Friday, November 30, 2018

St Andrew

  • Morning Prayer in the cathedral.
  • Walked down to McD's on South Grand for breakfast.
  • Planned tasks for the day.
  • Attended a conference call for the diocesan trustees and our new investment advisor, which lasted just over an hour.
  • Met with the Archdeacon for our annual review conversation re his role as a member of diocesan staff. This evolved into a long talk covering a wide range of issues.
  • Got started on refining and editing my homily for this Sunday (St Paul's, Carlinville.
  • Broke away to attend Mass for the feast day in the cathedral chapel.
  • Lunch from McD's, eaten in my office.
  • Conferred briefly with Paige, for the purpose of getting her registered as a member of Episcopal Communicators.
  • Ran an errand up to a downtown locksmith to get some extra office keys made. I'm now confident that I have insulated myself from the danger of being locked out of the building.
  • Kept a scheduled 2pm appointment with an individual who is ordained in another denomination but wishes to exercise ordained ministry in the Episcopal Church.
  • Attended to some administrative issues pertaining to the task of transferring some funds to our companion diocese of Peru,
  • Took a brisk walk in a northwesterly direction, achieving what I was lacking toward my 10,000 step goal.
  • Finished the sermon prep task I had begun earlier. The printed script is now safely in my car.
  • Spent some time at the cathedral organ playing through hymns. This is a form of spiritual practice for me ... a rather important one.
  • Evening Prayer in the cathedral.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Thursday

  • Wrote the last of my lectionary meditations for Forward Movement. This has actually been rather fun. Having the constraint of 220 words forces on to be creative.
  • Took my developed notes for an Advent III homily at St John's, Centralia to the "rough draft" stage. 
  • Lunched on my son's cooking--pork cooked in some sort of high-pressure device with a French name. It was superb.
  • Took my daily constitutional, this time through nearby Rose Hill Cemetery. I used to enjoy walking through cemeteries when I lived in California and Indiana. They are at the same time calming, sobering, and interesting.
  • Moved the ball downfield toward planning the clergy pre-Lenten retreat.
  • Reviewed and annotated the draft minutes submitted by the secretary of last month's annual diocesan synod.
  • Wrote an Ad Clerum about a small but significant liturgical issue.
  • Attended to some personal financial chores.
  • Took my wife and daughter to an early dinner at a nearby Indian restaurant.
  • Packed and hit the road southbound at 7:15pm. Arrived at the diocesan center for the night right at 10:45. I've got this drive down to a science.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Wednesday (Kamehameha & Emma)

A pretty standard work-from-home day. Churned out the second-to-last in my series of 30 daily office lectionary reflections for Forward Day by Day, to appear *next* November. Took a close look at some of the Mission Strategy Reports from our Eucharistic Communities and "discussed" via email with the co-chairs of the Department of Mission a strategy engaging and responding to the whole lot. Spent quality time with commentaries on the readings for Epiphany, in homiletical preparation for keeping that feast with the people of Trinity, Jacksonville. Scanned, categorized, and tagged accumulated hard copy detritus. Took a long walk as dusk was setting in. (I've been able to ramp up my exercise rate since the move to Chicago.) Prayed both offices, MP by myself and EP with Brenda.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Tuesday

... aaaand we're back. I've been dark in this venue during the long Thanksgiving-and-its-aftermath mini-season. Spent a lot of time with my family-of-origin and its extensions, as well as that iteration of family of which I am the paterfamilias. There is much to be grateful for on both fronts. 

Today's agenda included responding to a slot of accumulated emails, doing some sermon prep for II Advent (St Bartholomew's, Granite City), a substantive phone call over a pastoral issue, reviewing an annotating the most recent statement for my diocesan credit card, plotting future actions for a special project that is dear to my heart, and touching base with Paige on a variety of things. In the midst of it all, I also did four leads of laundry.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Wednesday

  • Usual morning routine,.
  • More email communication with Paige about an ongoing project.
  • Responded to an email query from the chairman of the diocesan trustees.
  • Attended at some length via email to a substantive emerging pastoral matter.
  • Responded to an email request for an in-person appointment.
  • Performed reconstructive surgery on a sermon text from 2000, retrofitting it for use on Advent Sunday at St Paul's, Carlinville.
  • Lunched on leftovers.
  • Reached out to a cleric in another diocese on a pastoral matter.
  • Personal errands: Home Depot, Goodwill (the fruit of decluttering), and a haircut.
  • Vigorous hour-long walk.
  • Took a prayerful first pass at the readings for Epiphany, which falls on a Sunday this cycle. I'll be at Trinity, Jacksonville.
  • Evening Prayer with Brenda.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Tuesday (St Edmund)

  • Usual routine: Task planning over breakfast, Morning Prayer with Brenda in our "home chapel."
  • Substantive email exchange with Paige about the next issue of the Springfield Current.
  • A couple of personal (healthcare-related) "errands" done by email.
  • Spent most of the remaining daylight hours writing my next-due blog post for Covenant. It's deep dive into what it actually means to be a bishop and to be a church that has bishops. 
  • Once again, exploited the last 70 minutes or so of daylight for a vigorous walk. 
  • Evening Prayer with Brenda.
  • After dinner, worked on my homily for Advent III (St John's, Centralia), bringing it from "message statement" to "developed outline."

Sunday, November 18, 2018

The Lord's Day (XXVI Pentecost)

Up and out of our apartment at 0730. Arrived in Morton at 1020, well ahead of the regular 1100 Sunday liturgy at All Saints. Presided, preached, and received the reaffirmation of vows made by a man who had been confirmed at All Saints by Bishop Hulstrand in 1987. Enjoyed the customary post-liturgical hospitality, then headed back north, stopping in Bloomington for a late lunch. Arrived home just past 5:00pm.

Sermon for Proper 28

All Saints, Morton--Mark 13:14-23

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times”—so go the opening words of Charles Dickens’ classic novel, A Tale of Two Cities. There seem to be a few lucky people who sail through life with plenty of money, hardly even getting sick, and dying at a ripe old age with plenty of loving family and friends. A great many more experience life as one long nightmare, endless tribulation. In the third world, this might be a majority. But for most of us in this society, there are good times and there are bad times. If, at age 67, I have any wisdom from my years on this earth, it is that if I'm feeling on top of the world one moment, the pendulum will invariably swing back in the direction from whence it came.

Tough times happen. They're not any fun, and sometimes it seems like they'll never end, but they happen. We have personal experiences of "the worst of times." We get sick and have a hard time doing things that are supposed to be normal, and we get depressed about it. The regular routine of my work and ministry, and even more so when I was a parish priest, prevents me from ever ignoring this fact. We suffer from business failure, financial reverses, stagnant careers, youthful dreams that fade away in the reality of middle age. We make mistakes as parents and wonder who will pay for them and when, how many emotional time bombs will someday explode in our faces. Loved ones die, and we grieve, sometimes bitterly. If we're lucky, the worst that happens to us is that we get old and die.

We also have hard times as a society; the world has hard times. Gang members spray paint the walls of buildings, or walk into houses and shoot people. Governments make war on each other over insulted pride. Innocent people are shot or blown up, or just kidnapped, in the name of political justice. Nowadays, in many places, you can get shot for inadvertently cutting somebody off in traffic. Our political system seems on the edge of dysfunction, with tainted money littering the landscape. The economy is in good shape at the moment, but a hundred point dip in the Dow Jones average can still cause an awful lot of headaches and upset stomachs.

Hard times are also upon us as a church—I don't mean All Saints’ particularly, although, like any church community, you do have our share of challenges—but on a diocesan and national and worldwide level. We have such divergent views of what constitutes legitimate authority in the church that we can barely communicate with each other. That most wonderful part of God's creation—the fact that we are made in his image as male and female—is causing us to crash and burn in a dozen different ways. We can't figure it out. We can't agree on what it means, and how we should behave accordingly, and while we fight about it, the gospel can't be heard above the racket, sinners don't meet Jesus, and the naked, cold, lonely and hungry stay that way.

And then there's the ultimate hard time, the hard time to end all hard times, because it's the end of time. Jesus paints this horrible picture of the apocalypse in Mark's gospel:
And alas for those who are with child and for those who give suck in those days! Pray that it may not happen in winter. For in those days there will be such tribulation as has not been from the beginning of the creation which God created until now, and never will be. 
So, like I said, even if everything seems to be coming up roses for us today, there's always that to look forward to! So ... how do we cope? How do we survive tough times—in our personal lives, in the world, and in the church—how do we survive tough times with our sanity, or at least our humanity, intact? Jesus' contemporaries asked him for a sign, they continually pressed him for more and more information. When is all this going to happen? How will we know? What plans should we make? What does it all mean? The multitudes of our own age are also hungry for information. The more we have access to, the more we want. I don't know about mousetraps, but build a faster microchip or modem and the world will beat a path to your door. We want more information; we want to solve all the mysteries, we cannot tolerate the unknown, everything is an algebraic equation and we must be continually solving for 'x'. Prominent people consult astrologers and psychics to give them an information advantage!

I don't know that there's ever been a time in our nation's history when there was more interest in spirituality than there is today. But don't take that as a sign of hope, because I'm also not sure that there has ever been a time of less interest in authentic Christianity. People are not particular about what source their spirituality comes from. I saw a cover of one of the major news magazines some years ago (back when news magazines were actually still a thing) with a man who has an Indian-sounding name who is apparently getting rich selling his spiritual insights and advice. People want spirituality that works, and works quickly. Whether it's true or not is an irrelevant question, because objective truth isn't even one of the categories in this post-modern age.

No, Christianity no longer enjoys a privileged position in this culture; we are now just one more competitor in the spirituality marketplace. Our message isn't always packaged and presented in an appealing way, which makes it tough, because Jesus' message to the information gluttons of today is the same as it was to his original listeners: I've already told you everything you need to know!

I've already told you everything you need to know.

There aren't going to be any more signs, other than the signs you already have.

And what is this ... sufficient knowledge that Jesus has already told us? It consists of two parts: one is explicitly mentioned in this gospel passage from Mark, the other is a major theme in all four of the gospels. The first involves recognizing and renouncing. The second involves embracing and following. First, we must recognize and renounce false Christs, false messiahs. Jesus tells his listeners:
... If any one says to you, 'Look, here is the Christ!' or 'Look, there he is!' Do not believe it. False Christs and false prophets will arise and show signs and wonders, to lead astray, if possible, the elect. 
What exactly is a false messiah? Broadly speaking, anything other than the true one, anything other than Jesus, the Word of the Father, true God from true God, born of the Virgin Mary, crucified, buried, risen, ascended, glorified, and coming again. If we serve any lord along with or in place of this one, we serve a false Christ.

But I can be more specific than that. I believe there are three particular false messiahs that are tempting to people in our time and place: materialism, eroticism, and competitivism—or, more simply perhaps: money, sex, and power.

The false messiah of materialism is money, wealth, "mammon." It usually disguises itself with a "softer side," complete with puppies, kittens, and cute young children. It disguises itself through association with our deepest values and aspirations, with the love of family ties, with the very fabric of our lives. It is, as the Visa commercial says, "Everywhere [we] want to be." It promises, as did a Master Card ad once said, to "put the whole world in [our] hands.” Materialism is a false messiah. Renounce it.

The false messiah of eroticism is sexual fulfillment in specific and self-indulgence in general. Its message is that life without sex is not worth living. So any standard that restricts sexual intimacy to the protective context of a formal, public, and lifelong mutual commitment between one man and one woman—such a standard is unjust and cruel to the pre-married, the post-married, the unhappily married, and those of other than the majority sexual orientation. The larger implication, of course, is that the highest human good is to be able to do whatever we want whenever we want to. Sex is God's good gift to us, but it is not his only gift, and when it seems like life is not worth living without it, we have an impoverished understanding of what human life is about. The true cruelty and injustice of eroticism and self-indulgence, of course, is the slavery that inevitably results, whether it's slavery to sex, drugs, rock & roll, golf, gardening, softball, sailing, or bridge! Eroticism is a false Christ, renounce it.

The false messiah of competitivism is power, influence, and control. In order to acquire and retain power, we justify the demonization of those whom we perceive as our opponents. It is the quest for power that leads to all forms of violence, whether informal or organized. In the process, we see those on the other side as less than fully human, less than fully loved by God, less than a precious life for whom Jesus died. Power is a false messiah. Renounce it.

The second critical piece of information that Jesus has already told us is this: after renouncing any and all false messiahs, follow the true one. But how do we do this? Well, today’s collect offers some good advice in this department—it’s one of the more well-known of the Prayer Book collects. It starts out by thanking God that he has “caused all holy scriptures to be written for our learning,” and then goes on to ask that we may “read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest” those same scriptures. I want to take it a step further and expand that petition to include not only the scriptures but the whole of Christian tradition, the holy lore of the church that has been handed down to us by saints, apostles, and martyrs through two thousand years of Christian experience.

Read it—attend a bible study, come to one of the Christian formation opportunities offered by this parish.

Mark it—ask yourself, “How does what I’m reading apply to my life?” Be attentive to the questions it raises in your mind and heart.

Learn it—study to the best of your ability. Study the bible. Know the history of the church. Become acquainted with the lives of the saints.

Inwardly digest it—make this all part of your daily routine. Like a cow chewing its cud, go over and over and over it until the things of the Lord, the words and phrases and images of scripture, the texts and tunes of our great hymns, the names and deeds of the heroes of the faith—until all of this is just part of you at a profound level.

There is more that could be said, of course, about following Jesus, the true Christ, but if we focus on reading, marking, learning, and inwardly digesting, we will not be far off course. When the tough times, the worst of times, come—whether in our personal lives, in the church, in the larger society, and at the end of the age—we will be armed, prepared, ready to face what comes without shame or fear, and with abundant hope.

Praised be Jesus Christ. Amen.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Saturday (St Hugh of Lincoln)

Today was partly productive and partly relaxing. The productive part included final prep on tomorrow's homily (at All Saints, Morton), producing another lectionary meditation for Forward Day by Day (#27 of the eventual 30 for November of next year), rustling up a message statement for an Advent III homily (St John's, Centralia) from my exegetical notes, and having a substantive phone conversation with a priest of the diocese. The relaxing part included a vigorous long walk on a new route, and binge-watching Designated Survivor on Netflix.

Friday, November 16, 2018

Friday (St Margaret)

  • Woke up in my office recliner. Cleaned up, got dressed, and walked (through sidewalks covered in frozen slush) down to McD's on South Grand for breakfast.
  • Morning Prayer in the cathedral.
  • Prepared readings and short homily for the Diocesan Council Mass.
  • Celebrated and preached the Mass, keeping the feast of St Margaret of Scotland.
  • Presided over the regular November meeting of Diocesan Council
  • Got lunch with three council members at Boone's Tavern.
  • Attended an all-afternoon meeting of the diocesan trustees. We interviewed, serially, representatives of three investment management firms, and, after some discussion, made a decision.
  • Evening Prayer in the cathedral.
  • Walked down Spring Street of Bernie & Betty's for some dinner.
  • Spent some time in contemplative prayer (as best as I can manage such a thing) in the cathedral. #Psalm131.
  • Walked up to the Amtrak station at caught the 7:32 northbound Lincoln Service train to Chicago. Processed another thick stack of emails en route, and did a bit of reading.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Thursday

Kind of took the day off from ministry-related activities, in light of just having concluded the clergy conference yesterday, until I set out via Uber at 5:45pm for Union Station, then boarded the 7:00 Lincoln Service departure for Springfield, which gets me there (I hope--writing from the train) at 10:30, availing myself along the way of Amtrak's wifi connection to answer a very thick stack of emails. Camping in my office tonight ahead of tomorrow's meetings of the Diocesan Council and the Trustees. 

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Wednesday (Consecration of Samuel Seabury)

If you follow me on Facebook, you know why I've AWOL from here the last three days, but here's the explanation for everyone else: I went by my office in Springfield on Monday morning to do a few things and ended up leaving my computer case there, which held not only my laptop by my iPad as well. So while I was at Toddhall for the conference, my only communication devise was my iPhone, which, while impressibly powerful, is too unwieldy to use for blogging, so I just gave it a rest. The conference went well, though I will confess to being worn out on account of being the one doing most of the talking. We got back home to our Chicago apartment around 7:30 this evening.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

The Lord's Day (XXV Pentecost)

Up, fed, and out of our Bloomington hotel room in time to head west for about an hour-and-a-quarter and arrive in Havana well-early for their regular 1000 Sunday liturgy. Presided, preached, and confirmed an adult. There were 32 warm bodies in the room, which is more than double the previous high total for any of my prior visitations. So my day was made early. After the usual delicious and ample post-liturgical repast, we headed on down to Springfield, and checked in at the Doubletree downtown. (It feels weird and sad to be in an area we feel so at home in and not have it be actually home anymore.) We rested for a while, then went out and saw a movie (Indivisible) and caught a late supper at Popeye's.

Sermon for Proper 27

St Barnabas', Havana--Mark 12:38-44, I Kings 17:8-16

I have a radio on my nightstand and a radio in my car. In both of these locations, the default setting, for more than 40 years now, has been to whatever the local public radio station is. I listen to National Public Radio news and, while they were still on the air, Prairie Home Companion and Car Talk, as well, classical music and jazz, though those things aren’t aired as much as they used to be. If it weren’t for satellite radio now, I really wouldn’t have much to listen to if public radio were not around. And it helps that there are no commercials, as such. But, twice a year, as you may know, there’s a fund-raising drive. I wake up to it, hit the ‘Snooze’ button, and when it comes back on nine minutes later, they’re still talking about money, so I hit the ‘Snooze’ button again, and when it comes back on, they’re still at it. I assume that they sneak some regular programming in there occasionally, but sometimes I wonder. So, by the time I get in my car, I don’t even bother to turn the radio on during those two weeks each year.

But, at least I turn my radio off with a clear conscience, because I know I’ve made a financial contribution to my local station. I’m not one of those loathsome freeloaders who listen without paying. I do my share. I pull my weight. It’s only fair, after all. If I want public radio to stay on the air, I’ve got to band together with others to help make it happen. If it goes down the tubes, and I haven’t been supporting it with my dollars, then I’ve got no one to blame except myself.

It makes sense, doesn’t it? We’re entirely used to the notion of “paying dues.” When you’re a member of some association or community or other organized aggregation of human beings, and you derive some benefit from that affiliation, you expect to make a financial contribution to it. When that organized aggregation of people is a political entity, then the financial contribution becomes mandatory, and we call it taxation. But the principle is the same. And it isn’t just financial. I can remember when I first wanted to play Little League baseball, and my parents were entirely supportive … entirely supportive, that is, until they found out they were expected to do more than pay a fee and get me to my games and practices on time. I still got to play, but it was an awakening for my parents.

Yet, even when we pay dues, and even when those dues are called “taxes,” the amount we are asked to contribute is still a relatively small percentage of our total resources. Even billionaires in the highest tax brackets, who pay more in taxes each year than some of us might earn in a lifetime, have more money than they know what to do with after paying their “dues” to the government. This is in stark contrast to two unnamed women whom we encounter in today’s liturgy—one in the Old Testament, one in the New; one a Jew and the other a Gentile; one living in the time of Christ and one living several hundred years earlier in the time of Elijah. What unites them is that they were both widows, and were both desperately poor.

We read first today about the Gentile widow in the Phoenician village of Zarephath. The Hebrew prophet Elijah paid her a visit during a period of drought and asked her for some food. If she’d had the energy, she would have laughed in his face, because her total resources amounted to a cup or so of flour and one or two tablespoons of oil and a few dried sticks. With that, she was preparing to fix a last meal for herself and her son, for they would surely then die of hunger. Now, Elijah had a plan to help this lady, but—perhaps because he wasn’t himself 100% sure of it—he neglected to inform her of that fact. Instead, he asked of this Gentile widow something quite extraordinary. He asked her to take her meager resources, and fix him a meal first, and only then prepare a pancake for herself and her son. Elijah may as well have asked this woman to slit her wrists and let him drink her very life’s blood. He was asking her to give him, a stranger, everything she had, to hold nothing back.

Years later, as Jesus and his disciples are standing outside the temple in Jerusalem; they are watching various people place their monetary offerings in the collection box. People who were materially well off made a great show of placing heavy bags, obviously full of very valuable coins, into the box. Those bags of money would go a long way toward helping the temple meet its annual operating budget and maintain the fabric of the physical plant. Then, a widow arrives, and places two small coins in the box. They are of virtually no value, each coin worth less than one cent in today’s terms. Jesus observes that those two coins represented all she had, “her whole living.” The fact that there were two coins is of tremendous significance, because she could have kept one back for herself. She still would have been giving a full 50% of her resources to the Lord, certainly a commendable act. But she gave it all, she held back nothing.

In their faithfulness, demonstrated in concrete action, these two widows show us what it means to be a steward of resources that have been entrusted to us by God. Stewardship is not about giving a certain percentage of our time to God. Stewardship is not about giving a certain percentage of our money to God. Stewardship is not about reverencing God, devoting a certain percentage of our affection to God. Stewardship is about making a gift of our selves to God, holding back nothing, offering God all we have, our “whole living.” Now, this is such a central concept in coming to spiritual maturity that there’s no way I could stress it too highly or articulate it with sufficient eloquence. It can be a hard place to get to. So, any talk of “percentage giving” is really quite meaningless until one comes to this stage of development, this place of complete and unrestricted self-giving to God.

Now, I realize, of course, that we are in the heart of “stewardship season” throughout most of the Episcopal Church, though I don’t know precisely where you are with it at St Barnabas’. Maybe you already have your 2019 pledge card available to fill out. Maybe Fr Newago has encouraged you to tithe—to give 10% of your after-tax income to the Lord through the work of the parish at whose altar you are regularly fed. But now I want to put a condition on that encouragement to tithe—to give that 10%. If you have not reached the point in your own spiritual development where you have told God, “I’m completely yours. Make of me what you will; I am an empty vessel; fill me”—if you have not reached that point, then listen to me: Do not tithe! You can still make a pledge, and I hope you do. St Barnabas’ needs your financial gifts. But it is spiritually dangerous to tithe if you think you’re doing so out of your own magnanimity, out of your own abundance, from a place of being blessed, full of resources. Jesus wants us to give, not out of our abundance, but out of our poverty. Until we come to the place where we can say, “I am poor,” no matter how much money we have in our wallets or in the bank, tithing can become a source of pride, and can take us to hell just as quickly as being stingy and giving nothing. Now, please understand me: I’m not trying to discourage tithing. I’m trying to encourage stewardship. I’m trying to hold up the example of the two widows who are the stars of today’s episode of The Holy Eucharist—the holy Thanksgiving.

And here’s how our relationship with the Church differs from our relationship with public radio or youth athletic organizations or service clubs or any other association we may belong to. When we put money into a church offering envelope, we’re not paying dues. We’re not contributing our “fair share” in response to the benefits we receive from belonging. This is critical to remember, because “dues paying” makes us think we have a “controlling interest”—in every sense of that expression—paying dues makes us think we have a controlling interest in whatever it is we give. Ironically, we sometimes even use the word “stewardship” to justify our “controlling interest,” as in “I just want to be sure that my money that I give is being used wisely.” That’s good common sense, from a human standpoint, but it falls short of Christian stewardship. A Christian steward gives, and then lets go. Somehow I doubt that the widow outside the Jerusalem temple wrote a letter to the High Priest asking for an accounting of the two half-pennies she dropped into the collection box. She gave everything she had, and then let go. 

When we reach the point in our faith development where we can begin to act like stewards, however, all sorts of wonderful things happen. We loosen our grip on the concrete signs of what we think we are “giving,” and, in the process, acquire a capacity to enjoy all that God is doing in a fresh way. I’m sure you’ve heard the stories—they are truly abundant, and my own is one of them—the stories of how a person or a family, with some fear and trembling, comes to the point where they realize that to not tithe is really to be robbing God, and so they say their prayers and swallow hard and do it, and then find that miracle after miracle happens, that the Lord provides for all their needs and then some, and that they are more richly blessed than they could ever have imagined. What such people are experiencing is nothing other than what the widow of Zarephath experienced when she summoned the faith to do precisely as Elijah had instructed her. She poured some flour from her flour container and some oil from her oil container and made Elijah a pancake. Then, with a trembling hand, no doubt, she lifted her flour container once more, and there was just enough to make another couple of cakes. Same with the oil. And there kept on being just enough until the drought broke and there was an ample supply of food once again. If she had not obeyed Elijah, she may indeed have made a last meal for herself and her son, and then died. Because of her faith, because of her willingness to give all she had, she was enabled to see the sustaining power of God.

NPR and PBS want our dues. God wants our selves. Let’s remember the difference. Amen.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Saturday (St Leo the Great)

  • Began the work day by producing #26 in the eventual series of 30 daily office lectionary meditations for publication in Forward Day by Day in November of next year.
  • Spent the remainder of the daylight hours first making a drive out to suburban Palatine two receive a couple of pre-owned area rugs from my sister and her husband, hauling them back to our apartment, and working with our son and his wife getting them situated. They are in excellent condition, and look quite handsome in their new home.
  • At 5:20, having packed for four nights away, we pointed the YFNBmobile southward and drove until we hit Bloomington, where we are bedded down for the night in the familiar Doubletree. Tomorrow morning it's out to Havana and a visitation to St Barnabas' Church.

Friday, November 9, 2018

Friday

  • Morning Prayer with Brenda in our home chapel, which is slowly taking shape.
  • Task planning over breakfast.
  • Planned and plotted the last and longest of the clergy retreat presentations for next week. I hope to refresh and reinvigorate the stance of our clergy toward the liturgies of Holy Week and Easter.
  • Took some time to hang a handful of the smaller wall decorations that we moved up here (the larger items having been hung some weeks ago), and sort the rest into the general locations where they will be mounted.
  • Lunched on leftovers.
  • Used email to recruit clergy to specific jobs in our corporate worship next week.
  • Had a substantive phone conversation in relation to an ongoing pastoral issue.
  • Dug into commentaries on Luke's gospel, in preparation for preaching on III Advent at St John's, Centralia.
  • Friday prayer: Ignatian meditation on the daily office gospel reading for today.
  • Attended to some personal financial chores.
  • Evening Prayer with Brenda.
  • In the evening: Set down the broad strokes (and a few of the fine ones) of my next-due post on the Covenant blog.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Thursday

  • Task planning over breakfast. Morning Prayer in my chair.
  • Made an email inquiry of the Administrator concerning clergy conference registration.
  • Sent sermons for two Sundays to a lay Worship Leader who will be officiating at Morning Prayer in one of our Eucharistic Communities where the priest will be a gone a bit this month,
  • Traded emails with a colleague bishop and one of our clergy over an emerging pastoral matter. Set up a phone call for later.
  • Did a deep dive into the not-yet-resolved new database app issue. Formulated some questions for Paige, who is running point on this.
  • Reviewed a collection of stills and videos from synod, and marked certain ones as appropriate for inclusion in an in-process video collage.
  • Lunched on leftovers.
  • Had a long and substantive phone conversation with the above-referenced colleague bishop.
  • Took a vigorous hour-and-a-quarter walk. (It has been impressed on my repeatedly that, if there is a silver bullet for maintaining health into old age, it is exercise. I try to make it a "big rock."
  • Wrote for-the-file summaries of recent annual review conversations with two staff members.
  • Scanned, tagged, and categories hard-copy items in my physical inbox.
  • Evening Prayer with Brenda in our home chapel.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Wednesday (St Willibrord)

  • Morning Prayer with Brenda in our home chapel.
  • Did my best to read, mark, lean, and inwardly digest thick proposals from five investment management firms who are bidding to handle the diocesan investments. (The Bishop has ex oficio seat, voice, and vote on the diocesan trustees.) I am very grateful that there are people who find this sort of thing engaging, and can attend to the myriad of details. I do my best to hang in there.
  • Had tio have an early lunch of leftovers, get dressed up, and head out the door a little past noon. We had tickets to a matineĆ© performance of Wagner's Siegfried at the Chicago Lyric Opera. The show had a five-hour run time, so it was 6:00 before we got out of there, enjoying dinner at a Brazilian churrascareia on our way home. The opera was magnificent, outstanding.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Tuesday (William Temple)

  • Dealt with a short stack of recently-arrived emails first thing in the morning.
  • MP in my living room chair.
  • Dealt with a couple of quick household chores.
  • Refined, edited, printed, and posted my homily for this Sunday (St Barnabas', Havana). The "printing" part consumed an inordinate amount of time, but with some persistence I solved a vexing technical glitch.
  • In the midst of this I had a substantive phone conversation with the president of the Standing Committee.
  • Lunched on leftovers.
  • Planned the first half of the final session of next week's clergy conference.
  • Sent the music for the closing Eucharist to the organist for the occasion.
  • Succumbed to the call of a functional but not yet fully organized apartment to ... make it more organized. There will be other such occasions of distraction.
  • Took a brisk walk with Brenda.
  • Prayed the evening office with Brenda in our emerging chapel/oratory/multi-purpose room.

Sunday, November 4, 2018

The Lord's Day (XXIV Pentecost)

  • Waking up in my Springfield office/quarters at a somewhat ungodly hour due to the time change, I decided to "make lemonade," and set out at 0615 (CST) on a long walk that took me an hour-and-a-quarter: south on Spring to South Grand, east to Ninth, north to Carpenter, west to First, and south through the Capitol grounds back to the office.
  • God cleaned up and packed, hitting the road to Mattoon at 0810, stopping at McD's for a breakfast sandwich.
  • Presided and preached at Trinity's regular 1000 liturgy, confirming two adults and receiving one. Impressed to find that they now have a choir, anchored by four Eastern students who receive a small stipend. Substantive post-liturgical conversations with both laity and clergy.
  • Pulled into my Chicago garage at 4:20.

Sermon for All Saints

Trinity, Mattoon

Whenever we say the creed—whether it’s the Nicene Creed of the Eucharist or the Apostles’ Creed of Baptism—we say that we “believe in … the communion of saints.” So these words cross our lips frequently. But, of all the articles of the creed, I suspect that the one about the communion of saints is probably the least noticed and least understood by the majority of Christians. So let’s unpack it a little bit.

First, who are “the saints”? Let’s start with who they’re not. The saints are not people who were perfect in the way they lived their lives. They were not sinless people—at least not in this life, although we do give them that title “Saint” before their names because we believe—or suspect, at least—that they have now attained a state of sinlessness—in other words, perfect union with Christ—and are able to endure the presence of God without being turned to dust, which none of us, I suspect, could do. Nor were the saints, when they walked this earth, necessarily weirdos, religious freaks, “goody two-shoes” types who were “so heavenly minded as to be of no earthly good,” the sort of people nobody can directly find fault with but everybody loves to hate anyway.

So, again, who are the saints? The saints are real, flesh and blood, Christian persons. The saints are people who ate and drank and slept and sinned and had dreams and ambitions. The saints are Christians who knew grief and disappointment, who loved and laughed and suffered and died—all pretty ordinary stuff! But there is, of course, a sense in which the saints were not ordinary at all, and that’s why we give them special recognition. They were uncommonly, heroically, devoted to Christ, and their devotion showed in the way they lived their lives, even if it was just in the manner of their dying, bearing witness to the gospel with their own blood, as martyrs.

I don’t know whether it’s just that I’m now well past midlife, and getting into old age, and feel like I have a long perspective on societal evolution, or whether our society has indeed changed, but it seems to me that we’re a lot more cynical than we used to be. We don’t have heroes anymore. Since Watergate, and other things, we have way fewer political heroes. Since steroids, it's harder to have baseball heroes. Heroism is just in short supply all around. Yet, if we try hard enough, we can think of teachers whose impact on our lives we can still feel years and decades later. As we age, it often becomes easier to see the positive impact that our parents had on who we are today. Or we may be aware of friends and neighbors and colleagues and business associates who have set an example and provide a pattern for us to admire and emulate. So, we may have to dig a little more deeply than earlier generations did, but we do have our heroes.

Well, the saints are the heroes and heroines of our Christian family. They are the ones whose names should come up as we sit around the campfire, or the kitchen table, or the parish hall coffee hour. The saints are the ones whose stories we should tell our children in order to inspire them to live lives of faith and devotion. The saints give us an example of how to live effectively as Christians in this world. They provide a pattern for us to emulate: in the way they loved, in the way they prayed, in the way they obeyed the call of Christ, in the way they served the world and the church and the church’s Lord, and, quite often, in the way they died.

The saints inspire us. They keep us company in the valley of our spiritual journeys, because they’ve been in valleys themselves. If we study their lives, we know something about those valleys, and can recognize them as being very similar to our own. By seeing that the saints were given God’s mercy and grace to see them through their time in the valley, our faith is increased that we also will receive mercy and grace to help in time of need, and we have the strength and confidence to persevere.

The saints encourage us in our journey toward joining them. Our destiny is to be with them, enjoying a vision of God’s glory that is unclouded by sin or suffering or fear. They see God face to face, which is the ultimate fulfillment of human existence. As Anglicans, with one foot in the Catholic world and one foot in the Protestant world, we are usually reserved about using the word “pray” with respect to our relationship to the saints. We’re instinctively a little queasy about praying to anybody but God. Our reluctance, however, is probably less theological than it is linguistic. Three hundred years ago, one might meet a stranger on the street and say, “I pray thee, dost thou have the time?” So, if we understand the word “pray” in the sense of simply asking for something, something as casual as asking a stranger for the time of day, we should be able to wrap our minds around asking the saints, the communion of God’s holy ones enjoying his unfiltered presence—asking the saints to hold us in their own prayers to the same God whom we worship and adore on earth.  We “pray” to the saints and they pray for us and we all pray to God together, because, as our collect tells us today, we have been knit together in one communion and fellowship.

The saints also call us into the “full measure and stature” of the identity in Christ that we were given in the sacrament of baptism. The covenant that God establishes with us in baptism, sealed in water and oil and given voice in the vows we make, and which we ratify when we’re confirmed, is a pretty radical statement. God promises to wash away our sins, adopt us as his children, graft us into the body of his Son, give us new life in this world and raise us to eternal life in the next. In acknowledging those gifts, we promise to love and serve him faithfully, to serve him in everyone we meet, to put the values of justice and righteousness before our own selfish interests. There are many points along the journey when we are tempted to weasel out of those vows, to hope God wasn’t really listening when we made them, or didn’t notice that our fingers were crossed. The saints are there to hold us accountable, to tell us, “Bad idea. Don’t wander off the road. Keep your eye on the prize. Trust us, it’s worth the effort!”

So…do you have your heroes in the communion of saints? If you do, ask them to pray for us as we’re gathered here this morning in worship. If not, then go get some! There are plenty to go around. All holy men and women of God, pray for us. Amen.

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Saturday (Richard Hooker)

  • Up and out of my monk's cell/office around 0815. Morning Prayer in the cathedral.
  • Asked Siri, "Where's a good place to have breakfast near me?" and she suggested a place 1.8 miles away where I had never been in my n7.5 years living in Springfield. So I walk there, enjoyed some delicious biscuits and gravy, and walked back (40 minutes there, 45 minutes back).
  • Plowed through and disposed of, one way or another, a stack of accumulated emails.
  • Fleshed out plans for the penultimate session of the clergy conference.
  • Went out again--by car this time. Did a bit of shopping at HyVee, got a sandwich at Chick-Fil-A, and got the YFNBmobile washed.
  • Wrote a letter of recommendation for an individual applying to seminary.
  • Attended to some issues pertaining to a couple of projects Paige, our Communicator, is working on.
  • Prepared service leaflets for the once instance of Evensong at the clergy conference. This required downloading some version of Adobe Acrobat, so I could edit PDFs. It will come in handy in many ways, I'm sure. But the whole thing was very time-consuming.
  • Still working on the clergy conference, I acquired the legal right to use a hymn not in our hymnal, A small amount of money changed hands, and I made the copies we'll need. Used Adobe Acrobat!
  • Did some online research on what the grounds are for issuing a declaration of nullity of a marriage. Strangely, I have a request to do just that, and I'm trying ton take it seriously.
  • Evening Prayer in the cathedral.
  • Did yet some more clergy conference prep (lassoing help for various liturgical chores).
  • Walked the four or five blocks down Spring Street to Bernie & Betty's, a pizza place I've always wanted to try. Had pizza and beer.
  • Came back to the office and ground out (churned out? whipped out?) #25 in the Forward Day by Day set of 30 that I'm working on for November of next year.
  • I think I've earned my keep today, and intend to watch a TV show on my iPad before I call it a night.

Friday, November 2, 2018

Friday (All Souls')

  • Another Friday morning waking up in my office. McD's for breakfast. Devotions and Morning Prayer in the cathedral.
  • Caught up with the Administrator on some mind-numbing details concerning clergy health insurance--in this case, my own!
  • Casual debrief with the Archdeacon on the usual "range of issues."
  • Eventually got to sorting and prioritizing my tasks for the day.
  • Met with the Administrator for her annual review.
  • My 1100 appointment arrived at 1035, a lay leader in one of our Eucharistic Communities. That lasted about an hour.
  • Got to work refining, editing, printing, and posting my homily for this Sunday (celebrating All Saints at Trinity, Mattoon).
  • Attended the cathedral Mass for All Souls' Day.
  • Lunch from KFC, eaten ... in my car (so I could listen to the radio). On of the downsides of the new order is that I don't have a home to go at lunchtime, which was an engrained habit.
  • From the office walked over to the county building on 9th street to exercise my franchise as an "early" voter. Successfully changed my registration to the address of the diocesan office, though it was unclear for a while whether they would allow me to do that.
  • Dealt with some technology issues (installing scanner software on the new laptop) so I could follow up on a loose end from my morning appointment.
  • Slogged through technology of a different sort trying to find the best way of transferring some funds to our companion diocese of Peru. Progress made, but problem not yet solved.
  • Prepared a handout (one of many) for the clergy conference.
  • Opened the file on a sermon for Advent III (St John's, Centralia)--covering it with prayer, and taking a first pass at the readings, making a few notes.
  • Prayer the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary in the cathedral.
  • Evening Prayer in the cathedral.
  • Dinner at a southern/soul food place down on South Grand.
  • Back in the office: cranked out #24 in the eventual 30 lectionary meditations for Forward Movement.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

All Saints

  • Usual AM weekday routine.
  • Made substantial progress working out the details of my response to a parish of the diocese that has requested delegation of episcopal oversight to another bishop. There is still a great deal in this situation yet to unfold.
  • Attended to some personal financial chores.
  • Lunched on leftovers.
  • Planned and prepped for yet one more clergy conference session. The subject is Holy Week worship, and I pretty much know what I want to present. It just needs to be gotten into pixels, and reviewed for thoroughness.
  • Responded by email to a couple of administrative issues.
  • Did some routine turn-of-the-month calendar maintenance.
  • Took a brisk hour-long walk.
  • Evening Prayer.
  • Ordered some beef and chicken shawarma to be delivered for dinner. There are some advantages to living in a large city.
  • Packed for the weekend and hit the road at 7:10. Arrived in my Springfield office at 10:40, and I'm ensconced for the night.