Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Tuesday

  • Morning Prayer in the cathedral.
  • Processed a pile of hard-copy items: two episcopal election consents, a credit card statement (which required a bit a sleuthing in order to properly annotate one of the charges), some Nashotah House business.
  • Reviewed and suggested a couple of tweaks on the draft of the bulletin for this Sunday at St Thomas', Glen Carbon.
  • Spent some productive time and energy on the ongoing work of making our new database system workable. Since the app is Windows-based and I run a Mac, today's efforts were focused on some software that emulates a Windows environment on an Apple machine. In short, I can run Windows 10 and any programs that operate in that environment.
  • Offered some pastoral care by telephone to a distraught layperson upset with some the goings-on in her Eucharistic Community.
  • Attended to a couple of other relatively minor issues by email.
  • Substantive phone conversation with the Dean of Nashotah House.
  • Lunch at home. Leftovers.
  • Corresponded with a colleague bishop (via Facebook message) over a matter of mutual interest.
  • Revised, edited, refined, and printed the working text for my homily this Sunday.
  • Read and digested the annual report from one of our clergy on his ministry.
  • Over time, as I downloaded email attachments, they collect on my desktop, eventually creating an inconvenient clutter. So, I have a recurring task to clean them up and file everything appropriately, which can be a rather time-consuming endeavor.
  • Evening Prayer in the cathedral.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany

Up and out of the Embassy Suites city center Philadephia in time to be picked up by some parishioners from Holy Comforter, Drexel Hill, a relatively close-in suburb. Preached at the 8:00 and 10:00 celebrations of the Eucharist, then sat in on rector Jonathan Mitchican's bible study after coffee hour. (If all Episcopalians got the kind of solid teaching those folks get, I would be very optimistic about the church's future.) After a brief time with the Mitchican family at their home, it was off to the airport (hoping not to be delayed by the protesters). All went well, I was pulling into my driveway at home by around 10:30.

Sermon for Epiphany IV

Holy Comforter, Drexel Hill, PA--I Corinthians 1:18-31, Matthew 5:1-12

Back when I was in high school, a program was instituted that was considered rather innovative at the time, but is pretty much taken for granted nowadays. It's the whole idea of special privileges for seniors—seniors in high school, that is! Seeing as how they've reached the point of crossing over the line from childhood into adulthood, it's appropriate that there be some outward and visible signs of such a status. So, as it was styled in my high school, the senior "Pride" program meant that, as long as we adhered to certain rules, we could leave campus in the afternoon an hour earlier than the other students, and there was a special room — with a TV and a coke machine —dedicated solely to the use of seniors with "Pride" privileges. I know all this might sound pretty tame by today's standards, but, back then, it was a sign of high status. 

As well it should be. We expect high status to "look" a certain way. Persons of high status are materially secure; they don't want for the creature comforts. They are influential, and, within the worlds they inhabit, they wield power. They may also be admired and well-thought of by their peers. Along with high status comes reduced exposure to various calamities that routinely threaten those of lower status.

Now, the New Testament assures us that, as followers of Jesus Christ, baptized with him in his death that we may share with him in his resurrection, we enjoy a pretty exalted status! We are adopted children of God and co-heirs with Christ of his eternal kingdom. In Christ, God's plan for the renovation of the entire created order is made known to us. We participate in the divine life of God himself. We were chosen before the foundations of the world and destined for this glorious status while we were yet in our mothers' wombs.

All of this could, if we let it, go to our heads, right? Apparently, this is exactly what happened among the Christians of the Greek city of Corinth, in the first century. 
They were quite taken with their status as possessors of divine wisdom, and they became rather full of themselves. They imagined themselves superior not only to their unenlightened fellow citizens who still worshipped the pagan pantheon, but even to their father-in-God, the one who had led them to their high status, a gentleman named Paul. They began to look on him as something of a country bumpkin, not as sophisticated as they were. 

Christians today are certainly not immune to what we might call the "Corinthian syndrome."  Those of us of a certain age remember a time when it was quite unremarkable to speak of the United States as a "Christian nation.” It was just assumed that there would be prayer at all sorts of non-religious public events, and that the prayer would be a Christian prayer. Everything slowed down on Sunday, the Christian "sabbath,” and ground to a complete halt on Christmas, a Christian holiday. 
In the 1960s, Christian leaders had wide access to the corridors of political power, and they kept the fire lit underneath the agenda of civil rights and the war on poverty. In the 1980s, Christian leaders, of a slightly different stripe, had access to halls of government, and wielded their influence on behalf of traditional Christian family and moral values. Such access was simply one of the expected perks that accompanied the status of Christianity in American history and culture. 

Now, since then—yes, even since the 80s—the place of Christianity in our culture has changed quite a bit. We no longer enjoy the status that we once did. But, now that we can look back on the golden era of Christian influence in American society, we might well ask ourselves some critical questions about how that status affected us and our witness as Christians in the world: Was the gospel proclaimed, or was it obscured by the smugness that goes along with high status? Was the good news made crystal clear, or was it drowned out by the tendency of those who enjoy high status to want to be in control of others? Was the cause of Christ advanced, or was it abandoned by those who find that their status doesn't protect them from suffering and adversity? Was Jesus worshiped as Lord, or did those who were complacent about their status as adopted sons and daughters of God forget to render the glory and praise and thanksgiving that they owed? 

One theological conviction that emerges with distinct clarity from any careful reading of either the Old or the New Testaments, is that God is both willing and able to take humankind down a peg or two when it becomes necessary. In the Old Testament, he tends to be rather blunt: "I'm God, and you're not. Any questions?" In the New Testament, God takes a subtler approach. In the fifth chapter of Matthew’s gospel, we find the familiar list of virtues—the "Beatitudes"—that are held up as examples of the sort of thing that God blesses, qualities that please God so much that he directs his special favor toward those who exhibit them.  Listen to the list: "Blessed are the poor in spirit ... those who mourn           ... the meek ... those who hunger and thirst after righteousness ... the merciful ... the pure in heart ... the peacemakers ... those who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, and those whose identification with God is so complete that people mistake them for prophets and chase them out of town. 

Now, recall the signs of high status: material wealth, power and influence, admiration and respect from one's peers, and reduced    exposure to the diseases and disasters that afflict others.

Is there something wrong with this picture? 

Does it not appear that Jesus turns the whole notion of status upside down? Does it not seem that God honors and blesses ways of behaving that, by the standards that we're accustomed to, are downright foolish?

Indeed, it does so seem.

In his love, love that gives us what we need even if it might not be what we want, God systematically and relentlessly robs us of any basis for pride or boastfulness about our status before him. Remember the Old Testament story of Job? Job enjoyed status in God's sight, so much so that God bragged about Job in front of the assembled heavenly beings. And Job also enjoyed the signs of status that human beings normally expect to see: great wealth, a large family, sterling reputation, and good health. But one disastrous day, it all disappeared. His children and servants were all killed in freak accidents. Thieves made off with his property. And his body became covered with open sores. Anything over which Job might even be tempted to brag, or see as a source of pride, in his standing before God, was pulverized. At this point, Job still did not curse God, but he did, shall we say, "have words" with God. Job was awfully curious. "Lord, I've never let you down. I've been faithful to you in every way. Why have you withdrawn your favor from me?" The answer that eventually floats to the surface is something like, "Job, I love you but I'm under no obligation to even answer your question. You're just going to have to be content with the fact that ... I'm God, and you're not." 

St Paul puts it this way:
                       
                        God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the
                        wise; God chose what is weak in the world the shame
                        the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the
                        world, things that are not, to reduce to nothing
                        things that are, so that no one might boast in the
                        presence of God. ... For God's foolishness is wiser
                        than human wisdom, and God's weakness is stronger
                        than human strength.

There are many ways of approaching the gospel of Christ, and many ways of expressing it. But each and every one of these ways ends up at the same place.
They all end up at the cross. The cross — it represents foolishness in the eyes of the world, "but to us who are being saved, it is the power of God." 

The "Senior Pride" program was, no doubt, an idea whose time had come at my high school in the late 1960s. And I don't begrudge high school seniors anywhere the privileges that go along with their high status. But in the light of the gospel, if we're going to seek any status, it should not be the status of seniors, honored in the eyes of the world. The status we should seek is that status of sophomores. A sophomore, literally, is a "wise fool.” Think of it as an abbreviation for "sophisticated moron.”

Our destiny is Christ is to be morons according to human wisdom, but sophisticated—wise—according to the "foolishness of God." Only then will we give up boasting about our status, and rely on Christ alone as the source of our life and our salvation. 
Amen.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Saturday (St Thomas Aquinas)

The time demands of the morning were merciful, which allowed me to arrive at St Clement's Church, about two blocks from my hotel, well-rested at 10:15ish. Even though I had no actual role in the liturgy, I was graciously invited to "dress the part" and sit "in choir," donning some items that were my own and some that were provided by the parish, which has a quite idiosyncratic liturgical tradition and therefore accustomed to dressing visiting dignitaries that they consider appropriate in their milieu. The liturgy was splendid, with a choir and orchestra offering Mozart's Coronation Mass. The preacher was the sometime Bishop Suffragan of Long Island, Rodney Michel, who quoted a quite moving passage from a letter of the Royal Martyr to his son, written on the eve of the King's execution. Bishop Michel made that point that, were it not for the King's courageous and resolute witness in defence of the Church's Catholic order, even to the point of shedding his own blood, much of what latter-day Anglicans take for granted in the practice of our religion might not exist today. 

The liturgy was followed by a wonderful luncheon, featuring foods such as might have graced a banquet table in the time of King Charles. (I found the savory meat pies particularly interesting.) I had the afternoon as a tourist, this being my first ever visit to Philadelphia. Naturally, I sought out Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell, both of which were worth the rather long wait in line. The evening featured dinner in the suburb of Media with Fr Jonathan Mitchican, rector of Holy Comforter, Drexel Hill.

Friday (St John Chrysostom)

Up, packed, and out of the house headed for Abraham Lincoln Capital Airport (SPI) at 9:15, ahead of a scheduled 11:30 departure that ended up getting pushed back to around 11:00. Layover in Chicago, then on to Philadelphia. The local transit system is not nearly as intuitive as many others I have successfully negotiated (like Rome and Madrid, recently), but I did get myself on a train headed downtown, and then found my way on foot to my hotel, at the very auspicious Philadelphia address of 1776 Benjamin Franklin Parkway. After quickly unpacking, I headed back out on foot for a dinner rendezvous with some friends--some old, some new--who were also in town for the annual Mass and luncheon of the Society of St Charles, King & Martyr.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Thursday (Ss Timothy & Titus)

  • Dropped the YFNBmobile at the BMW dealer for routine scheduled maintenance and hoofed it the eight blocks or so down Second Street to the office. Brisk.
  • Morning Prayer in the cathedral.
  • Performed the necessary surgery on a sermon text for Epiphany V such that I can give it new life for use at St Thomas', Glen Carbon on February 5.
  • Dealt via email with a sensitive and important administrative manner with potential pastoral implications. It's an ongoing issue but I believe we now have a sense of direction on it.
  • Reviewed some financial information--both routine and special--from the treasurer of Forward Movement in preparation for a video-conference meeting of the board later in the day.
  • Did a bit of work on a series of short teaching videos on the Habits of Discipleship.
  • Walked up back to Isringhausen to get my car. Picked up lunch from ChiTown's finest and brought it home to eat, only to discover that they had given me somebody else's lunch. So I drove back up there to have them put things right.
  • Drafted one more in the series of meditations I'm working on on some of the liturgical and devotional texts of Advent. Maybe by next Advent I'll have something ready for publication.
  • Took part in the Forward Movement board meeting by video conference.
  • Hit the weights and treadmill for my usual Thursday workout, which got displaced in the morning by my auto service appointment.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Conversion of St Paul

  • Usual weekday morning routine. Morning Prayer in the cathedral.
  • Prepped for the midday Mass.
  • Perused the website of a professional photographer who shot one of our ordinations a few months ago, and inquired about purchasing the rights to a few of his images from that occasion. Liturgical action shots are always good for freshening up the website.
  • Attended via email to several details pertaining to the planned visit from about five of us in the diocese to our companion diocese of Tabora (Tanzania) this summer.
  • Sat for a good long while with the readings for Epiphany VII, along with the personal and exegetical notes I've made on those texts over the past couple of weeks, and emerged from the process with a simple declarative statement of "good news," which is the germ of what will, God willing, develop into a sermon to be given at St Thomas', Salem on February 19.
  • Presided and preached the Mass for the feast of the Conversion of St Paul.
  • Lunch from KFC, eaten at home.
  • Spoke by phone with the Dean of Nashotah House on a substantive but not immediately urgent matter.
  • Made air travel arrangements for my attendance at the House of Bishops meeting in North Carolina in March. I've gotten rather more efficient at this sort of thing than I used to be, but it still requires focus, mental energy, and time.
  • Bundled up and took a brisk walk south on Second Street all the way down to South Grand, then west over the Spring, and back up. When the wind was at my back, it was quite pleasant.
  • Puzzled out and pieced together an master outline for the five sessions of a Lenten teaching series I'll be doing at St Paul's Cathedral. We're calling it Peeling the Paschal Mystery. Looking forward to it.
  • Evening Prayer in the cathedral.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Tuesday (St Francis de Sales)

  • Morning Prayer in the cathedral.
  • Touched base with the Archdeacon on a couple of ongoing concerns.
  • Spoke by phone with one of our rectors over a couple of emerging concerns.
  • Arranged for publication of the news that Fr Jim Fackler died yesterday. Spoke with Fr Baumann in Salem, who was his immediate pastoral contact. Spoke with one of Fr Fackler's sons and conveyed my condolences to the family. (Travel plans this weekend prevent from presiding at the funeral.) And since Fr Jim still technically "belonged" to him and was "on loan" to us, I rang up Bishop John Roth, my ELCA opposite number, to bring him up to speed.
  • Ad hoc but substantive in-person conversation with Dean Andy Hook about a range of cathedral-related matters.
  • Reviewed some papers in my capacity as one of the two co-trustees of the Putnam Trust, which benefits two of our parishes. The lawyers for the trust company are forever changing one thing or another, mostly for tax planning purposes. Out of a stack of 100 pages, two of them required my signature. Gave the stack to Sue for scanning to our files and mailing the originals back to U.S. Trust.
  • Dispatched a handful of relatively small email-generated tasks.
  • Stopped by Twyford's BBQ, a truck-based business that was operating today about three blocks from the office. Picked up a pound of burnt ends and brought them home to eat for lunch. (Not the whole pound in one sitting, mind you.)
  • Planned and plotted the various individual tasks associated with giving the Lenten teaching series this year at St Paul's Cathedral. We're going to call it Peeling the Paschal Mystery.
  • Responded by email to a substantive liturgical question from one of our parish clergy as he plans for Holy Week.
  • Took a walk up Spring Street, around the north end of the state capitol, and back down Second. It was cold and windy, but within the window of doability.
  • Revised, edited, refined, and printed a working script of my homily for this Sunday. I'll be giving at as a guest preacher at the Church of the Holy Comforter in Drexel Hill, Pennsylvania, a Philadelphia suburb. This is a frosting-on-the-cake gig, as my original reason for going to Philadelphia was to attend the annual Mass and luncheon of the Society of King Charles the Martyr, of which I am a board member.
  • Evening Prayer in the cathedral.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Third Sunday after the Epiphany

I love the rhythm of my work. Sunday parish visitations are always energizing and joy-evoking. They make other stuff that happens during the week worth slogging through. Presided and preached 0730 and 0945 Masses at Trinity, Lincoln this morning, confirming three adults and a teen at the later liturgy. Then joined the congregation at the home of Fr Mark Evans and his wife for an open house. Trinity is a happy and healthy congregation.

Sermon for III Epiphany

Trinity, Lincoln--Matthew 4:12-23

I have a rather enormous appetite for spy movies and suspense thrillers. Nowadays I mostly watch them when I need to be on the treadmill for an extended period of time. One of the frequent plot ingredients for such films involves a time bomb—sometimes even a nuclear time bomb. The hero, usually after several minutes of strenuous hand-to-hand combat, finally makes it to the bomb, which, invariably, is set to explode in just a few seconds. The hero is, of course, a hero. But he is not usually a bomb expert. Should he cut the red wire first, or the blue wire? Or the yellow wire? Or the green wire? If he guesses wrong, the device will explode in his face. If he hesitates too long, the device will explode in his face. He simply must decide and plunge ahead, without the benefit of sustained analysis or reflection.

The authors of these fictional scenarios may well have taken their inspiration from the fourth chapter of St Matthew’s gospel. Jesus is walking along the lake shore, having just arrived in Galilee after his baptism and forty days being tempted in the wilderness.
He sees Peter and Andrew, two fishermen who happen to be brothers, busy plying their trade. He says to them, "Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men." And they drop their nets and follow him.

A little further up the beach, he runs across another set of brothers, James and John, who are fishing from a boat with their father. He calls them, and they also follow.
Matthew doesn't give us any evidence that Jesus asked if they were enjoying the weather, or how they were feeling that day. He doesn't mention anything about Jesus having to ask twice, or any of these four early disciples responding, "Follow you? What precisely do you mean by that?" Nowhere do we hear anything like, "Think it over. Take all the time you need" or "Let me sleep on it and I'll call you in the morning." It's a very sparse, very clear, very uncluttered narrative: "Follow me . . . OK."  Pick a wire and cut it; there's no time to commission a study.

Even a New Yorker would find their exchange exceedingly abrupt. Abruptness doesn't play well with most of us, does it? We consider it rude. We consider it an invasion of our rights. We like to make our own decisions, and we don't want anyone telling us when we have to make them. The pressure is unwelcome. It makes us feel like we're losing control.

Losing control. If there's anything that throws somebody in our culture into a panic, it's the idea of not being in control. We have FedEx and next-day-air electronic signatures to supply us with a constant stream of options, options that make us feel like we are in control. I want options, choices, alternatives. I want to find what works … for me. I don't want anyone forcing my hand prematurely.

Guess what, folks.

We're not in control.

Each of us is here today, here in church today, here in Trinity Church today, because Jesus is calling us. Maybe you're aware of that call and are consciously responding to it. Maybe you haven't heard anything resembling a call from Jesus, and think you're here because you chose to be here, because you're in control. Either way, you're here because Jesus is calling you.

What does the voice of Jesus sound like to you? What is he saying? Maybe you've been spiritually hungry for some time, searching for the kind of meal that will satisfy the deepest possible kind of human hunger. Jesus is saying, "Come. Follow me. Let me feed you. Be satisfied." Maybe you've been wounded by the changes and chances of this life, the "slings and arrows of outrageous fortune." Jesus is saying, "Come, follow me. Find healing and rest for your soul." Maybe you've been spiritually complacent, a little lax. You've stopped praying, you're stingy with your time and money. It isn't that you've become an atheist, but you've allowed yourself to be consumed by the things of this world, and you've pushed God to the margins. Jesus's voice comes to you today like a slap in the face, the kind you respond to with, "Thanks, I needed that." Maybe things have been going swimmingly well for you. You're doing just fine and you have every intention of staying on course. Jesus’ voice saying, "Follow me" is an abrupt intrusion, an unwelcome interference with the status quo.

Whatever position you find yourself in, you can identify with Peter and Andrew and James and John, because Jesus is coming to you from out of the blue, into your world, finding you where you are, doing what you do, and saying, "Follow me." He isn't presenting us with a proposal, or the results of an opinion poll. He isn't saying, "Give it serious thought and get back to me." He's saying, "Cut the wire." Cut the wire, because the bomb's about to explode. "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." Follow me. Follow me today.

What might it mean for you to follow Jesus—to follow Jesus today? For starters, if you have never consciously acknowledged the lordship of Jesus Christ over your life, if you have never said to him, "Jesus, you are my Savior and my Lord, and I will obey and follow you wherever you lead me,” it might mean doing just that. There are four people here, at any rate, who have come to that decision, and are about to say so quite publicly. Maybe, if you feel yourself weighed down by guilt and shame and a haunting sense of your own sinfulness, following Jesus today means asking for the courage to face those areas of your life that you keep in the dark. The fourth of the Twelve Steps in the Alcoholics Anonymous movement calls for a "searching and fearless moral inventory" of our lives. Like lancing a boil, it's painful in the short run, but necessary and therapeutic in the long run. Or, maybe Jesus's call to you to follow him involves, not seeking forgiveness for yourself, but you yourself forgiving someone who has wronged you. Are you harboring a grudge, nursing a resentment, cherishing an anger that, even as it feels good to wallow in, is eating away at your soul? Even as Jesus told those first four disciples to drop their nets and follow him, Jesus is telling you, "Drop that grudge, let loose of that resentment, cast that anger aside, and follow me."

Maybe following Jesus today is as simple as beginning to pray, or beginning to pray again. Do you pray daily? Do you know how to pray? (I had a teaching series on prayer in this parish less than a year ago, so I know some of you do!) There's no shame in not knowing how to pray. Maybe you couldn’t make it to the Thursday evening Lenten series last year, and no one ever taught you. It's OK. Ask me, or Father Mark, or some other mature Christian for help. Nothing would make us happier than to receive and respond to such a request.

Perhaps following Jesus today means coming to grips with the idea of stewardship, realizing that you're a renter, not an owner, that you're a tenant, not a landlord. In all seriousness, there are those for whom following Jesus today means writing an uncomfortably large check to advance the work and ministry of Christ's church. Or maybe your growing edge in stewardship is not stewardship of your finances, but stewardship of your mind. Maybe answering Jesus's call to follow him today means joining a class or a study group and becoming more mature in your understanding of the things of the Lord.

The list could go on, but you get the point. Ultimately, only you can answer the question—what does it means to follow Jesus today?—because you're the one who Jesus is calling. And if he's calling you, don't expect him to go away. He's gentle, but relentless, in his love and his call. St Augustine wrote about his experience of uneasiness before he answered Jesus' relentless call to follow him: "My heart was restless, O Lord, until it found its rest in you." Elsewhere he wrote, "I could never have found you, Lord, unless you had found me first." One of the old gospel songs that remains in my heart from my Baptist upbringing contains the lines, "Softly and tenderly Jesus is calling, calling for you and for me; … come home, come home, ye who are weary, come home; earnestly, tenderly, Jesus is calling; calling, O sinner, come home."

The clock is ticking, hero. Not to decide is to decide. Cut the wire. Follow Jesus.
Amen.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Saturday (St Agnes)

Aside from taking care of my own health with a weight and treadmill workout, my good deed for the day was providing lunch (tacos from La Bamba) for the crew helping Dean Andy Hook move into his new home.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Friday (St Fabian)

  • Morning Prayer in the cathedral.
  • Processed a short stack of emails.
  • Processed the contents of my physical inbox, mostly by scanning, categorizing, and tagging electronically.
  • Spent some quality time on the website of the Archives of the Episcopal Church toward the end of distilling some simple but robust standard practices going forward for identifying and preserving documents, including emails, generated in the course of my work that have the potential to be significant for archival purposes. We really haven't been doing much to make things easier for future historiographers. The considerate thing to do would be to remedy that so far as we can without compromising our actual mission and ministry.
  • Took some preparatory technical steps toward recording a teaching video. And I may or may not have looked in, off and on, on the proceedings in Washington, DC. 
  • Lunch from Subway, eaten at home.
  • Battled video technology, with which I have had a tendentious relationship, most of the afternoon. But I do believe I have "in the can" a video presentation on the first of the Seven Habits of Highly-Formed Christian Disciples. It still needs to be edited, and it will never win any awards, but it's done.
  • Prayed the Luminous Mysteries of the Rosary. I am so grateful that this set of mysteries was added to the familiar three others a while back. They are immensely spiritually rewarding.
  • Evening Prayer in the cathedral.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Thursday (St Wulfstan)

  • My morning plans were upended by a difficult night, sleeping-wise. (I was awake for a long while with shortness-of-breath that now appears may be related to some version of sleep apnea; it's an evolving story.) So, once I settled down and was able to sleep, I allowed myself some extra time in the morning. It's a "pay me now or pay me later" scenario, right? 
  • Then it was time for my regular Thursday AM weights and treadmill routine (the latter now "enhanced" to 90 minutes, rather than 45). So it was 11am before I made it into the office.
  • Exchanged emails with Fr Evans over some of the details of Sunday's liturgies at Trinity, Lincoln.
  • Read the request of the Bishop of Kansas for permission of the bishops-with-jurisdiction to resign his office in order to accept a call to become rector of a major parish in New York City. This is not a commonplace move for a diocesan bishop, but it does happen from time to time. I executed a form conveying my assent to his request.
  • It appears that we may be in a position to hire some sort of communications officer at a diocesan level later this year. I plotted some of the discrete tasks that will need to be checked off as we move in that direction.
  • Lunch from China 1, eaten at home.
  • Met with an individual in the still-informal stages of discerning a potential vocation to the priesthood.
  • Rejoiced that I got to spend some real quality time with several commentaries (including ancient/patristic texts) on Matthew's gospel, in preparation for preaching at St Thomas', Salem on VII Epiphany. So often the press of other things prevents me from going too deep into the exegetical weeds when I'm developing a sermon, but such wasn't the case today, and it was a truly a treat.
  • One of my ongoing pastoral concerns is over hymns and service music used in our Eucharistic Communities, particularly the smallest ones. It seems like many Episcopalians have a sort of mental template of what "real church" looks and sounds like, and feel an obligation to try to replicate as much as they can the sort of Sunday event that is a challenge even in parishes with considerable resources. I've been aware for a while of a movement around what's known as "paperless singing"--simple compositions that are taught by imitation and sung by heart, with or without any instrumental accompaniment. So I spent a chunk of my afternoon surfing the web and learning more about this. Perhaps there is a clergy/musicians conference on the horizon. Check out this website if you're curious.
  • Evening Prayer in the cathedral.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Confession of St Peter

  • Morning Prayer in the cathedral.
  • Prepared to preside and preach at the midday Mass (a regular chore most Wednesdays).
  • Processed a short stack of emails on the fly as they came in. (I'd rather it were a short stack of pancakes, but ... )
  • Got to work on a letter to a bishop I do not know personally in another Anglican province. It's about a sensitive pastoral matter, so I can't really say anything, but, even if I could, I'm not sure I could connect all the dots in a coherent and succinct narrative. At any rate, chasing down precise contact information, carefully drafting the letter; printing, signing, scanning, and emailing as an attachment all conspired to consume the rest of my morning.
  • Celebrated and preached the Mass for the Confession of St Peter.
  • Attended to some convoluted paperwork associated with the Bishops Class of 2011 annual continuing education get-together (with our wives) in April. It was more complicated than it needed to be, and involved a phone call, so, again, it took rather longer than I had hoped and anticipated.
  • Did initial reconstructive surgery on a homily for Epiphany IV from a prior year, toward repurposing it for use a week from Sunday at a parish in Pennsylvania where I have a guest preaching gig.
  • Evening Prayer (slightly earlyish) in the cathedral.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Tuesday (St Antony)

  • Morning Prayer in the cathedral.
  • Took care of a quick bit of administrivia.
  • Took care of a not-so-quick bit of administrivia, having to do with the ongoing project of making our database software accessible and effective. We are making slow but steady progress.
  • Played email volleyball with the rector of Holy Comforter, Drexel Hill, PA, where I will be preaching the Sunday after next. The preaching gig is a secondary side benefit to the primary reason for my visit to Philadelphia (my first to that city) that weekend, which is connected to my leadership position in the Society of King Charles the Martyr. But I am never not excited about an opportunity to preach.
  • Took some giant leaps toward actually having a sermon ready to deliver when I show up in Drexel Hill.
  • Lunch from the McD's on MacArthur, which I learned yesterday is closing at the end of the month, after 60 years, eaten at home. It's not like Springfield has any shortage of McDonald's locations. But this is the only one that is literally right on my way home from the office. It will be missed ... by me, at least.
  • On my way back to the office, I accompanied Brenda to Jiffy Lube to address a minor issue with her car. 
  • Attended to an email from one of our rectors that covered a wide range of concerns, from pastoral issues within his parish, to the details of my next visitation, to some diocesan business.
  • Met for a while with Fr Mark Evans, first in his capacity as chair of the Department of Finance, and then in his capacity as rector of Trinity, Lincoln, where I will be visiting this Sunday.
  • Revised, edited, refined, and printed a working script for my homily this Sunday (Trinity, Lincoln).
  • Saw to some routine and mundane personal organization chores.
  • Amidst all the foregoing, processed a steady trickle of incoming emails. Steadier and less of a trickle than usual.
  • Evening Prayer in the cathedral.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Second Sunday after the Epiphany

I had an arduous journey to my parish visitation today--all of about 2.5 miles to Christ Church, Springfield. Spoke at their adult forum at 9am. It's always lively conversation there. Today they were mostly curious about my sabbatical and what the Camino was like, which I was more than happy to talk about. Presided at preached at the regular 10:15 Eucharist, where we also confirmed three adults. It was a very enjoyable time.

Sermon for Epiphany II

Christ Church, Springfield--John 1:21-42, Isaiah 49:1-7

Several decades ago a psychologist named Abraham Maslow got famous—at least among those who read psychology textbooks! —for publishing his theory about the “hierarchy of needs.”  Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs says that human beings have certain universal needs which, if they are met at all, must be met in a particular order. The most basic human need is for oxygen, and a person who is deprived of oxygen, after a very few seconds, is unlikely to be concerned about anything else. 

After the need for oxygen is met, the next level of the hierarchy is immediate personal safety. If you're being chased through the forest by a wild bear, you're not going to care awfully much about the relative humidity. And so on up the hierarchy through the levels of warmth, water, food, and so on. Once a lower need is satisfied, there is an immediate drive and desire to meet the next one on the scale. If you're freezing to death, you think, “If I could just have a fire, I wouldn't have a care in the world.” Then, once you're warm, you realize you're thirsty, and the quest continues. Most human beings, wherever they are on Maslow's hierarchy, spend most of their waking hours looking for something, seeking something.

When John the Baptist saw Jesus coming toward him, sometime after his baptism, he said to his own disciples, “Behold the Lamb of God, behold him who takes away the sin of the world,” whereupon two of John's disciples, Andrew being one of them, up and followed Jesus. When Jesus noticed that they were following him, he turned to them and said, “What do you seek?”

What do you seek?  What are you looking for?  What need do you have that you're trying to meet? 

The highest category of need on Maslow's hierarchy is something called “self-actualization.” Self-actualization is what you seek after, the need that you're aware of, when your material and emotional needs are regularly met. If you'll permit me now to leap across the crack between psychology and theology, I will suggest that what Maslow calls a need for self-actualization, a Christian —or, for that matter, a believer of almost any religious persuasion —would recognize as a need for God. We're talking here about a spiritual need. We're talking about one's hunger for one's true self, which is found only in the communion between a creature and its creator.

The disciples' answer to Jesus' question, “What do you seek?" was “Where are you staying?” The English translation doesn't really do justice to their question. They aren't just casually curious about Jesus' address and phone number. They want to know where Jesus lives, where he abides, where he dwells. They are seeking to fulfill their spiritual hunger, to experience that communion of creature and creator which they know will alone give them real “self-actualization.” They’re seeking to fill the God-shaped void that every human being is born with. 

And Jesus responds, “Come and see.” Again, the English translation is a little bit misleading. Jesus isn't just inviting them to casually stop by for a cup of coffee and have a look around. He isn't saying, “Hey, check this out.” Rather, Jesus is inviting Andrew and his companion to really come and see.  Come and have your eyes opened. Come and be enlightened in such a way that you'll think you were blind before that moment. Come and find self-actualization. Come and find what you've always been looking for even if you didn't know it. And Andrew and his friend came and they saw.

So what do we do when we've come and seen what we've been looking for, when we've experienced “self-actualization”?  One option is to keep it a secret, to horde it like a squirrel gathering acorns as the chill of winter sets in. “I've got mine; you find yours on your own.” The first Episcopal church Brenda and I ever worshiped in regularly—44 years ago this spring—was apparently filled with such an attitude. We were there every Sunday morning for the better part of six months, and during that time not a single soul took the slightest interest in our presence.  The Rector himself didn't so much as ask us our names. It's a wonder that I'm an Episcopalian today! There were apparently some needs getting met in that place, because it was a fairly good-sized parish. But whatever it was they had, they sure didn't seem very interested in sharing it.

The alternative, of course, when one has come and seen, is to share the news, to say, “Here it is. There's plenty more. Come and get it!” First, we would tell our family and friends. Then, if the news were important enough, we would want to tell everyone we could. If you happened to stumble over the sure-fire cure for cancer, you would want as many people as possible to know it as soon as possible! Remember those scientists in Utah about 25 years ago who said they'd found a way to create a “cold fusion” nuclear reaction?  It turned out they really hadn’t, but if they had, it would have revolutionized the world energy industry overnight. If they weren't complete liars, and at least thought they'd done what they said they'd done, their eagerness for the whole world to know of the discovery was quite understandable. 

All this, I hope, is unremarkably self-evident, because now I want to relate it to our life together in the church. We say we have gospel—good news. To varying degrees, and in different ways, we have actually experienced it. We have come and seen, and we know what we've seen to be that which we've sought, what we've been looking for, that which meets our deepest—or, according to Maslow, our highest—needs. How do we respond? 

If someone walks through the doors of Christ Church and makes the effort to become part of this community, I firmly believe that the gospel of Christ is somehow going to touch that person through the members of Christ Church. But what if someone remains on the fringe? Or, horror of horrors, what if they never even make it to the parking lot? What if they drive right on up Sixth Street, wondering where they're going to meet their need for self-actualization? Where is our concern for them? If we have good news, do they also deserve to hear it?

The very word “evangelism”—which, literally, means nothing more than “proclaiming good news”—and much more the thing itself, still scares and even offends many Episcopalians.  At the very least, we're nervous about it. We sometimes say it's because we're put off by the methods that other kinds of churches employ—emotional manipulation and the like. But I wonder. Could it be, at least in part, that we're nervous about sharing the good news because we're not all that clear on just what the news is, and why it's good? Try this on in your imagination: Write a one-half page summary of the gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ, in a way that is both personal and attractive enough that someone who'd never heard it before would want to hear more. Could you do it?

When Andrew came and saw, and when he knew that the one he had seen was indeed the long-awaited Messiah, the hope of Israel, his first response was to run and tell his brother Peter the good news: “We have found the Messiah.” It was a completely natural and unself-conscious action on his part, as natural as one neighbor telling another about the station that's selling gas for under two dollars a gallon, or one fisherman telling another where the bass are biting.

The theme that runs through all the lessons today is that God chooses. By inviting them to “come and see,” Jesus chose Andrew and Peter as his disciples. At his baptism, God the Father revealed Jesus as his chosen one. In the prophecy of Isaiah, the “suffering servant” is chosen by God to be a light, not only to the nation of Israel —that would be “too light a thing.”  No, the servant of the LORD is to be a light to the nations. 

My friends, the same Lord is telling us in the Diocese of Springfield that it is “too light a thing” that we should minister only to one another, that we should share the good news only among ourselves. He calls us as well to be a “light to the nations,” represented by the thousands of people who live within walking or driving distance of this church, and who are looking for self-actualization in all the wrong places. We know what they seek, and we know where Jesus lives —he lives here. We have a story to tell. Let's learn it, first. Then, let's tell it. Amen.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Saturday (St Kentigern)

I had a noon meeting at the diocesan office on my calendar today, but, in the wake of the freezing rain that began to coat paved surfaces with a micro-layer of ice during the night, I was dubious about it. However, when I confirmed that the other party involved was indeed en route from a significant distance away, I threw on my winter gear and strewed ice melt compound and sand all over my driveway. A few minutes later I was able to successfully walk up it. Once I got the YFNBmobile out to the street, the roads didn't seem inordinately slick. The meeting (with a layperson over a pastoral issue) happened between 11:30 and 1:00, and I went back home, stopping at Taco Gringo for takeout on my way. The feature attraction of the afternoon was a weight workout and a very long time on the treadmill.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Friday (St Hilary of Poitiers)

  • Usual devotions (Angelus, intercessions before the Blessed Sacrament) in the cathedral, whereupon I discovered that I had left my phone at home, so I headed back there, offering short form of Morning Prayer en route.
  • Quickly took care of a couple of bits of administrivia.
  • Scanned and otherwise processed the contents of my hard-copy inbox.
  • Met for the balance of the morning with the Archdeacon and the Treasurer to compare resources with opportunities and more toward preparing an amended budget to present to the February meeting of the Diocesan Council (which always amends the budget passed by Synod the previous fall anyway, so while what we were discussing is kind of not routine, it's also kind of routine).
  • Kept a 12:30 appointment to have an ultrasound scan of my thyroid done. (There were some nodules discovered about five years ago, so this was just to see whether they're still the same size--and, I found out later, they are ... so, reassuring.)
  • Given the freezing rain advisory that was to come into effect mid-afternoon, I headed home for the day. Lunched on leftovers.
  • Worked most of the rest of the afternoon on a long-term writing project (a series of short meditations on liturgical texts associated with Advent).
  • Evening Prayer at home. No freezing rain yet!

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Thursday (St Aelred)

  • Customary Thursday morning weights and treadmill, with the treadmill portion extended once again to about 90 minutes. 
  • Left the house around 9:50. Morning Prayer (memorized short form) in the car on the way in. Brief devotions in the cathedral when I got there.
  • Clarified a couple of small administrative matters ... with the Administrator.
  • Spoke by phone with two of our priests--both over concerns that could be broadly described as "pastoral."
  • Took a first prayerful pass at the readings for Epiphany VII in preparation for preaching at St Thomas', Salem on February 19. Made some notes. Now it percolates in my heart and mind, under the guidance, one hopes. of the Holy Spirit.
  • Lunch from McD's, eaten at home.
  • Hand-wrote several notes of greeting to clergy and clergy spouses with February birthdays and anniversaries. I hope it's really true that "it's the thought that counts," because my handwriting is not going to win any awards for elegance of legibility.
  • Left on the early side, around 4:00, to attend to some personal business.
  • Evening Prayer at home.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Wednesday

  • Morning Prayer in the cathedral.
  • Prepared to preside and preach at the midday Mass.
  • Attended to a sensitive and difficult pastoral/administrative matter, involving two phone conversations. Not my favorite thing, but it comes with the territory.
  • Did some deconstructive and reconstructive surgery on the text of a previously-delivered homily for Epiphany III in preparation for repurposing it for use at Trinity, Lincoln on January 22.
  • Sent an email invitation to one of our priests to deliver the homily at the annual Chrism Mass on April 8.
  • Celebrated and preached the midday cathedral Mass (ferial Wednesday after Epiphany I).
  • Drove out to my optometrist's office to have new lenses put into my glasses frame. I'm cautiously optimistic.
  • Lunch at home. Leftovers.
  • Most of my afternoon (what was left of it by this point) was given over to plotting sermon prep tasks from Ash Wednesday through Easter. As I've mentioned before, this is an inordinately time-consuming job, but I actually rather enjoy it.
  • Evening Prayer in the cathedral.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Tuesday (William Laud)

  • Usual weekday AM routine. Morning Prayer in the cathedral.
  • Responded by email to four messages that arrived yesterday. Three were fairly easily and effectively dispatched. One required an uncommon amount of care the verbal finesse.
  • By the time I finished with those, it was time to leave for a 10:30 appointment with my primary care physician. This yielded a visit to the lab for a blood drawn and a chest X-ray.
  • By the time I emerged from the clinic, it was nearly noon, so I swung by KFC for the lunch, which I brought home to eat.
  • Attended to another piece of demanding--but important and, unfortunately, necessary--piece of verbal craftsmanship, having to do with a sensitive pastoral/administrative matter (which is a euphemism I use frequently, I realize, for things I really can't say anything about in detail).
  • Revised, refined, proofed, and printed a homily for this Sunday (Christ Church, Springfield).
  • Took another hard and long look at the major teaching piece on ministry that's been in the works for a couple of years. It's now up on the diocesan website and linked to on the diocesan Facebook page (According to the Gifts We Have Been Given).
  • Evening Prayer in the cathedral.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

First Sunday after the Epiphany

It was not an overly-demanding Sunday--just a 30-mile jaunt to Trinity, Jacksonville for a humane service time of 10am. Preached, celebrated the Eucharist, and presided over the Renewal of Baptismal Vows on this feast of the Baptism of the Lord. There's a good spirit at Trinity under the leadership of their still newish rector, Fr Zachary Brooks. Home for a long nap and a classic movie (Hitchcock's 1955 To Catch a Thief).

Sermon for Epiphany I

Trinity, Jacksonville--Matthew 3:13-17, Isaiah 42:1-9

Well . . . Christmas really is over, isn't it?  Some poinsettias linger here and there, just because they're still so pretty—the tradition is actually to leave some out until Candlemas on February 2—and a festival frontal still decorates the altar. But most of the Christmas decorations are put away, most significantly, perhaps, the crèche. Jesus is apparently no longer lying in an animal feeding trough set in a hillside cave outside a tiny village in an obscure province of the Roman Empire. Between Epiphany and the Sunday after—a mere 48 hours this year—we make a quantum leap in remembered time, a leap of about thirty years, from Jesus the infant wrapped in swaddling clothes, to Jesus the grown-up, ready to embark on, as it were, his “career.”

The object of our attention in the liturgy for the First Sunday after the Epiphany is the Baptism of our Lord, in the Jordan River, by none other than John the Baptist. We celebrate this event because the Church has always seen in it an Epiphany, a manifestation, a showing-forth of Christ, that is more arresting, and more indicative of his humility, than even the circumstances surrounding his birth. After 30-odd years of obscurity in the Galilean village of Nazareth, Jesus goes public. He makes his way down to the Jordan River, where that crazy man named John has been attracting hordes of people by telling them to wade out into the water, take a plunge, and come up confessing their sins. None of the external circumstances of Jesus' life can explain why he did what he did.  It was something internal.  Something was drawing—or driving—Jesus to that river.  He was responding to a call. 

There are many reasons why it may have seemed inappropriate to Jesus for him to go and be baptized. And they all make a certain amount of sense, to me, at least. From the very first time I heard this story as a child, I scratched my head, and wondered why in the world Jesus, of all people, would need to be baptized.  It would not have bothered me for this passage of scripture to just disappear; I would not have missed it. 

First of all, Jesus is greater than John. John was the one whose sole purpose in life was to announce Jesus' coming —“prepare the way of the Lord”, and all that. If any baptizing was going to be done, it should have been Jesus baptizing John, not the other way around. Second, with Jesus on the scene, they should all have said goodbye to the Jordan, because baptism with river water is only a warm-up act for the kind of baptism Jesus came to bring—baptism with the Holy Spirit and with fire. Third, even though Jesus truly did share our humanity, there is one aspect of that humanity that he did not participate in, and that is sin.  Jesus was sinless, which means that he was perfectly attuned to God's will at all times. Why should the sinless one undergo a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins? 

These are some pretty strong reasons why Jesus might have thought twice about going ahead with his plan. Indeed, John himself was reluctant to perform the act: “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” he said. Apparently, the early Christian community, including the author of this gospel, was also a bit perplexed, if not embarrassed, about the whole thing. Matthew's account makes a point of telling us that Jesus got right up out of the water after being baptized, rather than staying to confess his sins, as would normally have been the case. But Jesus insists. He's thought it through, and he knows his mind. He's going to be baptized. He tells John, in the words of the Revised English Bible translation“Let it be so for the present; it is right for us to do all that God requires.”

All that God requires. 

Well, sure, we knew that much. Who else would have been calling Jesus away from his carpenter shop in Nazareth to get baptized in the Jordan River? But we still want to know why! Why does God require it?  The selection from the prophet Isaiah that is appointed to be read along with Matthew's account of Jesus' baptism offers us a clue:

The Lord says, “Here is my servant...whom I strengthen, the one I have chosen, with whom I am pleased. I have filled him with my spirit, and he will bring justice to every nation. He will not shout or raise his voice or make loud speeches in the streets. He will not break off a bent reed or put out a flickering lamp. He will bring lasting justice to all. He will not lose hope or courage; he will establish justice on the earth. Distant lands eagerly await his teaching.

Here is my servant. 

This passage is known among biblical scholars as one of the “servant songs” in the Book of Isaiah. Jesus, from the time of his youth, would have been well familiar with it. And in it lies the key to understanding the mysterious event that we remember today. In the act of accepting baptism from John, Jesus was accepting the role of a servant of the Lord.

The Prayer Book collect for the Second Sunday after Christmas, of which there isn’t one this year, asks that we may “share the divine life of him who humbled himself to share our humanity.” If we are going to share, to participate, in Jesus' life, part of the deal is that where he goes, we follow. 
So if Jesus accepted a servant vocation, a vocation of humility, when he was baptized by John, then the path that lies ahead of us is the same one, the path of being servants to our God and Father. We might be tempted, of course, to say, “That's beneath my dignity. Someone else should be serving me.” Jesus could have said the same thing, and insisted the he take the position of prominence and visibility as the baptizer.  But he didn't. 

We might be tempted to say, “Phooey on being a servant of God. I know a better way to improve the world.” Jesus, you know, could have said the same thing.  He, after all, came to baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire. Nevertheless, into the water he went. 

And we might be tempted to say, “I would be wasted as a servant. I would be more valuable as one of God's executives.”  Jesus, of course, could easily have said the same thing. He, after all, was the sinless one, and not only that, but was himself God from God, light from light, true God from true God, of one being with the Father. But that isn't what he said. 

The purpose of Jesus' servanthood, understood in the light of Isaiah's prophecy, was to bring God's “justice” to the earth. The English word “justice” is really much too narrow in meaning for the Hebrew word that it translates. Mishpat implies much more than mere fairness, or equality, or the righting of wrongs. It implies God's universal and benevolent rule, the right ordering of all relationships. “Governance” might be a more accurate, though somewhat more obscure, translation. 

The role of Jesus the servant, the baptized humble servant of the Lord, was to bring the world under God's governance. Our servanthood, as participators in the divine life of Christ, is to be an extension into space and time of Jesus' servanthood. The servanthood of the church is to proclaim—in what we say, in what we do, and, most importantly, in who we are—to proclaim good news to those who desperately need good news; to turn on a light for those sitting in darkness; to open the doors that imprison people in sin, sickness, and addiction; to give hope to those who know nothing but despair. 

If the baptized Christ is a living reality for us, and if we're connected to his body, the Church, then we are indeed in possession of good news.  And if we are in possession of good news, then our servant vocation is to make it known to others by any means possible, to extend God's justice, God's governance, wherever we go, to be living epiphanies, living manifestations, of Jesus, the baptized Christ. Amen.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Saturday

Mostly took today as a personal day, but I did do some substantial email processing in the evening.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Epiphany

Regular AM weekday routine. Morning Prayer in the cathedral. The day was given over to mundane administrative chores, all fairly important but not pressingly urgent, and most involving attempts to start the email negotiations for scheduling a meeting of some sort, which I suppose is a necessary evil but leaves me kind of drained. There was a substantive phone conversation with the Dean of Nashotah House to break things up a bit. And I do have a sense of accomplishment, as there were ten items checked of my task list. But I'm glad every day isn't ... like I said, this mundane. So it was with some joy that I pointed the YFNBmobile in a southerly direction at 4pm and joined (as celebrant and preacher) the good people of St Andrew's, Edwardsville for a sung Mass with lots of incense in celebration of the feast of the Epiphany. We sang five hymns, and none of them were We Three Kings. Not that there's anything wrong with it--I like it--but this may be the first Epiphany liturgy I've ever been to that didn't use it. One the way home, we took advantage of the situation and had dinner at Brenda's favorite--Ruby Tuesday in Litchfield.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Thursday (12th Day of Christmas)

  • Accompanied Brenda to an 8am doctor's appointment.
  • Got back home around 9:30 and did my customary Thursday exercise routine: four sets of weight-lifting and about 90 minutes on the treadmill. (OK, this was double my usual treadmill time, but I'm feeling a need to raise the status of exercise among my priorities.)
  • Wrestled with about 30 emails that had accumulated during the morning.
  • Brenda brought me a sandwich from Chick-Fil-A for lunch, which I enjoyed in my recliner.
  • At the office for the afternoon: more emails at first, then ...
  • Consulted with the Archdeacon and the Administrator over various items of administrivia.
  • The solid PM accomplishment was a long and careful look at the diocesan canons to see if there is a path toward making the mechanics of electing General Convention Deputies and Alternates at Synod every third year less cumbersome than it's been. Crafted a proposal and hit it over into the Chancellor's court for his comments.
  • Evening Prayer in the cathedral.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Wednesday (Eleventh Day of Christmas)

  • Task planning at home; Morning Prayer in the cathedral.
  • Got right to work on refining, in light of requested feedback, some guidelines for use in readiness-for-ordination examination of candidates for the vocational diaconate. We're not quite inventing the wheel here, but it's been a good long while since this diocese ordained a vocational deacon, and the landscape has shifted significantly during that time.
  • Broke off at 10:40 in order to keep an 11am appointment with my optometrist. It's no wonder I've been having vision problems. It turns out that the glasses I thought were a "redo" from a slightly errant prescription more than a year ago are in fact the prescription that was supposed to be redone. So they're fixing that for me.
  • Lunch from Pizza Hut, eaten at home.
  • Kept a phone date with my old friend the Bishop of Calgary. We try to talk regularly as a sort of micro-support group.
  • Ran a Bishop's Discretionary Fund-driven errand on behalf of a layperson in the diocese who is inordinately in need.
  • Got back to work on the diaconal assessment document and finally got to a point where I am declaring it finished. I suppose it might be tweaked a bit more yet, though.
  • Cleared my mind by taking several walking laps around the interior of the diocesan office "rotunda."
  • Did some substantial surgery on an old sermon text for Epiphany II as part of the process of refurbishing it for use at Christ Church, Springfield on January 15.
  • Performed an administrative/communication chore in connection with one of our companion diocese relationships.
  • Evening Prayer in the cathedral.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Tuesday (10th Day of Christmas)

  • Dropped off our eldest child, Sarah, at the Amtrak station on my way into the office this morning, after a wonderful 2+ day visit. Morning Prayer in the cathedral.
  • Revised, edited, refined, and printed my homily for this Sunday (Trinity, Jacksonville).
  • Read and pondered an email from a layperson of the diocese over an emerging concern.
  • Responded by email to another layperson over some personal concerns.
  • Conferred with the Archdeacon for a bit on the status of one of our Eucharistic Communities.
  • Spoke by phone with one of our rectors concerning a pastoral issue.
  • Reviewed a proposed itinerary for a February visit to Peru and gave it a thumbs up.
  • Took care of a fairly mundane (but ultimately important) administrative chore (appointing somebody to a position similar to the one they held under the previous canons but which was eliminated in the recent revision).
  • Met with Dean Hook from across the alley to do a "post-mortem" on the Christmas liturgies and look ahead toward Holy Week.
  • Lunch from Taco Gringo, eaten at home.
  • Devoted the bulk of my afternoon to further revision and refinement of the major teaching document on ministry that I've been working on. I believe it's about as ready for prime time as it's going to get, but I'm nonetheless going to sit on it for about a week before going public.
  • Made a similar post-canonical-change appointment to the one I made in the morning.
  • Attended to a couple of more small but fairly important administrative tasks.
  • Evening Prayer in the cathedral.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Holy Name

Drove to Havana this morning. Didn't see any antique cars. Guess it wasn't that Havana. But I did celebrate the feast of the Holy Name of Jesus with the fine people of St Barnabas' Church, and had a very open and productive conversation with them afterward about the direction we might plot together for their future.