Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Easter Wednesday

I can pretty much just say "ditto" to what I wrote yesterday. Except to underscore that this has been the best Communion Partners meeting ever. We're not moving away from reactivity, through responsiveness, and into proactivity. Great energy, great synergy, great camaraderie. I'm excited.

I'm also going dark in this space for a few days. If all goes according to plan (travel is always a vulnerable enterprise), Brenda will join me here midday tomorrow, and then we have a condo in New Smyrna Beach arranged for over the weekend. We fly home Monday and I'll be back in harness on Tuesday.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Easter Tuesday

At the Communion Partners meeting in Oviedo, FL (an Orlando suburb). There are seventeen bishops present: three domestic diocesans, one suffragan, three diocesans plus one coadjutor from Province IX (TEC dioceses in Spanish-speaking countries), two retired bishops, and three diocesans from the Anglican Church of Canada's "Gracious Restraint" group (CP counterparts). We are also joined by three members of the Communion Partner Rectors steering committee. So ... we worshiped, we ate, and we met--multiple iterations of each activity. The interchange has been exceedingly lively and fruitful, the best yet of these meetings. We are seeking to create a place where Episcopalians of traditional theological convictions can not only survive, but thrive. Beyond that, we want to sow "good seed" for the sake of the gospel among Anglican Christians--seed that, in time, will bear abundant fruit. We intend not to be reactive, but proactive.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Easter Monday

Despite the venerable tradition of clergy doing a disappearing act after Easter, my calendar called for me to get on a plane this morning. Yes, I am in Florida, which is nearly always a good thing. But I am hear for work--a gathering of Communion Partner bishops, and a couple of rectors, and three or four of our Canadian counterparts. That winds up on Thursday, when Brenda flies down to meet me and the delayed disappearing act happens over the weekend at a condo in New Smyrna Beach (where it looks like it will be raining, but we'll enjoy it anyway).

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Easter Day

Under normal circumstances, I would have again been the cathedral this morning. But Trinity, Jacksonville is between rectors and does not have a regular supply priest, so it was the right decision for me to be out there. Mercifully, they only have one liturgy and it's not until 10am, so I didn't have to leave the house at an inordinately early hour. Everything went smoothly, and it was fun to be with the people of Trinity. After coffee, I was the guest of the senior warden and her husband at an Easter brunch at Jacksonville Country Club. It was lovely. Then I drove back to Springfield and joined Brenda, who was already at the home of a cathedral parishioner family with whom we have had Easter dinner most of the years we've been in Springfield, and it's always delightful to be with them and the other guests.

Easter Homily

Springfield Cathedral (Vigil) & Trinity Jacksonville (Easter Day)

There is no eyewitness account of the actual event we are gathered here to celebrate.  No human eye saw Jesus cast off his grave clothes and stand upright. Nobody saw how the stone that sealed his tomb got rolled away. No one saw Jesus walk out of the grave. What we do have are eyewitness accounts of the tob being empty, and of Jesus already risen from the dead.

First, of course, are the women, with Mary Magdalene in the lead. Then, on the evening of that first Easter Sunday, the risen Christ appeared to his disciples, then to others, as many as 500, as St Paul tells us in his first letter to the Corinthians. Precisely because of what these people saw, and what they told others about what they saw, and for no other reason, you and I are assembled here at this moment doing what we’re doing. We may not be eye-witnesses, but we are ear-witnesses to the proclamation that Christ is risen from the dead. That announcement has been handed down to us from generation to generation across nearly two thousand years of time. We are here because of that announcement, and our lives are shaped by it.

Our Easter proclamation—Christ is risen: the Lord is risen indeed—enables us—indeed, compels us—to engage in and prosecute the mission of the church. In particular, it calls us to three specific activities, three distinctive actions which are the hallmark of the community that has been formed by the Easter announcement: “He is not here, he is risen.”  I speak of evangelizing, baptizing, and, to use a shamelessly manufactured word just so it will sound like the other two, eucharistizing.

First, the Easter message calls us to evangelize the world, starting with ourselves and our neighbors. In the 28th chapter of Matthew, in his final words on this earth, Jesus gives us our marching orders: “Go and make disciples of all nations.” Evangelism simply means “telling good news.” The good news, in this case, is that we don’t have to be at odds with God, we can have peace with God. We don’t have to be afraid of God or indifferent toward God, we can be friends with God. This happens through the forgiveness of our sins and a living personal relationship with the same Jesus Christ who rose from the dead sometime in the wee hours of that Sunday morning. If you don’t have that kind of relationship, then I’m here to evangelize you! Great news—God loves you and wants you to know him. Jesus wants to lift you by the hand, that you may live in the power of his resurrection and no longer fear death. What do you think? Would you like to respond to that good news?

Second, the Easter message calls us to baptize. Easter has always been the premier occasion for baptism, and if the reason is not apparent to you, please let me explain. In the person we know as Jesus, God the Son took human flesh, lived and died as one of us, and then defeated death itself when he rose from the dead. When we are baptized, we are incorporated into his experience of dying and rising. We die and rise with Jesus. Our own death is identified with his, and we are identified with his resurrection. Those who are baptized into Christ, St Paul tells us, put on Christ, clothe themselves with Christ. We thereafter belong to Christ, we are marked as his own forever. Our lives are hid with God in Christ.

Evangelize, baptize, and, finally, “eucharistize.” The Easter announcement calls us to celebrate the Eucharist, the Mass, the Lord’s Supper, the Holy Communion. It compels us to honor the command of Christ on the night before he was betrayed to take, bless, break, and give, that we may receive his Body and Blood, given for the life of the world, that we may be his body, given for the life of the world. “Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us; therefore let us keep the feast.”  It is a feast that transcends time and space. In the liturgy of the Eucharist, we who are temporal participate in that which is eternal, earth is assumed into heaven, then becomes now and now becomes then, there becomes here and here becomes there, the notions of past, present, and future lose their meaning. In Holy Communion, we know death to be robbed of its sting because it becomes the gateway to eternal life.

We who are “ear-witnesses” have heard the announcement: Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death. We are drawn by that proclamation to evangelism—the telling and hearing of good news, to baptism—the identification of our lives with Christ’s dying and rising, and to the celebration of the Eucharist—the manifestation of the power of that resurrection until he comes again.

Christ is risen! Alleluia and Amen!

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Holy Saturday / Easter Eve

  • Up and out in time to lead the cathedral altar guild at 9am in the Holy Saturday liturgy of the word. I've done this now for 25 consecutive years, in four different parish communities. For the sermon, I use a magnificent anonymous ancient homily on the harrowing of hell.
  • Puttered around until 12:3o attending to various details of preparation for the Easter Vigil.
  • Lunch from La Bamba, eaten at home, followed by some R & R.
  • Practiced the french horn, took a walk, processed a short stack of emails.
  • Back at the cathedral by 5:00. Puttered around some more. Led a liturgy rehearsal, enjoyed some pizza with the altar party and baptism/confirmation parties. 
  • Got back to what seemed like an endless supply of preparatory details.
  • Presided and preached at the Great Vigil of Easter. One adult baptism, three adult confirmations and three youth confirmations. Home a bit before 11pm.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Good Friday

Allowed myself a slightly more relaxed morning than usual, arriving at the office around 9:20, but there was no one to care because it's a staff holiday and I was the only one around. Spent a few minutes with the Blessed Sacrament on the Altar of Repose, then prayed the morning office in the nave. Most of the morning was devoted to exegeting the propers for Easter VII in preparation for preaching at St Mark's, West Frankfort and St Stephen's, Harrisburg on May 8. At midday I took a brisk walk on a brisk and breezy day. Until mid-afternoon I attended to tasks related to Nashotah House, diocesan canonical revision, and an ongoing pastoral issue. I then went home for a couple of hours and mostly rested. Then back to the cathedral around 5:00: Prayed the evening office and generally got ready for the evening liturgy. Rehearsal with the altar party was at 6:00 and the service at 7:00. Good Friday is a choreographically challenging, but we pulled if off, I believe, with grace. This is my 38th Paschal Triduum, my 27th in ordained ministry, and my sixth as a bishop. It never really gets old.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Maundy Thursday

  • Usual Thursday morning date with my treadmill.
  • Morning Prayer in the office (church was being cleaned).
  • Puttered around with the Provost and a couple of sacristan/altar guild types making physical preparations and talking through logistics for tonight's Maundy Thursday liturgy.
  • Surfed through commentaries on the 14th chapter of St John's gospel in preparation for preaching on VI Easter (May 1 at Redeemer, Cairo).
  • Plotted and scheduled necessary actions in preparation for two ordinations coming up in May.
  • Lunch at home, leftovers.
  • Made car rental arrangements in Dallas for the Living Church Foundation board meeting late next month,
  • Discussed with the Administrator some details concerning the contract with the database software vendor whose customer we are about to become.
  • Poked around the website of a training program--out of the diocese but nearby--that might be a solution for one of our diaconal postulants.
  • Responded to a couple of pastoral care situations via email.
  • Hand-wrote notes to clergy and spouses with nodal events in April.
  • Drove up to Hardee's on Jefferson for a ham sandwich and some jalapeno poppers
  • Evening Prayer in the office.
  • Conducted a brief liturgy rehearsal with the sanctuary party at 6:00. Stepped back across the alley for a bit more email processing and, finally, vesting.
  • Presided at a lovely and well-executed Maundy Thursday liturgy. The Provost delivered a fine homily The choir was superb. Feet were washed and the Lord's Supper was celebrated. We did our jobs and the Lord was honored.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Wednesday in Holy Week

  • Morning Prayer in the cathedral.
  • Prepared to preside and preach at the midday Mass.
  • Had a substantive phone conversation with one of our rectors over the canonical revisions that are in process.
  • Spent the rest of the morning writing a pastoral letter to the diocese and putting final touches on liturgical materials related to the subject of the letter.
  • Just before I left to go say Mass, I got a text message informing me of the death of 97-year old priest whose parishioner I became 40 years ago this August. I was probably the first to offer a eucharistic intention for the repose of his soul.
  • Lunch at home, leftovers.
  • Pored over my notes on the readings for Easter V and gave birth to the message statement (simple statement of good news, present tense, indicative mood, with no subordinate clauses and no imperatives) for my homily on that occasion (24 April at Trinity, Yazoo City, MS).
  • Kept an appointment with a gastroenterologist--consult in preparation for a procedure that clinicians in that field are known for. This is all part of the effort to chase down the source of my anemia.
  • Back at the office, met with a delegation from St Paul's Cathedral to discuss lifting the "special circumstances" under which they have been operating for the past three years or so. We were pretty much of one accord.
  • Evening Prayer in the office.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Tuesday in Holy Week

  • Task planning at home (49 taks on the radar for this week).
  • Morning Prayer in the cathedral.
  • Substantive (planned) phone conversation with the rector of Emmanuel, Champaign to discuss some of the details and meta-details of my visitation there on Easter III (April 10).
  • Got to work on refining my homily for Easter (Vigil at the cathedral, morning in Jacksonville).
  • Broke off from that work at 10:30 to participate in a planned regular conference call with U.S. Trust/Bank of America regarding the Putnam Trust.
  • Stepped across the alley to confer with the cathedral Provost over some broad and fine details of Saturday night's Easter Vigil liturgy.
  • Got back to and completed my sermon refining work.
  • Executed a form signalling my consent for the Diocese of West Texas to elect of Bishop Suffragan,
  • Attended briefly to a technology issue pertaining to our email domain.
  • Attended the regularly-scheduled cathedral Mass for Tuesday in Holy Week.
  • Lunch at home, leftover.
  • Spoke by phone with the Academic Dean of Nashotah House. (This was wearing my Bishop of Springfield hat, not my Board Chairman hat.)
  • Devoted most of my afternoon to preparing liturgical materials in support of a diocesan prayer initiative that I rolled out to the clergy on Saturday, and will publicize with a pastoral letter in the next couple of days.
  • Examined the text of a homily for Easter III that I used some years ago (1998, to be precise) and began the work of overhauling it for redeployment this year.
  • Evening Prayer in the cathedral.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Palm Sunday

Preached at 8am and preached/celebrated at 10:30 at St Paul's cathedral. It's always a joy to be in my "home" church for Holy Week.

After a meal and nap (with the classic film Roman Holiday on in the background), Brenda and I hit the road southbound to St Luke's Hospital in suburban St Louis to look in on Bishop Ed Salmon (retired of South Carolina, former Board Chair and long-term interim Dean of Nashotah House, and canonically resident in Springfield), who is trying the sort out some complications from treatment for prostate cancer. Unfortunately, he was undergoing a long battery of tests, so we didn't get to spend much time with him--just a short time of prayer before they stuck him back in an imaging tube. Please hold him in your prayers, as he is very uncomfortable.

In the meantime, Chris DeWitt snapped this photo yesterday that looks like a portrait but is actually candid. Then photographic artist Richard Hill, seeing it on Facebook, tuned it into black and white, to rather stunning effect, I think.

Sermon for Palm Sunday

Springfield Cathedral

For people of my generation, one of the watershed events of our youth, one of the benchmarks by which we measure the passage of time, was the assassination of President Kennedy in 1963. I was in the seventh grade when it happened, too young to have a very mature political perspective. All I knew was, he was the President of my country, the father of two young children, and he had been brutally murdered. To this day, I cannot hear the Navy Hymn, Eternal Father, strong to save, without getting a lump in my throat, because I associate it so strongly with hearing it played incessantly as President Kennedy’s flag-draped coffin was drawn through the streets of Washington while millions of Americans watched on television. Many times, I have watched a dramatic portrayal of that trip to Dallas, and knowing full well how it was going to turn out, found myself glued to my seat in anticipation, subconsciously hoping that there will be a last-minute change in the parade route, or that Oswald’s gun will jam, or that the Secret Service will discover the plot and save the President's life, that it will be like every other TV movie and have a happy ending. 

But it never happens that way.  Every time, it ends . . . the way it ends, and the assassination takes place. 

I sometimes experience the same pattern of feelings when I read an account of the events leading up to the crucifixion of Jesus. What if he takes the advice of his disciples and decides not to go up to Jerusalem? What if Judas changes his mind and tells the authorities where they can put their thirty pieces of silver? What if somebody like Nicodemus is able to convince the Sanhedrin to take a deep breath and count to ten before dragging Jesus in front of the Roman governor? What if Pontius Pilate develops a political backbone and refuses to be bullied by the Jewish leaders? What if God the Father sees the anguish of his only Son in the Garden of Gethsemane, and decides that he cannot, after all, go through with the plan? These and a host of other "what ifs" come to mind, and I look for the story to somehow develop differently, some way that will spare Jesus the shame and the humiliation and the sheer pain of death on the cross. 

But it never does. It always ends the same way: Jesus dies. But then I stop and ask myself, "Why did God let that happen?” And then the answer comes back, and hits me like a ton of bricks:  for me! God forsook Jesus in that moment for me. God chose my interests, over the interests of his only Son.

Because God loved Dan Martins, he sent his only Son to be born of a woman, to share my human nature, and to suffer death on the cross in order to save me from the consequences of my sin. The lips that shouted "Hosanna" when he entered Jerusalem were my lips, and the lips that shouted "Crucify him" in the courtyard of Pontius Pilate were also my lips. In the words of one of my favorite Holy Week hymns,
                        Who was the guilty?
                        Who brought this upon thee?
                        Alas! my treason,
                        Jesus, hath undone thee.
                        'Twas I, Lord Jesus,
                        I it was denied thee:
                        I crucified thee.

So what if Jesus had decided not to go up to the earthly city of Jerusalem? I would forever be denied entrance into the heavenly city of Jerusalem. What if Jesus had never been handed over to the authorities? I would be forever handed over to the authority of a law which can only remind me of my failure and inadequacy. What if the Sanhedrin had not decided to get serious and bring Jesus to be tried by Pilate? I would be perpetually on trial, with no basis for my defense, no grounds on which to plead for mercy. What if Pontius Pilate had blown the whole thing off and ordered Jesus' release? Jesus would be free, but I would be a slave, a slave to the power of sin and death. And what if . . .  what if God the Father had decided to grant Jesus' request from the Garden of Gethsemane that "this cup pass from [him]?” If the "cup" of suffering and death had passed from Jesus, then I would have to drink it until I drain the dregs, and then over and over again, without any meaning and without any hope. I would have no respite in an earthly existence that is nasty, brutish, and short—and the prospect of an eternity that is nasty, brutish, and long, cut off from love, cut off from beauty, cut off from goodness, cut off from God. 

Come to think of it, I guess I'm glad the story of the Passion ends precisely the way it does.  And my heart today is filled with gratitude and adoration and love for the Crucified One—the One whose death takes away the sting of my own. I adore you, O Christ, and I bless you, because by your holy cross you have redeemed . . . me. 

Amen.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

St Joseph

The centerpiece of the day was the Mass of Chrism, at which the clergy of the diocese, along with their bishop, renew their ordination vows, and we bless oils to be used in baptism and the anointing of the sick. Before that event, I participated in part of a Standing Committee meeting, and afterward (and after the lunch for clergy and families), I met with two persons in the ordination path to the diaconate and one of our parish priests. Then I saw to some details pertaining to tomorrow's celebration of Palm Sunday at the cathedral. Got home around 2:30, dead tired.

Chrism Mass Homily (St Joseph's Day)

Thanks to serendipity, or to the Holy Spirit, or, perhaps, to both, the Saturday before Palm Sunday, which is when we’ve been having the Mass of Chrism in this diocese, happens to coincide with a Prayer Book major holy day, the feast of St Joseph, which, in turn, always coincides with the anniversary of the consecration of the eleventh Bishop of Springfield, but, in this case, a somewhat nodal anniversary thereof, being the fifth. Five years ago at this very hour, many of us who are here today were gathered across town at the First United Methodist Church to do the deed that gives me a guaranteed seat in this church whenever I come by, no matter how crowded it might otherwise be!

So I have a bit of a homiletical needle to thread this morning. I don’t want to allow either an ordination anniversary, or the feast of St Joseph, to overshadow the ordinary, regular occasion that we are observing. Both of those are, in a sense, interlopers, uninvited guests who just happened to be in the neighborhood when the party was happening. The ordained among us are here to collectively renew the vows of our ordination, and all of us are here to share in the blessing of sacred oils that will be used to sanctify important moments in people’s lives—baptism, confirmation, the onset of serious illness, the imminence of passage out of this world into the next, and, from time to time, ordination to the priesthood, when hands are anointed with chrism.

Fortunately, it really doesn’t take a shoehorn, or even very much imagination, to weave all these themes together. Indeed, they play with one another very well.

Let’s start with St Joseph. Soon after my consecration—and, I am given to understand, inspired by it—Fr Ralph McMichael wrote an article that appeared in The Living Church in which he set the vocation of St Joseph to be a guardian of the Holy Family alongside the vocation of a bishop to be a guardian of the Church. The word “guardian” is semantically rich; it has different aspects. Certainly, someone who defends, or protects, or drives away attackers can be said to be a guardian. In an environment when much that has been regarded as a sacred inheritance does seem to be under attack, this is not an altogether inappropriate image. One can quite readily conjure up the silhouetted image of Joseph leading his wife and child from danger in Bethlehem to relative safety in Egypt. You need have no doubt that your bishop will defend the Church—her creeds, her liturgies, her sacraments, her scriptures, her rightful place in a free society, when it is my duty to do so. But perpetual wartime footing, the constant sense of having to defend, can and does lead to defensiveness, a preferential option for pugnacity and bellicosity that sears the souls of whose who live in that place for very long, and, in its negativity, is evangelical suicide.
But, to be a guardian can also denote an ongoing activity and ministry of creating a nurturing environment that fosters growth and maturity. The gospel reading appointed for this feast is the familiar narrative of the incident when Jesus was twelve years old and manages to ditch his parents in the big city so he can spend some quality time in the Temple with the top-tier elders and teachers of the Jewish community. Mary and Joseph are a day out of town, perhaps traveling with a large group from Nazareth, and figure Jesus is somewhere among the “village” that is helping them raise their child. When it dawns on them that he’s not with them, they high-tail it back to Jerusalem and finally track him down in the Temple. In Luke’s account of the incident, Joseph doesn’t say anything—Mary does all the talking—but it seems safe to speculate that he took a strong parental interest in the endeavor, and, in fact, probably led the search. In so doing, Joseph was exercising guardianship, providing the child entrusted to his charge with safety and security, providing a home in which Jesus could “increase in wisdom and stature and grow in favor with God and man.” And, significantly, we are told that Jesus “was submissive to them.” He was part of that network of accountable relationships that describes a healthy family. Joseph, the guardian of that family, saw to it.

Those here who are in the order of presbyter share with Your Friendly Neighborhood Bishop the ministry of creating that place, that environment, where the baptized people of God can receive the life of Christ in the sacraments, be formed through catechesis and community and service (which is diakonia—so the deacons are in this picture as well) so that the souls entrusted to our care, those of whom we are guardians, may “grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ” (as St Paul expresses it to the Ephesians)—in other words, growing up into the Messiah, the Anointed One. So, our anointing of people, our use of these oils, at baptism and at times of illness—each of these events become a link in the chain that configures their lives to the Anointed One, to the Messiah, to the Christ. And the environments you all help create in the Eucharistic Communities that you serve takes the baton from the Sacred Chrism and the Oil of the Sick (and, if we were to develop a robust catechumenal culture in this diocese, may it please God, the Oil of Catechumens) and leads people along, step by baby step, into discipleship, into imitating Jesus, into announcing the nearness of the Kingdom of Jesus and relating to one another in ways that provide a compelling model of the Kingdom to people who are hungry for good news, who are divided from one another and enslaved by sin.

The proto-Messiah, of course, the prefigurement of Jesus as the Messiah, was David, son of Jesse, who became the Anointed One at the hands of the prophet Samuel. A few minutes ago we heard the narrative of the prophet Nathan relaying the Lord’s assurance that the kingdom being given to him was a Really Big Deal, and that he was really just the warmup act for something so great he really couldn’t imagine it, that through his DNA (well, if Nathan had known about DNA), through David’s DNA, God would bless all humankind. (And this echoes similar promises to Abraham, much earlier, that we’re familiar with.) But the remarkable things is, if you follow the chain of DNA provided by both Matthew and Luke, it gets you right up to Jesus, but not all the way there. It gets you to—you guessed it—Joseph, who was only the “supposed” father of Jesus, as Luke delicately expresses it.
So we come back around now to guardianship. Joseph’s peculiar vocation and charism of guardianship was to be a surrogate—for a time, and then to fade gracefully into obscurity. I will share with you quite personally that I am acutely aware now, five years in, of my episcopate having entered middle age, if indeed only that. I’m 64 years old. I can retire at 68 and I must retire at 72, so … do the math. It’s slipping by with exponentially increasing speed, it seems, so I’ve had to let go of any ego-driven notions of fundamentally remaking the Diocese of Springfield on my watch, although there’s a great deal of remaking that needs to be done if we are to respond faithfully to the drastically changed cultural environment in which we operate. No, I am but a surrogate for the Chief Shepherd and Bishop of our souls, a surrogate, like Joseph, for a limited time, and then it will fall to me to follow that patron of my episcopate into obscurity, hoping only that there might be a decent portrait of me in the conference room across the alley.

But I am, of course, not in any way unique in this regard. It applies to all the presbyters and deacons who are here, and those who will yet become presbyters or deacons, and, for that matter, even the lay folk here who will never be ordained, because we are all replaceable, and we are all mortal, and most of us will probably be anointed yet again, upon the onset of what will turn out to be our final illness. We are all “anointed ones” in virtue of our baptism, and we are all “anointed ones” in virtue of our mortality. So it is meet and right that we are here to bless this oil of anointing, and to pledge ourselves once again to the ministries for which we have been anointed, and all under the watchful and benevolent gaze of St Joseph, who is our role model in guardianship and surrogacy and knowing when to quietly exit the stage. May his prayers assist us in what we do on this day. Amen.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Friday (St Cyril of Jerusalem)

  • Morning Prayer in the cathedral.
  • Attended to a fairly substantial list of details pertaining to tomorrow's Chrism Mass. I think I have it pretty much in hand, but there will be some last-minute concerns. This took a good while.
  • Responded to an email from my colleague and companion, the Bishop of Tabora.
  • Lunch from TG, eaten at home.
  • Processed a couple of late-arriving emails.
  • Met with two of our new postulants for ordination to a priesthood (a married couple). Excited about their potential.
  • Drafted some more liturgical materials in connection with a special initiative that I will introduce to the clergy tomorrow at the luncheon following the Chrism Mass, and roll out to the rest of the diocese next week.
  • Prayed the Sorrowful Mysteries of the rosary. We are blessed to have in the cathedral stained-glass windows that represent the Sorrowful and Joyful Mysteries along the sides of the nave and the Glorious Mysteries at the clerestory level in the sanctuary. And there's room for the new Luminous Mysteries in the nave clerestory when we get the right bequest!
  • Took care of one more link in the chain that I hope might lead to a much more robust regimen of communication within the diocese.
  • In that connection, spoke by phone with the vendor whose database software we have decided to use. It will be a big task rolling it out, and probably won't be complete until the end of this calendar year.
  • Reviewed a video resource about the clergy-musician relationship that was sent to me by the Virginia Theological Seminary.
  • Evening Prayer in the office.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Thursday (St Patrick)

  • Task planning at home--38 items on the radar, most of which will have to wait until next week.
  • Conferred with the Archdeacon on a range of concerns, and developments therein that arose during my absence.
  • Morning Prayer in the cathedral.
  • Took preparations for tonight's Lenten teaching series at Trinity, Lincoln from the "rough" stage to the "refined" stage.
  • Attended to some Communion Partners business via substantive emails to two individuals.
  • Refined and printed the working text of my homily for Palm Sunday, to be delivered at St Paul's Cathedral.
  • Dashed off emails to two of our priests celebrating ordination anniversaries.
  • Lunch from La Bamba, eaten at home
  • Performed reconstructive surgery on an old Easter homily to make it fit for a reprise this year--at the cathedral Easter Vigil and Trinity, Jacksonville on Easter morning.
  • Worked on a budding initiative, soon to be rolled out, that will invite the diocese to a special period of focused prayer between Ascension and Pentecost.
  • Stepped out for a brisk 3,000 steps--southward and westward this time.
  • Investigated options and made lodging arrangements in Dallas for next month's meeting of the Living Church Foundation board.
  • Evening Prayer in the cathedra.
  • Headed to Lincoln for the final installment of my teaching series on prayer. Home around 9:00.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Wednesday

A day of travel. All went smoothly. It is, as always, wonderful to be home.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Thursday

Mostly a travel day; some visiting and getting settled. Up and out in time to catch the 10:33 United flight to O'Hare, then the 12:50 departure to Houston. Everything ran pretty close to on time, but it was a rough ride through some weather getting to Texas. People actually pay money to amusement parks for similar experiences. We landed in Houston around 4:00, and the Camp Allen shuttle got five of my bishop colleagues and me to the camp a little past 6:00. They had dinner waiting for us. I took the rest of the evening getting settled in my room, doing some intentional walking, and catching up with colleagues as they arrive. The formal agenda begins tomorrow.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Wednesday (St Gregory Nyssen)

  • Morning Prayer in the cathedral.
  • Prepared for the midday Mass.
  • Check in by phone with Fr Jim Fackler, whose wife Joan passed away yesterday after a long, slow slide into dementia 
  • Consulted with the Provost and the Secretary across the alley at St Paul's about our Chrism Mass program printing technical issues. They were very kind to work with us, and, after some fits and starts, we emerged with a camera-ready master that we can take to a printer for duplication. 
  • Surveyed several possibilities in my files and eventually identified a Palm Sunday homily from a very long time ago that was suitable for freshening up and repurposing for use this year. Then I focused on the freshening up and repurposing.
  • Downloaded the schedule for the soon-to-begin House of Bishops meeting and put it into an accessible electronic form.
  • Celebrated and preached the midday Mass, keeping the lesser feast of St Gregory of Nyssa.
  • Lunch from Dynasty (Asian place next to TG), eaten at home.
  • Routine scanning, classifying, and tagging of accumulated hard copy detritus.
  • Took a walk around several blocks, heading east and south this time, after doing north and west yesterday.
  • Downloaded and filed a couple of routine financial reports from the diocesan accountant.
  • Reviewed the materials submitted by a priest from outside the diocese who is interested in exploring deployment in Springfield.
  • Drafted a potential job description for a potential Diocesan Communications Director. Now I have to vet it to see if it's even close to realistic.
  • Devoted some thought and prayer and drafted a trial balloon email to a few people about a pastoral initiative that I'm thinking about.
  • Evening Prayer in the office.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Tuesday

  • Usual weekday AM routine. MP in the cathedral.
  • Dealt by email with an ongoing and increasingly vexing pastoral-administrative issue.
  • Answered an email inquiry from a lay leader in one of our vacant parishes seeking advice on interviewing techniques.
  • Arranged for a check to be cut to one of our Eucharistic Communities to assist with a small but unexpected capital outlay.
  • Did the rough planning for my fifth and final Lenten teaching series presentation at Trinity, Lincoln--which will not take place this Thursday, since I'll be away at House of Bishops, but, rather on the 17th.
  • Drafted and emailed a proposal to the Finance Committee for the acquisition of database software and a couple of new office computers.
  • Lunch from home. Leftovers.
  • Produced a camera-ready version of the Chrism Mass program. Theoretically camera-ready, that is. It looks great on a screen. But we so seldom produce service booklets in the diocesan office that we forget how to do it from one time to the next. Right now the relationship between MS Word and the laser printer seems to be dominated by Picasso. But we will yet have victory. Yes, we will yet have victory.
  • Took a long walk around several blocks on a very balmy early spring afternoon.
  • Made air travel arrangements to attend the April board meeting of the Living Church Foundation in Dallas.
  • Did a bit of personal brainstorming and note-making around the process of canonical revision, around which there are a couple of teapot tempests.
  • Evening Prayer in the cathedral.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Fourth Sunday in Lent

Out the door at 7:40am (solo) en route to a 10am arrival in Mt Vernon and the regular 10:30 Sunday Mass at Trinity Church. This being Rose Sunday in Lent, I got to wear the parish's twice-a-year-only vestments. But, let's face it, while formally "rose," this chasuble is effectively pink. But I've always been told I look good in pink. Anyway, it was a good visit to a thriving Eucharistic Community. Home around 3:15. Caught The Revenant with Brenda in the evening. Impressive performance by the lead actor, but the movie was unsatisfying tilting toward disappointment. Revenge isn't all it's cracked up to be.

Sermon for Lent IV

Trinity, Mount Vernon--Luke 15:11-32, II Corinthians 5:17-21

In the early 1980s, I spent several months selling medical insurance to members of the Oregon Wheat Growers League—farmers and ranchers, mostly in the central and eastern part of the state, some of it actually near where some recent drama on federal land took place! Every farm family, I’m convinced, has at least one dog, and, out in the country, of course, they’re not likely to be tied to a leash or behind a fence. So I formed a habit of trying to spot the local canine and assess its friendliness before getting out of my car. I was particularly glad when the dog seemed old, tired, and, best of all, sound asleep. I learned the meaning of the expression, “let sleeping dogs lie.” If the dog was asleep, I wasn’t going to disturb its slumber. Using such precautions, I only got bit once!

It was a strategy that served well to protect my health. But there is also an unhealthy application of the proverb, “Let sleeping dogs lie.” Out of a desire to avoid confrontation that could be unpleasant or painful, we are prone to tolerate abusive, manipulative, and destructive behavior—and the closer the source of that behavior is to us personally, the more likely we are to tolerate it. Not many of us would be unable to name a member of our extended family, or even our immediate family, who habitually misbehaves but who gets away with it because it seems easier to   just let it go one more time than to confront it and try to actually deal with the problem. Not many parish churches—even Trinity Church, I would suspect—have been indefinitely and completely free from turf battles, struggles for influence and control, slander over the telephone, and parking lot back-stabbing, all quite contrary to the principles of Christian love and advancing the cause of Christ and his kingdom. It may not be happening now here, but I’m sure it has in the past. And even when things appear peaceful and calm, church communities are a communities of sinners, and the unhealthy stuff does go on: In many places, I’ve witnessed it, I have participated in it, and I know I have been the subject of it, as has anyone who is in any way in a leadership position. The same kind of stuff goes on in every church I have ever known, and it usually goes quietly unchecked    because the perceived consequences of trying to do something about it seem more frightening than continuing to overlook it. We thereby absolve ourselves from any responsibility for pursuing reconciliation, for bringing together those who are odds, for bringing wholeness out of fragmentation.

It’s really no wonder at all that we act like this. Reconciliation is a maddeningly elusive goal and agonizingly difficult to sustain. Prideful egos and stubborn wills get in the way. Other values—other positive values, like a passion for truth and a commitment to justice—sometimes get in the way of our efforts toward reconciliation. We resist reconciliation with those who believe differently than we do. Nowhere is this more evident than in the proliferation of thousands of Christian faith communities, the majority of whom claim to possess the highest, and sometimes the only, valid expression of Christian truth. We also resist reconciliation with those whom we believe have not been justly punished for their offenses. This happens in families, it happens in churches, it happens in society. This impulse lies at the heart of gang violence, domestic violence, and racial and ethnic violence. It also lies at the heart of the reaction of the older brother to the “prodigal son” in this wonderfully rich parable from Luke’s gospel. His younger brother had squandered his inheritance and dishonored his family in the process. He was quite correct in his profession that he was no longer worthy to be called his father’s son. Yet, the father killed the fatted calf and threw a party when he came crawling home. The older brother just couldn’t handle this. He resisted being reconciled because the whole thing deeply offended his sense of fairness. He was not willing to sacrifice his honor in order to be reconciled with his brother.

Yes, reconciliation is difficult. And because it’s difficult, we come to see it as optional. The system that I use to plan my activities each day has me list all the tasks that need doing during the week. Then I rank them: those that must be done today, those that should be done today, and those that would be nice to do today. Because reconciliation is difficult, we tend to look on it as “would be nice, but not essential,” because other considerations are more pressing, and if it can’t happen, well, too bad. What God is telling us through this liturgy, however, is that, for God, reconciliation is “must do” task for him, and it should be for us as well.

The good news of the Fourth Sunday in Lent this year is that, in the economy of the kingdom of God, reconciliation is a very valuable currency. God cares deeply about reconciliation. It’s not fat to him, it’s muscle. St Paul could hardly make this point more clearly than he does in his second letter to the Corinthians:
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. So we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We beseech you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.
Paul talks about vertical reconciliation—that is, reconciliation with God—which then becomes the basis for horizontal reconciliation between people. One flows from the other. Our reconciliation with God forms the basis for our reconciliation with one another. And what Paul says didactically, straight up, Jesus teaches allegorically, using parables. The story of what has become known as “the Prodigal Son” follows in Luke’s gospel directly on two shorter parables: The rejoicing of the shepherd who succeeds in restoring his one lost sheep to the fold, and the rejoicing of the poor widow when she finds a coin that she had lost. Then we get the rejoicing of the grateful and generous and forgiving father when his son, who had treated him shabbily and whom he had given up for dead, returned home. The reconciliation of this son was cause for great festivity. There is joy in heaven when a sinner repents and is reconciled to God. There is joy in heaven when two sinners repent on earth and are reconciled to one another. There is joy in heaven when anger dies and forgiveness lives. There is joy in heaven when suspicion dies and trust lives. There is joy in heaven when selfishness dies and cooperation lives. There is joy in heaven when pride dies and humility lives. There is joy in heaven when hostility dies and love lives. And this heavenly joy is larger than the letter of the law and the strict demands of justice.

This is the point the father tried to make to the elder son, though we don’t know if his point got through. But it can get through to us, if we let it. Reconciliation is a high standard to live up to. It is much more than the hollow phrase immortalized by Rodney King, “Can’t we all just get along?” It takes commitment, effort, and, most of all, divine grace. We must not let the fact that it is difficult deter us. We must not let the fact that reconciliation can be trivialized into meaninglessness deter us. Our calling as Christians is first to be reconciled to God, as the prodigal son was reconciled with his father. His big act of repentance, of course, was his coming home. But after the debris from the fatted-calf party was cleaned up, it took persistent determination on his part to stay reconciled, to remain in his father’s house.

So it is with us. Repentance and reconciliation with God is not a one time deal; it’s a process. Our second calling as Christians, after being reconciled with God, is to be reconciled with our family—our biological family and our church family. There ought to be no tolerance of silent feuds, unspoken grievances, not being on speaking terms, ulterior motives, rude or intemperate language, jealousy over ministries and priorities, envy over material or spiritual blessing, or malicious gossip—either in a Christian family or in a parish community.

Finally, our calling as Christians is to be ministers of reconciliation in the world. Our vocation is to be peacemakers and healers, to set an example of swallowing petty pride for the sake of Christ and his kingdom. The Prayer Book catechism confirms what I’ve just been talking about succinctly and directly:
Q: What is the mission of the Church?
A: The mission of the Church is to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ.
According to the Prayer Book, at least, reconciliation is Job #1. As we enter the home stretch of Lent, we will do well to examine ourselves thoroughly and rigorously, praying that the Holy Spirit will convict us of those relationships that remain unreconciled because of our stubbornness, because we don't really want reconciliation, we want victory; praying that the Holy Spirit will supply both the heat and the light necessary to see our duty, and the strength to act on what we see. There’s some serious repenting that yet needs to be done this Lent before we can worship at God’s altar in sincerity and truth on Easter. Let it be. Amen.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Saturday

Generally took things easy--late breakfast, some french horn playing, cleaned up my computer desktop (badly needed), long walk, routine calendar maintenance chores, a bit of email processing.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Friday

  • Dropped my car off at the dealer for service. Walked down Second Street to the office.
  • Morning Prayer in the cathedral chapel (cleaning going on in the nave).
  • Prayed and sat with the readings for Easter VII, in preparation for preaching at St Stephen's, Harrisburg and St Mark's, West Frankfort on May 8. Took timeouts from this work to take two substantive phone calls: one from the previous Dean of Nashotah House (and my predecessor as Chairman of the Board, now deservedly retired in St Louis), and one from the current Dean of Nashotah House.
  • Dealt by email with some issues around one of our parochial vacancies.
  • Reviewed and commented on draft minutes from the February Diocesan Council meeting.
  • Lunch from ChiTown's Finest (Italian beef), eaten at home.
  • Reviewed the Renewal Works reports for St John's, Decatur.
  • Reviewed a draft resolution from the Archdeacon regarding Outreach Fund expenditures for presentation at the next Council meeting.
  • Made arrangements for a rental car when I'm in Florida after Easter for a Communion Partners meeting, followed by a long weekend of some personal down time.
  • Attended to some Nashotah-related bits and pieces.
  • Photocopied, then scanned, the contents of my wallet, which is just an obvious wise thing to do a couple of times a year.
  • Friday prayer: Lectio Divina on tomorrow's Daily Office OT reading, about the arrival of Jacob and all his offspring in Egypt to take refuge from the famine (and his exaction of a promise from Joseph not to bury him in a strange land).
  • Responded to an email from a layperson hoping for some more training in liturgy and music at a diocesan level. Indeed, it's a good idea, and that ball is now in play.
  • Evening Prayer in the office.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Thursday (John & Charles Wesley)

  • Customary Thursday treadmill workout.
  • Morning Prayer in the cathedral.
  • Completed preparations for this evening's Lenten series presentation at Trinity, Lincoln.
  • Dealt by email with a couple of ongoing pastoral/administrative issues.
  • Participated with the Administrator in a long (more than 90 minutes) webinar-style presentation by yet another database software vendor. I believe we are now in a position to zero in on a decision.
  • Lunch from KFC, eaten at home.
  • Assembled a dossier on a candidate for one of our parochial vacancies and sent it off (electronically) to the appropriate lay leaders.
  • Read and responded to an Ember Day letter from one of our Postulants.
  • Prayed over the readings for Easter VI, made a first pass at them, jotted down a few questions and note--all in anticipation of preaching at Redeemer, Cairo on May 1.
  • Processed a handful of emails containing routine financial reports from our mission congregations. 
  • Evening Prayer in the cathedral.
  • Headed up to Lincoln for my regular Lenten Thursday gig. I do enjoy teaching, and welcome the opportunity.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Wednesday (St Chad)

  • Task planning at home; Morning Prayer in the cathedral.
  • Prepared to preside and preach at the midday Mass.
  • Conferred with the Provost over a scheduling issue.
  • Spent some quality time with various commentaries (mostly Raymond Brown on John) on the readings for the Fifth Sunday of Easter, in preparation for preaching on that occasion at Trinity Church, Yazoo City, MS, where I have a DEPO relationship. I always wish I had more time for Bible study. I could have spent the whole day on just that.
  • Took an online survey in connection with the clinical trial I'm part of (heart valve).
  • Presided and preached at the Eucharist in observance of the lesser feast of St Chad.
  • Lunch at home. Leftovers.
  • Reviewed a draft bulletin for Easter Sunday at Trinity, Jacksonville (where I will be supplying). Made a few tweaks and sent the draft back to the parish office.
  • Developed a fully-inputted draft of the program for the Chrism Mass on March 19.
  • Took the rough draft of a Chrism Mass homily that I developed last week and brought to "perfection" (aka hard copy in a file folder and an online version ready to go live at service time).
  • Completed editing my notes from last December's Advent Quiet Day into standard prose suitable for online posting in due course.
  • Evening Prayer in the office.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Tuesday (St David)

As I began to plan my work week, I was slightly terrified that there were 77 individual action items on my radar. But by 4pm, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that I had cleared more than one-third of them (26), with three days left to take care of the 51 (plus the handful that will appear in the meantime) that remain. Of course, the reason I was able to burn through so many today was that most of them required rather little time--responding to emails, setting appointments, continuing to process last month's COM meeting, etc. The most time-consuming action was making air travel arrangements for a Communion Partners event in Orlando during Easter Week, followed by four days of personal time nearby on the Florida coast with Brenda. As it turned out, we were able to book on Allegiant Air nonstop from Springfield to Orlando. We'll see how that goes. MP and EP in the cathedral. Lunch at home. Still feeling underpowered due to iron deficiency, but it's nice to now know why I feel the way I do.