Saturday, October 31, 2009
We are underway for year C! I have begun the construction of the new Hitchhiker's Guide To Luke site, with lots of information and links to help "read, mark, and inwardly digest" the Gospel of Luke. Click on the link to be redirected to the new site.
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
We are blessed with some of the finest clergy in The Episcopal Church today and we hope this conference nourishes and refreshes them. Here are a few pictures from Tuesday.
Friday, October 16, 2009
It is with great sadness that I write to tell you that Debbie Hillick, who worked in the diocesan database services as a continuing education associate, died unexpectedly this morning just after arriving at work. Debbie worked with many people throughout the diocese while she maintained the more than 30,000 names on our Texas Episcopalian mailing list, helped those who needed to obtain lay licenses, coordinated background checks for laity and kept up with continuing education hours for our clergy. Debbie was a steady person in every storm and managed all her multiple duties with grace, kindness and dedication.
Debbie prayed before coming into the office every day. She enjoyed singing hymns to the Lord. She loved Jesus and she loved us. She was a light, and we love her. I was blessed to be invited to be with the family this morning at the hospital, to witness their love and friendship and care for each other and for Debbie. I believe they would each tell you that she inspired this love within the family. Debbie's death affects both Christ Church Cathedral and St. Mark's, Houston as her brother in law (John) and sister (Laura) work in these congregations.
I ask your prayers for Debbie and her family as well as the Diocesan Staff who all miss her already. She leaves behind two married sons, one daughter and two grandchildren. They are a great family. Debbie was a good and kind person. We give thanks to God for her life and her work in our community.
Into your hands, O merciful Savior, we commend your servant Debbie. Acknowledge, we humbly beseech you, a sheep of your own fold, a lamb of your own flock, a sinner of your own redeeming. Receive her into the arms of your mercy, into the blessed rest of everlasting peace, and into the glorious company of the saints in light. Amen.
May her soul and the souls of all the departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.
Thursday, October 15, 2009
All our mission work and our ministries are expressions of the life of prayer that we lead. The work that originates in prayer is work that makes Christ real in the world around us. Mission and service bring the community of the Trinity into the real world. The same God that propels Jesus Christ into the world in order to draw people to the Father, through prayer, sends and commissions us on the same errand. We are to bring people into a closer union with God. We do that work by responding to people who wish to learn how to pray with companionship that helps them find their way along the journey of conversion. We must teach others to pray.
Our prayer leads us to help people find and discover their own vocations. We use our work of prayer to do the work of discernment with others. We are guides along the way listening with people as they seek to discern their own unique calling into ministry. Our prayers for the poor, widowed, sick, homeless in Christ bridges the chasm between us and sends us out, empowered by the Holy Spirit, to work for healing and reconciliation, forgiveness and restoration.
Our prayers lead us to be the voices of those who have no voices. Our prayers bring the work of companionship with the oppressed and the deprived into a stark reality. And the Holy Spirit sends us out to be the very real human resources who offer dignity and love to those people who believe they are lost and without God's love. Furthermore, prayer will lead us to stand up and act on behalf of those who are abused.
If we are to follow Jesus we are to work at prayer. If we are to follow Jesus prayer will originate our work. In one we come to know our place within the community of God, by the other God's community roots itself on earth.
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
Jesus Christ is our great High Priest. Jesus Christ makes the great and eternal intercession for our lives and our world. Christ makes his prayer of intercession to the merciful Father "through the prayer of all the faithful who are baptized into his body. His voice does not appeal to God separately from theirs." Father Benson, the first brother in the Society of St. John the Evangelist wrote the following. "They are…so many mouths to Himself; and as they pray…His voice fills their utterance with the authority and claim belonging to Himself."
When we pray, God hears the voice of his Son in our prayers and accepts them as Christ's own. We reflect to God the beauty of his Son's sacrificial offering, we reflect the glorious resurrection that offers transformation. When we pray we bring those for whom we pray into the loving arms of the merciful Father. When Christians pray the merciful Father hears the beautiful words of Jesus Christ whispered into his heart. When those who are not Christians pray, God hears them too. God hears them and he hears Jesus whispering into his heart those words, those ancient words, those yearning words of Jesus, "How long have I wished to gather you in my arms, as a hen gathers her young."
It is God's Holy Spirit that invites us to join Christ in the "offering our love in intercessory prayer and action, to be used by God for healing and transformation." God delights in the work of prayer. God makes us partners in the restoration of the world. We are "fellow-workers" with Christ. It is through our intercession that we bring all things and all people to Christ.
The work of intercessory prayer is an ancient tradition for those who followed Christ. We may read in diaries, fragments, and ancient stories how important the work of prayer was for those first Christians. Perpetua prays for her fellow martyrs, her family, her persecutors. In praying Perpetua declares her Christian faith.
Perhaps since the very apostles prayed at the foot of the cross of Christ, Christians have been called to the edge of culture so as to be poised to hear, with ears open, the "deepest cries of humanity" (SSJE, Rule 24). Again, I quote Father Benson: "In praying for others we learn really and truly to love them. As we approach God on their behalf we carry the thought of them into the very being of eternal love and as we go to him who is eternal love, so we learn to love whatever we take with us there" (SSJE, Rule 25)
We discover in our intercessions a deep and abiding kinship. I pray for my family, my friends, my coworkers, my clergy, parishioners. People give me their names and their causes because they know I pray for them. I pray for them by name and I imagine their faces. I believe God is at work in these prayers, and that my voice is part of Christ's voice raising each person to God, my father, who is in heaven. As we live in the divine community, dwelling with Christ, we discover that God welcomes all our work, our struggles, our afflictions, and our daily lives to bless and uphold the world (SSJE, Rule 25).
Monday, October 12, 2009
Let us do some theology, some deep thinking now, regarding prayer. And, let us begin with a short reflection upon the nature of God and the mystery of prayer in community. God is united in an infinite exchange of love, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This is the very simplest way of understanding the divine union we call the Trinity. So prayer is not, in its very nature, simply a conversation with God. When we pray we participate in the divine life of love, the divine community.
As God's creatures we become entangled in the embrace of God. Through prayer we are lifted first into the community of God. And, it is in this embrace that the idea of praying or worshiping a foreign or "distant" God begins to disappear. We realize the grace of being created in such a manner as to participate in the divine union of God and it is from this realization of grace that we then truly offer our own adoration and thanksgiving.
We are able to give thanks and worship the Holy Spirit which moves over the waters of our soul and the warms our hearts with peace, grace, and love. We are able to give thanks and worship Christ who claims the world as his own, and rises so that we would be freed to hear and act out of God's acceptance rather than our own humanity. We are able to give thanks and worship the Father for we are able to see that it is God in whom we live, and move and have our very being (SSJE, Rule 21). The mystery of prayer is sacramental, and in its daily work we discover, again and again that we are members of the family of God, tied to both the community which at once is the Trinity and is also the community of the faithful.
Prayer and Life
I believe that God intends for us, through the Holy Spirit, to pray throughout our life. It is easy to find a place of prayer, a time for prayer, an organized, comfortable and perfectly reasonable way of accomplishing our prayer work. However, prayer is for life. It takes courage to bring prayer into our lives. It is a challenge to feel free to pray in the car, in our office, at our dinner table, with our children, with others, before a meeting, after a meeting, before Eucharist…however, the Holy Spirit which seeks to unify us to God also opens our hearts and eyes to discover God out in our world, at work in the world.
By praying throughout our life we discover that God is there, and we see how God "permeates our life." (SSJE, Rule 22). We are in some very real way, when we choose to follow Jesus, choosing not to simply learn how to pray, but we are choosing to learn to pray our lives. Karl Rahner, one of the major 20th century theologians and architect of the Second Vatican Council, wrote, "…I now see clearly that, if there is any path at all on which I can approach You, it must lead through the very middle of my ordinary daily life. If I should try to flee to You by any other way, I'd actually be leaving myself behind, and that, aside from being quite impossible, would accomplish nothing at all." (From Encounter With Silence, Scriptural Classics, 219)
Friday, October 9, 2009
We name him "Our Father," because we are to seek to have as intimate a relationship with God as Jesus did. We are to seek out this love.
Who art in heaven
We are to be reminded of our creaturely-ness and that our created nature is a gift from Heaven.
Hallowed be thy name
In response to the tremendous grace of God's community and to our sense of humility and our created nature, we are able to recognize the holiness of God. Jesus teaches us to proclaim that recognition.
Thy kingdom come
We are to ask for and seek God's kingdom. We are to be reminded in our prayer that, like the disciples own misguided desires to sit at the right and left hand of Jesus, this is not our kingdom. The reign of God is not what you and I have in mind. We pray for God to help us to see His Kingdom. God help us, we pray, to be a part of bringing His kingdom to reality.
Thy will be done
We are called by our dear God to bend our wills according to your living example in Jesus Christ. We are to constantly seek placing aside our own desires and take on the desires of God's reign. We are to join as partners of God in the restoration of creation, not in the way we imagine it to be, but in the way God imagines it.
On earth as it is in heaven
Throughout our lifetime, we pray to God to help us to make heaven a reality in this world.
Give us this day our daily bread
We acknowledge before God that we are consumers. We need and desire and want many things. We ask for help to remember that all we need is our daily bread. Through the sacrifice of our wants, God help us to provide daily bread for those who go without today.
Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us
We ask God to forgive us. We ask that God forgive us as we forgive others. We ask for help to realize the grace and love that God gave to us in His Son Jesus Christ our Lord who was obedient to God even to death on the cross for our sake so that we might see and welcome His mercy and forgiveness. We ask for moments of clarity to understand His call to us to give that same sacrificial forgiveness to all those who we feel have wronged us. To help us to see our own fault in those relationships that are broken. To help us to be a healing force for those friendships and situations that seems so very hopeless. To help us to be the sacrament of God's grace and forgiveness to others. This is what Jesus meant when he invited us to sacrificially offer our own desires at the foot of the cross. Take up your cross and follow me, he teaches. Forgive others as your merciful Father forgives you.
Lead us not into temptation
We acknowledge how tempted we are to go the easy way. How tempted we are to believe God's desires are our desires. We are so tempted to believe that we know the mind of God. We are like Adam and Eve who ate from the tree of knowledge and replaced God with their own thoughts of reality. So we pray to understand the wisdom of God in Christ Jesus to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit and not our own earthly and political desires that promise comfort, security, and hope in worldly things.
And deliver us from evil
Deliver us from evil, we pray, for we know there is a darkness in the world around us. There is a darkness that feeds our inner desire to be God ourselves. There is a darkness that promises to support everything we do and justify our actions at the expense of others' dignity. There is a darkness that tells us we possess God's Truth and no one else does. We ask for deliverance from the evil which inhabits this darkness, the darkness of our hearts, and the darkness of our lives that we might follow God's way by the light of His Son.
For thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory, forever and ever. Amen.
And finally, we acknowledge that we can only do this with God. We are powerless, and only God can restore us, and we turn our lives over to you. Let this day be the work of our prayer to You, devoted to God's reign and kingdom. In our daily work resulting from this prayer, we trust to rest upon His power of deliverance, opening our hearts to see God's glory and beauty in the world, and with the assurance that our days will be numbered as sons and daughters of Abraham.
Thursday, October 8, 2009
He instructs those who follow him to pray privately (Matt 6). He instructs his followers to pray in desert places (Luke 5.16). We are not to pray out in the open for fear of being like those who lord and show off their prayer in front of others.
Perhaps one of the greatest human sins is the sin of pride. And we like to take pride in our prayers, especially those spoken aloud. This is the beauty of the Book of Common Prayer which keeps our egos out of the work of prayer by praying ancient and holy prayers. It is the beauty of solitude and prayer through meditation, which humbles us before the throne and community of God. We are to seek out deserted places and private places in which we are to have intimate prayer with God.
In these intimate moments we are, as Jesus prescribes in the Gospel of Matthew, to pray out of our faith for what we need of God (Matt 21.22). In Luke's Gospel, Jesus connects fasting and prayer (Luke l5.33). I believe Jesus told us to fast and pray in order to help us understand his sacred solidarity with the poor and our overdependence upon the things of this world. He goes away to pray himself. He goes to the mountain and prays (Matt 19.13). He prays in the garden before he is arrested. And, he invites his followers to pray with him (Matt 26.36). He prayed in his anguish (Lk 22.44). We also know that Jesus prayed the psalms.
Over all, what we see is that Jesus prayed and instructed us to pray for what was needed. He thought it best to pray privately as if in conversation with our Father. If we looked at each of these passages in context we would find that they are connected with action.
Jesus teaches the need of persistent prayer, the widow and unjust judge just before the healing of children in Luke 18. After Jesus teaches prayer for those who abuse you, he heals the beloved slave of the Centurion (Luke 7). Throughout the Gospel of Mark we see repeatedly prayer followed by healings and teachings. Jesus also seems to instruct his disciples that prayer was a daily need for those who followed him, a type of daily spiritual food. Moreover, Jesus seems to understand the importance of prayer in one's life, especially in times of trial or trouble.
Perhaps these themes and passages are not new to you, but they somewhat shape and form my beginning place in this conversation. These are the pieces that got me going and thinking, drawing myself deeper into a conversation with God about Prayer, the work that is prayer, and the work that originates in prayer. Jesus modeled a life of prayer and offers it to us as part of our Christian journey and vocation. Indeed we reflect and acknowledge its centrality in our own commitment to God when we say, "I will with God's help continue in the Apostle's prayers" (BCP 304).
Coming up next: A Daily Prayer Shaping Our Daily Work
Sunday, October 4, 2009
Consuming the World
American Pop Culture
Some of our cultural core values according to George Barna in his book Boiling Point are:
convenience, options for expression, time maximization, belonging, comfort, experiences, happiness, independence, flexibility, authenticity, education options, entertainment, diversity, customization, participation, gender equality, technology, instant gratification, meaning, skepticism, image, control, relevance, impact/influence, personal empowerment, relationships, self-image, simplicity, compassion, teamwork, integrity, youth care, family cohesion, humor tolerance, volunteerism, reciprocity, generosity, networking, spiritual depth, risk taking, change, wealth, physical health, and achievement.
"The Klipske personal office unit, the Hovertrekke home exer-bike. Or the Johannshamnh sofa with the Strinne green stripe pattern...Even the Rislampa wire lamps of environmentally-friendly unbleached paper. I would flip through catalogs and wonder 'what kind of dining set defines me as a person?' I had it all. Even the glass dishes with tiny bubbles and imperfections, proof they were crafted by the honest, simple, hard working people of...wherever. We used to read pornography. Now it was the Horchow Collection.Video clip: Who do you say that I am?
Saturday, October 3, 2009
Dan Kimball, author and pastor at Vintage Faith church in Santa Cruz, California, wrote:
Jesus is everywhere. I recently walked into a gas station to pay for some gas and saw some Jesus bobble-heads for sale on a shelf. I was kind of surprised to see Jesus in the gas station, but there he was, three or four of him standing in a row. As I waited to pay for the fifteen gallons I had pumped into my rusty 1966 Ford Mustang, the Jesus bobble-heads silently stared at me, all politely smiling and nodding in unison.
Not too long afterward, I visited a major clothing chain store. Near the entry was a display for the Jesus Action Figure. Probably a dozen or more Jesuses hung in nice plastic packaging that declared, “With pose-able arms and gliding action!” While I stood there looking at them, a woman in her early twenties grabbed one from the rack. She enthusiastically said to her companion, “I love these!” and off she ran to the cash register with Jesus under her arm.”
I love Jesus and I love all things Jesus. But it really is amazing how many people love Jesus but don’t love the church. If we are going to reclaim the art of discipleship we are going to have to reclaim it in the midst of our world and our culture in America. We are going to have to reclaim discipleship from a dying Protestant Christianity as it exists today. We are going to have to reclaim discipleship from the Anglican Communion and the Episcopal Church. We are going to have reclaim discipleship even though there are theological and practical stumbling blocks.
I am a missionary and I want to work within a missionary church alive within a growing missionary field, in relationship with disciples who wish to follow the way of Jesus. I believe that Christianity, particularly Anglicanism through the lens of the Episcopal Church, has something fundamentally unique to offer those who are seeking to follow Jesus. I believe and am committed to an Episcopal Church and an Episcopal Diocese in Texas that is actively making the world a better place tomorrow than it is today. I believe that our church and our people, you and I, are called to be partners with Jesus Christ restoring the world around us.
I have invited several friends to visit with us about their views and their experience and so we will hear stories from the mission front about God, Jesus, Christians and communities. We will look to the past through the lens of our Gospel (Mark, Luke, and John specifically). And, we will think about methods and models for our future. Tonight I want us to begin to reclaim the art of discipleship, by: understanding the world and culture in which we are living; understanding the challenge organized religion faces in this culture; and, understanding the stumbling blocks that lie before us as Episcopalians. Many of us here have been having these conversations about emerging topics of interest. We have been listening and engaging in a conversation of “generous orthodoxy,” “off road disciplines” and the “renewing of our heart.” But it is time to bring it home to the Episcopal Church.
(intro to “The Art and Method of Discipleship,”The Blandy Lectures, SSW, 2009)
- "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