Sunday, August 27, 2006

Seeing Poverty

In the current episode of the great radio program Speaking of Faith, Dr. David Hilfiker, co-founder of Christ House and Joseph's House in Washington, DC and teacher at the Servant Leadership School "tells the story of how concentrated poverty and racial isolation came to be in cities across America". If you missed it on the radio you can find out much about the program on the Speaking of Faith website and/or subscribe to their podcast.

The Servant Leadership School has a new website which will list their fall classes soon. I have taken a number of classes there over the years and have found them very inspiring and nourishing, please check them out.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Praying Prisoner


My friend and mentor Richard Busch has been a supporter of Jens Soering, a convict serving two life sentences in a Virginia prison. While behind bars Jens has written a number of interesting books on faith, justice and contemplative prayer. Here's a list of his books:

The Convict Christ: What the Gospel says about Criminal Justice

The Way of the Prisoner: Breaking the Chains of Self through Centering Prayer and Centering Practice

An Expensive Way to Make Bad People Worse: An Essay on Prison Reform from an Insider’s Perspective


There's a review of The Convict Christ, by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat at Spirituality and Practice.

If you are interested in Jens' case (he is seeking parole) please visit Jens' website: http://www.jenssoering.com/

"Lord Jesus, for our sake you were condemned as a criminal:
Visit our jails and prisons with your pity and judgment.
Remember all prisoners, and bring the guilty to repentance
and amendment of life according to your will, and give them
hope for their future. When any are held unjustly, bring them
release; forgive us, and teach us to improve our justice.
Remember those who work in these institutions; keep them
humane and compassionate; and save them from becoming
brutal or callous. And since what we do for those in prison,
O Lord, we do for you, constrain us to improve their lot. All
this we ask for your mercy’s sake. Amen. "

Book of Common Prayer, page 826

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

The Church not inclusive?

Below is an excerpt from a recent interview with The Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams,

Q: "Unity in the Church - worldwide - is to you a means of coming closer to the truth. As you put it, 'If we don't stay together, 'we are only following our own local denomination or our personal preferences. Where then do you draw the line? How far can unity be stretched within the boundaries of still being based on the Bible? In reply to this question Williams starts off with a rebuke of those who argue it is high time the Church accepted gay relationships.

A: Their ideal is the inclusive church. ,,I don't believe inclusion is a value in itself'', says the Archbishop. ,,Welcome is. We welcome people into the Church, we say: 'You can come in, and that decision will change you.' We don't say: 'Come in and we ask no questions.' I do believe conversion means conversion of habits, behaviours, ideas, emotions. The boundaries are determined by what it means to be loyal to Jesus Christ. That means to display in all things the mind of Christ. Paul is always saying this in his letters: Ethics is not a matter of a set of abstract rules, it is a matter of living the mind of Christ. That applies to sexual ethics; that is why fidelity is important in marriage. You reflect the loyalty of God in Christ. It also concerns the international arena. Christians will always have reconciliation as a priority and refuse to retaliate. By no means everything is negotiable for me. I would not be happy if someone said: Let us discuss the divinity of Christ. That to me seems so constituent of what the Church is.''

---------

I don't disagree with the Archbishops statement however we may be interpreting the word "inclusive" in different ways. According to Merriam-Webster:


in·clu·sive
Pronunciation: in-'kl├╝-siv, -zivFunction: adjective1 : comprehending stated limits or extremes 2 a : broad in orientation or scope b : covering or intended to cover all items, costs, or services - in·clu·sive·ly adverb - in·clu·sive·ness noun

"Comprehending stated limits or extremes" and "broad in orientation or scope as well as covering or intended to cover all items, costs, or services." Could not the word inclusive be one way of describing the humble submission all Christians are called to make before God in Christ Jesus? Gay and lesbian Christians that I know long to live out their Christian lives (inclusively) in community with others, couples seek fidelity and support for their commitment --- the kind of support our marriage liturgies ask the gathered community to give straight couples. When I use the word inclusive I certainly mean it in the sense that all are invited --- but I also use it to mean that all invited are called to be open to having our entire lives (inclusively) turned upside by the Holy Spirit's work. As the Archbishop says, "conversion means conversion of habits, behaviours, ideas, emotions." I believe that gay and lesbian persons are equally called to conversion. Yet what does that conversion look like? Does it mean that gay and lesbians are to be converted from being gay or lesbian to being straight? I don't think so perhaps for some that is possible but for many it is impossible. Gentile Christians were not asked to become Jews. However, conversion means that like straight persons, gay and lesbians persons are called upon to have their habits, behaviors, ideas and emotions transformed (inclusively). Our culture's saturation with sexuality, with promiscuity, infidelity is not limited to homosexuals but sadly includes heterosexuals as well. Are we not all gay and straight Christians alike called to conversion? Called to live out our full lives (inclusively) under the Lordship of Jesus Christ? Might that mean all of us must be open to change?

For more of the interview with Archbishop Rowan Williams please click here.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Sunday School Teacher dumped for being female


While this story might seem outrageous, sadly many large mega-churches across the country have few women in leadership roles. I am a Christian today because of the numerous women in my life growing up who taught Sunday School, ran Vacation Bible School, led committee meetings, sat on the vestry, and served as Priests and Bishops. Thank God the Episcopal Church and other mainline churches welcome and support the ministry of women. Mary Lambert, the Episcopal Church Welcomes You!

http://www.cnn.com/2006/US/08/21/menonly.sundayschool.ap/index.html

The photo above is of Mary Lambert, who after teaching Sunday School for 54 years was dismissed for being female.

umm...what's that you say?


"Young orthodox Anglicans must have lots of orthodox Anglican babies."

umm... this morning I ran across an interesting discussion on the above comment over at Sarah Dylan Breuer's blog. Thank you Dylan for catching this sad comment and getting us to look closely at the Bible. Join the discussion at: http://www.sarahlaughed.net/gracenotes/

Sunday, August 20, 2006

God's eternal street party, feast, celebration

A portion of today's sermon on Proverbs 9:1-6 & John 6:53-59

A friend who I haven’t been in touch with for many years and I were recently reunited --- he asked me when he found out that I had become a priest, quoting a scene from the Tao of Steve --- whether that meant I got to hang out with God all day. I responded and said -- well yes, but our claim as Christians is that all of us, every human being gets to hang out with God all day.

Today’s lessons both from Proverbs and from the Gospel convey an important common dimension of the Christian life that is often forgotten especially when we look upon our broken lives and world --- and that common dimension is the feast, the party, the celebration. Not only do we Christians proclaim that all people are invited to hang out with God all day, but we are part of a roaming street party or moving picnic. Christianity --- and our longing for the Kingdom of God -- our aching for transformation, for eternal life is at the heart of our faith. We pray in the words that Jesus taught his disciples, we pray that God’s kingdom will come on earth as in heaven. One metaphor for this eternal life is a party and a feast. Christians throughout the world proclaim that our celebration of the Eucharist is a foretaste of the banquet that God has for all after death. Within each of us I think is a deep, deep desire for this infinite celebration and no matter how bad things get in our daily lives God's infinite celebration is calling us. We are all invited.

The theme of God's feast, of God's celebration runs throughout the bible. The significance of eating and drinking with God, even dancing is there with Abraham and Sarah in the Book of Genesis, the first book of the Bible, is there with Miriam, Moses sister and the other Hebrew slaves freed from bondage in the Book of Exodus. It is there in the Psalms of David --- the Lord has set a table before me in the presence of my enemies, my cup runneth over. The feast, the party, the celebration is there in the Prophets as an expression of God’s desires for humanity not just a select few but all people. (See Micah) And Jesus, Wisdom incarnate, the Logos of God, the reason, the Word -- the Wisdom of God made flesh seemed to like to party. Liked to be with others around a table, not just at the last supper but many other places as well. In fact, Jesus was criticized by the pious, religious people of his day for partying too much and with the wrong kind of people... with traitors and enemies, with prostitutes and sinners. Jesus ate and drank with all sorts of people. After his resurrection Jesus meets over food with his disciples in a number of places and even cooks them breakfast.

Today’s gospel really takes this metaphor of a meal, of a party to a new place. Jesus describes himself as the bread of life. Jesus describes how this bread, is the bread for eternal life... If we eat Jesus’ body, we become bearers of God's feast, we carry this eternal meal of God into the world --- we become part of an endless roaming, portable street party (thanks to Brian McLaren for the street party image).

Friday, August 18, 2006

Prayer Request

"how to become so much like Jesus that our very way of life comforts the world's brokenhearted and confronts the world's broken systems ----is a key question for all who seek authentic, faithful belonging." ----Becoming the Authentic Church by N.Gordon Cosby and Kayla McClurg

Today, members of my Spiritual Support Group are coming for a retreat at the suburban parish where I serve. Please keep this diverse, committed group in your prayers. We have been meeting together weekly for a number of years and are part of a movement that is emerging around the Church of the Savior communities in Washington, DC. The above quote describes well the yearning for authentic community that we seek.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Inspiring restaurant, hopeful conversations

Busboys and Poets is an inspiring restaurant, coffeeshop, bookstore and community gathering place in Washington, DC. Click the link below to view a video about the "Peace Cafe" recently held there, very inspiring.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/video/2006/08/14/VI2006081400470.html

Monday, August 14, 2006

Remember Jonathan Myrick Daniels

Recently, I visited Canterbury Cathedral on my first trip to the UK. In the very back of the Cathedral is a Chapel dedicated to Saints and Martyrs of Our Time, those who have given, or are giving their lives for the sake of God's reign. One is invited to light a candle and say a prayer for those who are currently undergoing suffering or risking death for their faith. There was also a book containing photos and brief biographies of 20th century martyrs. Along side images of Oscar Romero and Martin Luther King, Jr. I was moved to find a photo of Jonathan Myrick Daniels, a young Episcopal seminarian who gave his life during the Civil Rights Movement. The Episcopal Church remembers Jonathan Myrick Daniels today, August 14th but Daniels is a person whose life invites us to "come and follow" everyday in our pursuit of God's dream for all.


Please read more about Jonathan Myrick Daniels, here and here.

The new Bishop of California Marc Andrus while Suffragan Bishop of Alabama helped organized an annual pilgrimage in remembrance of Daniel's witness. Learn more about the Pilgrimage for Peace here and here.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Christianity as Movement

An excerpt from this past Sunday's sermon on Luke 9:28-36

Like my evangelical friend, Peter wanted to freeze the moment in time --- the transfiguration. That mountain top experience for Peter needed to be contained, so that it was not lost. The call of Jesus to come and see, to come and follow is a one of movement not of stagnation. What if Moses and the Hebrew slaves having crossed the parted sea simply decided to stand still on the other side? What if the freed slaves had decided that God’s miraculous parting of the sea was just enough for them, “we’ll just skip the wandering in the desert and just bask on the coast for a while”?

What if the Civil Rights Movement had just stopped at the end of Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech? Or what if the Women’s Rights Movement simply stopped when women gained the right to vote? Wasn’t that enough for them? Why should they bother running for office too?"


A few years ago a professor at my seminary encouraged me to sign up for her class by describing it as a "movement" class. I wondered what movement she was talking about --- the Civil Rights Movement, or the Women's Rights Movement? What did she mean? She replied to my questions,"The Jesus Movement". When the class started I found that we were reading and listening to music by Christian people who were involved in those and many other movements as well. What would happen if we were to think about the many movements for social change, equality, ecology, justice and peace as part of a larger movement connected with the person and work of Jesus?

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Mom's Backyard Concerts

This weekend I'm heading out to Martinsburg, West Virginia for a concert that my mother is putting on in her backyard. She's a retired school teacher and struggling to figure out what to do with her time and energy. Our side of the family didn't seem to get the music gene (though my brother Christopher isn't bad with the guitar) so Mom's lined up a bunch of folk artists from the area to play once a month this summer and fall. If you are inclined to such an activity here's a link to her blog that describes the events.

http://www.rebeccahouseconcerts.blogspot.com/

Monday, August 07, 2006

Pray for Peace

Please continue to pray for the international community and for an immediate end to the fighting in the Middle East.

Christian Groups Press for Mideast Ceasefire
By David E. AndersonReligion News Service
http://www.beliefnet.com/story/196/story_19641.html

For more information on faith groups that are speaking out for peace, please click below:
National Council of Churches
http://www.ncccusa.org/

Sojourners
http://www.sojo.net/index.cfm?action=sojomail.display&issue=060720

Shalom Center
http://www.shalomctr.org/

Tikkun
http://www.tikkun.org/