Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Let us go and see: The Incarnation of God in Christ

Across the world on Christmas Eve and Day we shall sit huddled shoulder to shoulder singing carols and Hymns to God. Our children will be eager for gift-giving and sweets; all the while learning the enduring quality of patience. Adults will be gathered, filled with memories and hope for what might be. In the midst of messy family lives and longing for salvation, we shall gather. What I know is that on Christmas when our voices are united in praise of a God who chooses us, regardless of our circumstance, our hearts will be warmed.

We shall gather and we shall retell our sacred Christmas story in which God chooses Mary and Joseph. They were two homeless and poor individuals, forced to wander far from home because of an authority whose rule controlled their lives. With children and parents gathered around we tell the story that Jesus was brought into the world in a manger; in the midst of shepherds. All of this we remind ourselves foreshadows his inheritance to live among the poor and have no place for his head.

Yet it is neither his surroundings nor his lot in life as the son of a poor carpenter that makes our Christmas story special. On the contrary, we speak an ancient and holy truth: Jesus is God with us, Emmanuel, Lord, and Messiah. It is the angel’s words proclaimed to the shepherds that we ourselves echo on this holy of holy days.

We celebrate a living Word birthed into a particularly difficult and hard world. We celebrate light birthed into darkness. We proclaim wisdom birthed into longing. We proclaim glory in the mundane.

It is true that we will all come together as a Christian family celebrating in our own ways the revelation of God in Christ Jesus. We will find him in the midst of our holy worship. However, the Christmas message is clear, the incarnation of God is more than likely best experienced in the world around us.

“Let us go and see” is the shepherd’s cry. So let us, like them, leave our hallowed service and go and see the Christ Child present in the lives of families and friends. May we be buoyed by our mutual joy and hope. Let us with confidence proclaim that God has chosen us, his lowly people, in which to be seen and discovered.

May this season move us to realize the opportunity we have to witness to the Christ Child in the world. Let us offer hope where there is despair, faith where there is doubt, pardon where there is injury, and joy where there is sadness. Let us give food to those who hunger and warmth to those who are cold. Let us love the world into a just society. And let us redefine our neighbor as our family.

My hope for you and your family is a blessed and Holy Christmas. I wish you the greatest measure of peace and joy in the company of friends. May we with one united voice proclaim God in Christ Jesus to a world that even still groans with a longing heart for a savior. Merry Christmas.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

News from the edge: Evangelism Story #5

This story of getting out into the community as church comes from Cameron, Texas.  My friend Ray Bagby wrote to me and told me how one of their parishioners, Phyllis Davis and her creative challenge. 

He said, [she] rallied our folks to have a float in the Cameron Christmas Parade on December 3rd. In front of a painted backdrop of our church (the small white church with the red doors) was a live manger scene. To my knowledge it was the first time, or at least the first in many years, that we have had a presence there and we were the only float that proclaimed the real reason for Christmas. In addition to the banners identifying the church, there was one on each side which read: “Celebrate! Our Savior is Born!”, then below that, “He is Christ the King.”

He closed his short note to me with these words, "After the parade, the participants had dinner together and began to share their stories, which we had already planned to do in the Christian formation hour during Advent. I believe that this sharing will strengthen the church and make it even more open to evangelism in the future."

What a great way to have fun, get out there, and share the good news! Thank you for sharing the story with us.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Encouraging a New Discourse on the Economy

Encouragement for resources to be directed to the common good with attention to the least of these.

This article was submitted by Daniel Cardinal DiNardo, archbishop of Galveston-Houston; Bishop Janice Huie-Riggle, Texas Conference of the United Methodist Church; The Rt. Rev. C. Andrew Doyle, bishop, Episcopal Diocese of Texas; Bishop Michael Rinehart, Texas-Louisiana Gulf Coast Synod, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America; Rev. Manuel LaRosa-Lopez, pastor, St. John Fisher Catholic Church; Rabbi David Rosen, senior rabbi, Congregation Beth Yeshurun; Rev. Mike Cole, general presbyter, Presbytery of New Covenant; Rev. Harvey Clemons Jr., pastor, Pleasant Hill Baptist Church; Rev. John Bowie, pastor emeritus, True Light Missionary Baptist Church; and Rabbi David Lyon, senior rabbi, Congregation Beth Israel

For decades, presidents and congressional leaders have struggled to break the political gridlock that perpetuates federal deficit spending. Success has been elusive - especially when trying to strike the right balance between living within our means and protecting our poorest and most vulnerable.


The federal government's latest failure to address the deficit problem came at the hands of the recently disbanded Congressional Joint Committee on Deficit Reduction, more commonly referred to as the supercommittee. This bipartisan group had been tasked with identifying $1.5 trillion in deficit-reduction measures over the next 10 years or face automatic across-the-board cuts in 2013. Despite the dramatic risks involved, neither side ultimately demonstrated collective responsibility to control government expenditures while passing a sustainable spending plan for future generations.

Now we are back to square one. President Obama has said he will veto any bill that seeks to postpone the draconian cuts the supercommittee was supposed to avoid. Uncertainties abound, as we inch ever-closer to fiscal calamity. Our greatest fear is that whatever approach policymakers try next will disregard morally appropriate solutions and disproportionately reduce spending for programs that care for the unborn, feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, educate the young and care for the sick both at home and abroad.

The task at hand is vital. The ranks of the nation's poorest have climbed to a record high, with some 46 million Americans living in poverty. That's more than ever before in our history. Unemployment rates remain dangerously close to double digits and one in four children go to bed hungry each night. Despite the obvious need, only one in seven Americans (some 36 million people) receives government food assistance to ensure they have enough to eat; approximately 3.5 million are homeless.

We cannot let this situation continue. As we approach the holiday season, with its shared messages of charity and love, we would do well to remember that the federal budget is a moral document. Within its line items are essential programs that millions rely upon to sustain and secure themselves and their families. It would be wrong to balance future budgets by burdening those who already suffer by cutting programs for food support, affordable housing, child nutrition, health care or international poverty assistance.

As a nation we have long prided ourselves on possessing strongly held values: reliability, faith, compassion. Our history demonstrates an ongoing commitment to those values here in America and throughout the world. We pray that our lawmakers uphold those values when taking into account those who depend on them - including the unborn, schoolchildren, the elderly, struggling families, those who are homeless or sick, and refugees in our country and abroad - by maintaining and prioritizing funding to the most vulnerable.

Our congregations and other faith groups assume much of the responsibility for serving our vulnerable brethren, but we cannot do so alone. Recognizing the responsibility of government to provide for the common good, we join as an interfaith community to encourage lawmakers to use their authority to direct resources where they will best promote the common good of all, especially "the least of these" who struggle to live in dignity in difficult times. Limiting spending requires shared sacrifice by all, and we encourage lawmakers to consider eliminating unnecessary military and other spending, while also raising adequate revenues to fund critical programs and services.

A fundamental moral measure of our nation's budget decisions is whether they enhance or undermine the lives and dignity of those most in need. We hope and pray that our nation will be proud of the decisions our president and congress must make to limit unsustainable spending while simultaneously demonstrating the integrity that our nation is known for - integrity that demands that we hear and heed the cries of those most in need of our support and protection.


Thursday, December 8, 2011

News from the edge: Evangelism Story #4

This is the fourth story in a series of stories about people who have bridged the gap between church and their neighborhood.  This story comes from Texas City.

We are planning a "Take back the Night with the Light" block party for our "parish" in the orginal sense of the word. This redefinition has helped us see our neighbors and neighborhood in a new light. With the prediction that in 5 years this will be one of the worst neighborhoods in Texas City, it seems we have the opportunity and obligation to rally the neighborhood to stand united in not allowing the prediction to come true. WE ARE THE LIGHT. We are planning to have an Epiphany Service with a block party with food to follow for our "parish" and give out Epiphany Home Blessing Kits. 


We are also doing advent conspiracy cross-generational events on Sunday mornings. Last week we made advent wreaths and iced sugar cookies to take to our neighbors and friends. This morning I heard from one member that she took her plate of cookies to a neighbor she had not yet met. As she told her about St. Georges, the woman became interested in knowing more. We now have saint cards with a quote, our service times and address for her to take back to her with a follow up."

I know your neighborhood and friends really appreciate being found by the church and discovering that you care for them. Keep up the good work Texas City!

If you want to hear the evangelism talks click here: Bishop of Texas Podcast Site or download them from ITunes (search Andrew Doyle).

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

News from the edge: Evangelism Story #3

The third story to share about evangelism from the street is my own encounter.

This morning I had coffee with a priest at one of my favorite hang outs: Brasil Cafe.

We were leaving and I was getting my typical French Roast Roadie when I noticed a young man in line kept looking at us.  We made eye contact and introduced ourselves. He wanted to know what church we belonged to and so we told him that we were from the Episcopal Church.  I told him I was a bishop and my friend a priest.  He said, "Do you get to wear purple and all that gold bling because you are a bishop." I told him that indeed was correct. We laughed. Then he said the other day he was speaking with a friend and they were discussing the most welcoming churches and they decided that the Episcopal Church was the friendliest. He grew up Methodist but self-described himself as nothing right now.  We listened and talked and I gave him one of my Moo cards with the church finder address on it. I also told him about two congregations near by that are very welcoming.  It was a great exchange and he was very nice.

So if you have a person visit your church and they tell you "your bishop sent me." Truth is...I probably did.

If you want to hear more about evangelism you can listen to a series here:  Bishop of Texas Podcast Page

Thursday, December 1, 2011

News from the edge: Evangelism Story #2

Our second story of folks bridging the gap between the church and the community comes from Texas City.

"One member listened to the Bishops address multiple times and then transcribed some of it. It inspired him to step up his efforts a notch. He was taking flyers for our bazarr door to door in the neighborhood but decided to actually knock on the doors of those who where home. He explained to me after listening to your talks multiple times that he was going to talk with those who were home, just let them know we are their neighbor and then JUST LISTEN. As he said it, I think I get what the Bishop was trying to say -- Shut up and listen.:) He talked or listened to over 30 neighbors in two days and delivered 200 flyers.

While I knew he had the spiritual gift of evangelism, I wasn't sure how to best help him express it -- thanks to the Bishops talks and Holy Spirit-- he is in motion! Now he and others are planning to go to the Andy's 2 Go events. Thought you all might like hearing of the possitive impact the conference is making on one little congregation in the outskirts of Houston."

You can listen to the evangelism talks here: Bishop of Texas Podcast Page

Blog Archive

Quotes

  • "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