Thursday, July 9, 2020

The New Thing God is Doing

Imagine: exiled in Babylon for 70 years. What does it mean to return? There are multiple generations who only have stories of Israel; there are many ideas and many unknowns. They know they must leave behind them Babylon; change is before them, a new thing.

The new thing that God is doing.

Today, we stand on a precipice; we are looking into a changed world. The new thing must come. I invite you to hear God’s voice in the world around you. Yes, the wilderness is before you; but God is there with you.

Sermon originally delivered to the 2020 Colorado Clergy Conference.


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"Slow Burn" by Kevin MacLeod (

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Tuesday, June 30, 2020

A Good Word for the Sick: Easter

We have a good word for the weary world, for the sick, for those who seek to heal, to those who care, to those who sit with the dying. A good word to the fearful and anxious even in a time of pandemic, of physical isolation from one another- even in this time of the coronavirus.

Audio from Bishop Doyle's Easter 2020 sermon.

Music from
"Slow Burn" by Kevin MacLeod (
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Saturday, June 27, 2020

Meditations on Martin Luther King's "Letter from a Birmingham Jail" Part 2: Why am I in Birmingham

We continue here with Martin Luther King's letter written to those pastors who questioned his presence in Birmingham.

He writes, "I think I should indicate why I am here in Birmingham since you have been influenced by the view which argues against 'outsiders coming in.'"

I am struck first by the notion that this is a similar complaint made against prophets and Jesus. Why are you here? What business is it of yours? We were fine until you agitated? There is a bit of incarnation theology here. What does it mean for the church to enter a situation in need of attention? Is it not the church's business to enter the public sphere and to participate in the work of holding powers of this world accountable to higher visions of community life? I believe so. The idea that there is a private sphere and that the church and Gospel is spiritual and belongs captivated within the buffered individual's life is part of secularity.

The powers have always said, "Leave us alone." But Jesus confronts the powers directly, peaceably, and with a vision of freedom, food, and healing.

King continues that it is sometimes necessary for friends to join in local causes. This is what he says, that he is there because of the network of affiliates and friends who have come together to work for the movement of human rights. Moreover, he and others were invited to be present.

This is important too. It makes me think of the Christian vision that we are all apart of God's creation. We are all members of God's world. That we are intimately connected. Our lives impact the lives of others. Our choices impact the lives of others. Our presence means something. Jesus himself points out those who are being mistreated or left in the shadows in the wake of the Pax Romana - which brought no peace. He said I see the poor and their lives matter. I see the hungry and their lives matter. I see the cast out and their lives matter. I see the ill and their lives matter. From Moses and the prophets people have gathered and pointed out to the powers that be: the Israelites matter, this widow and orphan matter, these bound and carried away to Babylon matter. There are times when we do not say and the Romans matter, and the Egyptians matter, and the Babylonians matter. There are times when we gather together with the oppressed and say - these people matter. These black lives matter. This is what King does. He and his staff go to Birmingham with others to point out that these black lives matter.

God has a vision for how people are treated. God has a vision for how these people are to be freed from oppression. God has a vision for how these people may gather, pray, and sing. But also, God has a vision for how they may work, and ride a bus, and go to school, and sit at a counter.

Jesus, the prophets, the church has gone to Birmingham because "injustice is here."

King writes, "Just as the prophets of the eighth century B.C. left their villages and carried their "thus saith the Lord" far beyond the boundaries of their home towns, and just as the Apostle Paul left his village of Tarsus and carried the gospel of Jesus Christ to the far corners of the Greco Roman world, so am I compelled to carry the gospel of freedom beyond my own home town. Like Paul, I must constantly respond to the Macedonian call for aid."

What King has done is locate the church's work outside the confines of a building and invited with curiosity the notion that the work of the Gospel has an impact on the life of the world around us. King tells us, just as the first apostles worked for the widows and orphans because the government was ignoring them in the distribution, so we need to be aware. We as a church must have our eyes open.

Is vigilante justice on the streets of our neighborhood part of God's vision? No. what happens when the police become judge, jury, and executioner? This is not a role the police want, and I don't believe that we want our streets patrolled by vigilantes with their own ideas of justice. The problem is deepened when we see that this is happening to one group within our community over and over again - black people. The Church is invited to point out and to call out a higher vision of society. We are invited, as was King, to join people in our wider society and make the changes needed.

As society wakes to say "no more" and "things must change" we cannot let those be words alone. King was invited to go to Birmingham. He said yes, I support your cause for justice there in Birmingham. But his were not words alone. He went, and he joined the people there in seeking justice. The church at this time cannot let its words be words alone, it must lean in and engage the wider society in the work of justice-making for the sake of the black lives that matter to God.

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Shepherd on Our Darkest Hills

The cross is a banner on our darkest hills, signaling that the instrument of disgrace and death is now a beacon of hope - in the face of an unjust world filled with the vestiges of racism and white supremacy, truly filled with every kind of violence and suffering that we know. Jesus knows our suffering and comes as our shepherd.

Music from
"Slow Burn" by Kevin MacLeod (
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Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Meditations on Martin Luther King's "Letter from a Birmingham Jail" Part 1: Dear Fellow Clergyman

I have decided to do a few meditation blog posts on Martin Luther King's "Letter from a Birmingham Jail."

The Rev. King begins: "My Dear Fellow Clergymen." He writes to his fellow pastors. In this manner of beginning, he reminds us that we as pastors/priests are bound together. We are bound because we know this ministry. We understand the nature of pastoring and loving our people. We know the trials and burdens. King reminds us we are in this together and though we don't all have the same context we know what it means to carry and represent the burden of one's people.

Moreover, King recognizes in our common work for Christ and the Gospel that we have a profound impact upon our people and how they receive the Good News of freedom, love, and hope. He understood that not only are we bound by our vocation, but we are bound by a Gospel meant for all people. And, from time to time, good Christians have had to point out who was being hurt by the wider society. No sooner had Christ ascended into heaven than the first Christians are confronting the government for ignoring the widows and orphans in the distribution of food.

He continues with these words, "While confined here in the Birmingham city jail, I came across your recent statement calling my present activities 'unwise and untimely.'" A group of eight clergy who pastored in Birmingham wrote an open letter entitled "A Call for Unity." They did not like the fact that "outsiders" were coming in and speaking out about racism in Birmingham. His letter will be a defense of his actions. But here I wish to simply reflect that the status quo always argues, when it comes to human rights, that protests disrupt a peace. While Martin Luther King was a peaceful protestor the adversaries supporting racial discrimination were not. This PBS article reminds us of how peaceful protests were met violently by authorities. The newspapers carried headlines that echoed people's sentiments at the time, "Violence Explodes at Racial Protest in Alabama," and "New Alabama Riot: Police Dogs and Fire Hoses Halt March." The marches were indeed peaceful but met by violent police attacks, fire hoses, and dogs. I feel as though these patterns have repeated themselves today.

King then continues, "Seldom do I pause to answer criticism of my work and ideas." Here is an interesting insight into leadership. In his book Leading Change Without Easy Answers, Ronald A. Heifetz writes about how King's leadership as not too hard or not too soft. In this letter, we see that King is not impenetrable. He is leading, but he is listening too. He has heard an important group of people's voices - his fellow clergy. So he listens and he responds.

I wonder in that moment would I have signed the letter "A Call for Unity"? Or, would I have supported King? But there is the question today for us all who pastor our communities, faced with similar injustices and a need to lean towards each other. King reaches out to us, from this not-so-distant past, and invites us to lean in. I hear your worries and concerns he says...I imagine him whispering, "Lean in."

He continues, that he is responding not because they are complaints but because they are pastors like him. They are "men of genuine good," he writes. He believes their lack of understanding is true and he is unwilling to help and speak honestly about the situation. He writes, "I want to try to answer your statement in what I hope will be patient and reasonable terms."

As we pause here and ponder this introduction, I wonder will pastors/priests and leaders listen at this moment? Are we a people of goodwill, with genuine concerns, and willing to listen? Or, do we want the agitation to subside so we might return to a nostalgic past was only peaceful for some?

I believe we have work to do. I want to lean in. I am eager to listen. I am willing to hear hard truths. I am willing to work for change and a better community.

Prayer for today:

Good and gracious God, you invite us to recognize and reverence your divine image and likeness in our neighbor. Enable us to see the reality of racism and free us to challenge and uproot it from our society, our world, and ourselves. Amen. (by the Sisters of Mercy)
Find resources from the wider Episcopal Church here.


  • "Christianity is not a theory or speculation, but a life; not a philosophy of life, but a life and a living process." Samuel Taylor Coleridge
  • "Most people are willing to take the Sermon on the Mount as a flag to sail under, but few will use it as a rudder by which to steer." Oliver Wendell Holmes
  • "Perfection, in a Christian sense, means becoming mature enough to give ourselves to others." Kathleen Norris
  • "Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can." John Wesley
  • "The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried." G. K. Chesterton
  • "One of our great allies at present is the Church itself. Do not misunderstand me. I do not mean the Church as we see her spread out through all time and space and rooted in eternity, terrible as an army with banners. That, I confess, is a spectacle which makes our boldest tempters uneasy. But fortunately it is quite invisible to these humans." C. S. Lewis
  • "When we say, 'I love Jesus, but I hate the Church,' we end up losing not only the Church but Jesus too. The challenge is to forgive the Church. This challenge is especially great because the church seldom asks us for forgiveness." Henri Nouwen, Bread for the Journey
  • "Christians are hard to tolerate; I don't know how Jesus does it." Bono
  • "It's too easy to get caught in our little church subcultures, and the result is that the only younger people we might know are Christians who are already inside the church." Dan Kimball