The Rector's Blog
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October 11, 2018, 7:56 AM

"Transforming Generosity"



Dear Ones,

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry often describes us as “The Episcopal branch of the Jesus movement.” 

As we begin to talk about stewardship of our parish and wider community, I want to pose these questions:  What does that mean for us? What is God calling us to do as followers of Jesus?

As Episcopalians, we love our worship.  Our liturgies inspire us.  The Eucharist is at the center of our lives.  We believe the Bible is the word of God and we are people of the Word. 

As part of the Jesus movement, we follow the One who loves us so much that he gave his life so that we might understand God’s never-ending love for all of creation.

And here’s the hard part: As followers of Jesus, we are called to give all of ourselves to God’s work in the world.  I know that many if not most of you give generously of your time and talents to our larger community, showing the love of Christ in the world around us. 

In the sixth chapter of Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus, after teaching us how to pray, talks to us about money, our needs and our hope.  He reminds us that we cannot have two masters.  We cannot love God and money.  But Jesus also says, "…do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?”

He finishes by calling each of us with these words, “But seek first God’s kingdom and God’s righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”

How would our church —how would we — be transformed if each of us remembered these words of Jesus?  We are constantly challenged to examine our priorities and to set new ones.

Establishing new priorities for ourselves and for our church means transforming how we think about generosity. That transformation will call upon us to look for generosity in every aspect of our work and in every aspect of our lives. Remember the tenth chapter of Mark’s Gospel: “Jesus, looking at the man, loved him and said, ‘You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.”

Jesus calls us to take the long view. Again he challenges us to give all of ourselves to God’s righteousness and trust in God’s care.

What a challenge! What transformation!

I hope you’ll join me as we work together to transform generosity in our church, our community, and our lives!

Faithfully,

Evelyn+




September 20, 2018, 4:03 PM

Creation Season Continues!


Joan Chittister

Try saying this silently to everyone and everything you see for thirty days: “I wish you happiness now and whatever will bring happiness to you in the future.” If we said it to the sky, we would have to stop polluting; if we said it when we see ponds and lakes and streams, we would have to stop using them as garbage dumps and sewers; if we said it to small children, we would have to stop abusing them;…if we said it to people, we would have to stop stoking the fires of enmity around us. Beauty and human warmth would take root in us like a clear, hot June day. We would change.

Source: In a High Spiritual Season

There are two Sundays left in “Creation Season.”  I’d like to know what you think of what we’ve been doing, in the liturgy and in the classes Between the Services, if you’ve been participating in those.  What have you learned?  Where are you being challenged to learn more?  Have your perspectives been widened or changed in any way?  What have you liked? What’s been uncomfortable?

For me, it feels rather strange to expand the preaching as much beyond the texts presented as I have done or am doing; but I’ve also been pleasantly surprised to find that there always seems to be a solid link to at least one of the lessons, that allows the conversation to still be scripturally based.  (I do prefer to preach on scripture!)  It’s rather exciting to see the Word of God speaking to the non-human parts of Creation, when it is so easy to stay human-centered.

Paul Santmire, whom I’ve referenced already twice in sermons, spent quite a bit of time talking about the tendency of the church in our own day to be anthropocentric.  In the extreme version, we might hear someone saying God has a plan for me, or Jesus is my personal savior – not that this is bad, but that if that is all we consider God to be doing, then we might not be able to hear other voices, and not only non-human voices, but human ones as well. 

Therefore we may need to be encouraged to go beyond what God is doing in my life to what God is doing in the life of my parish, to the life of the Episcopal Church, to the life of the “Church Universal,” and even on into the rest of Creation.

In our survey of Christian views of Creation, we have moved from Augustine’s Joyful Partner to Acquinas’ Rational Analyst, and have had hints of a modern day Utilitarian.  This Sunday and next we’ll move on through re-claiming the “value of nature” to reclaiming the one-ness of all created things (ourselves included).

This Sunday Between the Services the topic is “Environmental Stewardship.”  What does it mean for us to have “dominion” or to “rule over” Creation?  Does it mean we can do whatever we want?  Or does it mean we should treat the world the way we would like God to treat us? 

And if it’s the latter, what does that ask of us? 

Blessings to all!                            Evelyn+




September 6, 2018, 12:00 AM

The Doctrine of Discovery


The “Doctrine of Discovery” is the name we give to a papal bull issued by Alexander VI in 1493.  In this decree, the Church determined the boundaries of lands to be divided between Portugal and Spain for exploration, settlement, and resource extraction.  That the lands in question were home to numerous tribal groups and people, was by-the-bye. 

You may remember this from your history classes, that from the 11th to the 15th century, most of the Iberian peninsula, where Spain and Portugal now lie, was occupied by Islamic rulers.  While many Jews and Christians lived there as well, political power was denied them.  Furthermore, Arabs and Berbers also settled there.  Islamic architecture gave us many beautiful buildings, such as the Alhambra, that define Spanish style right up to the present.  Among the cultural gifts to Europe were Arabic translations of ancient Greek and even Christian writers, including Aristotle; these texts eventually helped fuel what is known as the 13th Century Renaissance, and influenced the theologies of Peter Abelard and Thomas Aquinas. 

Not surprisingly, however, European princes and Christian religious leaders wanted nothing more than to expel the Moslems from Iberia, so a holy war was waged over several centuries, until the last of the Moors were evicted in 1492, the same year Cristoforo Columbo “sailed the ocean blue.”.

With the war won in Iberia, what were the kingdoms (Castile, Leon, Aragon, Sicily, and Granada) to do with all their soldiers?

Given the riches unexpectedly discovered by Columbus, it should come as no surprise that the answer seemed ready-made: to go to the new world and grab all the riches they could, so as to fill the coffers of the new kings.

This is where the “Demarcation Bull” of Pope Alexander came into play.  Obviously, there had to be official sanction, and official protection, for the enterprise across the sea.

“We [the pope], … recognizing that as true Catholic kings and princes, such as we have always known you to be, and as your illustrious deeds already known to almost the whole world declare, you not only eagerly desire but with every effort, zeal and diligence, without regard to hardships, expenses, dangers, with the shedding even of your blood, are laboring to that end…,” “have … learned that you … for a long time had intended to seek out and discover certain islands and mainlands remote and unknown … to the end that you might bring to the worship of our Redeemer and the profession of the Catholic faith their residents and inhabitants….”  In short, they hired Columbus and he reported that those inhabitants “believe in one God, the Creator in heaven, and seem sufficiently disposed to embrace the Catholic faith and be trained in good morals, so now they [only?] wanted to make Christians of them.”

So, the popes said, they should do just that – bring the locals to the Catholic faith, and not be deterred, and that “we, of our own accord, not at  your instance nor the request of anyone else in your regard, but out of our own sole largesse and certain knowledge and out of the fulness of our apostolic power, by the authority of Almighty God … do …give, grant, and assign to you and your heirs and successors, kings of Castile and Leon, forever, together with all their dominions, cities, camps, places, and villages, and all rights, jurisdictions, and appurtenances, all islands and mainlands found and to be found, discovered and to be discovered [west of a certain longitude], no matter whether the said mainlands and islands[are near India] [so long as no other Christian prince has previously claimed them]….”  AND, he decreed that they were to “appoint … worthy, God-fearing, learned, skilled, and experienced men, in order to instruct the … inhabitants … in the Catholic faith and train them in good morals.” 

You should know that the Episcopal Church has repudiated this document in 2009 at General Convention.  To our modern ears it sounds bad enough – that someone, even a pope, might declare by divine right, the power to divide the world – but that was only the beginning of the story.  The Spanish quickly discovered that any reports of a willingness on the part of the local inhabitants to become Catholic was a fiction.  Unfortunately, they took this as license to murder, oppress, torture, enslave, and rob them instead.

We’ll be talking about that this Sunday!

Blessings to all!                            Evelyn+




August 23, 2018, 12:23 PM

GENERAL CONVENTION @ HOME


At General Convention in July, the Episcopal Church was invited to focus on three areas of ministry and mission:  Evangelism, Racial Reconciliation, and Stewardship of Creation.  I am trying to figure out how we might sharpen our focus here at Christ Church – and I would like to invite you to weigh in with your ideas and questions! 

On the question of Evangelism, there are two events occurring this fall and winter in our Diocese:  First, in Columbus on September 22, an introductory workshop called “Evangelism with Integrity,” that talks about what works and what helps; and second, in Indianapolis in January, a three-day Forma Conference on evangelism and liturgy. Forma describes itself as a “network for formation” (Christian education and discipleship).  There will be several moderated discussions and workshops on offer.  (If at least 3 people go, there is a price break!)  See as well, the presentations on Evangelism taped at General Convention.

On Racial Reconciliation, the goal is to “create a ‘network of healers, justice makers, and reconcilers’ who would benefit from the pool of knowledge and shared experiences of one another and those who work in this area of ministry.  See the presentation on Racial Reconciliation.  We’ll be following up on this subject in Jefferson County as a number of area groups and organizations are moving from a responsive to a proactive approach, taking the initiative away from the Klan and other hate groups, and working to create, brand, and publicize our conviction that there is no place here for hate, that we are an inclusive community, and that all are welcome.  Having a continuous,  in-depth conversation about racial divisions, healing, and reconciliation will make our community a stronger, more diverse, and friendlier place.

Finally, Stewardship of Creation has become incredibly topical as headlines on an almost-daily basis call our attention to issues of climate change,
pollution, “eco-justice,” and the importance of clean air, water, and land. 
See the presentation on creation care.

We’ll start our exploration of the stewardship of creation with a liturgical focus on Sundays from September 1 – October 4.  While we will continue to use the Revised Common Lectionary, you will notice that our hymns and prayers (and my sermons) will speak of the place creation holds in our theology and faith. 

I’m considering offering a couple classes, perhaps on the theology of creation and/or on the ins and outs, or at least the basics of climate change science.  We might gather on Sundays between the services to hold those discussions.  I’m still working on the PLAN, but will let you know (and as noted above, if you have ideas or questions, by all means pass them along!) when I have something to offer.

Here are a few basic ideas to bear in mind
Creation is Good.  Creation speaks of its Creator.  Creation praises the Creator.  Creation is designed for our good.  Humankind struggles with the concept of “dominion.”

We will be using a new mass setting, called the “Red Lake Mass,” by Monte Mason, with music adapted from Frances Densmore’s “Chippewa Music.”  Densmore was an ethnologist who spent considerable time in Minnesota, at Leech Lake, White Earth, and Red Lake in 191-13.  She recorded quite a bit of the music (on wax cylinders!) of the Anishinaabe (Ojibway) people, and from different tribes all across the country. 

You may not be aware that the Leech Lake band is now fighting the installation of an oil pipeline through their reservation’s native rice-growing lands.   What goes around…

I hope you will be able to come and learn together as we worship together the Creator of all good things, the one who binds us in love to all Creation and all people.

Blessings to all!                            Evelyn+




August 9, 2018, 9:22 AM

Transfiguration


Transfiguration

"In those moments when God’s glory shines in the face of another, we see them as they truly are and always have been, with unveiled faces, the beloved of God being changed from one degree of glory to another. And the same is true for us. For the transfiguration is not an idea. It is not a story. It is not a fable. It is a lived reality."

~ Br. James Koester, Society of Saint John the Evangelist

At a recent workshop on trauma and resilience, we were invited to sit down with someone we did not know, and spend just two minutes looking them in the eye.  It was an interesting two minutes – minutes of embarrassment for some, giggles for others, and a spark of delight for still others.  I remembered Jesus told the disciples that whatever they did for the “least of these” they did for him, so I went into the exercise looking for the presence of the sacred, and I don’t know if I found it or not, but as we proceeded from one exercise to another, I found a person with whom I could share some of my own deepest fears and hopes, a person who would listen and not judge, and I did my best to respond in kind. 

Now, of course, this workshop was intended for people in the helping professions, primarily mental health workers, but still.  It does raise the question, the opportunity, even the hope, of finding such people all around us.  When the focus is not on me but on you, then openness is not just risky, but necessary and liberating.

Would that we could experience such moments with all those with whom we come in contact.  One on one, human being to human being, open heart to open heart. 

I am of the opinion that the only way we can re-create a health-giving society is through relationship.  We know that God has risked all to be in relationship with us; we know that our lives are frequently transformed through relationships with others – if we are fortunate – for the better.  We know the power of friendship when things are hard; we know the joy of friendship when we are celebrating; we are who we are as much if not more because of our relationships to God and other people than how we perceive ourselves internally.  Social groups define themselves not just by who they are, but by who they are not … on and on we can see these truths.

Jesus invites us to be in relationship with God; and then to share the gifts that God gives us in our relationships with others.  Don’t hold on to your love, share it.  Don’t hold on to your talents, share them. Don’t hold on to your treasures, share them.

It’s risky, loving people.  We know that.  We might be hurt, injured, even killed, just because we choose trust instead of distrust.

And I don’t think God means for us to forget who we are, as beloved of God, in any of that.  If you’re in a violent relationship, do all you can to get out.  If you’re the target of racial hatred or other forms of bullying and bigotry, protect yourself.  Seek help.  Not everyone is called to enter places of danger; some are called to help others get out.  And still others are called to help heal the wounds that we bear from trauma.

Not everyone whose eyes you meet will be able to meet yours in the same way.  Some are too afraid, too wounded, too angry, too lost, too confused, too conflicted, to be vulnerable in turn.  Pray for them.  Weep for them.  Remember they are God’s children, too. 

Blessings to all!                            Evelyn+


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