins his or her story with “Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.” Or, as St Paul tells us in the tenth chapter of his epistle to the Romans: “...if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”

And wrapped up in that kernel, wrapped up in that nugget, is Jesus’s own essential confession of faith. Near the beginning of our forty days of Lent each year, we recall our Lord’s own forty-day visit to the Judean desert. At the end of that time, he was tempted by Satan—tempted to put his trust elsewhere than in his unity with the Father, tempted to worship as God one who was not worthy of such worship, tempted to abandon his mission for the purpose of gratifying his own ego. In the face of each temptation, Jesus confessed and bore witness to his relationship with the Father. This confession formed Jesus in his commitment to the ministry which he was on the brink of commencing. And his confession forms us in our “national values” as the Christian ethnicity: We are to worship God and God alone. Anything that distracts us from that purpose is the devil’s temptation.

This, then, is our invitation for Lent in this Year of our Lord, 2016: We are to claim our story, we are to own our history, we are to rejoice in our “ethnic” heritage—not so we can lord it over others, not so we can demand our rights, not so we can be an influence for division, but so we can be a beacon of light and hope, so we can spread the good news that, as we are formed into the people of God, a people constituted in the baptismal font and regularly reconstituted in the liturgy of the Eucharist, we transcend the barriers of race and class and ethnicity that are so much a part of the human tragedy that we witness day by day. Jesus is the world’s hope, and we are the medium of that hope. Amen.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Saturday (Absalom Jones)

Out of the house just past 9:00, headed for the cathedral/office complex. Took care of preparations for the Diocesan Council liturgy. At 10:00, presided and preached in observance of the lesser feast of Absalom Jones (first African-American priest of the Episcopal Church). Gaveled the regular February council meeting to order about an hour later. It was a lively meeting (at which we tweaked the 2016 budget approved by Synod last October, a regular anomaly necessitated by the fact that we operate in "real time" with respect to financial contributions to the diocese from the Eucharistic Communities). We finish somewhere in the neighborhood of 12:15. I then had a private meeting on a pastoral-administrative matter with a lay leader from one of our ECs. Then I met with a quorum of the Constitution & Canons working group, laying out the broad strokes of my hopes for canonical revisions that we will present to the Synod in October. It was, I think, a very productive time. Then ... I met with another lay leader over yet another administrative-pastoral concern. By the time I got in my car, it was nearly 3:00pm. A taxing day for an introvert!

Friday, February 12, 2016

Friday

  • Task planning and some email processing at home.
  • Substantive 25-minute phone conversation with the Dean of Nashotah House, in advance of a Board of Directors conference call next week.
  • Morning Prayer in the cathedral.
  • Did the first stage "rough" planning of my second Lenten teaching series presentation at Trinity, Lincoln next week. Talking about the nature and importance of corporate worship.
  • Prepared and electronically distributed a proposed agenda for the Nashotah Board of Directors meeting.
  • Lunch at home. Brenda's homemade chicken rice soup. Mmmm good.
  • Attended to a pastoral matter with one of our clergy.
  • Friday prayer: Lectio divina on the OT daily office reading for tomorrow, from Ezekiel. Fruitful.
  • I've been suffering from an allergic reaction on my chest and abdomen to the gel used in an echocardiogram procedure on Monday. Having despaired of what I've been doing to self-treat, I went to the walk-in clinic, obtained lots of sympathy, but, more importantly, a prescription for  a steroid cream. I hope this kicks it.
  • All of that took me until past 4pm, so I just went home and called it a day. 

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Thursday (Our Lady of Lourdes)

  • Customary Thursday weights and treadmill workout.
  • Morning Prayer at home.
  • Joined a meeting of the Finance Committee at 10:00 for about 90 minutes. This was in preparation for Saturday's meeting of the Diocesan Council.
  • Processed some accumulated emails.
  • Lunch from McD's, eaten at home.
  • Spoke by phone with one of our communications wonks about getting us off the company we're using to host our website and email, and on to something friendlier.
  • Invested a considerable amount of time, including some consultation with the Archdeacon, brainstorming in preparation for a meeting that's been set up for his Saturday with most of the members of the Constitution and Canons Task Force. We want canons that are simple, elegant, and organically accountable to our mission, not beholden to past patterns of behavior.
  • Left the office at 4. Went home and spent some time with the french horn, relaxed a bit, read Evening Prayer, and ate dinner. Departed at 5:45 for points north, arriving at Trinity, Lincoln at 6:30 for the first installment of our Lenten teaching series on prayer. It went very well. Home around 8:45.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Ash Wednesday

  • Morning Prayer in the cathedral. (Glad not to have to travel any further north on Second Street, since it was already blocked off in anticipation of POTUS's appearance before the legislature.
  • Sat down, prayerfully focuses, and pulled thoughts together by way of preparing to preach tonight at Holy Trinity, Danville.
  • Took a call from my cardiologist's office letting me know that my stress test on Monday came out within the range of normal. Comforting, yes. But the mystery of my symptoms remains.
  • Completed an online survey of bishops at the request of Episcopal Relief & Development.
  • Responded to a consent request from the Diocese of Los Angeles for the election of a Bishop Coadjutor. I consented.
  • Wrote a substantive email to Bishop Alejandro Meco of the proto-Diocese of Arequipa, Peru.  I did this in Spanish, so it was a time-consuming task. (Yes, I used some online assistance, but you have to be careful with those tools, or you can end up sounding pretty silly.)
  • Scanned and otherwise disposed of accumulated hardcopy in my physical inbox.
  • Left for home around 12:15. Rested and read (a novel) for a while.
  • Wrote a note of encouragement to a lay person in the diocese who faces the same sort of surgery I went through three years ago.
  • Read an academic submission from a person involved in the ordination process.
  • Began to revise and extend the draft policy statement on diaconal ministry in light of discussions held at the clergy retreat last week.
  • Broke my Ash Wednesday fast for a bowl of chicken soup.
  • Spent some routine time with my french horn.
  • Gathered the items I needed to have with me in Danville, and headed that direction around 4:30, Brenda at my side.
  • Presided at the proper liturgy of the day at Holy Trinity. Out of an abundance of caution, preached while seated.
  • Back home going in the neighborhood of 10:30.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Shrove Tuesday

  • En route to a routine weekday morning (after spending a brief while doing snow removal from my driveway), but then got to the office and discovered I'd left my keys at home. No one else there yet, so had to go back. As a result ... Morning Prayer while driving.
  • Consulted with the Treasurer over an administrative/financial matter.
  • Reviewed the draft service bulletin for this Sunday at St John's, Decatur, the site of my visitation.
  • Reviewed, tweaked, refined, and printed a working script for this Sunday's homily.
  • Conferred briefly with the cathedral Provost in his office.
  • Processed a half-dozen or so emails that had stacked up, each one requiring only a brief response.
  • Lunch from Taco Gringo, eaten at home.
  • Prepped a bit for a scheduled 2pm conference call.
  • Participated in said call, along with Administrator Sue Spring. This was the second of three interviews for database software vendors.
  • Registered for an April continuing education event with my Class of 2011 bishop colleagues. (Last year we went to Cuba. This year it's quite a bit more prosaic--Kansas City!).
  • Wrote out some notes to clergy and spouses with birthdays and anniversaries this month. One way to cut down on the number of these is to wait until the month is one-third gone. So ... apologies to clergy and spouses with nodal events in early February.
  • Did final prep and otherwise got all my ducks in a row for Thursday's Lenten teaching series in Lincoln.
  • Evening Prayer in the cathedral.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Last Sunday after Epiphany

Drama in Danville (morbidly appropriate, I guess): As I got about halfway into my sermon, the complex of cardiac-like symptoms that turn out not to be what they seem, which has dogged me since my valve replacement surgery three years ago, kicked it up a notch, and I wondered whether I would be able to finish the homily. I did, but I sat for the Creed and the Prayers, and then told the good people of Holy Trinity that I thought it best to seek medical attention. After an ambulance ride and some time in the ER, I was released with a diagnosis of anemia. So now we have to chase that down. Happily, I'll get another chance to complete a Eucharist in Danville on Wednesday. I drove home without incident and will be following up with my local providers.

Sermon for Epiphany Last

Holy Trinity, Danville-Luke 9:28-36

I grew up, as you may know, in northeastern Illinois, in the Chicago suburbs. And so I grew up thinking that it was normal for land to be flat, and that hills and mountains are an exotic exception. I was 17 before I saw anything higher than the Ozarks or the Appalachians. The Alps, the Rockies, and the Sierras all came later, and I, in fact, lived a large portion of my adult life with mountain roads being a fairly regular part of my experience. Now, Brenda and I have grown to love the big sky beauty of the very flat corn and soybean country of central Illinois. Yet, there is certainly something deeply and intuitively attractive—to all people, I think—about being able to acquire some altitude and look out over a hundred square miles of fields or forests or residential subdivisions. 

This magnetism that height and view have for us becomes even more intense, I believe, when we're travelling, when we're on the way somewhere. The highway or the path that we're following rises ahead of us and we can't see but a few hundred yards down the road. We may feel just a little bit tense, just a little bit uneasy, although the discomfort is so low-level that we don't even think about it. Then, at last, we reach the crest of the hill, and our whole perspective changes. We can see the next five, ten, twenty, or thirty miles down the road. And our unarticulated tension and anxiety give way to an equally unarticulated exhilaration. We feel just a little bit lighter, a little bit more buoyant— and why? Because, from our vantage point on the top of the hill, we can literally see our future! We can see what it is we're going to be encountering and dealing with during the next leg of our journey, and this knowledge pleases us. 

The same dynamics of view and perspective apply to the metaphorical journey that we're all on, the journey of life, the trip from God who creates us, and back to God who redeems us. The road that we're on presents us with opportunities, from time to time, to take a long view, to take an expansive look at where we've been and where we're going. I hope and pray that all of us find the resolve to take those opportunities when they come our way. If the road sign says "scenic lookout" or "historical marker" one mile ahead, that information is meaningless to us if we don't pull over in one mile and look at the view or read the marker.
The decision is ours. 

This Sunday, this Last Sunday after Epiphany, is one such sign, one such chance to look out and see what lies ahead for us as the people of God, the family of those who have been born again in the waters of Holy Baptism. Where are we? As individuals, of course, we're in a whole lot of different places, as many places as there are people in this room. But as a people, as a community, in the walk that we walk together, we're at one of those scenic lookouts. We're just finishing the season of the year that takes its cue from Christmas, whose tone is set by the incarnational cycle of feasts and holy days: Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany. 

Now we're ready to look another direction, to focus on what lies ahead, the time of year that takes its cue from Easter, and whose tone is set by the mystery of the cross and the resurrection. Believe it or not, in a relatively few short weeks, springtime plants will begin to bloom and baseball season will be ready to get underway; spring training begins just a few days from now. So both in the church year and in our "real world" lives, we're standing at the threshold of something new. But what we're looking at immediately, of course, as a church community, is the imminent arrival of that time of year known as Lent. I don't know what associative feelings Lent conjures up for you—good, bad, or indifferent. It mostly depends on how you were brought up. For the Eucharistic Communities across the Diocese of Springfield, it will mean a more penitential and subdued atmosphere in Sunday worship, and often an extra opportunity for liturgical devotion during the week. And that Hebrew-Latin exclamation that is so characteristic of Christian joy and praise—Alleluia—will be banished from our public vocabulary. 

So we stand on a ridge, at the summit of a mountain, looking down into the valley of Lent, into which we will shortly descend. But we're not alone on this hilltop. Jesus is with us, or, rather, we are with Jesus, because it's his Transfiguration that creates and defines our mountaintop experience today, and his suffering and death that creates and defines the Lent that we look forward to. Jesus has come to a turning point in his "career". It's become clear to him that the time for his teaching and healing ministry in Galilee, the area of northern Palestine where he had been raised, has come to an end. The time for his journey to Jerusalem, the national capital in the south, to confront the evil powers that lay in wait for him, has arrived. 

So Jesus takes the inner circle of the inner circle—Peter, James, and John—with him up to the top of a mountain for a retreat, before officially giving the word that he's going to head south. There are indications that even Peter, James, and John—the inner circle of the inner circle—needed to process a good deal of confusion and a good deal of denial about what was going on. Jesus had not exactly kept them in the dark about what lay in store for him and for them. He had openly predicted his own passion and death and resurrection. But sometimes when our ears hear a message that they know our heart doesn't want to hear, they keep it to themselves, and never pass along the information. It made absolutely no sense to the disciples: things were going so well in Galilee.  The crowds were getting larger; Jesus's popularity was at an all-time high. Why mess things up by going to Jerusalem where there's bound to be nothing but trouble? So from our perspective, why bother with Lent? I don't want to look at my sins just now. I know they're there, and I know just where they are when I want to find them and look at them—later.  

Peter, James, and John take their confusion and denial up to the mountain with them, begin to pray with Jesus, and then, "heavy with sleep", St Luke tells us, they surrender themselves to slumber. And then, probably sometime in the dark of night, something totally wonderful and unexpected and miraculous happens. The disciples awaken, and there's light all around, but it's not coming from the moon or the stars, it's coming from Jesus. His face and his clothing are aglow with a divine radiance. The sight is indescribably glorious—words don't exist to communicate the wonder of what Peter, James, and John—the inner circle of the inner circle—saw and felt that night on the mountain. And with Jesus, basking in the light, are two of the heroes of Israel's past: Moses and Elijah. And the three of them are talking about the very subject that so perplexed the disciples, namely, Jesus's journey to Jerusalem and what awaited him there. 

At first, Peter doesn't get it. He thinks the whole event is about rubbing elbows with famous people. It takes the voice of God the Father coming out of a cloud to set him straight, but he and the other disciples eventually do get the message. And the message is this: The light of the transfigured Christ that illuminates the mountain will also illuminate the valley. In fact, the light of the transfigured Christ shines all the way to the next mountaintop, to the destination of the journey, revealing that the trip through the valley is a trip from glory to glory. Jesus and his disciples were given a "sneak preview" of what lay at the end of their road. And that knowledge, the knowledge of that glory, sustained them in the difficult moments they were yet to face. 

Today, you and I share in a liturgical “mountaintop experience,” surrounded by all the tokens of festive corporate worship: white vestments, brass candlesticks, flowers, incense, and that ancient and glorious Christian expletive of joy— Alleluia! We're about to enter the Lenten valley, the valley of recollecting our sin, our shame, and our failure. But the road we travel is a road that leads from glory to glory. For some of our number, the valley that we enter on Wednesday will not only be liturgical, but an actual and quite real spiritual or emotional valley. The rhythm of individual lives will happen to correspond to the rhythm of the Church's corporate life. If you consider yourself to be in this group, remember that the same truth applies: the light of the mountain also shines in the valley. You may have Good Friday yet to face—you may be experiencing it already—but there is always Easter. There is always Easter. 

My brothers and sisters, our invitation today is to enjoy this time on the mountain. It’s perfectly OK to bask in the light emanating from the transfigured Jesus. But our time in Galilee is about over, and it's time to go down to Jerusalem. So on Wednesday, let's  gather back here—and, indeed, it will be us gathering; I will be back here with you—let us come together again and remember the light of the transfigured Christ, knowing that that light is with us every step of the way. And then we will step out and follow Jesus on the road that leads to the cross, his cross and ours, knowing that at the other end of the valley lies our destination, our home, the end of our journey. 

Alleluia and Amen.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Friday (Martyrs of Japan)

  • My day began with a 9am cardiology appointment. It was a routine annual post-surgical follow-up. In the office by around 10.
  • Followed through via email with an individual in the ordination process.
  • Spent some initial prayerful time with the readings appointed for the Second Sunday of Easter, in preparation for preaching at Trinity Church, Yazoo City, MS, which I take care of under the Delegated Episcopal Pastoral Oversight arrangement.
  • Substantive phone conversation with a sales representative of another church management software vendor. Still hunting for the best database solution for us.
  • Lunch at home. Leftovers.
  • Plotted the various individual tasks necessary to make sure the annual Chrism Mass happens appropriately on March 19.
  • Spent a "holy hour" in prayer in front of the Blessed Sacrament. Not by intention, but some of it turned out to be in the spirit of Psalm 131.
  • Rough-planned the first of my Lenten teaching series presentations at Trinity, Lincoln on February 17.
  • Attended to a bit of business connected to my membership on the board of Forward Movement.
  • Processed the ever-growing pile of diocesan newsletters, Lenten meditation collections, and the like that always threatens to cover my desk.
  • Evening Prayer in the cathedral--a bit on the early side, for a change. In the car toward home before 5pm.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Thursday (Cornelius the Centurion)

  • Customary Thursday weights and treadmill workout.
  • Task organizing at home; Morning Prayer while driving to the office (yes, short memorized form).
  • Processed a larger-than-usual load of hard copy items waiting for me after not being in the office since last Friday.
  • Took a substantive phone call from a colleague member of the Nashotah House Board of Directors.
  • Discussed an emerging administrative issue with the Archdeacon.
  • Participated with the Administrator in a long (over an hour) conference call/"webinar" with a sales representative from a church software vendor. This is part of our now ramped-up effort to move beyond state-of-the-art 1998 in our database management.
  • Lunch from HyVee, eaten at home.
  • Refined, edited, and printed a working draft of this Sunday's homily (Holy Trinity, Danville).
  • Executed a document signing off on a investment policies for the Putnam Trust, in my role as co-trustee.
  • Responded to a short survey from the Province V Executive Committee about goings-on within the diocese.
  • Composed an email to the Primate of Tanzania on behalf of the Communion Partners bishops.
  • Took the first step in reconditioning a sermon for Lent I from a prior year for use this year at St John's, Decatur.
  • Evening Prayer in the cathedral.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Wednesday (St Anskar)

  • 8:00am, Morning Prayer, followed by breakfast.
  • 9:30-11:00, plenary forum with bishop and clergy. We covered a number of topics, from the sublime to the mundane.
  • 11:00am, Mass for the lesser feast of St Anskar, with our retreat conductor bringing the homily, which was, like his addresses, stirring. Then, lunch and departure.
Brenda and I made it home a little past 3:00, whereupon I spent the remainder of the afternoon clearing my email inbox, the contents of which had swelled during the retreat.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

The Presentation of Our Lord Jesus Christ in the Temple

  • 8:00am Morning Prayer, followed by breakfast (now in silence, with sections from C.S. Lewis' The Weight of Glory being read to us during all meals.
  • 9:30--second retreat address from Kevin Martin.
  • 11:30--Sung Mass with incense for the Feast of the Presentation. What a lovely feast day this is; I enjoy it so much. So much mystical power.
  • 12:30 lunch, with more reading.
  • 1:30-5:00--Free time for most, scheduled private conference for YFNB, though I did have a one-hour break from 3:00 to 4:00, during which time I availed myself of the unseasonably warm day for a walk around the beautiful grounds.
  • 5:30 Evensong, followed by dinner. Got a little rest and processed some email back in my room afterward.
  • 7:30--third retreat address, followed by Compline, followed by social time.

Monday (St Brigid)

Spent the morning with a weight and treadmill workout, then processing emails and organizing tasks. We loaded up the car and Brenda and I hit the road southbound at 12:30. We arrived at Kings House Retreat Center in Belleville at 2:00, unloaded the car, got settled in our room, and began to get organized in the chapel to provide music for retreat worship. In due course, I drove to the airport in St Louis, about a thirty minute drive, to retrieve Fr Kevin Martin, our 2016 clergy retreat conductor. The retreat formally began with 5:30 Evensong, followed by dinner, and then, at 7:30, Kevin's first address. Then Compline and social time.