Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Tuesday

  • Usual weekday AM routine.
  • Attended by multiple emails to some substantive business pertaining to two of our Eucharistic Communities in transition and one relatively minor administrative issue.
  • Did the finish work on my homily for this Sunday (Alton Parish).
  • Ducked out for a physical therapy appointment.
  • Lunched on leftovers. 
  • Read and responded to an email requesting the names of any clergy I might know who are on the Autism Disorder Spectrum, for purposes of a research project. I have no certain knowledge of any, so I was not able to help.
  • Got to work on my next-due post for the Covenant blog.
  • Ducked out once again, this time with Brenda to get her to a doctor's appointment.
  • Back home, finished a rough draft of the Covenant post.
  • Evening Prayer with Brenda.

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Second Sunday of Easter

Rose at an early hour in my Litchfield hotel room and headed the 35 minutes south the St Andrew's, Edwardsville in time to preside and preach at their regular 0800 liturgy. Conferred with the rector between services, and then did the same duties, plus one adult confirmation, at the principal Mass. Visited with folks during the coffee-hour potluck, then headed home, arriving a little past 5:00.

Sermon for Easter II

St Andrew’s, Edwardsville--John 20:19–31

Whenever we gather for a baptism or for confirmation, everyone present is invited to affirm—along with those being baptized or confirmed—we are all invited to affirm something called the Baptismal Covenant. One of the promises of the Baptismal Covenant is to “proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ.” I have to say, if there’s one spot where most people are tempted to cross their fingers as they respond, “I will, with God’s help,” this is probably the place. Most of us feel constitutionally incapable of proclaiming by word and example the good news of God in Christ … at least the “word” part; a lot of us might feel like we have it within us to live as good examples of the gospel, but get immediately tongue-tied at the mere thought of saying anything about it. Our inability to give voice to our faith is grounded mostly in fear, I think. We’re afraid of being ridiculed by people for whom faith in general and Christian faith in particular is just … ridiculous. We’re afraid of inadequacy, that we will somehow mess up in the way we explain things and that we’ll end up doing more harm than good. And, in a diverse society like ours, we’re afraid that we might be perceived as somehow “imposing” our beliefs on others against their will. I was raised in a church subculture where “witnessing,” which was the jargon we used for taking to people about Christ in a way intended to lead someone to faith in him—witnessing was a universal expectation of all Christians of all ages. Over the years of my growing up, I had a fair amount of very concrete training in doing it, though, never, I should say, with very impressive results. Yet, I’m here to tell you, even people from such an environment as I was raised in find the prospect of talking about our faith, casually, informally, over a cup of coffee—we find this prospect frightening and paralyzing. Fear, at every level, severely compromises our ability to proclaim the good news of God in Christ.

But, even apart from any covenantal mandate to bear witness to Christ, we have other fears and doubts that paralyze us, even in our own personal faith. The secular culture in which we find ourselves has long since stopped supporting us in our efforts to be believing disciples. Quite the opposite, our society now makes it overtly difficult for us to do so. The ancient Christian virtues of humility, patience, and self-control are now washed away by the 21st century values of competitiveness, demands, the assertion of rights, political outrage, and self-indulgence. It takes great strength of faith not to surrender.

It is difficult not to become exclusively inwardly focused, consumed by our own fears and doubts. In that, we share much in common with the followers of Jesus on the third day following his crucifixion. Their world had been unexpectedly turned upside down by the sudden death of their leader and lord—not an accidental death, mind you, but public shaming and execution at the hands of those whose power the disciples had expected Jesus to upend. So they locked themselves into a room, John’s gospel tells us; they locked themselves into a room … out of fear. They felt alone and vulnerable, veritably abandoned by God.

But, here’s the interesting thing: Even in their fear, even when the person who was the “glue” of their relationship with one another was missing in action, they stuck with one another. They hung out. And it is precisely in the context of their hanging out that most amazing thing happens: the risen Christ shows up. He appears in the room with them, without taking the trouble to use the locked door. Their feelings of abandonment turn to consolation. Their paralyzing fear becomes joyful courage.

Of course, as we learn, one of the leaders of the band, Thomas, is out getting his shoes shined or his oil changed or posting on Twitter when this happens. He’s not there. So he doesn’t see Jesus. And when he talks to his friends later and they tell him they’ve seen the Lord, Thomas expresses grave doubts. “Unless I see the holes in his hands, and put my hand in the hole in his side, I’m not going to believe.” But, here’s the same interesting thing at another level: Thomas continues to hang out with his fellow disciples. He’s dubious that Jesus is, in fact, alive, but he hangs out anyway. And so, a week after the incident that he missed, Thomas is there this time, and Jesus shows up again.

Now, Thomas has gotten a bad rap throughout the history of the Church, as “doubting Thomas.” The church in California where I served as rector for 13 years has a stained-glass window depicting the Apostle Thomas with his hand on his chin in a classic “I don’t know about that” position. But I don’t think that’s entirely fair. Sure, Thomas wanted to see proof, but he didn’t ask for anything that the other disciples had not already gotten from Jesus the first time he appeared to them. They weren’t more virtuous than Thomas. He just wanted what they’d already had—a straight-on look at the risen Christ to make sure he was the same Jesus they had followed around Galilee and into Judea.

This is what Thomas wanted, this is what Thomas needed, in order to act on the faith that was already within him, and Jesus, with exquisite compassion, gives Thomas exactly that. “Here, Thomas. Put your hands in my hands, and your hand in my side. Don’t doubt, have faith.” Now, it’s easy to overlook this detail—or, I should say, lack of a detail—but John’s gospel says nothing about Thomas actually taking Jesus up on that offer. Just the offer itself carried enough amazing grace to enable Thomas to believe.

My friends, the good news that it is my joyful duty to announce to you on this Second Sunday of Easter is that Jesus offers to give us precisely what we need to be able to trust in him. Woody Allen is reputed to have said that 90% of life is just showing up, and, in that, he agrees with Jesus, and confirms the experience of Thomas. The key to receiving the grace and gift of faith, is to show up where the disciples of Jesus hang out, to gather where the followers of the risen Christ gather. When we just “show up” and habitually keep company with other followers of Jesus, eventually we receive whatever it is we need to have life-giving, life-sustaining faith.

When Thomas received this gift from the compassionate words of Jesus to him, his immediate response was the most robust confession of faith that could be imagined: My Lord and my God. Thomas was acknowledging his utter dependence—as a creature is dependent on a creator—his utter dependence on Jesus. And he is promising to serve and obey Jesus with his whole being. And this is where we find the solution to the difficulty we have in bearing verbal witness to the gospel. It’s not a deficit of courage or ability that prevents us from doing so, nor is it an excess of politeness. It’s more likely, rather, to be a deficit of faith stemming from not having made ourselves available, not being around when Jesus shows up. The takeaway is to persist in hanging out here, where the disciples of Jesus hang out. Keep at it. Keep coming back until you can look at Jesus and say, with Thomas, “my Lord and my God.” Alleluia, and Amen.

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Easter Saturday

Leisurely morning. All the usual stuff, just spread out over more time. All in the context of a spike in lower back pain. Dealt with a couple of items of diocesan business by email.Worked to straighten out a snafu in Brenda's phone. Played with Hattie. Lunched on bad Chinese leftovers. Shined my shoes (since I recently found the shoe-care supplies that have been missing since the move). Watched a bit of an old movie. Eventually, got packed and headed south around 2:45. Met Fr John Richmond for dinner in Bloomington at 5:15. Back on the road at 6:45. Stopped for gas in Springfield. Made it to my Hampton Inn, Litchfield destination just before 8:45, ahead of tomorrow's visitation to St Andrew's, Edwardsville. 

Friday, April 26, 2019

Easter Friday

  • A much more normal-ish day. Intercessions and Morning Prayer in our domestic oratory. Tea, breakfast, crossword, Facebook cruising, task planning, physical therapy exercises, shower.
  • Made some substantive progress via an email exchange toward the planning of November's annual clergy conference.
  • Battened down a couple of loose ends with respect to Lambeth Conference registration. Carefully read the Archbishop of Canterbury's letter to the active bishops of the Anglican Communion.
  • Focused on helping a parish in transition more productively into its time of pastoral interregnum.
  • Took a phone call from one of our parish clergy.
  • Lunched on leftovers.
  • Spent a big chunk of quality time with commentaries on Romans 8, in preparation for preaching at St Michael's, O'Fallon on Pentecost.
  • Walked a few blocks to a first appointment with a new psychotherapist. I am very relieved to say that I think it will be quite a good fit.
  • Out to an early Chinese dinner with Brenda and Jordan and Angela and Hattie. It is an indescribably joy to have an everyday relationship with a grandchild.
  • Evening Prayer with Brenda.
  • Did my sermon prep planning for the three summer months. This involves looking at old material to see what can be reworked and what Sundays I need to come up with something from scratch. It's always quite a mixed bag.

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Easter Thursday

The last couple of days have been ... interesting. Getting discharged from a hospital is always more complicated than one imagines. I was in Brenda's room shortly before 0700, and, with a break here and there made possible by our daughter, I was there until 4:3opm. All during the day, I was experiencing a complex of symptoms that are associated with cardiac issues. This actually started over the weekend, and is part of an episodic recurring pattern. It always turns out to be non-cardiac. Nonetheless, upon the counsel of an advice nurse, all three of my children, and my wife, I drove myself to the ER. As expected, all the tests were negative, so it was a surprise when I was told that my primary care doctor recommended I be admitted for observation overnight. Not being one to go against medical advice, I acquiesced. After a fitful night, full of the usual interruptions that happen in a hospital, my doctor was in the room at 0730, somewhat apologetic. I was out an home before 0830. Still, after two night of inadequate sleep and a rather harrowing day yesterday, it was difficult to get very much productive traction. I did process a handful of substantive emails, and made major progress on a sermon for Easter III (Alton Parish). Prayed the evening office with Brenda, folded some laundry, watched an old movie. Hoping to reset my rhythm tomorrow.

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Easter Tuesday

The afternoon and evening were consumed by "being there" for Brenda as she got a pacemaker surgically implanted. She's in hospital overnight but looking forward to being discharged by midday tomorrow. Aside from that, I had two substantive phone conversations with clergy of the diocese. did the finish work on my homily for this Sunday (St Andrew's, Edwardsville), and dealt with a pastoral/mission strategy issue by email.

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Easter

I won't lie--after the Triduum, and a late night last night, it was slightly brutal rising at 0600 and getting over to the cathedral to preach at the 0800 liturgy and preside/preach at 1030. But we did it, and it was a spectacularly beautiful Easter morning, and the Lord was worshiped in spirit and truth. After a stop at Freddy's for lunch on our way out of town, Brenda and I hit the road northbound around 12:45. It was an uneventful drive (listening to the Cubs game covered most of the distance) and we enjoyed some very nice *outdoor* socializing with our daughter, son, daughter-in-law, and granddaughter.

Easter Homily

Springfield Cathedral

This is an occasion of great celebration—Christ is risen from the dead. This is an occasion of great thanksgiving—death, the ancient enemy of humankind, has been swallowed up in victory. This is an occasion of great joy—death has been declawed and defanged, and we need no longer fear it. This is an occasion of eating and drinking and making merry—we have been freed from the grip of sin. This is an occasion for singing and dancing—Universal Evil itself has been sentenced to oblivion; its days are numbered, and when it goes into the pit of destruction it will carry with it all fear, anxiety, pain, shame, anger—in short, all suffering will be sucked into the eternal black hole of God’s redeeming and undying love. This is an occasion of great hope—all across the world tonight, people are renouncing their attachment to the realm of sin and death and embracing the kingdom of life and health and peace; they are being born again in the waters of Holy Baptism; they are being anointed with the Holy Spirit and marked as Christ’s own forever. This is an occasion of great celebration—Christ is risen from the dead.

Have you kept a holy Lent? Have you been faithful in prayer, fasting, and self-denial? Have you read and meditated on God’s holy Word? If so, there is a banquet table prepared for you, overflowing with God’s abundant blessings; come, and take your place. Has Lent been a struggle for you? Have you lapsed from you rule, or fallen into sin? Have you been neglectful of your obligation to private prayer and public worship? If so, there is a banquet table prepared for you, overflowing with God’s abundant blessings; come, and take your place. Have you totally ignored Lent, completely blown it off? If so, there is a banquet table prepared for you, overflowing with God’s abundant blessings; come, and take your place.

Have you lived a long life, and known God’s mercies to be richly laid out before you whenever you have needed them? If so, there is a banquet table prepared for you, overflowing with God’s abundant blessings; come, and take your place. Are you in mid-life, and feeling yourself stretched by having to attend to the needs of both your parents and your children at the same time? If so, there is a banquet table prepared for you, overflowing with God’s abundant blessings; come, and take your place. Are you a young person, with more plans than memories, and full of both anxieties and aspirations? If so, there is a banquet table prepared for you, overflowing with God’s abundant blessings; come, and take your place.

Are you on this occasion filled with sorrow? Are you grieving a loss—the loss of a loved one, the loss of a dream, the loss of an ideal? If so, there is a banquet table prepared for you, overflowing with God’s abundant blessings; come, and take your place. Are you on this occasion tortured by doubt and skepticism, wanting to believe, but not finding yourself able to? If so, there is a banquet table prepared for you, overflowing with God’s abundant blessings; come, let the faith of those around you carry you to your place. Are you wracked by guilt, feeling yourself unworthy of God’s love, unworthy to even come under the roof of His house? If so, there is a banquet table prepared for you, overflowing with God’s abundant blessing and infinite merciful forgiveness; come, and take your place—there is absolutely nothing you can do to make God love you any more, and nothing you can do to make God love you any less.

The feast is ready. The table has been prepared. The price has been paid in full. The invitation to the banquet has been sent out. There is a banquet table prepared for us, overflowing with God’s abundant blessings; come, let us take our places. This is an occasion of great celebration—Christ is risen from the dead. Alleluia and Amen.

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Holy Saturday / Easter Eve

Breakfast with Brenda at the Hilton Garden. Then to the cathedral for 0900 Holy Saturday Liturgy of the Word with the Altar Guild, which is something I have done in various places for 28 consecutive years now, and is a habit that has become quite precious to me. Then I spent the next couple of hours doing what might well be described as "puttering"--all in service of the end of making sure the Easter Vigil and Easter morning happen and go smoothly. Eventually I returned to my office and processed my physical inbox--scanning, categorizing, tagging--with interruptions for a couple of liturgical details as they arose. Then back to the hotel with Brenda to change clothes, and back again to the west side for lunch at a new "healthy food" fast casual place (Core Life), and then to Safelite to get a knick in my windshield repaired before it grows. While we waited for the work to be done, we walked some of the Wabash Trail, one of my old walking routes. To the office again, where I wrote an Ad Clerum--letter to the clergy--and sent it out by email. We then returned to the hotel to don our Easter Vigil attire. At the office again, I did a little plotting and planning toward diocesan participation in the Thy Kingdom Come prayer campaign between Ascension and Pentecost, and then on cleaning up my computer desktop. We ducked out for a light Chinese meal at Dynasty on South Grand. Then it was time to get seriously ready for the Vigil, which began at 8:00, when it was barely dark. I presided and preached. We got back to the Hilton Garden around 11:00.

Friday, April 19, 2019

Good Friday

Tea with Brenda at our Hilton Garden abode, with a modest biscuit so the people at the blood bank wouldn't scold me later for not having eaten,. Then in to the office. Processed some lately-arrived hard copy items on my desk. Returned a phone call on a pastoral issue. Walked across the alley and spent a good long while in prayer, both before the Blessed Sacrament on the Altar of Repose, and in the starkness of the church proper. The Solemn Collects from the Good Friday liturgy proved to be a fruitful launchpad for prayer. Then back to the hotel to change into "civvies," and on to the Mississippi Valley Blood Center, where I had a noon appointment to donate red cells. (Yes, I had an appointment to donate blood at noon on Good Friday; the richness of the situation was not lost on me.) The process took about an hour, after which I took Brenda on some shopping errands to Kohl's and Target. Around mid-afternoon, we had a modest meal of fried rice at HyVee. Back to the office, where I hand-wrote notes to clergy and spouses with May birthdays and anniversaries. Back to the hotel to change clothes once again. Upon returning, conferred with the Dean over some of the details of tonight's liturgy. Had a chance to quietly but quickly walk the Stations of the Cross privately. Tonight, the Dean presided and I preached. Once again, the BCP liturgy did the job. It bore the freight of the occasion. Afterward, Brenda and I had a proper meal at one of the restaurants that cluster along Dirksen.

Good Friday Homily

Springfield Cathedral


“It is finished.”

Jesus’ last words from the cross.

It is finished.

That could mean a lot of things, in theory. It could mean something like “Thank God it’s finally over. No more suffering!” because, John’s gospel tells us, right after he uttered those words,
Jesus bowed his head and exhaled one final time; he surrendered his life’s breath. Thank God it’s over. That’s certainly not a sentiment that we would want to begrudge Jesus, is it? I mean, after all he’s been through, he deserves to be relieved at the prospect of the pain coming to and end,
even if the vehicle of that deliverance is death.

But if we look at St Jerome’s Latin translation of these words, we get a glimpse of another possibility, a deeper way of understanding these final words from the cross. In Latin, they are rendered “consummatum est”—in English, in a very literal way, “It is consummated.”
Or, more colloquially, “Done deal.” Or perhaps something like “signed, sealed, delivered.”
Or, if we want a symbolic non-verbal equivalent, it would be like a judge or the chairman of a meeting banging a gavel: the Ayes have it, the motion carries, done deal.
Consummatum est. It is finished.

For Jesus and those who loved him in that time and place, it was a dark moment. His disciples, most of whom had abandoned him anyway—in John’s account, not surprisingly, it’s John alone among them who is found at the foot of the cross—his disciples had expected him to lead a successful insurrection against the Roman occupation, and they would each be assigned to a key cabinet position in the new government. Well, when Pilate condemned Jesus to death, that was the end of those fantasies, so his death was certainly a dark moment for them. And his mother—who can even begin to tell the pain that she bore? Yes, it was a dark moment. John doesn’t mention this, but Matthew and Luke tell us that the sky grew unusually dark as Jesus hung on the cross. Matthew recounts an earthquake at the moment of his death, and all three of the synoptic evangelists include the information that the veil of the temple—the curtain that screened off the inner sanctum, the Holy of Holies—this curtain was torn in two, evidently as a result of the earthquake. In Mel Gibson’s film The Passion of the Christ, the earthquake itself is initiated by a giant teardrop falling from Heaven. The cosmos itself weeps. It is a dark moment.

But for the general population of Jerusalem, the great majority of whom were Palestinian Jews,
the crucifixion of Jesus was just another item that showed up on Headline News—maybe in one of those crawlers that scroll across the bottom of the TV screen—it was a topic of conversation around the neighborhood well as people gathered to draw water, but it wasn’t something that actually interrupted their day all that much. They were busy just going about their regular work,
which on this particular Friday meant that somebody in the family had to slaughter a lamb—
or buy one and pay somebody else to slaughter it—in preparation for the celebration of Passover.
Passover, of course, was, and still is, a Jewish festival that commemorates the final plague that led to the liberation of the Hebrew people from slavery in Egypt, when the angel of death moved through the land, claiming the lives of every firstborn human and animal, but “passing over” the homes of the Hebrews who had covered the frames of their doors with the blood of a freshly-killed lamb. God looked on the blood of the lamb as an identifying mark, setting his people apart from the other residents of Egypt, and as a sign of atonement for their sins.

Is this picture beginning to come together for you yet? The people of Jerusalem are busy slaughtering Passover lambs, participating in the system of ritual sacrifice by which they were continually reconciled to God, and of which the temple was both the actual and the symbolic center. They were taking care of business; they were fulfilling their end of the deal that God had made with them. When they finished preparing the lamb for the Passover celebration, any of them could have said, “It is finished.” Consummatum est. Done deal. Signed, sealed, delivered.

And at the very same hour, Jesus is going about the very same work. His blood is being shed on the cross in atonement for the sins of the world, making him the very Lamb of God. Only his sacrifice, unlike the sacrifice of all the other lambs that were slain that day, Jesus’ sacrifice is offered once, for all. It eliminates the need for the entire system of ritual sacrifices around which Jewish religious life revolved. And when his work is accomplished, he says, “It is finished.” And he breathes his last. He has taken a direct hit from all that the forces of evil, sin, and death can hurl at him. He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows. All human suffering is wrapped up with him on the cross, and he literally takes it to his grave. It is finished.

Good Friday indeed feels like a dark time, but it is the kind of darkness that comes just before dawn. In the words of St Clement of Alexandria, written barely 200 years after the event,        and put in the form of a hymn that we sang just a few days ago, at the end of the Palm Sunday liturgy:

1    Sunset to sunrise changes now,
            for God doth make his world anew;
      on the Redeemer’s thorn-crowned brow
            the wonders of that dawn we view.

2    E’en though the sun withholds its light,
            lo! a more heavenly lamp shines here,
      and from the cross on Calvary’s height
            gleams of eternity appear.

3    Here in o’erwhelming final strife
            the Lord of life hath victory,
      and sin is slain, and death brings life,
            and earth inherits heaven’s key.

Amen.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Maundy Thursday

After the usual early AM routine, I took a chunk of the morning to attend once again to some pressing domestic chores (like, believe it or not, finishing unpacking from the move; there are still lots of sealed cardboard boxes in the basement). Then it was time to get packed--both Brenda and I--for an aspirational 12:30 departure time for Springfield. We more or less hit our target. Checked in at the Hilton Garden on Dirksen, dined on some pretty tasty Mexican fare at Blue Agave, then headed over to the cathedral for the Maundy Thursday proper liturgy. YFNB presided; the Dean preached. (Tomorrow we swap roles.) The Word got proclaimed, feet got washed, bread got broken, souls got fed, altar got stripped. We did our work.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Holy Wednesday

Routine start to the day. After a couple of small pastoral-administrative chores, the rest of the morning, and the first part of the afternoon, after lunching on leftovers, was devoted to creating a sermon text draft from my developed notes for use on Easter II at St Andrew's, Edwardsville. The accomplishment for the remainder of the afternoon was opening the homiletical file on Pentecost (at St Michael's, O'Fallon)--intentional prayer, copying and pasting the readings, giving them a careful look, and making notes on various things that strike me. I also spent a good while on the phone trying to straighten out a complicated health insurance claims issue, and took my usual walk, and EP with Brenda.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Holy Tuesday

  • Usual telecommuting weekday AM routine.
  • Did the finish work (edit, refine, format, print, arrange for posting, put hard copy in car) on my Good Friday homily.
  • Reviewed some materials in connection with the process of filling our communications vacancy.
  • Did some substantial personal brainstorming toward the end of developing a plan for next November's annual clergy conference.
  • Yielded to a sudden craving and found the nearest KFC from which to bring some lunch home to eat.
  • Did the finish work (see above for description) on my Easter homily.
  • Took some steps toward finding myself a local therapist. I'm not too proud to deny that there's enough complication and stress in my life that I could benefit from the perspective of someone who's not in it.
  • Took the balance of the afternoon to cross off some long-pressing domestic chore3s, then grab a vigorous walk.
  • Evening Prayer with Brenda.

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Palm Sunday

Up and out of my lair in time to preside at the 0800 Liturgy of the Palms in the cathedral atrium, then to pontificate (which essentially involves sitting in the fancy chair and looking impressive) at the Eucharist. At the 1030 celebration I presided at both the Liturgy of the Palms and the Mass of the Passion. The Dean preached on both occasions, After putting my office back in order and loading up the YFNBmobile, and after a stop at Freddy's on Clearlake for a burger, I was on I-55 northbound at around 1:20, arriving home in Chicago three-and-a-quarter hours later.

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Saturday

  • Up and out of my office campsite and across the alley to read Morning Prayer in the cathedral. Then across town to IHOP for breakfast.
  • By the time I got back, I needed to start devoting my attention to final preparations for the Chrism Mass (printing out the readings, last-minute decisions on seating, recruiting lectors, and other odds and ends).
  • Presided at the clergy renewal of vows, the Eucharist, the blessing of oils, and the Sacrament of Unction.
  • Met privately with e cleric for a pastoral check-in.
  • Joined a group for lunch at Boone's, a nearby eatery and watering hole.
  • By the time I got back to the office, it was nearly 2:30 and I was suddenly aware of being dog-tired. All the interaction with people was a great blessing, but, for an introvert, such blessing comes with a price. I settled in with a Netflix movie on my laptop and interrupted it at one point for a nap.
  • Eventually made it out to Chick-Fil-A for a bit of dinner (I'm very fond of their diet lemonade), then got about 4000 steps in circumambulating the White Oaks Mall parking lot.
  • Prayed the evening office, on the late side, in the cathedral.
  • Attended to a couple of low-mental-demand administrative tasks, and then cashed it in for the night.

Friday, April 12, 2019

Friday

  • Up, put together, and across the alley for devotions and Morning Prayer in the cathedral by around 0730. Then to Hardee's drive-through for breakfast.
  • Usual Friday extended catch-up with the Archdeacon.
  • Organized tasks for the day.
  • Scanned, categorized, and tagged accumulated hard-copy material in my physical in-box.
  • Dealt substantively by email with a pastoral issue. (By "substantively" I mean ... something that requires careful attention and thought; it can't just be "dashed off.")
  • Dealt by email with something that I would say comes under the category of "pastoral/program development."
  • Made some technical preparations that I hope will make next week's Good Friday liturgy go more smoothly.
  • Grabbed lunch at Taco Gringo. Brought it back to the office to eat.
  • Wandered over to the cathedral parlor to spend some time with Mrs Hultstrand and her son, and other well-wishers who came by.
  • Presided and preached at the Eucharist, and then the committal for the Ninth Bishop of Springfield, Donald Maynard Hultstrand. Hung out at the post-liturgical reception next door at the Inn at 835.
  • Dealt by email with an impending pastoral-liturgical matter.
  • Met with an individual who is at the front end of the discernment process toward potential ordination to the priesthood.
  • Evening Prayer in the office.

Sermon for the Committal Eucharist for Bishop Donald Hultstrand

Springfield Cathedral, 12 April 2019

When I was a senior seminarian, thirty years ago, if you had asked me to free-associate with the words “Diocese of Springfield,” probably the first thing that would have come into my mind would have been the seventh bishop of the diocese, Bishop Chambers, who, in retirement, had gotten slightly famous for his role in the Anglican drama of the 1970s. But the second thing that would have entered my mind would have been, “Ah, that’s the diocese whose bishop is known for his teaching and enthusiasm around prayer.” Indeed, the ninth bishop of Springfield, Donald Maynard Hultstrand, was, if anything, a man of prayer, and it is my honor to now serve on the board of two organizations that meant a great deal to him—the Anglican Fellowship of Prayer, and the Living Church Foundation. When I was elected the 11th Bishop of Springfield in 2010, I knew that I wanted all my living predecessors to be at the consecration, and I was elated that, when I called Bishop Hultstrand, he was eager for the same thing. I will always treasure a photo of him placing the miter on my head on that occasion. I feel as though I follow a giant, in whose steps I am not worthy to tread.

I still carry an image in my visual memory of Bishop Hultstrand visiting Nashotah House when I was a student there, standing at the end of a cloistered walkway; he must have been there to preach or to speak at an event. Little would I have imagined this moment then, as we are gathered to commit his mortal remains to the earth, and take our final leave of him until we are reunited in the world to come. There was, of course, a rather larger gathering at Christ Church in Greenville, South Carolina back in January. For quite understandable reasons, Ann wanted to wait until the severity of winter in the midwest had abated somewhat before coming up here for the committal. And I’m glad we are doing this. It is fitting that the Diocese of Springfield have an opportunity to honor a shepherd who served it with distinction. Even though he’s been gone from the diocese for some 27 years, there are still people around who remember him and love him. I’m very glad we are here.

Our ultimate job this afternoon is quite simple—to commit Don Hultstrand’s mortal remains to their resting place as they await the Day of Resurrection. Before we get to that, though, following the ancient custom of the Church, we are celebrating the Eucharist. We have heard the Word of God read. You are now, I hope, hearing the gospel proclaimed. We are about to engage in some serious prayer. And then we will take bread and wine—which will serve as surrogates for ourselves, our souls and bodies—we will take bread and wine and we will offer them, offer ourselves, to the God the Father in prayer, and then we will receive them back as gifts, gifts of God’s very own deathless life.

Why is it, though, that, from earliest times, the Christian community has done this—precisely this—for those of its own who fall asleep in Jesus? It’s because of what happens between the taking of the bread and wine and the receiving of the Body and Blood of the Lord. Right after saying “Do this for the remembrance of me,” the celebrant lifts up, elevates, the host, and then the chalice. In that action of lifting up, the celebrant is lifting up none other than God the Son and presenting God the Son to God the Father. The celebrant, on behalf of the whole community of the baptized, is making the only perfect offering, the offering of the crucified Christ, the offering of the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. The community, in that action, is, in effect, “pleading Christ” on its own behalf and on behalf of those for whom it prays; in this case, today, Donald Maynard Hultstrand. As holy a man as Bishop Hultstrand was, he was yet a sinner, as are we all. As much progress as he made in his journey back to God during his time in the world, he was not yet fully conformed to the image of Christ. He was still a work in progress, as are we all.

So when we lift up the Body and Blood of Christ in this liturgy, we are asking God the Father to not look on Don Hultstrand as he is in himself, but as he is in Christ. We hold up the consecrated bread and wine and say, “Father, look not on us, but look on Jesus, and on us only as we are in him.” Of course, in the case of someone departed this life, we can’t know very many of the details. But the Church has always prayed for the departed; that much is clear. We know that our loved ones are in the nearer presence of God, that they continue to grow in grace, grow in the knowledge and love of the Lord, that their holiness is being made perfect, that they are moving ever from glory to glory. And so, celebrating the Eucharist for them is the greatest and most effective thing we could possibly do.

As we commit the mortal remains of Donald Maynard Hultstrand to the earth, we do so in the sure and certain hope of the resurrection, and in the joyful confidence that the Lord is even now doing more for him than we can ask or imagine. And when we reach our hands across the communion rail to receive the sacrament, we are reaching into Heaven itself, where Donald, and all those who have gone before us in faith, are being fed from the same banquet table.

Praised be Jesus Christ. Amen.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Thursday (George Selwyn)

  • Usual AM routine,
  • Last week I gave birth to a homiletical message statement for Easter II (St Andrew's, Edwardsville). Today I did some child-rearing, and now have a teenager: a developed outline fleshing out that message statement. Next week: bring it to maturity in the form of a rough draft.
  • Ran an errand with Brenda, related to her health.
  • Grabbed some Chinese carryout for lunch from the place around the corner.
  • Did some semi-deep cleaning on the interior of my car (taking advantage of a nice day and a stop in the street in front of our building).
  • Processed a short stack of emails, both late arrivals and planned holdovers.
  • Devoted some time to a substantial writing project: a pastoral teaching document on sexuality and marriage.
  • Made some arrangements to grease the skids for our children who will receive the baton for Brenda's care while I'm in Springfield for the weekend.
  • Asian chicken stir-fry for dinner.
  • Packed and hit the road south right at my target time of 7:00pm. Arrived in my office campsite at 10:35.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Wednesday (William Law)

The bulk of my working time today was consumed by the preparation of a homily for the Eucharist we are celebrating on Friday prior to interring the cremated remains of Bishop Donald Hultstrand, my predecessor once-removed, in the cathedral columbarium. I also worked a bit on the diocesan communications quandary, and processed various missives from "the national church" (one of which prompted me to make a gift from my discretionary fund toward making the pensions of the clergy in the Diocese of Cuba actuarily sound; during the six or so decades of separation, nothing was paid into the pension system on their behalf). All the other usual stuff happened as well, except ... no walk, on account of rainfall at the time I wanted to take it.

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Tuesday (Dietrich Bonhoeffer)

  • Usual routine: contemplative prayer and intercession beginning around 0620, Morning Prayer, tea, breakfast, internet cruising, crossword, task planning, shower.
  • Dealt with a substantial bit of pastoral care by email.
  • Responded briefly to a message from the Bishop of Tabora.
  • Moved the ball downfield a few yards in the ongoing project of reassessing the diocese's communication strategy.
  • Combed through Good Friday sermon texts from prior years. Identified one for use next week at Springfield Cathedral. Did some preliminary surgery to freshen it up. More to come.
  • Made hotel reservations for two upcoming special events.
  • Lunched on leftovers.
  • Dealt by email with some significant details pertaining to this Saturday's Chrism Mass.
  • Did some substantial internet research in connection with a pastoral issue.
  • Long walk with Brenda on a nice afternoon.
  • Today was the day for pastoral stuff: More focused attention, via internet research and email, on an issue quite distinct from the other two I've mentioned.
  • Evening Prayer with Brenda.

Sunday, April 7, 2019

Fifth Sunday in Lent

Back home earlier this evening after an energizing visitation to Redeemer, Cairo this morning (375 miles, six hours of driving). So, if you've been concerned about my absence from this venue since last Wednesday night, all is well. I'm alive and firing on all cylinders. Technology, with an assist from my memory, was the problem. It wasn't until I got to Springfield on Thursday night that I discovered I'd left my computer at home--all packed up in its case and ready to go, but forgotten nonetheless. I am theoretically capable of making blog posts from one of the office computers, but everything is so redundantly protected with app-specific passwords and multi-level authentication and the like these days, that I wasn't able to break through all the barriers Thursday night and Friday morning before I had to be available for a meeting. Then, since I had already decided that it was time to get myself a new iPad anyway, the absence of my laptop seemed to present an opportune moment, so I went down to the Apple dealer a few blocks from the office and bought one (with a case that has a keyboard in it, allowing it to function as a small laptop). But getting the new tablet set up pretty much consumed the rest of my day, save for some personal prayer time in the afternoon. On Saturday afternoon, I walked down to Charlie Parker's, and back, for breakfast, and, by the time I got cleaned up, it was time to hit the road for a 2:30 meeting in Carbondale, withe the MLT of St Andrew's, since they are shortly entering a period of transition in clergy leadership. Dinner with a couple of MLT members, then over to Marion for the night. This morning, I drove down for the regular 10am liturgy at Redeemer, where we confirmed four adults. Then the long trek home, where I arrived about 6:15.

Sermon for Lent V

Redeemer, Cairo--Isaiah 43:16,21, John 12:1-8, Philippians 3:4b-14, Psalm 126

Sam and George were neighbors. They both had houses that backed up against a beautiful small lake. They also both had dogs, and enjoyed a little friendly competition over whose dog was smarter or more clever or knew how to do more impressive tricks. One fine afternoon they were both in their backyards, and George said to Sam, “Watch what my dog Spot can do.” He took a stick and threw it about forty yards into the lake. Spot dove right in, swam out to the stick, grabbed it with his teeth, and proudly swam back and brought it to George, first shaking off the water from his coat the way dogs do, and getting George thoroughly soaked in the process.

Sam then said with a grin, “Well, that’s nothing. Watch what my dog Rex can do.” Sam then threw a similar stick out to the same spot in the water, and commanded Rex to “Fetch!” Rex then walked on the surface of the water, getting only the bottoms of his paws wet, and then walked over the water back to Sam and presented him with the stick, and everybody stayed dry. Sam smiled over at George, and asked, “Well, what do you think of that?” George just kept a straight face and said, “What’s the matter with Rex? Can’t he swim?”

Haven’t you had that experience? When you’ve been with someone who witnesses something completely amazing, utterly spectacular, and they just don’t get it? They just don’t have a clue? They offer a response, like George’s remark, that can only be described as a lame gesture. I think this applies, much of the time, to how we think of God. As silly as this might sound, we sometimes take God for granted. We’re like George after watching Sam’s dog walk on water. We’re clueless about what God has done for us.

What, indeed, has God done for us? According to the Apostle Paul, it is through God’s mercy and grace that we who have responded in faith to that mercy and grace are what he calls “in Christ.” We have shared with Christ in his death—his death becomes ours and ours becomes his—all that we may share in a resurrection like his—his life becomes ours and ours becomes his. This reality is so astonishing, so completely amazing, Paul says, that all the advantages he was born with—Roman citizenship, the best available Jewish education, elite status in the Jewish hierarchy—he counts all of this as so much trash, so much rubbish, in comparison with the supreme advantage of being found in Christ.

There’s a song I remember from my childhood in church; perhaps you’re familiar with it too. “Count your blessings, name them one by one; count your many blessings, see what God hath done.” What are some of those blessings? How about the gift of life itself, down to every single breath we draw. Every breath is a gift; every breath is a blessing. It’s so easy to obsess over our problems, isn’t it? I get that. Our problems are real, and it’s not hard to feel like we’re being crushed under their weight. But nobody in this room, I would dare say, is without blessings—the blessing of adequate food, the blessing of shelter, of human connection, of opportunity and vision. There’s a wonderful prayer called the General Thanksgiving, which you’re familiar with if you know the services of Morning and Evening Prayer. In the General Thanksgiving, we offer our gratitude to God for “the redemption of the world by our Lord Jesus Christ, for the means of grace, and the hope of glory.” Redemption, grace, glory—way more impressive than a dog walking on water!

This is, indeed, what God specializes in; this is what God is about. We heard this morning from the prophet Isaiah:
Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. The wild beasts will honor me, the jackals and the ostriches, for I give water in the wilderness, rivers in the desert, to give drink to my chosen people, the people whom I formed for myself that they might declare my praise.
A new thing. God is doing a new thing. Jesus’ friend Mary of Bethany, sister of Martha and Lazarus, saw Jesus as the bright and hopeful sign of this “new thing” that God talks about doing in Isaiah. After all, Jesus had raised her brother from the dead! Mary wants to respond to Jesus in a way that corresponds to the greatness of who he is and what he represents. She doesn’t want to be clueless. She doesn’t want to “not get it.” So what does she do? She takes incredibly expensive perfume—probably about $50,000 worth!—she takes this immensely expensive perfume and pours it on Jesus’ feet as he reclines at dinner. And then she spreads the perfume around his feet with her hair. This was an astonishing act, one that nobody was likely to approve of. But Mary could think of nothing else that rose to the level of her esteem for Jesus. She had definitely counted her blessings. She had definitely seen the “new thing” that God was doing in Jesus. It was the complete opposite of a lame gesture!

What is our response to God’s new thing? We probably don’t have $50K in perfume lying around, nor do we have access to Jesus’ feet. But we have our lives. We have ourselves, our souls and bodies, that St Paul invites us offer as a “living sacrifice” to God. We have time—time that, for most of us, is precious. How are we making a Mary-like living sacrifice of our time? We have talents and abilities. How are we putting those talents and abilities at God’s disposal, how are we making them available to God in a way that advances his kingdom, and may not necessarily bring us any praise, acclaim, or recognition? How are we making a sacrifice of our gifts and talents? And we all have money, some more than others. From those to whom much has been given, much is required, but some is required of all. How are we making a living sacrifice of the financial resources that God has entrusted to us?
So, whether it’s time, talent, or treasure we’re talking about, Mary’s example invites us to be extravagant in our response. As the Psalmist reminds us: “The Lord has done great things for us, and we are glad indeed. Those who went out weeping, carrying the seed, have come again rejoicing, carrying the sheaves.” The Lord has done great things for us, and we are glad indeed. May our response not be a lame gesture. May our response be, instead, a living sacrifice.

Praised be Jesus Christ. Amen.

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Wednesday (St Richard of Chichester)

  • Usual weekday AM routine.
  • Attended by email to some developing plans among my Class of 2011 bishop colleagues for our annual continuing education get-together in 2020.
  • Scheduled an appointment with in individual in the ordination process to plan his theological formation program.
  • Wrestled laboriously with the exegetical notes on the readings for the Second Sunday of Easter, when I plan to preach at St Andrew's, Edwardsville. Eventually wrangled a homiletical message statement out of the process, which I will develop into an outline next week.
  • Created a draft liturgy program for the Chrism Mass and sent it off to the cathedral office for them to work their magic.
  • Picked up some lunch from Pizza Hut.
  • Took a really substantial step forward in the project of drafting a pastoral teaching on sexuality and marriage. This has been on my radar for a very long time and I'm beginning to think it will actually get done, and be in circulation by sometime this summer.
  • Long walk on a lovely but occasionally too breezy afternoon, accompanied for part of it by our daughter-in-law and granddaughter.
  • Began the broad-stroke planning process for next November's clergy conference.
  • Organized the project of figuring out how to proceed with diocesan communications in the wake of Paige's departure.
  • Evening Prayer with Brenda.

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Tuesday (James Lloyd Breck)

  • Customary weekday telecommuting AM routine. 
  • Took care of a couple of straggling domestic chores left over from yesterday (folding laundry, gathering material for tax preparer).
  • Finish work on homily for this Sunday (Redeemer, Cairo).
  • Lunched on leftovers.
  • Reached out substantively by email to three individuals in the ordination process.
  • Exchanged email messages with my ELCA counterpart regarding my making a cameo appearance at his synod's Annual Assembly in June,.
  • Reviewed my May visitation calendar and scheduled appropriate reminders.
  • Reviewed and annotated the most recent statement for one of my diocesan credit cards.
  • Took a long, brisk walk with Brenda.
  • Made a phone call in connection with some pastoral followup.
  • Evening Prayer with Brenda.