Monday, December 27, 2010

Keeping Mass in Christmass

For the first time this yea,r I didn't get invited to one single "Keep the Christ in Christmas"Facebook group.  I might have had one page suggested to me for becoming a fan, but that's it.  Starting two years ago I invited everyone who invited me to one of those groups to a "Keep the Mass in Christmass."  When we talked about the Reformation this year in liturgics, our professor pointed out that most of the people who are most vigilant about keeping the CHRIST in CHRISTmas and not saying "Happy Holidays" are the theological descendants of those people who got rid of Christmas all together (namely hyper Protestants).

The (heavily cited!) Wikipedia article says this
Following the Protestant Reformation, groups such as the Puritans strongly condemned the celebration of Christmas, considering it a Catholic invention and the "trappings of popery" or the "rags of the Beast."...Following the Parliamentarian victory over Charles I during the English Civil War, England's Puritan rulers banned Christmas in 1647...In Colonial America, the Puritans of New England shared radical Protestant disapproval of Christmas. Celebration was outlawed in Boston from 1659 to 1681. The ban by the Pilgrims was revoked in 1681 by English governor Sir Edmund Andros, however it was not until the mid-19th century that celebrating Christmas became fashionable in the Boston region...Christmas fell out of favor in the United States after the American Revolution, when it was considered an English custom.
Washington Irving wrote short stories about Christmas, and that made it fashionable again.  The wikipedia article addresses that, too.

What I've gathered, as well, is that the people who want to KEEP CHRIST in CHRISTmas don't actually care about religious celebration, other than not wanting to feel dominated or ignored...and they prefer to dominate others.  (I'm not talking about everyone, but the most vocal people.)  I tweeted a few weeks ago that for there to be a war on Christmas happening, the music at Starbucks was awful Jesusy.  The religious celebration they want to do isn't so much celebrating, as maybe remembering that Jesus was born.  That's great, do some remembering.

But I think that another way of maintaining Christmas as a religious holiday is to celebrate it with religion.  When I've tweeted something to the effect of keeping Mass in Christmas, I've gotten the response (and I'm not the only one) to get "Isn't keeping Christ in Christmas more important?"  Well, like I said above, I haven't actually noticed an absence of Christ....and if you celebrate Mass (or some other communal celebration of the holiday, gathering around Word and preferably Sacrament) it's hard to not have Christ in Christmas.  And I'm willing to have a pretty vague and generous definition of mass, namely a gathering of the religious faithful, regardless of their tradition, to celebrate a feast day.

Thom, SFO offers the following about keeping Christ in Christmas:
Instead of inaugurating the Christmas season at Thanksgiving or Halloween, try living the mysteries of Advent. Try preparing yourself for the coming of our lowly king. Try not spending 6 months salary on gifts to impress friends, family, co-workers, and neighbors. Instead, take that money and do some real good. Try tempering the joy of the season with the stark reality that we are still in darkness.
I like it.  To it I'd add not just waiting until Christmas to celebrate, but also keeping all of Christmastide.  Twelve days instead of one is a lot more celebration!  I've also heard people say (often in response to the statement "It's only Advent!") "It's never the wrong time to celebrate Christ's birth."  Well...maybe.  As TBE says, you wouldn't sing "Jesus Christ is Risen Today" on Good Friday...and you don't say "Merry Christmas!" in July.  I don't think Christ is really absent from Christmas, not even in secular settings; certainly not absent if Christians actually celebrate (especially together) the mysteries of the Incarnation (which is not celebrating Jesus being born to die; cf John 1....and I don't think singing "Happy Birthday" to Jesus is quite it, either).

If we keep the Mass in Christmass, Christ will surely follow.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Sermon: Mt. 1.18-25

Joseph P. Mathews
19 December 2010
Advent 4, A
Matthew 1.18-25
St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, Troy, AL

In the name of the God who was and is and is to come. Amen.

What’s going on?! Did you hear that reading?! “She had borne a son and he named him Jesus.” The baby Jesus is here already, but the vestments and hangings are blue. The bulletin inserts still say Advent on them. What’s going on? Our Roman sisters and brothers don’t get verse twenty-five. Their reading stops with Joseph taking Mary as his wife.

While yes, the baby Jesus is here in this reading, it’s clearly not the point of it. It’s one verse. At the very end. We’re not smoking the place up and wearing white and decking the aisle with poinsettias until Friday. The lessons today aren’t about celebrating Jesus’s birth itself, although they do, like most scripture passages, point to Jesus. The Jesus the point to, though, isn’t the baby Jesus in the manger. Remember, it’s still Advent, and we’ll celebrate the birth in a few days. The readings today, rather, are about God being with us. God who came among us and is with us in Spirit and Church until Christ comes in final glory. And that’s why these texts are good Advent texts.

What does it matter that Christ came among us and that God is with us? Well, we have to actually mean that God is with us, and that God came among us and will return before we can really get at god being with us. If our approach to Christ’s coming is, as a Facebook friend of mine said this week, “Christmas is just one step before Easter. The meanings of both go hand in hand. Without the birth of Jesus first, there would have been no one to die for our sins. It was all part of God's plan,” I think we’re missing what’s going on. That’s not God with us. That’s God the Son here to die to make God the Father happy, and then leave us.

As much as I love some eschatological hope, “in the fullness of time put all things in subjection under your Christ,” that’s not really God with us, either. Advent prepares us for Christ’s coming in glory when all manner of things shall be well, but the texts today want us to know that God is here with us now. Saying that we have to wait until the end of time for everything to be better, and only banking on that ignores the promise in Isaiah and what the angel tells Joseph. God is with us, and pushing God’s being with us to the end of time diminishes how we encounter God here and now.

So how do we encounter God? What does God with us mean as God is with us here and now? Look around at one another. Look around this space, look into one another’s eyes. Even turn around. At St. Paul’s Chapel, where I am doing my field education, we use An Order for Eucharist for our Sunday services, and the invitation to share the peace starts with, “Christ is among us making peace.” We, the Church, are Christ’s mystical body here on earth. United in our baptisms to Christ, we are charged with doing the work of Christ.

And we encounter Christ week by week when we ask that he be present to us in a sacred meal, in sharing bread and wine, his body and blood. But as a sacramental faith, our knowing God with us is not limited to gathering together in Church for the eucharist; I don’t think it was a mistake that Jesus did his ministry -- and told his followers to continue doing theirs -- using water, food, and drink, things that are necessary for life. Knowing Christ in the breaking of the bread is not limited to the ritual meal of the Eucharist. While other times we may not commune on his body and blood, I have certainly known Christ’s presence, through many, many meals at the Wesley or cups of coffee at Village Coffee.

When I went home with my friend Melissa during my junior year of college, she took me to a water fall near her house, and I took a lot of pictures. Water came over the side of a hill and fell thirty or more feet? I’m horrible with gauging distances. The water came over, and filled into a pool that it had made. The water splashed and overflowed as the stream continued. But it got the area around it wet as well. And as I looked at that living water, flowing with abundance, unable to be bound by earth I thought, “This is baptismal! This is like God’s grace: not limited, not bound, and alive with us today!”

We gather week by week to proclaim the Good News and to join one another in the Eucharist. But we do something else when we gather each week, too. We collectively join Christ’s priestly acts of prayer as his body. When we pray together we do our work: we pray for the church and the world, and in our assembling Christ makes his prayer to the Father. And in our assembling we make a community of people that cares for one another in faith. Not simply a social club, but a group of people gathered together with the purpose of living and seeing and sharing salvation.

And a way we make community is by sharing with one another personally the concerns that we have. We share the meal together, but we also share our lives. Last spring by the end of the term there were others at chapel praying out loud for the men of the Pike County jail. This fall when I prayed for reconciliation among members of my family I had at least five people come to me to offer comfort because I’d been praying for those members of my family since last year, though with a very different goal. Sharing personal concerns with God and the community allows barriers to be lowered and the community to care for its own.

Our passage today talks about Mary’s being found with child from the Holy Spirit. That had to have been a hard spot for Mary, and it definitely was for Joseph, but they both had faith. But we don’t always have faith. A few years ago I volunteered at a weekend Bible thing at a local church. And it was miserable. On the first night I found myself saying “Do I really believe this? I’m telling these kids this stuff, and I’m not sure right now if I believe Mary was a virgin.” I resolved that crisis, but apparently it’s a common one; when discussing what we doubt -- particularly when we’re exhausted, stressed, and sad -- a friend of mine agreed that his downward spiral crises of faith usually start at the Virgin Birth. But communities can give you faith when you just don’t have it anymore or lose it for a season. The Virgin Birth is what we believe.

When we gather as Christ’s mystical body the church -- God with us -- we profess together what we believe. And the church believes from century to century regardless of my belief from day to day. It believes in spite of me. It believes for me. It believes until I can. Christ is among as we pray for the world, and Christ is among us as we care for our neighbors. Christ is with us we come to know our neighbors and as we come to be truly known to them. God is with us in bread and wine and water at Church, and in dinner at Crowe’s or walking along the beach. God is with us here and now until Christ comes in final victory.

O come, o come Emmanuel. Amen.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Prayers for Uncle Virgil

O God, who by the glorious resurrection of your Son Jesus Christ destroyed death, and brought life and immortality to light: Grant that your servant Virgil, being raised with him, may know the strength of his presence, and rejoice in his eternal glory; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

O God of grace and glory, we remember before you this day our brother Virgil. We thank you for giving him to us, his family and friends, to know and to love as a companion on our earthly pilgrimage. In your boundless compassion, console us who mourn. Give us faith to see in death the gate of eternal life, so that in quiet confidence we may continue our course on earth, until, by your call, we are reunited with those who have gone before; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Father of all, we pray to you for Virgil, and for all those whom we love but see no longer. Grant to them eternal rest. Let light perpetual shine upon them. May his soul and the souls of all the departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

Into your hands, O merciful Savior, we commend your servant Virgil. Acknowledge, we humbly beseech you, a sheep of your own fold, a lamb of your own flock, a sinner of your own redeeming. Receive him into the arms of your mercy, into the blessed rest of everlasting peace, and into the glorious company of the saints in light. Amen.

From The Burial of the Dead, Rite II, The Book of Common Prayer, 1979.

Friday, December 17, 2010

How the Senate Should Vote

Kyrie eleison.  Lord have mercy on all those serving the military, and all those involved in war; as we approach the coming of the Prince of Peace, may we know peace on earth.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Crime Against Nature

Peeps should be chicks, MAYBE bunnies. Not snowpeople.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Song for Today: How Firm a Foundation

Not particularly inspired by the readings, per se, but Jesus not driving away anyone who comes to him made me think about this.

1. How firm a foundation, ye Saints of the Lord,
Is laid for your faith in his excellent word!
What more can he say than to you he hath said,
Who unto the Savior, who unto the Savior,
Who unto the Savior for refuge have fled?

2. In evry condition—in sickness, in health,
In povertys vale or abounding in wealth,
At home or abroad, on the land or the sea—
As thy days may demand, as thy days may demand,
As thy days may demand, so thy succor shall be.

3. Fear not, I am with thee; oh, be not dismayed,
For I am thy God and will still give thee aid.
I'll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand,

Upheld by my righteous, upheld by my righteous,
Upheld by my righteous, omnipotent hand.

(not in video)
7. The soul that on Jesus hath leaned for repose
I will not, I cannot, desert to his foes;
That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,
Ill never, no never, Ill never, no never,
Ill never, no never, no never forsake!

Sermon Notes: John 6.35-38

A requirement of our Preaching 1 class at General is to deliver two extemporaneous homilies.  You get a passage and thirty minutes to prepare.  You decide when to use those thirty minutes, and it's on the honor system, but I think it's pretty well followed.  These are my notes from my prep work, and all of this didn't get into the sermon (a comment on that below).

  • +
  • Here we are, more of John 6.  Probably summer year B, ~6 weeks of bread of Life
  • How we read this is probably different from how our Reformed sisters and brothers read it
  • Jesus is present however we read it
  • Jesus doesn't drive away anyone who comes to him
  • No conditions on coming to God.  Difficult to say "If they do or don't do this (like support health care reform), they're not Christian."
  • But, belief should produce action; there should be an amendment of life, and that's a life-long process.
  • At the font we're incorporated into Christ, at the table we're strengthened to speak for those w/o voice for systemic change, not quick, temporary fixes
  • At the table we're strengthened to love, being nice, coming to the table (regardless of the example some primates set by not coming to the table)
  • When we feast on the Bread of Life we are filled, and we are called to the of the one who sends us.
"If you leave something out, consider that the Spirit didn't let you remember it." - Mo. Mitties

Did You Know?

Did you know that I have a tattoo?

I've had it for two years now, and yesterday's Isaiah reading from the Daily Office made me think about it and if I'd blogged it when I got it.  I got it the day after I'd been made a postulant...and it was kind of spur of the moment, I'm going to be spontaneous and break of out my routine, this is something I'd never do so I'm doing it.  Here's yesterday's text with bold for what my leg now says.

Isaiah 6:1-13 (NRSV)

In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lofty; and the hem of his robe filled the temple. Seraphs were in attendance above him; each had six wings: with two they covered their faces, and with two they covered their feet, and with two they flew. And one called to another and said: "Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory." The pivots on the thresholds shook at the voices of those who called, and the house filled with smoke.

And I said: "Woe is me! I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; yet my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!" Then one of the seraphs flew to me, holding a live coal that had been taken from the altar with a pair of tongs. The seraph touched my mouth with it and said: "Now that this has touched your lips, your guilt has departed and your sin is blotted out." Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, "Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?" And I said, "Here am I; send me!"

And he said, "Go and say to this people: 'Keep listening, but do not comprehend; keep looking, but do not understand.' Make the mind of this people dull, and stop their ears, and shut their eyes, so that they may not look with their eyes, and listen with their ears, and comprehend with their minds, and turn and be healed." Then I said, "How long, O Lord?" And he said: "Until cities lie waste without inhabitant, and houses without people, and the land is utterly desolate; until the LORD sends everyone far away, and vast is the emptiness in the midst of the land. Even if a tenth part remain in it, it will be burned again, like a terebinth or an oak whose stump remains standing when it is felled." The holy seed is its stump.

We Just Can't Win, Ctd.

Westboro Baptist Church says it will picket Elizabeth Edwards' funeral

Read it all.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

We Just Can't Win

Yesterday I got a few flame comments on two blog entries.  Go read them here and here.  Afterward I was talking about the comment and Christianists and atheists and people who are douchy and people who are nice and loving.  I've started commenting on some more blogs.  I've been re-posting Joe.My.God's Holy Crimes lists from day to day.  And my friend said something about Westboro Baptist Church and what certain fundamentalists have done to Christianity.  If you read the comments on the Holy Crimes entries (including some follow up comments to what I've said) it's clear that people associate Christians of any stripe with, well, Christians of any stripe.

There are the people who've turned love into hate (see the above video!) and peace into making war to make peace.  And then you have the crooks.  And the people who abuse the relationships that the Church has given them in whatever manifestation it takes.  And that's what people see.  And we just can't win.  We can't have an aggressive media campaign that says "We're not like them!"  We can't get on top of the Christianity game and actively fight the Christianists to beat them into submission.

And I don't think we're supposed to.  I think that's kind of the opposite of what we're supposed to do.  The Christianists have power because they seek it, rather than resisting the temptation to have power (when really we don't at all).  As I follow Christ I know God who became man (giving up power), was born in a lowly state (not into power), had no place to lay his head (didn't acquire or seek power), and gave up his life (didn't take on power at the end).  I think the way to show what we believe it to live it.  To be friendly and love people.  And really loving people means respecting the dignity of every human being.  And seeking Christ in all persons.  That doesn't mean don't talk about our faiths; my friend Dan (from yesterday's quote of the day) and I talk about faith all the time, mostly in the form of questions, since he doesn't really identify with a faith tradition.

Instead I think we have to wait for the Lord.  And keep working for justice and doing service work and loving all people.  Really loving them...and that means not calling names, folks!  On Advent 1 the Vicar preached at St. Paul's Chapel and talked about staying awake and working to be ready for the judgment day....and that every day is judgment day.  Every day there are actions that we take where we choose to do good or not.  And I try (and fail miserably, often!) to not seek control or dominance of others.  Wait for the Lord!  Keep watch.  His day is near.

Advent Song: Wait for the Lord

Wait for the Lord, whose day is near.  Wait for the Lord, keep watch, take heart.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Quote of the Day

"You're a good person and whatever it is that makes you be that way, be it religion, Madonna's entire repertoire, and/or a fantastic bf, it's ok with me so long as you don't force it on me, which you don't." - My friend Dan after having been thanked for not being an ass about my faith.

Hymn for Advent: "O God of Earth and Altar"

We sang this at morning prayer this morning.  I was partial to the second verse, but a re-reading makes me like the first as well.  I'll emphasize the parts that I particularly like.  Sorry the video is a retiring procession, but it's what I found, yeah?

O God of earth and altar,
bow down and hear our cry,
our earthly rulers falter,
our people drift and die;
the walls of gold entomb us,
the swords of scorn divide,
take not thy thunder from us,
but take away our pride.

From all that terror teaches,
from lies of tongue and pen,
from all the easy speeches
that comfort cruel men,
from sale and profanation
of honor, and the sword,
from sleep and from damnation,
deliver us, good Lord!

Tie in a living tether
the prince and priest and thrall,
bind all our lives together,
smite us and save us all;
in ire and exultation
aflame with faith, and free,
lift up a living nation,
a single sword to thee.

Hey Church: Holy Crimes

Yep, it's that time of the week again.  Go read this week's edition of Holy Crimes.  And read the comments.  Please, read the comments.  I think they say a lot about how we're perceived.  When we fail to keep one another accountable it's reflective of all of us and informs people's opinions.  And when we're silent about it that says we don't care (even if we do).  And when we run and hide from it our hearts haven't been changed and aren't being changed by the Gospel.

So, go read, read the comments, maybe leave a comment of apology or repentance.  NOT defensiveness.  There's nothing to defend here.  Being so certain of being right is what gets us into this mess.  Listen to the voice of the modern prophets.

Holy God, holy and might, holy immortal one, have mercy upon us.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Who Reads/Visits My Blog?

Here are two examples from today on Statcounter.  I'm sort of amused.


Hey Church: Holy Crimes

In those days John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness of Judea, proclaiming, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.’ 3This is the one of whom the prophet Isaiah spoke when he said,‘The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: “Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.” ’ - Matthew 3.1-3

Hey Church, go see what we haven't done so great at this week by reading this article.

Last week it was brought to my attention that that blog runs these very week...and I plan on reposting them every week, or at least referring us there (sooner than Thursday, at that!).  I would love if some blogs that got a lot more traffic than mine were to do the same to help with internal accountability.

I'm glad that we're being called to account, and it's not necessarily accountability based on a huge settlement agreement or lots of complaints in the same geographical area.  And even if they aren't Episcopalians or dioceses or Christians, they're people of faith violating other people.  That's not respecting the dignity of every human being, and it affects how we are perceived.

We need to repent.  Those involved in crimes against others need to repent.  But we need to repent on behalf of them, too.  We have failed to be an obedient church.  We have failed to keep our sisters and brothers accountable for their actions.  We have failed to protect the defenseless.  We have let works of darkness happen.  We have not worn the armor of light.  We've been arrogant and in denial.  God, forgive us.

Pray for the accused.  Pray for the victims.  Pray for the Church.  Pray for civil authorities....and it's time to do some acknowledging and bewailing.

Almighty God, give us grace to cast away the works of darkness, and put on the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life in which your Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the living and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Small #Episcopal Community

I don't usually put hash tags in my blog titles.  I know that it'll catch some more hits if I do, maybe, but that's not the point of titling blogs for me.  But I think it's appropriate today since it's what someone said.  But before they said that, I sat on my floor and cackled.  

Mid-afternoon yesterday I got a tweet from a New Yorker whom I've met once before.  We ran into each other at church last fall but knew who the other our Twitter handles.  This is someone that I've followed for probably going on two years.  I have no idea how it started, but my guess is one of us did a search for Episcopal something or other.  So earlier in the day he tweets me asking about the Advent Lessons and Songs at the Seminary tonight.  I think he came last year or meant to.

Well, just before the service starts, I see that he's tweeted, "As @ would say, ADVENT HYMN SING Y'ALL!" Even pasting it I'm starting to laugh.  You see, the person who was tweeting (it's @_Barajas), to my knowledge, has never met @ErinWarde...who went to college with me and was one of my dearest friends through it and is still today.  And a statement that ends in an all caps "y'all" is right up her alley.  I retweeted it with "best tweet ever."

So yes, it's a small community.  After the service tonight I talked to Christopher for a few minutes, just briefly, about someone in New York City coming to something at my seminary while quoting someone I went to college with.  That is networking and building relationships.  Some people say that that makes Twitter superior to Facebook, but I disagree.  There are ways to meet new people and build relationships on both networks, though in different ways.  One requires far more engagement for it to work, but it's easy to do that kind of engagement on either if you don't feel like a creeper chatting to someone you don't really know (yet), but are waiting to meet you.

Who might you be waiting to meet this Advent?

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Hymn: Come Thou Long Expected Jesus

With musical setting that the Baby Jesus prefers:

Come, thou long expected Jesus,
born to set thy people free;
from our fears and sins release us,
let us find our rest in thee.
Israel's strength and consolation,
hope of all the earth thou art;
dear desire of every nation,
joy of every longing heart.

Born thy people to deliver,
born a child and yet a King,
born to reign in us forever,
now thy gracious kingdom bring.
By thine own eternal spirit
rule in all our hearts alone;
by thine all sufficient merit,
raise us to thy glorious throne.

Collect for World AIDS Day

From the National Episcopal AIDS Coalition:

Loving God, You provide comfort and hope to those who suffer. Be present with all HIV
positive persons and their families in this and every land, that they may be
strengthened in their search for health, wholeness and abundant living, through Christ
our Companion. Amen.

Monday, November 22, 2010

#OurExamen: Do No Harm

When I was senior in college my Wesley Foundation worked through Reuben Job's book Three Simple Rules.  It's based on John Wesley's General Rules for Methodists.  Now, Job modifies the name of the last one, but I'll stick with the originals: Do no harm, do good works, and attend to all the ordinances of God.  Job's book is broken into chapters on the rules.

The first chapter is on doing no harm.  Now, the General Rules are simply worded rules and are simple concepts.  I've known them since I was a senior in high school when I went to annual conference and Bishop Watson quizzed the Conference.  However, thinking about what they mean is hard.  Moment by moment saying "Is this doing harm?"  In his book, Job talks about doing harm and gives not exactly concrete examples but rather ways that doing harm is about our relationships and all of our personhood.

I read the first chapter and have been working with it some in the back of my head.  I haven't moved on to the next chapter.  I'd just written a paper on the Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius of Loyola, so the idea of spending time sitting with things was fresh in my head.  And as I've gone day to day with that in my head I've realized that I'm a snarky gossip.  I don't say things to people's faces, but I'm not the nicest person sometimes.  And the thoughts in my head or shared out loud affect the way I encounter the people I'm talking about.

When I dwell on the negative about people that's what I notice the most when I'm with them.  I'm going to reread "Do No Harm" tonight and I think I'll start moving into "Do Good" next week and sit with it for a few weeks.  Doing harm goes beyond gossiping to stewardship of time, talent, and treasure, and to all kinds of things.  I strongly recommend the book for people looking for ways to think about how their ongoing discipleship could grow.

Hey Church: Holy Crimes

Hey Church, go see what we haven't done so great at this week by reading this article.

Pray for the accused.  Pray for the victims.

Almighty and everlasting God, whose will it is to restore all things in your well-beloved Son, the King of kings and Lord of lords: Mercifully grant that the peoples of the earth, divided and enslaved by sin, may be freed and brought together under his most gracious rule; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Hey Church: Straight(ish?) Talk about Trans Sex Work

Hey Church.  You should go read this article.

As clean and tidy as our Sunday mornings might be, that's now how all the world is....and we are called to know about that, pray about it, and engage it.  I don't have much experience with transpeople or sex workers.  I can't begin to fathom the struggles they have day-by-day...but this is a good starting point based on someone's real experiences.

Go read the article.  The whole thing.  It's long-ish, but it's really good.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Sermon: Luke 21.5-19/Is. 65.17-25

The following sermon was preached in the Chapel of the Good Shepherd as part of Preaching 1 on November 10, 2010.  

Joseph P. Mathews
10 November 2010
Luke 21.5-19/ Is. 65.17-25

In the name of the God who was and is and is to come.  Amen.

Can you feel it?  Do you feel the tension mounting?  Do you feel the beginning of the end?  If you’re feeling anything like me you’re definitely feeling the tension of the end of the semester creeping up on you.  That systematics paper is due, the liturgics paper is due, and unless you turned it in today you’ll have a church history paper due.  And two extemporaneous sermons yet to do in this class.  And then another liturgics paper and a church history final.

But that’s not the ending that I’m asking if you’re starting to feel.  No, I’m talking about the end of the world -- and the end of the church year.  We’re in a liminal space right now and the designers of the lectionary know that.  We’re moving.  On Sunday we remembered those saints who have gone before us, those whose temporal lives have ended.  Parishes all over the Church baptized people, and part of their lives ended as they were born anew in water and the Spirit, and now they are between the Font and the grave.

All Saints’ is a sign to me that we’re winding down a church year, that Advent is just around the corner.  We’re in between extremes right now: the days are getting shorter, and the temperatures are getting cooler.  All Saints’ has passed.  Summer has ended but winter is not yet here.  In my mind, with Advent comes the cold.  With Advent comes the dark.  With Advent comes the end of the world.  And with Advent comes a new reign and ordering of the world.  But we’re not yet to Advent.  We’re in an in between space that gives us foreshadowing of that season yet to come.

In our Gospel passage today Jesus tells his followers that the temple would be destroyed and that the end was coming.  With what had to be startled alarm, they ask Jesus when it will be and how they’ll know it’s coming.  Rather than saying “Y2K will be the end of the world,” Jesus tells them not to be led astray.  Led astray?  The want a date.  And he says that people will claim to be him and will tell people the the end is just around the corner, maybe even with a specific date!

Whenever I read apocalyptic material, I think about these people who know the date of the end of the world.  I don’t mean the people who have calculated it based on the Myan calendar, but those people who have cracked the Bible code and know just the year, the month, the day, the hour, the minute, the second that Jesus will return.  And I think “Have you not read the Bible that you claim to take so seriously?!  We aren’t supposed to focus all our energy (if any!) on the end of the world.  Don’t you remember what Jesus told his followers?”

I also think about a Southern Gospel song based on the apocalypse in Matthew It was sometimes sung my traveling quartets in my childhood church, and the refrain says, “We are living surely living in the days he speaks about/all these things we now are having every day/Let’s be ready for his coming let us meet him with a shout/for he tells us in his word to watch and pray.”  The third verse talks about “all these things he speaks about” “Many wars shall come upon us when the end of time is near/ Many earthquakes will be numerous in those days/All of these today we're having and in Matthew it appears/We should live our life for Him and sing his praise.”

Yes, Jesus does talk about wars and earthquakes.  But in Luke’s version he’s pretty clear that, well, they don’t mean much...neither do the famine and plague all over the world or Comet Halebop.  All the stuff that Jesus lists wasn’t all that new.  One of the things that differentiated Jesus from the other messiahs running around first century Palestine was that he didn’t lead an insurrection against the empire.  But in all of those things, we won’t yet be to the end of the world...and we won’t yet be to Christ’s reign.  Before those things come to be lie challenges that many of us in the United States will never face: persecution by civil authorities for taking the name of Christ and following him on the Way.  We are blessed in this country to have the freedom to gather and worship whatever we choose.  This hasn’t always been the case, as St. Lawrence -- roasted alive on a grid iron -- St. Perpetua -- mauled by a wild cow in the arena and then beaten -- and all those saints in Fox’s Book of Martyrs will tell you.  But the point of Jesus’ talk about the end times isn’t about being martyred.  No, the point of his talking about the end times is that he wants people to follow him and trust him.

In the midst of adversity and persecution Christ’s followers are given the opportunity to testify.  When non-believers say, “Okay Christian” or “Okay chaplain,” or “Okay priest, what do you have to say for your God now?” Jesus’ followers are given the opportunity to tell their truth of the Good News.  And how does he want them to testify?  Not by rehearsing elaborate speeches to share or trying to think of every possible situation and how to answer it.  Not by giving them easy answers.  No, Christ wants his followers to trust him for the words to say.  

I don’t know how many times in the hospital this summer that’s all I could do.  Pray before going into a room when I knew it was going to be rough, listen, and keep praying.  We’ve all done a unit or two of CPE.  Take a minute to think about those experiences where there was nothing that you could say, where no amount of role play during orientation would have helped you know exactly what to do when a social worker invites you to be a part of a care conference before the decision to withdraw life sustaining care from the ninety year old -- or the four year old is made.  What defense could you prepare to give to those survivors whose world as they knew it was ending?

When I think about those times, if I said anything at all, I often don’t remember what I said.  What I remember is faces being in pain and looking for peace.  What I remember is Christ being present in the space between us.  What I remember are holy moments that I didn’t make, moments where Christ guided me.  And I remember feeling like I’d made something of a mess when I tried to go it on my own.  At the end of the world -- as we know it and live it or temporally as governments grow more and more oppressive -- this is what will be expected of Christ’s followers.  But we’re not there yet.

And how different that is from what comes after the end, that new heaven and new earth that Isaiah writes about where no more shall the sound of weeping be heard or the cry of distress.  Where no more shall there be in it an infant that lives but a few days, or an old person who does not live out a lifetime, where one who dies at a hundred shall be considered a youth.  In Christ’s reign, which we’ll celebrate next week, violence is no more.  The wolf and lamb eat together, and the lion no longer attacks another creature as prey, but eats grass with the ox.  Society is just: those who build their houses don’t have them taken away by people with more money.  Those who tend the fields are not the slaves of oppressive systems.  But we’re not there yet.

We’re in an in between space.  We’re between the saints who’ve gone before us, and we’re moving toward the Reign of Christ and the end of the world.  And in this in between space we have to remember that we’re not the ones in charge of anything.  We look to that day when in the fullness of time all things will be put in subjection under Christ and made well.  But we’re not there yet.  Right now we’re in a place of looking to the Christ who loves us and died for us, who conquered death and the grave, showing our feet the way.  

Jesus tells us to not prepare our defenses in advance, though he doesn’t say anything about not preparing sermons or classwork in advance.  In telling us this, he’s inviting us to trust, listen, and follow him.  We follow him when we answer the call to different types of ministry.  And we follow him when we do acts of service for the poor in field ed.  We follow him when we take up our crosses and give of ourselves to others.  And we hope that we’ll follow him in the resurrection to his New Reign.  But we’re not there yet.

Quotation for Christ the King

"Just a friendly reminder to my American brethren and sistren: your altar this morning should be arrayed as to suit a king not a farmer. Save the cornucopia and faux vegetables for Thursday." - Fr. Oscar Late

Saturday, November 20, 2010

What Catholics Don't Believe

The Vatican Rag

Perhaps those being called to Rome can get some tips from this video.

Genuflect, genuflect, genuflect.  But not to one another.

Sermon: Luke 17.11-19

This sermon was preached in the Chapel of the Good Shepherd on October 6, 2010 as part of Preaching 1.  It was modified and delivered twice at St. Paul's Chapel the following Sunday, October 10.

Joseph P. Mathews
PR1  - Lab C
Mo. Mitties
Luke 17.11-19
Proper 23
In the name of the Holy and Undivided Trinity, who creates, redeems, and sustains us.  Amen

When I first looked at this passage I was excited!  A plain reading of our text today about the ten lepers being healed but only one of them coming to Jesus to thank him is where I wanted to go.  I wanted to talk about how it is right and a good and joyful thing always and everywhere to give thanks to Almighty God, creator of heaven and earth.  I wanted to preach about the joy of gratitude.

And then I did a little homework to get some background information on the text.  
An online commentary I regularly consult starts off this way, “The temptation to moralism with this story of ‘ungrateful lepers’ is very strong...we all should do better expressing thanks to God.  But this text isn’t about moralism.”
 Moralism?  I didn’t want to preach about moralism, I wanted to be joyful.  Good news in gratitude.  The author of the commentary said, “It’s almost always okay to preach about gratitude...but this text isn’t the best support for it!”

So I sat and read and listened to the Spirit.  And this text isn’t about moralism, but rather ritual cleanliness and priestly work.  The ten lepers in our story today were ritually unclean in addition to being sick.  This ritual uncleanliness had bonded together an interesting group of people: nine Judeans and a Samaritan, who otherwise would not have been hanging out together.  Ethnicity didn’t matter at this point.  They were all on the margins, and they were in community with one another.

But they longed to be in their greater communities, the way one feels when moving to seminary from her sponsoring congregation...or New York in general when moving away from all family and friends.  This group of ten was on the outside, and they cried out to Jesus for healing.  The way these people could come back into their communities, however, was not for Jesus to simply heal them and send them on their way.

No, a priest had to examine them and declare them clean, and here’s the crux of our story.  The nine Judeans do what Jesus says to do not because they’re ungrateful, but because they have to.  He sends them to a priest, and as they go they realize they’ve been healed and can thus show themselves to the priest.  They aren’t being ungrateful, they’re following directions.  In their cultural context they would not have thanked Jesus anyway; they weren’t longing to just be healed, but to be welcomed back into the communities.  That required a Judean priest declaring them clean, not an itinerant rabbi healing their physical illness.  Gratitude would be shown to the person who made the declaration of cleanliness.  

The nine Judeans do what they’re told to do.  The Samaritan man, though doesn’t.  When he realizes he’s been healed he turns around and thanks Jesus.  And here’s the turning point.  Rather than going to a samaritan priest, this man comes to Jesus and thanks him.  Jesus tells him that his faith has made him well and doesn’t send him back to a priest but sends him on his way.   In this Samaritan’s act of thanksgiving the Samaritan man says, “You’re the priest I need.”  Jesus’s declaration of cleanliness Jesus is his assent to being the priest for the outsider, the marginalized, the one who slips through the cracks.  

Jesus is not just the healer, but the one who reconciles outcasts to broader communities and integrates them into societal life.  Jesus taught his ragtag band of followers that because of their faith in him, they could also be reconcilers, welcoming the people around them who were physically or ritually “unclean” back into community.  And guess what?  We’re Jesus’s ragtag band of followers now.  This event with the Samaritan leper might as well have been Jesus writing the mission of the church as The Episcopal Church understands it.

Our catechism says, “The mission of the Church is to restore all people unity with God and each other in Christ.  The church pursues its mission as its prays and worships, proclaims the gospel, and promotes justice, peace, and love.”  Our mission is to reconcile each other to one another and to God.  Our mission is to love and do acts of service to all people, especially for those on the margins.  

Think about times that you’ve done this kind of work.  Do you do it for the thanks you get?  When you open the shelter is that because you want the women to thank you?  Or what about when you work at St. Martin’s?  Mission trips around the country and around the world?...the work that you plan on doing as priests ordained in this church?  Do you do any of that because you want thanks?

Or do you do it not just because you have to, but because of the value you place on that role.  I shouldn’t project.  When I’ve done these types of things it’s not because I want someone to thank me.  When I worked in Alabama one summer leading youth groups in repairing roofs and doing other home repair projects, it wasn’t because I wanted people to thank me.  It was because I had been given good news of Jesus’s works of reconciliation that I wanted to share.  I wanted to help these people who felt outcast and downtrodden know that they were loved by their sibling travelers on the way and by the God who created them.

And I made promises at my confirmation, when I reaffirmed my baptism, to proclaim by word and example the good news of God in Christ and to strive for justice and peace among all people, and to respect the dignity of every human being.  In water and the spirit we are baptized into Christ and all of God’s acts of redemption.  In our Gospel passage today Jesus says non-verbally, “Here I am, the one who serves as the priest to the outsider, bringing them back into community with the human family.”  We have been joined to that example and witness and given a task of reconciliation, outreach, and love.

At the table we’re strengthened for our journey and continually reconciled to God and one another.  Because there is one loaf we who are many are one body.  Let’s be about God’s business of reconciliation and welcoming the stranger into the body.  Amen.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Harry Potter Day 2010

The Harry Potter release is tonight, and I'm not really aware of that yet.  I have my tickets but the reality of it hasn't it and likely won't until I go to class tonight.  As I've been counting up to this night through the week, though, I've been thinking about the last releases that I've been to, where they've been, and what they've been like.

The last release was a movie release, and it was during General Convention.  I wore my robe for most of the day, including into the house of bishops.  I think I'll dress up tonight in my usual costume: grey slacks, black pants, one of my favorite bow ties, and my Wizengamot robe.  Last release was in LA with ECGC.  Before that I think was the book release when I was in South Carolina.  There was also a movie release that summer, and I made the costume for both, I think.  I was with Beth Ann for the book release.  I have been to book releases in Panama City, FL and Columbus, GA.  I've gotten a book the day after the release because I couldn't drive or stay out that late alone and we didn't live near enough.  I cannot for the life of me remember the Goblet of Fire movie release.  Can someone I was with help me out there?

So I haven't blogged a lot lately.  I'm trying to blog without obligation.  I have some entries rolling around in my head about liturgy and common prayer and community.  I might have something to say about singing, too.  I'm not sure yet.  I've got two sermons that I will try to put up tomorrow afternoon.  Maybe one tomorrow and one Saturday since that might generate more traffic.  I think I may break down and buy MarsEdit as well unless I find a comparable program; I post so much on Facebook because it's so easy and it doesn't make its way over here.  As I've said before, I'll try to make a conscious effort of posting stuff.

Also maybe coming: stuff on Three Simple Rules particularly about doing harm.  I'm having some thoughts I realize that I'm doing harm.  I might blog a paper in five parts.  I might post some paragraphs from The Virginia Report that I think that Anglicanism needs to reread.  I'll do those one at a time, I think.  Work is good.  School is good.  Field ed is good.  Life is good.  All busy, but all good.  I'll write about that some, too.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

September 11 Collect

O God who created all peoples of the earth, knows them all by name, and loves them infinitely: Comfort all who have lost loved ones, especially on this day; forgive those who seek division; lead us to reconciliation with all of our neighbors; and give rest to the departed, that one day we might all join in your heavily Kin-dom, a city of eternal peace, through Christ the Great Reconciler who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Tuesday Teaser, Part 2

So even though I finished my book yesterday morning and made a recommendation, I started another one. I just didn't have time to get to a computer and share my "teaser" bit.

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

* Grab your current read
* Open to a random page
* Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
* BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
* Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

I stared Mississippi Sissy by Kevin Sessums yesterday.

"He don't see you, Vena Mae. He's got his highfalutin mask on," said my grandmother. "Call him Arlene and you might get an answer out of him."

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Tuesday Teaser

I was going to do my first Tuesday Teaser today, but I just finished my book. _Supreme Courtship_, which I tore through in basically three days. Good humor, quick read. I got it on clearance at B&N. Look it up.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

I Watched a Woman Tear Her Clothes Today

I watched a woman tear her clothes today,
As she saw her now-dead husband's body.
"Why, oh God, why? Mitch*, I miss you!
So close to going home!"
Pressing her face to his neck,
Rubbing his hand against her cheek.
Shoes off, kneeling on the floor,
Covering his body with tears.

"You're with Jesus now,
There is no more suffering there."
I stood silently as emotional support.
This isn't real life.
People don't tear their clothes from grief.
Not in real life.
This is something you read about.
That could be me in tears on the floor.

He survived this procedure many times before.
But his lungs just couldn't take it.
"Guess I'll have to call a funeral home.
He worked so hard and was doing so good."
Pray our daughters' hearts aren't hardened.
Jesus, redeemer of the world,
We commend Mitch to you.
I watched a woman tear her clothes today.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Brand loyalty and your church

from The Lead:

Ron Sellers writes in The Clergy Journal about the "brand loyalty" problem facing mainline churches:

• 84 percent [of people in your pews] would be willing to consider switching


What to do?

... It’s time to brush up on your branding acumen. Think about brands that have a clear identity. ...

Growing denominational awareness and loyalty within the congregation is not the same thing as selling televisions or mouthwash, but it does have many common elements. Both require:

• understanding what your audience believes, feels, and thinks right now;

• understanding what makes your “brand” different from others;

• understanding how and why the organization can make a difference to members and affect their lives;

• making a conscious, consistent effort to build the brand; and

• clearly, concisely, and repeatedly communicating the distinctives to your audience in a way that is relevant to them.

Read it all...

This is exactly how I feel, I just didn't have numbers about it. We need to know who we are, what we believe, and how what we do brings salvation of life through Christ to the world in which we live. I don't like "church" as product necessarily, but I do think that we need to know who we are and why that matters.

Sermon: Gleaning

from Sit and Eat:

Lydia's congregant Jennifer Goodnow preached this sermon at St. Lydia's on Sunday, June 20 as part of our exploration of the book of Ruth.  Jennifer is a teacher and life long Episcopalian.  You can read the text for her sermon here.

There are women who come to my neighborhood on a regular basis to go through the garbage bags that the supers leave out for sanitation pick-up the next day. These women are well-known by the supers, always work in a tidy and organized fashion, and clean up after themselves, tying up bags when they have collected what they need. The women collect cans but also go through the black garbage bags and collect clothing that Upper East Siders deem unworthy of the many local thrift stores. 

I have often wanted to talk with them but I don’t speak Spanish very well and I don’t want to scare them. I’m guessing they are undocumented and suspicious and fearful of being turned over to La Migra. I’d rather smile and say good morning and leave it at that instead of frightening them with the many questions I have.

They are foreigners. They speak Spanish and I believe are from South America. They may not speak English. They may have little education, little opportunity other than collecting cans and clothes. They are modern day gleaners, sweeping up the remainders of people who live n the wealthiest, highest educated zip code in the United States. They are the Ruths of the 21st century.

It’s easy for me to look at these disenfranchised women and compare them to Ruth. Ruth has chosen the life of a foreigner in a foreign land, just like them. Women during Ruth’s time had little power. Childless widows had no power. The gleaners on my block – if they are undocumented – are, technically speaking, against the law. If they were caught they could be deported, even though NY is not exactly Arizona. The gleaners I see on my block are poor. They are in a desperate situation, like Ruth.

However, I am gleaning as well. I’m a spiritual gleaner. God has laid out a huge feast for me … and I am eating crumbs off the corner of the table. I believe God sees more in me than I can see for myself. I think that God’s perfect paradise, enlightenment, full communion with God is just over my shoulder. But I am looking for it in the wrong place. I’m looking straight ahead and can only see a glimpse of it out of my peripheral vision. I’m standing and eating the crumbs that have fallen on the edge of a table and that’s all I can see. If I would shift my gaze a bit more, I would see an enormous banquet with dish after dish laid out on an endless table.  But, I seem to suffer from a myopia that does not allow me to realize what is present. The Hindus call it Maya – the mistaken belief that the world we are living in now is all that is real which leaves no room for the other-worldly or divine.

I used to go to another church, an Episcopal church, here in Manhattan. Dogs are allowed in the church and I would bring my golden retriever, Music with me to the service. A few years ago, we decided to switch the Eucharist from the wafer to homemade bread baked by different congregants. It’s a honey-infused, whole-wheat crumbly cake. Connor, my godson, hated it when he was younger. He would receive and then palm his communion bread and try to sneak feed it to my dog! I used to tell him that dogs don’t need communion because they are already in full communion with God. My dog, Music is pure love. We humans are the ones who need the help! We need the communion with each other and God. When I come to St. Lydia’s every week, I eat a piece of baguette and I drink three buck chuck from Trader Joe’s – but that’s not my communion. My experience of communion is being in community with everyone here. I have small moments in life when I’m not simply gleaning. When I’m not eating crumbs off the edge of the table, moments when I get a clearer sense of the feast that is laid out for me and everyone else in common union.

We share the sermon at St. Lydia’s and I invite you to reflect on your own experience of spiritual gleaning, communion, or anything else that resonates with you from the text or my words tonight.

Read it all...

Friday, June 25, 2010

Prayer for Priests

I'm watching the ordinations to the priesthood of the Catholic St. Paul-Minneapolis Archdiocese 2010 and this prayer just happened and I really liked it. It really speaks to my call, too.

“Together with us, may they be faithful stewards of your mysteries, so that your people may be renewed in the waters of rebirth and nourished from your altar; so that sinners may be reconciled and the sick raised up. May they be joined with us, Lord, in imploring your mercy for the people entrusted to their care and for all the world.”

Aside: Oh PostIt notes. What would altar books be without PostIt notes?

Is the Southern Baptist Convention Moderating?

From Ethics Daily:
I said the SBC wasn't going to change its anti-public school agenda, hostility to women as ministers and hardwiring to the right wing of the Republican Party.

Four years later, I still think I was right then. But I'm wondering how to read events from last week.

Has the SBC pivoted away from its position over the past 20 years of fidelity to angry fundamentalist leaders and faithfulness to the political right? Are the results of last week's meeting an aberration or a new positive trend?

Read it all...

This is good news. On the one hand it's nice to see that there isn't so much focus on (fringe) social issues (ie silence about Disney). But on the other, this is good for me to see personally. Through college I built up a lot of anger, frustration, and bitterness toward many Southern Baptists because of relations on campus and things they said both about the Wesley Foundation and St. Mark's Episcopal Church.

Additionally, I was having a paradigm shift and frustrated that I felt like I hadn't been exposed to some ideas (social justice as a Christian mandate -- not just giving money to the poor but working to systemically eradicate poverty). Reading Pastor Wade's blog (and the links he often gives) is helping me do some reconciliation...even if it's not calling me back to the tradition of my roots! :)

Congress agrees rules on bank risk

from BBC News:

The US Congress all but finalises the biggest reform of US financial regulation since the Great Depression.

Read it all...

Star Trek: Tik Tok

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Judge Who Stuck Down Moratorium Invests In Oil

from NPR Law:

The federal judge who struck down the Obama administration's six-month moratorium on deepwater oil drilling has a number of investments in oil- and gas-related companies. Questions are now being raised about whether Judge Martin Feldman's decision Tuesday could have been influenced by those investments.

Read it all...

Burst Your Bubble

from Wade Burleson:

I would like to help Matt2239 and a handful of others get to know me a little better. First, my family is pictured above. I've been married to Rachelle for 27 years, and we have four great kids. Charis (23) is getting her real estate license in Florida after graduating with a business degree, Kade (21) is in the Business School of the University of Oklahoma, Boe (20) is in college at Northern Oklahoma and interning with Oklahoma's next Lieutenant Governor, and Logan (16) is going to be a junior at Oklahoma Bible Academy.

I would strongly encourage my friends who read Anglican blogs, or any blogs regularly for that matter, to add Wade Burleson's "Grace and Truth to You" to your list of blogs to check out regularly. I think it's good for me because I get some insight into the organizational structures of the SBC, which I was never exposed to when I was a member of an SBC church. It's good for me as an Episcopalian to see what other people are talking about. While we're in a tizzy about Mitregate, Pastor Wade is talking about his views on the Convention and some of the stuff his church has done. As we tie ourselves up in knots about the covenant, he's talking about whether to teach a 10% tithe or just generous giving.

I started reading this blog sometime in the Spring and don't know how I got to it. It's something that I enjoy reading, though. It's nice for me to get over us and all that we think we are. He gives me some good food for thought and fodder for writing. It's out of my norm (and regular readers of Preludium, Telling Secrets, MadPriest, The Lead, etc.) and it's nice to just read and think, "Huh. That's what's going on in an entirely different world of Christendom."

I'd encourage you to read it all... on his blog and add him to your blogroll.

Canon Kearon speaks

from Desert's Child:

Then Canon Kearon looked out at a room that was at least nearly half full of people of color, and the first thing he said was the "problem of increased and growing diversity in the Anglican Communion has been an issue for many years." He said that by the 1990s leaders in the communion has begun to name "the diversity of opinions in the communion and diversity in general as a problem and sought some mechanisms to address it."

Jaws dropped all over the room. People looked at one another in disbelief. Had he really just said that? Yes, indeed he had. Whether Canon Kearon meant diversity of cultures, of people, or of thought, to see “growth in diversity” as a problem is astonishing in a leader in the Anglican Communion, don’t you think?

I like what Katie Sherrod has to say. She has a good voice and does a good job not just recounting details but also doing analysis and commentary.

Read it all...

Wednesday, June 23, 2010


from Of Course, I Could Be Wrong...:

IT first posted it at FRIENDS OF JAKE.

The Crisis over Kat in a Hat

A Bishop went Calling
in old London town
And she brought her hat
and she brought her gown

But someone at Lambeth
said, "not quite so quick,
We must see your papers
In case there's a trick."

Though she'd been there before
She obeyed their directive
To prove her ordination
and office elective

And then Lambeth begrudged,
"you may lead the prayer
but there's a condition:
you can't cover your hair!"

So the Bishop obeyed
And she carried her mitre
but she's a smart lady,
and known as a fighter

So she preached on the Gospel
On love and inclusion
And on hospitality
and at the conclusion,

She proved to be greater
than petty Lambeth priests
She said, "you are welcome,"
She said, "love has saved you,"
She said, "be at peace."

Thqanks to Dah-veeeeeeeed! for sending it in.

Read it all...

The Full Derek Webb Quotation

from After the Handbasket(emphasis mine):
Derek Webb, on the CD The House Show talks about community and the gospel as he introduces the song Nobody Loves Me. He talks about the risk that we run as we enter into community with each other…

…which we necessarily are. We are called into community together. If you divorce the people of God, the local community, from the gospel, then it ceases to be the gospel. There is no other context for your faith as a Christian than to be in community with other people. I’ve heard a lot of people say to me over the years, “It’s just me and Jesus, and that’s all I need.” Well, that’s not the gospel in Scripture. If you’re going to be those who claim to love Jesus, then you’ll be compelled, and I’ll be compelled to love the things that he loved. And he not only loved, but came and gave himself up for the church. And that makes it our concern as well.

And if that’s not hard enough, that we just live in community together, we are also called with a mandate that we preach the gospel to each other – which seems probably like a backwards idea to a lot of us. If you’ve grown up in church, you think that, “well, if we’re the church gathering, then we certainly know the gospel. We certainly don’t need to hear the gospel. That’s the last thing we need to hear, because we know that.” But that’s not true. We mistake as a Christian culture so often the gospel for only the thing we preach to non-believers in hopes that they would come down the aisles of our churches and place their faith in Jesus. Now, it certainly is that. But much more than that, the gospel must have, and necessarily has a primary place in the life of believers. We’ve got to hear it every week if not every day.

There’s a great quote by Martin Luther in the sixteenth century. He had a church that he was the pastor of and some came to him and said, “Pastor, why is it that week after week after week all you ever preach to us is the gospel?” – implying that “we’re ready to move on to something else. Certainly we know this by now.” Luther’s response was, “Well, because week after week you forget it, because week after week you walk in here looking like a people who don’t believe the gospel. And until you walk in looking like people who are truly liberated by the truth of the gospel, I’m going to continue to preach it to you.” And, until his dying day, he did.

And if we stop hearing that every single day – especially in light of the great righteousness that we might prop up as an idol from time to time – then we are never, ever going to grow. Our hearts are never going to change, our communities will never be sanctified. Because, here’s the truth, flattery at its very best will encourage nothing more in you and in your community than behavior modification – modifying your behavior to act the way you should, to hide the things you do that are wrong, and to try to amplify the things you do that are right. But, see, here’s the truth: all the behavior modification in the world will never change your hearts, and it can never change our communities. Jesus however, does change our hearts and he will change our communities. And that is why boldness is called for.

We have got to be honest. We should have no fear in being honest with each other about who we really are – not just offering up the sins that we feel safe confessing, but being completely bold, being completely forthcoming about who we really are. And saying, “You know what? I am going to stop hiding from you, and I’m going to tell you who I really am because I believe the gospel is true. I can only admit to you who I really am to you because I believe that Jesus is who he really is as well.” And you’re never going to be truly filled with joy unless you truly know yourself for who you really are. And until you are a real sinner with a real Savior, you will be a hypothetical and theoretical sinner – and therefore, with a hypothetical and theoretical savior.

If you confess, “Oh, I know I’m sinful. Scripture tells me, ‘we’ve all fallen short,’ right? And that’s me too, man. I’m sinful.” – but you can’t honestly put your finger on one sin you’ve committed all day because your view of sin has become nothing more than this cultural hiding game, then you’re not experiencing real joy. Because if all I can confess is a knowledge of how sin has affected me, but not any of my real sins – if I don’t really know that I’m sinful – then I don’t truly know, and I’m not truly encouraged by the fact that I’ve been saved. Because, saved from what? If I’m not really sinful then what’s the big deal? What’s the good news? It’s just news.

But if you know yourself as exposed by the cross, then I believe you will begin to experience true joy. Because you will not constantly be looking over your shoulder all the time – constantly checking the knots in this great suit of fig leaves that you’ve sewn for yourself. But rather, you will be comfortably exposed in your sin and boasting in your great Savior because he is real.

Charles Spurgeon once said, “If your sin is small then your Savior will be small also. But if your sin is great, then your Savior must be great.” And, folks, our Savior is great. And what does that tell us about our great sin?

This should be a great encouragement to us as we struggle to live in community with each other. As we struggle to be the bearer or recipient of hard words of truth that might actually change our hearts.

Much thanks to the author of that post for the transcription. I think that sin or not, this type of called-for honesty has some place in the Anglican Communion right now.

Preaching Grace from the Pulpits on Sunday, Living Legalism the Rest of the Week?

from Grace and Truth to You:

Jack Beavers sent me a link to an article in the Fort Worth Star Telegram with a profile on Joel Gregory, former pastor of First Baptist Church, Dallas, Texas and Southern Baptist Convention celebrity. Joel is now ministering in black churches across America. Toward the end of the article, in explaining the ministry he has in now in black churches, Joel Gregory is quoted as saying:

"To some degree, white evangelicals preach grace. But when it comes to dealing with real-life situations, there's a good deal more judgmentalism and legalism. Black churches not only preach grace, they are willing to take you where you are and if you fall down, really try to help you get up, and not punish you."

Read it all...

I have to say that this fits totally with my experience of Southern Baptist Churches, in large part. It's been a long time, and I learned a lot when I was Southern Baptist. I got a lot of love from a lot of different people, but I heard very contradictory messages about grace and legalism. I heard "grace, grace, grace," and then heard a lists of things to do and not to (some from the pulpit, some at home) if you're really a Christian. Don't drink. Don't smoke. Don't be gay. Don't get divorced unless there's unfaithfulness. Now, most of the rules aren't necessarily bad things, but there wasn't a lot of room for mess up. I mean sometimes the lived reality of it was graceful, but the attitudes about people getting pregnant outside marriage or messed up on drugs were shame/guilt based, even if the person wasn't explicitly excluded.

This not having room for people to be fully welcomed back doesn't encourage people to be real with one another. It encourages behavior modification. Derek Webb says on The House Show
Because, here’s the truth, flattery at its very best will encourage nothing more in you and in your community than behavior modification – modifying your behavior to act the way you should, to hide the things you do that are wrong, and to try to amplify the things you do that are right. But, see, here’s the truth: all the behavior modification in the world will never change your hearts, and it can never change our communities. Jesus however, does change our hearts and he will change our communities. And that is why boldness is called for.

And later, more on grace and legalism in my experience.