C. Andrew Doyle, D. D.
Monday, May 30, 2011
C. Andrew Doyle, D. D.
Thursday, May 19, 2011
I was invited to give this year's mission of the church address the night before graduation. Please find below the address. We were blessed to receive an inspiring graduation address the next day from Bishop Curry which I will see if I can get a copy to post.
The Lemhi Pass is at the boarder of Montana and Idaho. There is a wooden fence there, a cattle guard crossing, and a logging road. One arrives there by way of the Missouri River from Fort Benton to Fort Peck Lake and the Lolo trail. And, when you stand there it looks as in many ways it looked when he stood there on the morning of August 12, 1805. It is pristine.
With friends nearby he made his way to the top. He described the event clearly in his journal. He wrote: "We proceeded on the top of the dividing ridge from which I discovered immense ranges of high mountains still to the West of us with their tops partially covered with snow."
Meriwether Lewis was the first white American to look on Idaho and the great northwestern range; the first to take a step out of the Louisiana territory onto the western side of the Continental Divide.
In that moment one can imagine two great worlds colliding. Two thoughts happening at the same time; neither one fully formed.
The first thought had to be the disheartening sight. Imagine "the shock, the surprise," John Logan Allen, historiographer and author, muses, "for from the top of that ridge were to be seen neither the great river that had been promised nor the open plains extending to the shores of the South Sea…the geography of hope [gave way] to the geography of reality."
The whole journey to find a western portage that one might travel from East to West across the United States by boat was a failure.
Everything he was sure of finding was not only not there it was never to be. The dream that had framed one year of study, preparation, and two years of travel across country to this pass was over.
The second thought was the sight of the great empire of the Americas. In that moment he took in with one measure from the east and all that lay behind him to the west and all that lay ahead the wealth and abundance of the new territory and the even greater spectacle of fertile land that was becoming the United States. In an age where transportation, energy, and food had not much changed since the Greeks Meriwether Lewis saw in its rawest form the wealth of a quickly forming nation that we were to become.
In that moment the reality gave way to a geography of hope.
Two thoughts not fully formed but coexisting. The momentforever changed who we were and were to become as Americans.
Two thoughts not fully formed; existing together at the same time.
We arrive at the coordinates of our Gospel and find ourselves firmly planted between the mission of Jesus and the mission of the disciples.
In John's Gospel, chapter 12 beginning at the 44th verse Jesus offers words not dissimilar to Moses as he prepared to leave his people. When Moses had finished speaking the words andcommandments God had given him, when he had completed his work in bringing the people out of Egypt and through the desert years to the very edge of the promised land he says:
Take to heart all the words that I am giving… give them as a command to your children, so that they may diligently observe all the words of this law. This is no trifling matter for you, but rather your very life; through it you may live long in the land that you are crossing over the Jordan to possess.
As we read and listen to Jesus' words in the Gospel of John werecognize the completion of his mission. Jesus has glorified God, and he has loved all those given to him until the very end.
To those who received the light in darkness he was living water in the desert. He was The Good Shepherd to all who followed. He called Nicodemus to come along; he healed the blind man. He raised Lazarus. He finished his work of bringing the people to the very edge of their journey from creation to the crossroads of salvation history.
The law they were to live was one of love; they were not to possess a land but be missionaries of the Gospel in all lands.
As the disciples listen I imagine that they hear Jesus speaking and experience the fullness of God's presence. He is for themthe shekhinah of God.
Perhaps they understood as Jesus speaks these words that he is the rock from which flowed living waters in Moses' desert, he is the manna which fell from heaven, he is the one upon whomIsaiah's eyes must have glimpsed.
As Raymond Brown, the New Testament scholar writes in his seminal work on John:
The great exhibition of the enduring covenant love of God in the OT took place at Sinai, the same setting where the Tabernacle became the dwelling for God's glory. So now the supreme exhibition of God's love is the incarnate Word, Jesus Christ, the new Tabernacle of divine glory.
John's Gospel testifies that some were struggling to understand, as humanity tends to do. Still others experienced, saw, believed, and followed. Perhaps they had a glimmer that Jesuswas himself God. Certainly this is how John and his community would come to understand him. Jesus was the fullness of God, the glory of God. He was God incarnate.
From chapter 1 verse 14 of John's Gospel: "The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us."
"If you believe in me you believe in the one who sent me."
"If you see me you see the one who sent me."
…[And] we have seen his glory, the glory of an only Son coming from the father, filled with enduring love.
As we think of this testimony, the testimony of scripture, the whole of salvation history we have a glimpse of what Ernst Käsemann, twentieth century theologian and New Testament scholar, meant when he wrote: "the flesh is not simply anincognito through which men must see; rather the glory of theword keeps breaking through the flesh in the miraculous works which can be seen."
The miracles, the teaching, the multiplying and breaking of bread is revelation that God is present in creation.
The earliest witnesses understood that this Jesus was very Godof very God. This Jesus was and is the architect of Salvation history, molding it, and shaping it.
Jesus' words in this passage reveal the continuum of a Gospel story woven in a tapestry of relationship between God and God's people, their covenant and their community. At once we see the Abrahamic family of old and the renewed expanding missionary family of God.
Jesus has opened up to us not only the communal relationship with God ad extra but a divine relationship as intimate as Jesus himself possessed with the Godhead; and with all humanity.
Having one will with the Father, Jesus came into the world to save creation and humanity with it. This was Jesus mission. It is the apostolic mission. It is our mission.
The language of sending in today's text is clearly one which echoes all of John and the missionary imperative breathed uponthe first disciples. From John 20:19-23:
Jesus said to them again, "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you."
Jesus has been sent as the incarnate Word, he has enacted the word in preaching, feeding, healing, and he is now passing it to those who would dare to follow him and model the same behaviors. It is as if Jesus is saying, "The Father gave me this life giving commandment of love. I give it and entrust it to you."
He speaks this commandment that we may more than immolate and admire, but rather that we might incarnate in our own word and action the very presence and glory of God in the world.
As our sacred story tells us, Jesus offers a vision of mission to Philip in John 14:12:
Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these…
Jesus called the disciples by name, and showed them a manner of life, which brought light and abundant life into the world.
We are heirs and benefactors of their testimony. Preached and formed into community life throughout the emerging missionary church of the patristic era. We stand today as the next generation of missionaries of the unique Gospel proclamation of Jesus Christ.
We are to glorify God, and make Gods deeds known, and share the good news of salvation.
Like Meriwether Lewis, like the ancient Hebrews on the edge of the Promised Land, like the disciples on the edge of missionwe the Episcopal Church are becoming something new. We are being transformed and forged in a fiery furnace of sweeping change.
We hold in our hearts two mission models not yet fully formed and yet coexisting. The past with its structures for ministryexists alongside the future pregnant with all that God intends for us in mission.
The first model is our idea of Church. We currently conduct ourmission out of an age old exchange model based upon communal and long held assumptions about a culture that dates to the middle of the last century.
What is our mission imperative in this model?
For the most part we as Church have maintained the belief that those who are called by God to be Episcopalians will find us.
We have believed that once they were inside our doors they would stay because of our awesome liturgy.
We have believed we are friendly enough to keep anyone who truly gets to know us.
We believed that better stewardship campaigns would cure our financial problems; always hoping this year'sexplanation of why people should give more will work.
We believed that someday we would have the right priest,and then we will grow again to a size that will allow us tocare for our deferred maintenance.
We believed if we just solved the issue of the day one way or the other we would surge in growth. If we were just true to the past…or if we were just true to the future….
We believed if we just preached well, ran a good vestry, meeting, went to the hospitals, wrote a good monthly article that was just spiritual enough we would inspire and fulfill our vocational oath.
We are treating the symptoms of a much larger system failure. Tinkering and propping up a church model that is no longer relevant is not only a waste of time and resources it is sinful as we are called to be missionaries in our contemporary context.
Continuing to be church and depend on this ministry model leads to closure.
As Harvey Cox, author and theologian, expressed in his musings on the secular city, "The failure of modern theology[we might add church] is that it continues to supply plausible answers to questions that fewer and fewer people are asking."Not unlike the twentieth century, we are largely continuing to answer questions and problems from a period that no longer exists. For a culture that no longer exists, from pulpits that look out over empty pews.
We can see clearly where we are.
At this same moment the reality of our geography is giving way to hope.
You and I stand on the edge that divides the modern age fromthe new millennium; we stand at the edge of a new missionary age for the Episcopal Church.
We have been born into a church that needs entrepreneurial evangelists; who see, believe, and create.
We are to make Christ known and to change the world by loving God and neighbor – not as we meet them at coffee hour if it isn't our turn to be ushers -- but out in the world of our daily lives. And there to make such a convincing witness in word and action that those who are seeking may be drawn into the family of God.
As a quote from William Temple, the 98th Archbishop of Canterbury, reminds us:
Evangelism is to so present Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit that [people] might come to trust Him as Savior and serve Him as Lord in the fellowship of His church.
This is our mission, and we are to do it through the virtue of caritas, the living out, the practice, of a church peopleimmersed in a culture of a living and present God.
We are to do the radical work of forming more Christians who are uniquely Episcopalians.
We must participate in the transformation of the world around us – our environment, the economy itself, and the societies of our neighborhoods and cities.
People's lives must be better tomorrow because our Episcopal Church is there proclaiming and enacting the Good News ofJesus Christ and Salvation today.
We must engage in a redesign from the bottom up and realign our church mission with the realities facing the communities in which we find ourselves.
Global and local mission in the new millennium will flourishwhen it is the sacramental vessel which gives life to people, their community, and the environment in which they live. We must reinvest in real community and individual and environmental transformation.
We have the opportunity in this new missionary age to re-engage.
The world around is hoping for partners who will join in providing healthy, fulfilling, life giving, and dignity bound ministry to the communities we share.
The world is looking for partners interested in building sustainable lives in sustainable communities in a green creation.
The world is looking for partners who will nurture relationships with people who live in community together. Getting to know our neighbor, their names, and their challenges and helping one another to have a better wholesome life is the work of the church.
I have a vision, a particular hope. I imagine an Episcopal Church immersed in the word and the community of the world; binding together the reign of God with the creation of God. This is the church's mission. This is what it means to be the incarnated body of Christ, the family of God, in the world today.
Our mission is the "`Entire practice' of signs, images, and actions with nothing in isolation…fundamentally a "performative" faith of the imagined and acted out incarnation of God's community." We experience Jesus, we see Jesus, and we act making Jesus Christ real in the world around us.
We re-present Jesus to the world around us.
In this missionary model we measure our work in the world and not our work on our church campuses. In this missionary model we measure our work every day of the week and not only on Sunday morning.
The church must engage in mission on every street, in every courtyard, in every corner of the city. We must engage missionat the front door of our churches, in the suburbs, in the urban spaces, and in the online plugged in world of the internet. The boarders of church mission encompass the whole of culture.The new missionary age is at once macro and micro-cosmic in nature.
"…Every work of true creativity – doing justice, making peace, healing families, healing individuals, resisting temptation, seeking and winning true freedom for those who are voiceless and powerless: is a missionary witness to the living God They are as N. T. Wright says, "signposts of hope."
We have a mission, the same mission. We have the same mission in Texas, in California, and in Maine. We have the same mission in Puerto Rico, Taiwan, and Africa.
We have a vision and must reclaim our public voice assertingthat our world and its societies is a place where the livingresurrected God dwells. We are missionaries of a God that is seen and experienced through Jesus and through the actions of Jesus' followers.
John Milbank, the Anglican theologian, cautioned in his book entitled Theology and Social Theory: "[We] must recognize that the church has thus far failed to bring about salvation…and instead has ushered in the modern secular - at first liberal, and finally nihilistic-world.
If we are to reenter the world as missionaries of the living God we must move beyond the theologies that have given us the modern era with its lack of meaning, moral relativism,disconnected virtue, and violent division.
If we are to claim a church in mission immersed in the culturewhere the living God is present we must engage the world, the civic society, and the political order.
We must model this in the sanctuary and in the public square. We must be virtuous citizens and not fearful disciples hidden behind locked doors.
The God of our proclamation is a God who encompasses all difference and binds us together in one family in this world - now.
We are to be prophetic in the world, out narrating the world's nihilism and emptiness. The God we proclaim is a God who is incarnated in the earthiness, the fleshiness, of the culture. We must claim and speak, in word and with words, the powerful transformational message of creation, incarnation, resurrection, and transformation.
The church must lead an exodus from meaninglessness, disconnection, and division which permeates our cynical world.
The church must engage in the action of following and acting out, and making real salvation.
We must be fearless in taking our place in the public square throwing aside the notion that religion and faith is a private matter. Through invitation, partnership, and participation we must venture into public place and space and use them asvenues for liturgy and life.
It is true that for some the culture may always be a symbol of evil, corruption, and decay. But for others, and especially for the Episcopal Church in mission, the culture is a symbol of life, human cooperation, human potential, the ever expanding family of God, and corporate salvation.
You stand on the edge of a new missionary age. May you have undaunted courage and be entrepreneurial evangelists. May God who gives you the sight and vision to take your next stepsgive you the geography of hope to believe in Jesus Christ, connect you intimately with God and give you the power and grace to be missionaries in a world filled with potential, creativity – a world that is abundant in life and in love - aworld filled with God's presence a world which is your mission field.
Monday, May 16, 2011
Rt. Rev. C. Andrew Doyle, D.D.
IX Bishop of Texas
Sent from portable while out of office.
Friday, May 6, 2011
Cathedral in the City of the Living God: Introductory Remarks at the 2011 North American Deans Conference
Tron Legacy begins where Tron left off. In 1989, 7 years after defeating the MCP (the Master Control Program), Kevin Flynn (played again by Jeff Bridges) disappears.
Twenty years later - 2009, his son, Sam Flynn(Garrett Hedlund), who became ENCOM's controlling shareholder after his father's disappearance, discovers a concealed computer laboratory and unintentionally transports himself to the Grid.
Once again the computer world is at odds with itself and after escaping the bad guys, Sam is taken to a distant, off-grid hideout in the "Outlands," where he is reunited with his father.
Sam’s father explains that in 1989 he had been working on a new, "perfect" system. He had created a program called CLU to recreate the world into a perfect civilization. CLU took over and now was hoping to export the perfect program world, ruled by CLU, into the imperfect world of humans. Not unlike a modern Nazi Blitz Krieg ready to strike, the programs led by CLU are ready to depart into the human world.
Spoiler alert: it doesn’t work. The good guys win. Sam gets the girl. But in the last scene there is a great confession between Jeff Bridges’ character, Flynn, and the perfect program (now dictator) he had created - CLU.
Clu: I did everything... everything you ever asked!
Kevin Flynn: I know you did.
Clu: I executed the plan!
Kevin Flynn: As you saw it...
Clu: You- You promised that we would change the world, together. You broke your promise...
Kevin Flynn: I know. I understand that now.
Clu: I took this system to it's maximum potential. I created the perfect system!
Kevin Flynn: I know you did.
Clu: I executed the plan!
Kevin Flynn: As you saw it...
Clu: You- You promised that we would change the world, together. You broke your promise...
Kevin Flynn: I know. I understand that now.
Clu: I took this system to it's maximum potential. I created the perfect system!
Kevin Flynn: The thing about perfection is that it's unknowable. It's impossible, but it's also right in front of us all the time. You wouldn't know that because I didn't when I created you. I'm sorry, Clu. I'm sorry...
While a critique on perfection sought in technology, the two films are also a conversation about vision and the perfect world, and humanity’s inability to perfect the City and Empire. Tron and Tron Legacy in some way are a conversation about the imperfection of the human initiative called society.
They are films about the “not quite thereness” of our world and attempts to build a perfect society.
In the words of Flynn, “perfection is unknowable…but it’s also right in front of us all the time.”
This contradiction, this dialectic, this manifestation of vision and reality is also the timeless theological struggle between the reign or kingdom of God and the fallen human capacity to bring about its reality within the span of history.
John Milbank, the Anglican theologian, wrote in his book entitled Theology and Social Theory: “[We] must recognize that the church has thus far failed to bring about salvation…and instead has ushered in the modern secular - at first liberal, and finally nihilistic-world.
In your time together you will explore the topic: City of the Living God. As Deans and leaders in the Episcopal Church what does it mean to proclaim the city of your context as the city of the living God?
We might first ask: How did we get here? What is our narrative story? And, what do we need to do change? Is it possible to move beyond the secular and the profane division in our post-modern culture and change the islands of our Cathedrals into outposts immersed in cities of the living God in a new missionary age?
If we turn to our ancient of texts we see clearly that the foundational narratives of the Hebrew Scriptures reveal to us that the people of Yahweh clearly understood that God was in conflict with the notion of empire and state. The creation stories of Babel, Noah, and Abraham all offer this view. The cities of Egypt were in the end not a hospitable place for God’s people.
The tribes of Israel were marked by their refusal to stay within the ideological boundaries of Egypt; thereafter their first leaders and judges struggled with the notion of empire. We don’t have to look too deeply to recognize the concern in the Prophet Samuel’s words to God and to the people that he was concerned about the creation of a royal house.
Only in the shadow of the first and second Temple do we see a change. It is here that we see meaning emerge that supports for the first time the City as the dwelling place of the living God.
In 2009 Walter Brueggeman spoke to the House of Bishops meeting in Kanuga and helped us to understand the historical difference of Israel’s prophetic tradition in the context of city. He explained Israel’s wrestling match with power. When Israel was in power and under self-rule the prophetic witness was focused upon the change needed internally within the sacred Abrahamic family. However, when Israel was occupied their prophetic voice was targeted at the occupying power, empire, and city.
It is within this latter prophetic tradition that we make our way through the inter-testamental period of the Greek occupation, to the occupation of the Romans, and the time of Jesus.
While the words of Jesus in the Gospel lesson from Matthew are a testimony of this time period we must also recognize they are written from within the context, and urban life, of Matthew’s community; probably written in a large city – possibly even Antioch.
We must understand that within a decade of the resurrection the village culture of Palestine had been left behind and it was the Greco-Roman city that became the dominant environment of the Christian movement.
Cities were where power was, places where changes could occur. It was in the city that new lives were made; after all subsistence living in villages did not provide much fertile ground for change. The city was the place where the new civilization could be experienced.
Antonio Nigri, the Marxist philosopher, reminds us that it is in the city that groups have power to define how human life is produced and managed without consultation of those whose lives are being shaped by their actions.
It was in these cities that Paul stirred up leaders and people followed and built the first footprints of a new Christendom – the potential for a new city of the living God was taking root; a city unseen since the brief years of the first Temple.
As the biblical scholar Wayne Meeks put it: Paul didn’t get imprisoned by the authorities by meditating in the desert or the sandy wastelands of Damascus; nor by wandering from village to village but by preaching in Petra, Gerasa, and Philadelphia.
John Baldwin the Roman Catholic historian and liturgist described the context of the emerging community in this way:
A city involves a certain concentration of population brought together for various social, economic, and political reasons. But a city is more than this, just as it is more than its number of buildings, streets, and public places. The city is a powerful idea, a symbol of human society. The Roman concept of civitas, for example, stood for the city as well as for civilization. A city is a public symbol expressing and facing a society’s concept of itself.Pluralism and religious tolerance are modern ideas unfamiliar to the biblical witness. So it is that unlike what many scholars might suggest the America (and the West) of today is a context wholly unfamiliar to the context of Jesus and his disciples.
Medieval Jerusalem, Rome, Constantinople [were] a world in which Christianity found the symbolic basis for social life; worship was not confined to the neighborhood church. It was public; it acclaimed the society’s connectedness with the sacred; it made the streets and plazas sacred places in addition to the church and shrines, the city became church.In this first five centuries of Christianity’s missionary explosion they understood the city as a sacred place. In the empire of Christendom there was no non-sacred space.
John’s Revelation provides us with a glimpse of the earliest vision of what was to come to pass. He uses the image of city to describe heaven (21.2, 10-21) symbolic of itself but also of society’s intimate connection with sacred reality.
In the context that was to build up the great cathedrals of Europe and Vatican city we see a continuum from the very earliest days of coopting synagogues well into the post reformation period that churches were essentially assembly halls. Churches were the public meeting space. These gathering places included separate space for holy actions but were centers of trade and politics. Often times the sacred art of making Eucharist occurred in conjunction with a king or nobleman dealing with the matters of business and state.
Early Church historians are very clear that the missionary outposts within the city walls were not shrines or special cites. Certainly there were shrines, but the majority of Christian livelihood permeated the city and the city permeated the church.
These churches were not some kind of separate sacred oasis for the spiritually oriented; quite the contrary.
We might say that they were in a very real way the centers of the living God’s work in the world; each rippling out the Gospel message of a resurrected Lord who was active in the world in which people lived and moved and had their being. After all, Jesus was not martyr and his body was not enshrined for people to come and visit but was rather part and parcel with life.
Early churches represented the city in miniature; they encapsulated within themselves an icon or representation of public life. Churches were public buildings that lay at the heart of social symbol systems. While a part of the city they also were place with a clear and distinguishable environment which formed the citizens into Christians.
Chrysostom, while Antioch was in a time of civic turmoil, remarked “the whole city has become church for us.”
Unfortunately Christianity has had an easier time moving into the power center of city life than it has moving out of the Constantinian ideal of the Empire Church.
And, despite its difficulty in doing so, it has probably been best for the church to lose its grip on power.
I think all of us recognize that the abuse of power at this time, today fodder for cable programming, is not something most of us wish to return to.
Today the church exists in a world without a single common symbol system; and most of the symbols are not our own.
One priest recently noted after visiting churches for three months while on sabbatical that we are speaking a dying language. The expression of our faith, our liturgy, and our language have more in common with the 7,000 vanishing languages globally than they do with the language, civic culture and society in which we make our home.
Today our Cathedrals and our church find their context in a society that affirms a healthy pluralism in which, in principle, no single religious group or church can demand adherence of all citizens.
What has happened then is that symbolically speaking the city must has become secular, separate, and not directly related to the sacred. As Richard Semeth, a philosopher noted in his book The Fall of the Public Man, “In a pluralistic society the whole of life…and… religious belief, have become a highly practical affair.”
Our churches have in large part become shrines. They have become sanctuaries within a divided city. Our churches, and our Cathedrals, are expected to be sanctuary from the civil life and politic of our culture. The problem emerges Harvey Cox suggests, that it becomes very difficult to merge the world of worship and the world of living in a civil society.
The task before us is to somehow reclaim the notion of our City being the City of the Living God. We must work to bring the church (ecclesia) and city (civitas) closer together.
To see again for the first time the potential of a missionary field that stretches out from the four corners of our Cathedrals.
I am not in any way proposing a return to a Constantinian church, state, theocracy, or religious city. This is impossible in our current social context; it is the problem with most discussions around reclaiming the city of or for a living God.
I have a vision though. I have a particular hope. I imagine that the Episcopal Church, and the Cathedral as chief exemplar, can become a community immersed in the world. We have the potential to be a missionary and public voice proclaiming our cities as places of the living God.
The challenge and the problem is that most of us continue to have a view of the church which is primarily modern in its thought and its mission.
If we are to claim our Cities as cities of the living God we are going to have to change our theology and our mission; we must change the why of engagement as well as the how.
Harvey Cox writes in his musing on the secular city, “The failure of modern theology is that it continues to supply plausible answers to questions that fewer and fewer people are asking.” Not unlike the twentieth century, we are largely continuing to answer questions and problems from a period that no longer exists.
It is our very theology that has birthed nihilism and moralistic therapeutic deism. We have birthed a desert of repose for our people and have emptied the church from its missionary sense of purpose: To make Christ known and to change the world by loving God and neighbor is our mission; the Augustine virtue of caritas being the living out, the practice, of Cathedrals in a city of the living God.
We have claimed a vision where the city is secular and the church is sacred. Where there are the poor and there are the wealthy; there are the powerful and the voiceless; there are the free and the bound; the young and the old. Much of what we proclaim from the pulpit sets up a straw man argument for the continuation of a false dichotomy where some are blessed and some are not.
Christian theologians and preachers alike, the bishops of our churches and deans of our cathedrals, tend to see people as exploiters and exploited. The problem is that those who array themselves against the modern city may actually be striving for contradictory objectives under the same principles of power. The problem with liberation theology applied to the city is that the formerly exploited often use power in the same way as before, becoming the exploiter of the past enemy; a kind of theological and political version of trading places.
If we are to reenter the world and proclaim the city of the living God we must move beyond the theologies that have given us the modern era with its lack of meaning, moral relativism, and disconnected virtue.
We must reengage a proclamation of the Gospel within the city. If we are to claim the Cathedral immersed in the city of the living God we are going to have to see this as a very real, incarnational mission, that engages the world, the civic society, and the political order, in a constructive conversation and interaction which is free from some imaginary ecclesial ideal built upon the Constantinian model of church or a misconstrued an misappropriated version of a new violent Passover narrative.
If we are to proclaim the city of the living God we must reclaim the God of our ancient narrative. We must give testimony to the Christian narrative that God is community. God - the Trinitarian God – creates and generates the city and all its creatures in a harmonious order which is intrinsic to God’s own being. The God we proclaim is a God who encompasses all difference.
In this manner we learn that to claim our cities as cities of the living God does not mean exporting our version of perfection as Jeff Bridges in Tron points out, it is to go out into the city and meet there the city of God and to meet God in the city.
“This is a counter ontology,” John Milbank, a leading Anglican theologian, writes, “Nothing is evil insofar as it exists, all has been created good. It is only separate from God in terms of its failure to be related to God, to infinite peace, or to exemplify the finite pattern of true desire for God.”
There is no space, or city, that is outside the sacred creation of God. There is no person that is not created good with the capacity to relate to God, to engage in infinite peace, and exemplify in life the desire for God.
If we are to proclaim the city of the living God we must also proclaim, make real in word, the testimony of our God’s salvific act. We are to be prophetic in the world, out narrating the world’s nihilism and emptiness. The God we, as Christians who are uniquely Anglican and unabashedly Episcopalian, proclaim is a God who is incarnated in the earthiness, the fleshness, of the city. We must claim and speak, in word and with words, the powerful transformational message of creation, incarnation, resurrection, and transformation.
The cathedral church must also enact the vision of “paradisal community” at work on every street, in every courtyard, in every corner of the city. The cathedral church has to engage in the proclamation of an exodus from meaninglessness, disconnection and division of the city. We must see the incarnation throughout the city of God speak it and for our own sakes act it.
The cathedral church must engage in the action of following and acting out, making real salvation. The cathedral church must engage in the work of praxis.
Admiration means to express a feeling of wonder, pleasure, or approval. Admiration is the primary mission and ministry of a shrine. The cathedral church must be a place beyond the admiration of music and art and be a community of action seeking out the living risen Lord who is in the community already and at work there. We are out narrating not simply in the word proclaimed but in the peaceable kingdom whose boarders encompass the whole city and not the boundaries of the Cathedral close.
The Cathedral and its Episcopal Faith become the “`Entire practice’ of signs, images, and actions with nothing in isolation…fundamentally a “performative” faith of the imagined and acted out incarnation.
The Cathedral church in the midst of the city of the living God will have to be gentle and meek as it steps out of the shadow of its shrine to a church which does not exist any longer. The Cathedral church will have to mourn with all sorts and conditions of people. The Cathedral church will have to proclaim in word the commandments of our God: to love neighbor as Jesus loved us. The Cathedral church will have to show mercy as Jesus shows mercy. And, the Cathedral church will have to seek a non-violent immersion with the world outside its walls no matter how persecuted it may be..
We must be fearless in taking our place in the public square throwing aside the notion that religion and faith is a private matter. Through invitation, partnership, and participation we must reclaim the streets and public places and spaces as venues for liturgy and life of the Cathedral beyond the close.
It is true that for some the city may always be a symbol of evil, corruption, and decay. But for others, and especially for the Episcopal Church, the city is a symbol of life, human cooperation, human potential, the ever expanding family of God, and corporate salvation. Our cities are cities of the living God.
Bless you and welcome. I bless you in your time with us. Enjoy the hospitality of our cathedral and share in the goodness of your successes. May God who gives you the will to do these things give you the imagination, wisdom, strength, and power to perform them in the name of Jesus Christ.
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