Sunday, July 29, 2012

We elect leaders, not messiahs

Art by Lika Tova
Today's lessons are 2 Samuel 11:1-15Psalm 145: 10-19Ephesians 3:14-21 and John 6:1-21     (warning: 2 Samuel contains adult content)

Here is my sermon from today:

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“Love your neighbor as yourself.”

This story today of King David and Bathsheba might not be exactly what the prophets had in mind when they penned those words.

If anyone tells you the Bible is boring, I would invite them to go back and read the Old Testament lesson from Second Samuel today. Please note that it has adult content that might make a sailor wince.

I must admit, as our able staff will tell you, that in a moment of squeamishness – or prudishness – I almost substituted a tamer, G-Rated Old Testament lesson for this one.

But then Pastor Heather told me her Bible study group wanted to know what the preacher would do with this one.

So I’m stuck with this.

I’m not sure I will meet their challenge adequately, but there are a couple of places I want to go with this in the sermon today.

To set scene of this melodrama, we have the handsome – and power hungry – King David; the unsuspecting warrior Uriah; and Uriah’s wife, Bathsheba.King David spies Bathsheba bathing in the nude, and so he has his servants bring her to him whereupon he gets her pregnant.

What is King David to do? He sends Uriah into battle, and sets it up so he will be killed. Uriah dies and King David adds Bathsheba to his collection of wives. Please note: King David has broken at least three commandments: envy, adultery and murder.

You may ask, why on earth is this in the Bible? And what does it have to do with us?

The short answer is that it harkens back to the sage Samuel who warned the people of Israel about the nature of kings. Israel begged for a king. Fine, said Samuel, you will get one. But beware of what you ask for.

King David is remembered a great and clever warrior and king. He unites Israel. But he is a deeply flawed human being. The biblical authors put this here as a cautionary tale about kings – even the good ones.

Our trust – our faith – must be in the God of all creation, the one who can reach all people. Our faith must be in the God who reaches us not as a powerful world ruler or warrior king, but as the one who finds us in our weakest, most vulnerable moments and shows us a path to healing and wholeness.

You might have noticed a line in the Gospel of John this morning when the people try to make Jesus into a worldly king.

“He withdrew to again to the mountain by himself,” the gospel says. Jesus wants nothing to do with holding political power.

These are perhaps cautionary tales for this election year. Human beings – not messiahs – are running for office.

We elect our leaders, with all their flaws, and they reflect us, with all of our flaws.

We need to see political leaders not as messiahs, but as fellow human beings, and hold them accountable for their actions as we hold ourselves accountable.


One response is the temptation to find a mountain somewhere that we can withdraw to all by ourselves. But to do so would be to ignore the pain of our world.

The other path, the path of prophets and Jesus himself – is to engage the world not from a place of power, but from a place of vulnerability.

To paraphrase the prophet Micah, we need to ask of our leaders: Do they bring justice for all, and not just the powerful?

Are they merciful to the most vulnerable, or only protecting their friends?

And are they walking humbly with their Creator, or do they only lust for power?

Fine. But how do we figure this out as faithful people?

Many of us have seen, with great revulsion, the demagoguery on both the Left and Right that has ensued in our time when religion gets mixed into politics.

When we are convinced that God is on our side, and only our side, it is very hard to hear and see others who may have another point of view and, who in fact, just might also believe they have God on their side.

Is there a way to do this and not become like King David and become only in love with our own power?

It is one of the reasons I have felt drawn to the faith-based organization “IMPACT” here in Charlottesville, a coalition of 28 faith congregations that work together on solving hard problems in our community.

I know that not everyone is comfortable with our involvement in IMPACT, so I want to talk about that today.

It is a way to hold our leaders accountable to common values of justice, mercy and humility without seeking power for ourselves.

IMPACT uses methods of community organizing which are founded on a listening process in the participating congregations.Everyone is invited to participate and be heard.

To find out more about how this works, 12 of us from Charlottesville traveled two weeks ago to Tampa, Florida to a training conference on faith-based community organizing.

Our delegation represented eight congregations from here, and there were three of us from St. Paul’s. We were joined by 19 similar organizations from around the Southeast and Midwest at this conference.

The name IMPACT stands for Interfaith Movement Promoting Action by Congregations Together.

It is the first word of that name that I especially want to underline today: “Interfaith.”

Our local coalition includes not only Episcopalians, Lutherans, Presbyterians, Catholics, Pentecostals, Methodists, Unitarians, Baptists and non-denominational Christians, but also Jews and Muslims.

It is the only interfaith organization like it in Central Virginia, and in all candor, such interfaith coalitions are exceedingly rare in the rest of the world. That alone makes this worthwhile.

Yet the conference brought home for me how hard it is to be truly “interfaith.” I learned once again that well-meaning faithful people can read the same scriptures and hear very different meanings.

That makes our coalition of faith congregations in Charlottesville a miracle – maybe more of a miracle than the feeding of the 5,000 – and a blessing worth nurturing. We sometimes don’t get it right, but we keep trying in spite of ourselves.

To work with people of other faiths does not mean giving up our own. It does not mean homogenizing our faith into some kind of meaningless mush. Rather, it means honoring the integrity of our own faith while listening closely and honoring the faith of others.

We are humans, not messiahs, and God just might be speaking through someone different than we are, and speaking a different language, and praying differently, seeing the world differently.

It is a terrible tragic irony of Christianity that it has spent much of the last 2,000 years building walls around our religion to keep people out, while Jesus and Saint Paul worked overtime to tear down walls and bring people in.

Jesus made no distinctions about who could come to his table. All were invited, none excluded. When he fed the 5,000 he did not ask who they were, where they came from or what they believed. He didn’t check for membership cards. He fed them.

He went to the Cross, not as a powerful king like King David, but as the suffering servant who would share our pain and show us a path to healing and life. Over and over he pointed to how God’s Kingdom is bursting into our world for all to see. And we can get a glimpse of it even now.

I got one of those glimpses yesterday, in a church of all places, as the Rev. Canon Susan Goff was ordained in Richmond as a bishop for Christ’s church, and the 1,066th in the Anglican line of succession in America.

She is the first woman to become an Episcopal bishop in Virginia.

And presiding was the first woman presiding bishop and primate in the Anglican world, Katharine Jefferts Schori.

Hundreds of people came, including many of you. There were many wonderful moments, but the one that grabbed me the most was not in the pageantry, but in a simple hymn, in Spanish, I had never heard before.

Its title: “Muchos resplandores.”

In English: “Many are the light beams from the one light. Our one light is Jesus. Many are the light beams from the one light; we are the one in Christ.”

Indeed, many are the light beams. Many are we. AMEN

By James Richardson, Fiat Lux, St. Paul's Memorial Church

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Today's consecration of our new bishop, and meeting with Presiding Bishop Katharine

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori
Later this morning, the Rev. Canon Susan Goff will be ordained a bishop in God's Church and consecrated as our new Bishop Suffragan in the Diocese of Virginia. Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori will preside at the ceremony.

Suffragan bishops are assistant bishops to the diocesan bishop, who in our diocese is the Rt. Rev. Shannon Johnston.

The ceremony will take place at St. Paul's, Richmond at 11 am, and you best go early to get  seat.

Yesterday the clergy of the Diocese of Virginia spent the afternoon in conversation with Presiding Bishop Katharine. She has visited our diocese several times (and spent three days with us in 2010 at St. Paul's) but it was the first time she has met with the assembled clergy as whole.

Canon Susan Goff
She talked about many things, and I jotted a few notes. She began by reminding us that this was a conversation -- a give-and-take, and listening to each other. And so it was.

Much of the conversation was about how the Episcopal Church is confronting, like all churches, a world in turmoil and change. She encouraged us to get the church out of our walls and meet people where they are, and yet we live in the tension of "holding a space" inside our buildings for people to be safe, quiet and feel forgiven.

"Welcome to the crucified place," she said.

We talked a lot about the recently concluded General Convention and a resolution affirming that Holy Baptism is the "normative" entry to Holy Eucharist. She asked us to see that not as restrictive but as pastorally inviting people to baptism. "Let's practice open baptism," she said. "We don't do discipline at the Altar Rail."

We also talked about the 1979 Book of Common Prayer, and she noted that it is no longer the "new" prayer book. "We aren't rewriting it; we are adding to it. We are still living into the ethos that is there."

After our conversation, I chatted with her and mentioned that when she had visited St. Paul's in 2010 she ended her sermon with "Be bold!" We've been in a year-long listening process in our congregation and we've asked ourselves the question many times: Are we being bold? It's become something of an unofficial vision statement for St. Paul's: Be Bold!

By James Richardson, Fiat Lux, St. Paul's Memorial Church

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Letter from Bishop Shannon -- please read

Bishop Shannon Johnston of the Diocese of Virginia -- our bishop -- issued a letter today reflecting on our recently concluded General Convention, the highest governing body of the Episcopal Church.

His letter is thoughtful, comprehensive and thoughtful. I highly commend this letter to you, whether you live in the Diocese of Virginia or elsewhere. We have a very good bishop who is guiding us well and pastorally. Here is his letter:

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July 24, 2012

The 77th General Convention of the Episcopal Church, recently concluded in Indianapolis, was by far the best - and most positive - of the five that I have attended. How so? In almost every case, disagreement did not manifest itself in division. In all of the "key" votes, bishops and deputies debated and responded in such a way as to minimize the sense of winners-and-losers. Even during the most controversial matters at hand, in which profound disagreements were voiced and significantly split votes resulted, both sides remained respectful and reached out to one another after all was said and done.

For example, with regard to one of the most publicized and momentous resolutions, the authorization of a "provisional" rite for the blessing of same-sex couples, strong conscience-clauses were inserted to protect clergy and congregations whose convictions will not allow for such liturgies. I can tell you first-hand that some of the most vocal support for the conscience-clauses came from those who staunchly supported same-sex blessings. This, for me, is important evidence that Episcopalian inclusivity can indeed embrace both left and right.

I supported the Convention's resolution not because of the movement of secular culture but out of personal and theological conviction. Moreover, after over 30 years of the Church's study and dialogues, I believe that it is time to be publically clear about the full acceptance of committed same-sex relationships in the life and witness of our Church. I will continue to honor the convictions of our clergy and communicants who disagree, because in my judgment we have now reached an equitable and workable settlement of this long-running debate. We can now move on to other important matters that require the Church's energetic attention.

That resolution takes the same track we have had in the Diocese of Virginia for more than a year now. The process I have previously outlined will remain the same - clergy must still submit a fulsome application for my approval to perform such rites- but starting with the First Sunday of Advent this year (December 2, 2012) the liturgy to be used will be the one approved by the Convention (rather than a specially-composed service in each case).

The Convention did address several other critical issues, including the budget, the Anglican Covenant, the nature of baptism and its requirement for admission to the Holy Communion, and the very structure and governance of the Episcopal Church. In each one, there was a high degree of consensus as the classic Anglican via media (middle way) prevailed in the various proposals. On baptism, however, the teaching was traditional and clear: Holy Baptism is the ancient and normative way into full, sacramental Christian life. A large majority of the House of Bishops rejected proposals that weakened the requirement of baptism prior to receiving communion, and the House of Deputies concurred. In this, I wholeheartedly agree. I am aware of places that make exceptions to this requirement and I quite understand what people are hoping for in allowing the communion of those not baptized. There are other ways to achieve hospitality and inclusion within a community of faith. Baptism is specifically a part of the Great Commission from Jesus (Matthew 28:19-20) and it remains primary in our discipleship of the risen Lord.

Another area of particular interest was the proposed Anglican Covenant. Because of its provisions for a legalistic process to enforce a kind of uniformity of doctrine and discipline throughout the worldwide Anglican Communion, the Covenant has been controversial in a number of our global Provinces (the Church of England, among others, rejected it). The Convention recognized that the Episcopal Church does not have a real consensus, and declined to take a position on the Covenant itself. Instead, we strongly reaffirmed our commitment to the Anglican Communion and our full participation in its mutual life and ministries. I have been clear that I am vigorously "pro-Communion." Even so, I oppose the adoption of the Covenant in its present form because I believe that our worldwide fellowship of Churches must be chosen and not required and enforced. To me, this dynamic is at the heart of our very essence. We must be able to honor our faithful differences (many of them cultural and historical in nature) and learn to live together with them. To be sure, this is messy but I am convinced that it is a witness this polarized world desperately needs.

Our presiding bishop, the Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, paved the way through a brewing controversy regarding the Church's budget by offering her own detailed proposal, based on the Anglican Communion's "Five Marks of Mission." These points were developed by the Anglican Consultative Council (an international, representative body of the Communion) and are as follows: (1) To proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom; (2) To teach, baptize and nurture new believers; (3) To respond to human need by loving service; (4) To seek to transform unjust structures of society; and (5) To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and renew the life of the earth. A very fine presentation of the final version of the proposed budget ensured a virtually unanimous vote in favor from the Convention. That in itself was highly indicative of how hard this General Convention worked to achieve broad consensus. 
After the Convention adjourned, there appeared two op-ed pieces about our Episcopal Church, one in the Wall Street Journal and the other in the New York Times. Probably most of you have either read, read about or simply heard of these articles. They were both "opinion" pieces, the former chock-full of factual errors and shameless personal invective and the latter based on several unexpressed and very questionable assumptions about our Church and its witness. To me, the quite positive thing about these distressing articles is how strongly a broad range of persons (including conservatives who are usually critical of the Episcopal Church) refuted the writers' opinions. I would hope that we agree that "opinion" articles, particularly those published in distinguished newspapers, should not be allowed to leave plain fact behind, let alone descend into mean-spirited personal attacks.

General Convention 2012 showed that the Episcopal Church is indeed vibrant and Spirit-filled. Although no one can say that "all is well" - in my view we have some major reality-checks to face - I, for one, came out of our gathering hopeful and encouraged. I also emerged prouder than ever of our Diocese of Virginia. We are strong and very much considered across the Church as a leading and faithful witness. I hope you were able to follow news and perspectives from the Convention in our unique publication, Center Aisle. That is a true gift to the Church at large, one that was appreciated by thousands over those long days.

Our great thanks must go to our hard-working deputation, diocesan staff and the several volunteers who were with us. If ever I'm in need of a reminder of the Church at its best I need only think of all of them. With blessings and prayers for all of you,

The Rt. Rev. Shannon S. Johnston
Bishop of Virginia

Monday, July 23, 2012

Pastoral letter from the Bishop of the Diocese of Colorado

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[Diocese of Colorado] The following is a pastoral letter by Diocese of Colorado ( Bishop Robert O’Neill that was to be read in congregations across Colorado on Sunday, July 22.

“Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body.”
—Colossians 3:14-15
Dear Friends,
The news is less than forty-eight hours old, but all of us are still taking in the horror of yesterday’s shootings in Aurora even as this tragic story continues to unfold.
Clearly we are all processing the news in various ways depending on our proximity to people directly affected by these events and in light of our own personal histories. Clearly these events raise a variety of troubling issues that continue to haunt our collective lives, and certainly these events provoke in us a variety of responses. What we have in common, however, is this — an acute sense of loss, that heartbreak we all experience when we see the beauty of our collective humanity diminished yet again so violently and so senselessly.
I want you to know that your sisters and brothers in Aurora and the surrounding area are exercising wonderful pastoral care and outreach to their communities. They are supporting individuals and families that have been directly affected by the shootings. They are spending time with youth and young adults within and beyond the scope of their own congregations. They are making contact with teachers and parents, opening the doors of their churches, having one on one conversation with folks in need, connecting with city and government officials, and gathering folks in prayer and vigil — including, in particular, a prayer vigil to be held this Sunday evening at 7:00 p.m. at Saint Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Aurora.
What is needed most I believe at this point, is our collective prayer, and I write specifically today to extend that invitation to you, the people of The Diocese of Colorado.
It goes without saying that those who are wounded, those who have died, the families of victims, emergency responders, medical and law enforcement personnel, city and government officials, pastoral care providers, and so on, are in need of our prayer. But I would add, however, that a call to prayer is far more than a polite and consoling gesture.
The greatest gift we have to offer one another is indeed our collective prayer — not merely kind wishes, not simply good intentions, but deep prayer—the ability to hold, tangibly and intentionally, others in that abundant love that flows freely and gracefully within us and among us. This has substance. This has weight and heft. This, and this alone, is the source of deep healing, lasting transformation, and enduring peace.
This is our inheritance and our gift — living water for ourselves and for a world that thirsts for life.
Even as I extend this invitation to you, I am mindful of all the losses that have affected many of our communities in past months, particularly those who have suffered loss due to the recent wildfires. All the more reason to renew our collective commitment to the gift and practice of prayer.
So please join with me in making this your intentional work today and in the days ahead, and please invite others to join you in doing the same. Remember always that in doing so, you are giving our world the gift of life.
Deep peace and many blessings be with you.
Bishop O’Neill

Sunday, July 22, 2012

The Good Shepherd who takes no Sabbath

Painting by He Qi
I began my sermon today by asking for a moment of silent prayer for the victims of the shootings in Aurora, Colo., and for those caught up in the fighting in Syria.

The lessons for today are 2 Samuel 7:1-14aPsalm 23Ephesians 2:11-22 and Mark 6:30-34, 53-56.

Here is my sermon:

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I believe I can speak for all of us by saying that we could use a day off from the violence, cruelty and tragedy of our world.

Allow me to invite you to find space for that here in this sacred place this morning. Allow me to invite you to find moments for that space in your week.

And allow me to invite you to have a bit of compassion for Jesus, the prince of compassion. It has been a tough week.

In Mark’s gospel today, he cannot catch a day off.

He tries to go on a short summer break to the lake, and takes his friends and family with him.

“Come away,” he says, “to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest awhile.”

So they get in a boat and go.

I wish the gospel lesson ended right there. If we were only to read the first part of the lesson, it would be a perfect permission-giving lesson for going on vacation.

But life intrudes. The crowds catch up to him, and before he knows it, sick people are begging for his compassionate touch.

We get both parts of this section of Mark’s gospel, and what is edited out of the middle, apparently in the interest of brevity for summer worship services, is the story of the feeding of the thousands.

Jesus and his disciples are doing a lot of heavy lifting when all they want to do is rest awhile at the lake.

You might say that this lesson represents a collision of the spiritual ideal and the reality of the world.

As your priest and pastor, I want you to pray, to make it a regular practice each day to set aside time for personal prayer and silence.

I would like you to read your Bible, read good books, think deep thoughts, enjoy a great meal, go on retreats, go to the lake, and, of course, come to church more often.

We do need rest – Sabbath time – to renew our bodies and soul. Slow down, take a break, keep life simple.

But I also know that life intrudes. There are kids to feed, the in-laws to visit, jobs that are demanding and require you to go in on your day off, even on a Sunday.

And the cruelty of the world does not take a day off. Not in the time of Jesus, and certainly not in our own time.

Life is complicated and it is often hard to find the time to feed our souls. Even Jesus, the prince of compassion, still had to work when all he wanted was a nap. He does what he must do.

Many come, and he is their shepherd, and not just the shepherd for his circle of disciples, but for the many. So he goes to those who are sick and hurting and in need.

He loves them all no matter who they are or where they come from. He does check their baptismal certificate or anything else. He goes.

Sometimes we, too, are confronted with moments when our compassion is tested, and sometimes we don’t get a chance to catch our breath. The call comes in the night and we go.

We do what we must do.

Summer is a time for a break and rest, and I earnestly hope you find that time. But I also know that real life intrudes – the terrible shootings in Colorado a few days ago, the fighting in Afghanistan and Syria, and people in our congregation who are in the hospital, or struggling with addiction, or who are out of work.

Real life takes no Sabbath, and the Sabbath does not always come when we need it most.

There are times when we need the Good Shepherd, and times when we are called to be the hands and feet of the Good Shepherd. We might be the one to give someone a meal, or a smile, or a sympathetic ear.

Sometimes all we can do is pray, and know that will be enough.

And I hope we will hold onto this:

The God of Grace, the good shepherd of all the sheep of this world, will be there to hold us, and love us, and carry us through.

That is the simple truth of this gospel, and the simple truth to hold close especially when life is most difficult or most perplexing.

My prayer and hope is that you will find those moments to pray, to recharge, to renew.

And when you find that moment, I pray you will have a renewed sense of the presence of the One who gives himself for us, and who will be there with us always.

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.

He maketh me to lie down in green pastures; he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul; he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his Name's sake.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me.

Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies; thou annointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever. 


By James Richardson, St. Paul's Memorial Church, Fiat Lux

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Community organizing and how we do it

TAMPA, Fla. -- This week I am at a training conference for "IMPACT," our coalition of faith congregations in Charlottesville that works on common issues in our community. We are here with 19 such organizations, most of them from the Southeast, all of us learning how to do this work a little better. Eleven of us from Charlottesville have come here and I am enjoying getting to know them.

They don't give us much time off here, hence I have not gotten to the space as soon as I thought I would.

One of the topics the organizers of this event talk about is how anger can be a motivator for change in the community. I get it that we need to get our dander up about poverty and injustice, and many other things in our communities. But anger can also corrode the soul and destroy our perspective. My friend Bishop Steven Charleston posted this on his Facebook this morning, and it comes at a good time:

Anger is a weight that keeps the soul from flying. It grounds us to walk the all too familiar paths of passion. We lose the ability to listen but wait impatiently to spring our next words like a trap. We feel the fire in the belly of blame and see through its heat only a distorted image of the truth we used to share. Anger seeks to control, to dominate, to demand. God save us from its dead power. God free us from its heavy hand. Let our souls regain their flight, light in spirit, open in mind, gentle in word and deed, that we may see and love more clearly in the clean air of your mercy.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Shrine Mont weekend: A splendid time had by all!

Thanks to the many people who made our Shrine Mont weekend a smashing success! We had about 150 people, many who came for the first time. The weekend also marks my fourth anniversary as Rector of St. Paul's Memorial Church.

It was an energetic weekend with the Bishop's Music Festival and the 50th anniversary celebration of Shrine Mont as a camp. There were a lot of people, a lot of activities. Here are some photos Lori took from the weekend. Enjoy!

Relaxing on the second floor porch

On the 2nd floor porch at adult hour

Retired Senior Warden, left, gets overdue award from
current Senior Warden Christie Thomas on behalf of the Vestry

Marta, Cal, Stacy and Sue

Favorite activity of many at Shrine Mont

Pam Dennison and Jim Richardson after Pam
got her award. She was a good sport.

Which way should we go, Margaret?

Anyone for kickball?

Many legs make light work

The Monday Funnies

Oh, goodness, it is Monday again. We've been at Shrine Mont at our parish retreat weekend. I will post a few photos later.

For now, how about a few chuckles to get your week started? Here are a few jokes from Pat Hill in the Jokester Department, and a cartoon from The New Yorker. Enjoy your Monday!

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The boy found a W.W.J.D. (What would Jesus do?) bracelet and wanted to buy it. His mother asked him if he knew what it meant. 
The boy responded, "Of course I do Mom! It's Jesus' web-site!"
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I was thinking about how people seem to read the Bible a whole lot more as they get older then it dawned on me . . . they were cramming for their finals.
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 Our church organist was a grand old lady, but every Sunday she allowed her two dogs to accompany her to church. The congregations did not mind the dogs, but they were upset when the two dogs would howl through every high note from the organ. 
Finally the congregation asked the minister to insist the organist leave her dogs at home. "Give me one week," said the minister, "and then I'll tell you what I have decided to do." 
On the following Sunday the minister announced his decision. Fearing that the organist would leave if her dogs couldn't come to church, and that would have a devastating effect on the worship services, he said, "Friends, I have decided that it is better the dogs come to church than the church go to the dogs!"

Thursday, July 12, 2012

General Convention: "One essential rule, love on another" -- Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori

Photo by Mary Frances Schjonberg
Episcopal News Service
General Convention is concluding for another three years. Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori preached this morning at the final Holy Eucharist. At the next General Convention, a new presiding bishop will have been elected (hard to believe her tenure has gone so quickly).

Below is a video of her sermon, and below that the text. This is my last post on General Convention 2012. See you back here in this space soon on something else!

General Convention July 12 Sermon:
Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori
[July 12, 2012] The following sermon was presented today at the 77th General Convention of the Episcopal Church, meeting in Indianapolis IN through July 12.
12 July 2012
The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori
Presiding Bishop and Primate
The Episcopal Church
I have some bad news.  PB&F[1 ] asked Gregory Straub [2] to find the latest audit, and when he went looking in the Archives, he discovered that we have been using the wrong edition of the Constitution and Canons all through our deliberations.  The general conclusion is that everything we’ve done here is therefore invalid.  Are you ready to start over?
That’s basically what happened with King Josiah.  Hilkiah went to investigate the Temple finances and discovered that they’d been reading the wrong rule book for years and years.
We’ve had some struggles here that sound a little bit like that – like whether this body is hierarchical or not, or what kind of governance or structure fits what those guys who held the first Episcopal Church convention had in mind back in 1785.
It will take many more Conventions before we all agree about anything, but, you know what?  IT DOESN’T MATTER!  We won’t all agree before the Second Coming, but there is only one essential rule – “love one another,” says Jesus, “as I have loved you.”  That is the one and only rule of life together in Christ.  It is the same one that Augustine of Hippo cited:  “love God and do as you please.”  Martin Luther’s version was, “sin boldly… and more boldly still rejoice in Christ.”
Our task is not to timidly take comfort in the details of our nice behavior – not even in impeccable parliamentary procedure!  Life in Christ is risky, it’s about leaping into the uncertain choices before us, like Indiana Jones on that light bridge [3 ] – stepping out over the chasm without knowing if the bridge will be there until we do.  Way down in the depths, deep down, the body of Christ has an abiding memory of the trustworthiness of that bridge, even if some of the individual members don’t remember quite so well.
That’s what Lars Olof Jonathan Söderblom offered the world.  The body of Christ, indeed the whole body of all faithful people, has much to teach its members about trust and confidence – and it is all about love. 
Söderblom – who went by Nathan – was a Swedish Lutheran pastor, theologian, and Archbishop of Uppsala, born in 1866 and died in 1931.  He came from a tradition of border crossers, and it was evident even in his early life.  His university degree was in Greek, Hebrew, Arabic, and Latin, and he started the formal academic study of comparative religions.[4]  In 1890 he came to the United States for a meeting of the Student Missionary Association – something like a General Convention for young adults.  He went back to Sweden, was ordained and was appointed chaplain to a mental hospital. Then he started looking for a job that would pay enough to let him get married.  Anna Forsell was one of 20 women students among the 1700 men in the University, and she was his writing partner as well as his wife.  Söderblom did find a job; he was appointed to the Swedish church in Paris, and stayed there until 1901.  That Parisian congregation was filled with Scandinavian artists, diplomats, and merchants, among them Alfred Nobel and August Strindberg, and the several older of the Söderblom’s 13 children. 
The Church of Sweden started planting churches abroad in 1626, and that church in Paris was the first one.  Several of the ones in the American colonies were later transferred to The Episcopal Church.[5]  The Church of Sweden has an ancient tradition of ecumenism, loving and learning and working with others.
Söderblom went back to Sweden to take an academic post in theology at Uppsala University, and he began a theological revival in the Swedish church that spread about the world.  He worked on the easy stuff like world peace and liturgical renewal.
Söderblom is remembered most distinctly for starting the modern ecumenical movement, with the Conference on Life and Work in Stockholm in 1925.  He insisted that personal spirituality made no sense if it was divorced from work for justice in the larger society, and he repeatedly called on Christian leaders to make common cause for world peace.  He received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1930.
Peace begins with loving one another.  Start with the people in this room.  This body has done a pretty good job over the last few days.  We’ve seen quite a few leaps beyond old spheres of safety for the sake of the other.  Each person who has stepped out has done so in order to meet another.  And we have discovered a new place, a third way beyond what either one knew before.
Take what you have learned here about deep hospitality [6] and keep moving toward the other.  Maybe we can even figure out how to love everybody in this church.  This reconciling work isn’t like BASE jumping [7] – finding a thrill by stretching some rubber band that ties you to the earth.  God’s mission is real faith work, the kind of trusting vulnerability that knows there’s only one rule to keep us safe, the spirit’s tether that will draw us into the arms of a Friend on the other side of that chasm. [8]
So step on out there past this narrow ledge of safety and love one another.  Step out there and expect to find your Friend on the other side.  Cross the chasm and you will find the other – and every single one of them will bear the image of God.  Trust the wings of the morning, and take a flying leap!  Take a flying leap into the future, and toward the other.  The bridge is there – we call it the Light of the World.
[1] Program, Budget, and Finance – committee that develops the budget
[2] The Rev. Gregory Straub is the Secretary of General Convention
[3 ]Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
[4] A good biographical review here:
[5] and related sites
[8] Draw us in the Spirit’s Tether, music by Harold Friedell; text by Percy Deamer

General Convention: Reflection from Bishop-elect Susan Goff

Earlier this morning I shared a reflection from our diocesan bishop, Shannon Johnston, about his experience at General Convention in Indianapolis. Here is another reflection published in Center Aisle, from our Bishop Suffragan-elect, Susan Goff. She will be ordained a bishop on July 28 at St. Paul's, Richmond, and I hope you will join us if you can. Here is Susan's reflection:

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Church Structure: Be Servants to One Another

By the Rev. Susan E. Goff, Bishop Suffragan-Elect, Virginia
Jesus said, “I am among you as one who serves.”
A bishop, two priests and a homeless man were walking down the street.  It sounds like the beginning of a joke.  In reality, it was the beginning of an illustrative encounter – one night here in Indianapolis.
As my husband and I were returning to our hotel in the soaring heat, a visiting bishop from another country came to us with a look of distress in his eyes.  He could not find his hotel. I pulled out a downtown map, but the hotel did not seem to be where the map said it was.
Just then, a homeless man came along and we asked him for help.  He gave us directions, then pointed to the place where he was going to spend the night.  He asked if we could spare a few dollars so that he could get something to eat.
In thanksgiving for his help, we gave him enough to get a meal.  He then gave us even more specific directions. Together we found the entrance to the seemingly hidden hotel.
With relief visible on his face, the bishop thanked us and we all parted to go our different ways.  In that brief encounter of people from different races, languages and socio-economic backgrounds, it wasn’t clear who was servant and who was served.  The roles kept changing as we entered into relationship with each other.
At this General Convention, we have talked much about structure, both of the convention and of the Episcopal Church.  We have talked much about the power and authority that structure represents.  Our encounter on the street reminded me powerfully of the whole point of structure.  It is intended to be a vessel, like the hull of a great ship, which holds us together in relationship with each other.
Our life of faith, after all, is all about relationship with God and with one another.  The mission of God in which God calls us to participate is all about serving one another and the world in Christ’s name.  So our structures need to be all about relationship and service.
A few weeks after I was elected bishop suffragan of the Diocese of Virginia, I had a waking dream that gave me a visual image for structure in service to relationship. In my mind’s eye, I saw hands placing a miter on my head, but it jumped off as if it were on a spring.  Another set of hands placed it on my head, and again it sprang off.
Then I put the miter on my head myself, and it leaped even higher than before.  But it landed in my hands, upside down.  As I held that inverted miter, it filled with fruit of every shape and color.  The upward pointing triangle of the miter had previously looked to me like the hierarchical structure of the Church.  Held in a different way, looked at from another angle, the structure became a vessel that holds God’s people in loving, fruitful, faithful relationship.
May whatever work we do to restructure General Convention and Church institutions always be for the sake of bearing fruit.  May it always be for the sake of building relationships.  And may it always teach us how to be servants to one another and to a world in need, for Christ’s sake.