Friday, February 26, 2010

Hope Rising: Sermon on Matthew 16:24-28

You may not know this, but it is possible that as you sit here right now your microwave oven at home may be leaking microwaves. This may be shocking, but it also may be true.

The way you check this is by holding up an ordinary fluorescent light bulb, move it slowly up and down, along the edges of the door while you are cooking something – let’s say popcorn.

If the light bulb glows your microwave is leaking and I would suggest that you recycle it and purchase a new one.

I learned this interesting fact from Chuck Meyer a priest of this Diocese. He wrote and I believe hoped the following: “God is still outrageous and inappropriate, audaciously appearing in spiritual movements all over the world where people are holding up the spiritual equivalent of the [fluorescent] light bulb and finding that they glow like crazy. They are holding up ideas, rituals, structures, and relationships- sometimes prayerfully, sometimes rebelliously – but always testing them out to see the response. They are offering them up and finding them blessed in the glow of the light that indicates the presence of the Living Leaking God, far away from the Dying church, though sometimes appearing as an aberration within it.

This leaking God is the Jesus of hope. This is the Jesus of the Gospels and specifically the Jesus we find within Matthew’s Gospel from which this evenings passage is taken. An outrageous, at times inappropriate, audacious prophet of a man proclaiming a reign of hope and offering up to his contemporaries new ideas, rituals, structures, and relationships – at times prayerfully and sometimes rebelliously.

Jesus is proclaiming a reign that is abundant in the face of scarcity. Jesus is proclaiming a reign that springs up out of the rocks like water so that the dependent and exploited masses may be filled with good things. Jesus is saying the reign of hope is like the woman and her leavened flour, a world where one sows only the best seed regardless of the return, a world were one sows wildly and yet purposefully, a world hidden for those who are not willing to give up all that they have to enter into its gates. These are Jesus’ stories of abundance; they are his stories of spiritual wealth for those who choose to live within God’s reign. This is good news for the poor, helpless and imprisoned.

Returning home to teach in his family’s synagogue I imagine Jesus hoping for his hometown to connect with his message. Those within the religious structures of Jesus’ time cannot believe his message that the reign of hope is at hand and it is at hand for everyone and that there is more than enough to go around. The light of Christ shows their vulnerabilities and they cannot hide from its truth they cannot hide from their nostalgia of the Davidic dynasty. So it is that we are told they do not rise and they do not connect.

While finding rocky soil at home, Jesus’ message of hope finds roots in more than a few followers. And, it is with them, along the road, not in the temple, along the way and not in the synagogue, that we hear Jesus first proclaimed Son of the living God – our hope.

After these teachings and revelations Jesus makes an invitation here in this the 16th chapter of Matthew to connect. After answering the question, “Who do you say that I am?” Jesus turns to us and questions, “Will you be my hope and choose life on the road and connect with me?”

Jesus is speaking to his disciples now in a more intimate setting away from the crowds. Here in this moment, a private moment, we hear Jesus speaking to his closest followers; disciples, apostles, saints to be. It is in this setting that Jesus whispers to his followers come after me, deny yourself and take up your cross. This is not a triumphal cross as some might suppose but the cross of trial.

This is the cost to live abundantly in the reign of hope; you must (like the merchant) give up everything that is dear to your heart including your own self-preservation and connect deeply with the living God.

Come after me and disown yourself, separate any claim to your own desires. You are no longer your own but I am with you till the end. This is the meaning and promise of Jesus’ words to us tonight.

When you follow Jesus you live in the reign of hope oriented not to yourself or your needs but to the imperative Gospel proclamation. One lives connected to hope eternal. Not for our own sake but for the sake of others.

When you follow Jesus you choose to orient your life around the poor in spirit, those who mourn, the meek, the hungry, and the thirsty. When you follow Jesus you are to seek out and become vessels of mercy, purity, and peace.

It is in this context that one picks up the cross. Symbolic of life’s ambitions and human egocentricities, the cross is lifted out of the desert of life, the counter-kingdom of scarcity.

In Jesus’ teaching the disciple becomes the divine one’s possession. In effect the human self which so easily lords over others, now has a new Lord and it is the Christ. The worldly heart and satisfied will seeks authority and power over the cosmos, kingdoms, principalities, and powers. But the reign of hope with Jesus Christ as pantocrator is a life lived instead as servant of all and handmaiden.

As St. Ignatius wrote, “The farthest bounds of the universe shall profit me nothing…It is good for me to die for Jesus Christ rather than to reign over the farthest bounds of the earth.”

Yes, for Christianity Jesus has come and been in our midst but it is likely he may have already left the building.

I don’t believe that Jesus leaves our sanctuary Godless; rather he leaves to invite the God following out into the light of day were the reign of Hope may be proclaimed more brilliantly on the road and along the way.

Jesus is beckoning us out of our synods, conclaves, councils, and churches to bear witness to the abundant grace of God in the world. Jesus is calling us to rise up, proclaim hope and connect with our brothers and sisters.

No amount of investment will secure our possession of the kingdom of God, only our poverty delivers us into the hands of the reigning monarch of the Gospel’s hope.

So what is it we must do to rediscover the proclamation of abundance? How can we reread the Gospel into our own time and our own ministry and mission contexts?

The all too human and complex St. John Chrysostom offers us a place to begin:
If you ever wish to associate with someone make sure that you do not give your attention to those who enjoy health and wealth and fame as the world sees it, but take care of those in affliction, in critical circumstances, who are utterly deserted and enjoy no consolation. Put a high value on associating with these, for from them you shall receive much profit, and you will do all for the glory of God. God himself has said: I am the father of orphans and the protector of widows.

Where do we in this Consortium find the dependent and exploited, the orphans the widows, the afflicted and those in need of consolation? Where do we in this group go to reread the Gospel?

I believe the radical message of the Gospel reorients our gathering and our concerns from the provision of wealth to the provision of mission; from investment strategy to mission strategy; from scarcity to abundance, from nostalgia to hope.

Our gospel message challenges us to move our attention away from thoughts of self-preservation to Gospel proclamation – this is a holy different type of fiduciary responsibility.

We must recognize we are Christians who live in the abundant reign of Hope; we are also people who live among the abundantly wealthy. We are people who proclaim abundance and have been blessed with abundance.

No matter how sorry and sad we might be about our investments over the past year the reality is that the combined holdings of the Episcopal Church today (even after a severe market downturn) remain larger than the annual GDP of over 80 of the 180 nations in the world. In fact our combined annual pledge and plate for the Episcopal Church is larger than 15 nations’ of those nations’ annual GDP.

I believe a cross we must lay down is our sense of privilege and the lie that we are poor.

We must realize that our local and global mission to restore and change the world with Jesus Christ demands of us that we move beyond a time of propping up ministry models and ministries that no longer function. Like Jesus in his hometown synagogue, I believe he sits and waits for us to rise up and proclaim a Gospel for a new age.

We must divert monies from the tired and unsuccessful models of ministry and orient them to the places where we see that God is, already, today, leaking and pouring his spirit out into the world.

We have received a great legacy gift from our faith ancestors, but that gift is given for the purpose of the reign of hope and to assist God in breaking into the counter-kingdoms and municipalities of this world. It is to meet and connect with people out in the world and make their lives better tomorrow; better than they are today.

The world must be a better place because the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion are at work in it.

We must use resources for new initiatives that connect us to the world around us, our neighborhoods, our cities, our state, our country, our world. We must hold the light of Christ up to the world around us and seek to discover where Christ is already at work and we must join him there.

We must use our resources for research and development in the field. We must embrace new opportunities and be blessed by the gifts of success and blessed by what we learn from failure. Let us not be nostalgic but visionary.

For out there on the road, outside the safety of our buildings, in the wilderness which is our world, Christ beckons to you and to me. Jesus is calling us, “Come find me in the face of your neighbor, come and connect with me, and join me in the reign of hope.”

For The Consortium of Endowed Episcopal Parishes

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The Life Lived in Prayer

As we enter the season of Lent I would like to draw our attention to the call of a particular Lenten discipline: prayer. We are called to a holy Lent which is the result of a number of disciplines--the first is prayer and the last is meditating on God's holy Word - Jesus Christ as revealed in the scriptures (BCP 264ff). I believe it is through the discipline of prayer and meditation that we are transformed and may better serve and bear witness to God's mercy in our lives.

I have a long and winding prayer journey with God and with Jesus. I first learned to pray the Lord's Prayer as a child. I remember that most of my prayer life as a child was as a petitioner and was most likely egocentric; but those are the beautiful prayers of children. I can imagine that God smiles at these prayers.

Adolescence brought prayers of sadness, joy and gratitude as I lived a somewhat difficult teenage life. These would lead to prayers of discernment about ministry. I learned to pray the Daily Office while in college and was introduced to daily mass. I studied prayer for a semester under an American Orthodox seminarian. He taught me meditation and contemplation. We read and sat together quietly. His name escapes me now but his ministry and mentorship provided a life-long lesson of sitting still with God.

I also was introduced to private confession during this same time, which has continued. I experienced the discipline of daily chapel and Morning Prayer in a deeper sense while I was chaplain at St. Stephen's School, Austin. This was reinforced at Virginia Seminary and today the Daily Office is my daily companion. When I left seminary I toyed with the Franciscan tertiary order but eventually landed on the Society of St. John the Evangelist as a support for the prayer life on which I had come to rely. I began to develop a rule of life, which I continue to this day.

Today, this takes the form of sitting quietly daily before I read Morning Prayer. I follow the ordo (liturgical) calendar of the Society of St. John, so I am praying within community each day. I pray for the clergy of the diocese by name throughout the week. I pray for my staff, along with a list of concerns given to me. I pray a prayer based upon the ordination service for a bishop and read (along with the scripture appointed for the day) a portion of the Archbishop's reflections on the ministry of bishop.

My prayer life has been healthy and sometimes it has not. There is an ebb and flow as I look over the years; however, as I get older my dependence on this daily routine continues to become more deeply rooted. I am out of sorts when I do not follow my daily feast of quiet, intercession, thanksgiving and meditation on God.

As I think back, I think the most difficult work of prayer begins after the conversation has gone quiet--meaning when I have forgotten to pray. After long periods of silence from my end of the connection, or in those times of deep questioning, I find it so difficult to know just what to say. I also remember how difficult it was to begin prayer. I remember it was hard as a child. I remember it was hard as a young adult. Perhaps we place too many expectations on prayer. I guess it is a human thing, but I can get so focused on praying "right" that I forget the sustenance of prayer, which is most often in the deep well of silence or in the questions themselves. I wonder if you find this true as well.

It seems so many people, ordinary people like myself, have a hard time knowing how to begin to pray. Richard J. Foster in his book entitled Prayer, offers a useful reminder for us all. "We will never have pure enough motives, or be good enough, or know enough in order to pray rightly. We simply must set all these things aside and begin praying. In fact, it is in the very act of praying itself--the intimate, ongoing interaction with God-- that these matters are cared for in due time. What I am trying to say is that God receives us just as we are and accepts our prayers just as they are."(R. J. Foster, Prayer, p. 8) So, I encourage you to begin or to begin again for the first time.

Find a comfortable, quiet place where you might pray daily. Write down a list of those for whom you would like to pray. Will you use written prayers from a book, the Prayer Book or other sources? Place them near by. Will you use a rosary? An icon? Set up your place and make it your deliberate place to be with God. Then go there each day. Go and be with God and open your heart to his companionship in your life. Sit quietly. Use words of prayer. Pray the Lord's Prayer. Pray a portion of scripture.

I encourage you to sit and be with God. Begin again, perhaps for the first time, a conversation with God. If you have a rule of life, dust it off and recharge it with committed time to follow its precepts. Pray, pray, pray. For it is in praying that we are truly transformed to be a witness of Jesus Christ. It is in prayer that we are humbled by the abundance of God's grace.

One of the prayers that I pray every day is the General Thanksgiving prayer at the end of Morning Prayer II, (BCP, 101). Along with thousands and thousands of Christians around the world each morning I pray, "give us such an awareness of your mercies, that with truly thankful hearts we may show forth your praise, not only with our lips, but in our lives, by giving up ourselves to your service…"

I hope you might join me in daily prayer and service this Lent and, with me, rediscover our conversation with God.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Disturb Us Lord, 161st Diocese of Texas Council Address

By The Rt. Rev. C. Andrew Doyle
Lay-delegates to the 161st Annual Council of the Diocese of Texas, members of the ECW, reverend clergy, fellow-bishops of the church, and visitors, I greet you in the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

We all give thanks to the people of Killeen, and the area congregations who have joined forces to welcome us and provide for us last night and today. We are very grateful for your expertise and all your efforts on our behalf!

I am pleased to thank Bishop George Packard for his sermon last night, which was well received by all and honed our attention t the work of the church, and especially the work of this church in this place. I was also delighted to have Bishops Benitez, Payne, and Wimberly join us. What a gift each of them is to me and I treasure their wisdom and willingness to be present with our church family for the great celebration we had last night.

I, of course, also welcome Bishop James Tengatenga, Bishop of the Diocese of Southern Malawi and president of the Anglican Consultative Council, who joins us while on sabbatical. Bishop Tengatenga is waiting expectantly for our vote on the resolution that would partner our diocese with the good and faithful people of the Diocese of Southern Malawi.

Our prayers are with Bishop Dena Harrison and her husband Larry as they travel with Episcopal Relief and Development to Africa. Let me say though that I am grateful as ever for Bishop Rayford High and Harrison’s companionship in this journey of the Episcopate. I am also grateful for the work of Canon Ann Normand and Jaime Case.

These first eight months have been amazing. I love my job. I love my work and ministry. I love worshiping with you each Sunday. I love listening to you. I love seeing the great works of service and ministry you are taking up as Jesus’ hands and heart in this world. I love celebrating the birth of your children and it is humbling to share the darkest moments of your life. I love being an Episcopalian. I love being an Anglican. I love being your bishop, and I am proud to say so and proud to talk of your work and ministry with those outside the confines of this diocese. I am a blessed man, a grateful man, and a humbled man.

So it is that I begin simply with a word of thanks to you, the people of the Episcopal Diocese of Texas, for the wonderful beginning I have experienced as your bishop. Thank you.

I found a business card of Bishop Quin’s, on the back it reads: “Drive safely, you might hit an Episcopalian.” Today I am ever more keenly aware that the Episcopalian in question might indeed be your bishop! It has been a busy year that found all three of us on the road quite a bit. I traveled more than 15,000 miles, with my duties completed as coadjutor and now fully engulfed in the work of diocesan; I am already on track to break 20,000 miles in 2010.

With your help, we have been about the work of visioning and goal setting. It has been busy with the politics of the church. It has been busy with the everyday work of the office of bishop: pastoral care, teaching, sacraments and administration.

This year I have provided a published Bishop’s Report that puts in your hands a tremendous amount of information about what I, the other bishops, and your diocesan staff have undertaken in the past year. Next year, you can expect us to cover the goals set forth by our vision work.

You should have received this report via email this week, and each delegation should have a copy to review today. It is also available on our epicenter website.

I am asking that the written report be included in the minutes of this council, along with the official acts, mission, and ministry of your bishops.

Sir Francis Drake was an adventurer and a legal pirate, raiding Spanish ships with permission out of Portsmouth. He was a friend of Queen Elizabeth and a strong Anglican. Optimistic and courageous he withstood storms of every kind as he circumnavigated the world.
He wrote these words:

Disturb us, Lord, when

We are too pleased with ourselves,

When our dreams have come true

Because we dreamed too little,

When we arrived safely

Because we sailed too close to the shore.

Staff Development

As we look back at the great work we have accomplished in the area of Christian Formation we cannot rest on our laurels but must dream greater dreams, we must venture further from shore.

The first initiative that I want to draw our attention to is the thinking through and reworking of our ministry in the area of Christian Formation.

Our vision states that we hold as a primary work the forming and growing of our diocese. We understand that those seeking a deeper relationship with Jesus are nurtured and equipped to share the love of Christ in the world. They find lifelong opportunities for spiritual formation and servant leadership grounded in scripture and our historic catholic faith.

We must be unambiguously Episcopalian, rooted deep in our Anglican ethos. We need leadership that will focus our efforts, connect our resources and build bridges of communication.

Using the Charter of Life Long Christian Formation as a guide to flesh out our own ideas, I will begin new strategic work with the Christian Formation Committee this year. The charter, written in part by our own Janie Stevens, missioner for Christian formation, is reprinted in part in the Bishop’s Report.

Following Council I will meet with the Executive Board Sub-committee on Vision and Mission to go over and review staffing in the area of formation. With Janie’s Steven’s retirement from the post of Christian formation missioner, the Christian Formation hire will be a major, strategic move for our common mission and ministry.

We must find some one with Janie’s passions, and someone with skills to take us into the future. We need someone who will dream dreams with us, such dreams as will engage our hearts and minds for the undertaking of this essential and expanded work. Someone who will help us sail into deeper spiritual waters further from shore.

I believe this reorganization and hire will be a cornerstone in continuing a strong tradition of leadership locally and nationally regarding Christian Formation; moreover, I hope it will not only help people become Christian disciples but help us form people in the unique and rich tradition of our Episcopal Church. We are about making Christian disciples who are particularly Episcopalian and members of a global family, the Anglican Communion.

Finance Development

Drake prayed:

Disturb us, Lord, when

with the abundance of things we possess,

We have lost our thirst

For the waters of life;
The diocese is a strong diocese, a wealthy diocese, and a healthy diocese in many respects. We are given abundant gifts. But we must be wise stewards of this abundance. We must seek to be disturbed to use our resources for ever greater good in the name of Christ.

Therefore, I have asked the Finance Committee of the Executive Board to begin work this year on the issues of denominational health care and how it will affect the clergy and institutions of the diocese. We will spend close to $17,000 on a clergy family’s health care this year. We may see that rise to $25,000 in five to ten years. We must take steps to curb this cost lest it be detrimental to our missionary dollars.

I have asked the Finance Committee to review the diocesan assessment and asking calculations and their missionary function. When congregations are struggling our formula is not helpful and this makes rebounding from financial stresses very difficult. Furthermore, we only receive half of what we ask for in the missionary asking budget. We have to look realistically at both of these formulas and move carefully into the future. We have had this formula since 1992.

All of this is maintenance work in my opinion. But if we do not undertake it, and undertake it well, we find ourselves managing instead of leading to greater health, wellness, and growth. We find ourselves resting on the assumed abundance of the past without a care for the stewardship of our future.

Church Planting

Drake prayed:

Disturb us, Lord, to dare more boldly,

To venture on wilder seas

Since I graduated from high school in 1984 we have managed to successfully plant: three parishes and eight missions; of which five, which were begun in the 80’s, today have less than 40 people each Sunday.

Our growth in the diocese has predominantly come from our transition and larger congregations over this same period of time. I believe this shows a successful mission to revitalize congregations through congregational development.

However, we, as a diocese, must revision strategies for church planting. In 2010, we will begin to develop a collaborative strategy for church planting that will combine the resources of leadership at the diocesan level with local leadership in the congregation to bring about long-term results. We have several new congregations underway. However, we must develop a long-term plan that will strategically allow for a new church start every year!

I will appoint a group to chart this course for us made up of leadership from around the diocese, from the foundations, and diocesan staff.
Proposed Anglican Covenant

Disturb us, Lord, to dare more boldly,

To venture on wilder seas

Where storms will show Your mastery;

Where, losing sight of land,

We shall find the stars.

We have been playing it safe in this diocese when it comes to the proposed Covenant and the issues of diversity. For a while we only heard from our bishop. For a while we did not talk about it. For some time now we have been talking about our problems in our separate camps. We are quick to scapegoat others in order to find relief, yet at the same time we fail to recognize our own stubbornness in not setting about doing the work God has given us to do.

It is time for us to venture more boldly into wilder seas; seas wherein we do not rely upon our own selves but upon God’s mastery.

For the remainder of this year, I am calling for a year of prayer regarding the proposed Anglican Communion Covenant and its meaning for the church and for our diocese in particular. I am appointing a task force to help the diocese focus our attention on the Covenant and will ask them to develop a study curriculum and resources. I also will be asking the task force to propose a model for congregations to engage in conversation around the proposed Covenant and its principles.

I hope the process will enable members of congregations to communicate to their leadership and make known to their delegates their mind on the proposed Covenant.

I also want the task force to work with the Committee on Order of Business and plan for discussion at Diocesan Council so that we may arrive at a statement on the mind of Council concerning the Covenant. This will mean our deputation will have listened to the people of the diocese prior to taking part in the national discussions expected at our next General Convention.

Furthermore, such a mind of Council will help me in my work as a leader within the Episcopal Church and the wider Anglican Communion.

My statements and work with the wider Church are strengthened when I am able to communicate, clearly capturing the position of this diocese (a bishop and his people listening and speaking in communion with one another).

Church unity in the midst of diversity

In 2010, I will also be putting together a special task force to review the issues that may arise from General Convention in 2012 and to create a strategy with a means of leading into the following Convention as opposed to reacting to it.

Such a strategy will help us navigate what is already a turbulent time, with a steady course. This will help us to live within a relationship of mutual affection for both the structures of the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion. Moreover, we must discover how we in the Diocese of Texas are going to move through these next few years together for the sake of the Gospel, Christ, all of God’s people, for justice and for peace, and for the mission of the Church.

Let me be clear, we have got to learn to live together, how we discern the outward and visible signs of that life together, and the daily living out of Church, as our common work – not only the work of your bishop.
 We will be tempted by cynicism to say this work can’t be done; but the scripture reminds us of God’s desire to gather us all under his wing.

 We will be tempted by our ego to say we cannot work with the enemy; but the scripture tells us go with a friend to our brother and sister and be reconciled one to another before offering a sacrifice at the Lord’s Table.

 We will be tempted to say I have tried to speak but they will not hear, but we must be reminded of Christ’s model of listening first to the other.

 We will be tempted by our fear to say it’s just better if we don’t talk about it at all; but we know “to you all our hearts are open, all desires known, and no secrets are hid.”

 We will be tempted by our lack of trust in God to say it is impossible, yet the scripture tells us all things are possible with God.

 We will be tempted to say, I have already heard what they have to say, what else is there, and we will hear the words of Jesus to Nathaniel, “greater things than these you will see.”
Until we get these pieces worked out as a body of faithful people following Jesus Christ, we are going to have difficulty doing the greater work of mission and attracting people to our church.
A divided house cannot stand.
I would add to Drake’s prayer:

Disturb us Lord that we may see your hand at work in the world, that we may see your mastery, and help us to boldly lose sight of our own needs that we may see you face to face in our neighbor.

The Church’s Mission

Disturb us Lord, Having fallen in love with life,

We have ceased to dream of eternity

And in our efforts to build a new earth,

We have allowed our vision

Of the new Heaven to dim.

One church in mission is not simply a piece of our vision – it is not just a few words on a page. It is not an idea. It is not a dream. Such thoughts and the willingness to deny the sacramental nature of church unity rise out of our own love for the way things are and the way things have been. We are managing our selves into decline; rather than building upon the sacramental unity God’s reign.

The communion, or koinonia, of the Church is an essential doctrinal principal. It is a principle that runs throughout the scripture, creeds, early church fathers, the monastics, our prayers and liturgy. Oneness and unity are that quality of the sacramental life from which all acts of peace, justice, service, and dignity course out into the world.

Communion is a dominant theological building block that describes the very essence of what it means to be church. The church as one communion in mission is not dependent upon humanity. It is not a concept determined by how we feel about one another today.

There is an intimate theology between the sacramental unity of the body of Christ, broken for the world and celebrated every Sunday for the distinct, and I would say unique, purpose of being Christ in the world. This unique presence is lived out week after week from the Northeast to the Southwest, from Carthage to Palacios, and every where in between where a priest stands at the altar, and in the place of Christ and Bishop, makes bread and wine the sacrament of God’s very body and blood and transforms everyday people into the holy people of God.

As Saint Paul described it in his first letter to the Corinthians chapter 12 and in his letter to the Romans chapter 12, Christ and the people of his church are as one body. This image and mutual relationship between the church and Christ’s body is also found in John 15, Ephesians 5, Revelations 21, and 22. The Church in Texas exists as an extension of the human life of Jesus, concrete and with history. The Church is to be, and I believe meant by God to be, the fulfillment of God’s creative work through the power of the Holy Spirit.

The Church exists as the vessel of the historic and apostolic faith. E. J. Bicknell wrote, “The church is…a school for Christian character. Fellowship in the church is a moral discipline…the modern idea of separate free ‘churches’ ministers to the desires of our fallen human nature by providing a means of escape from the need of self-control. The Church exists to carry on the work of Christ in the world, and that work is hindered by open divisions among Christians. Our Lord’s will is that Christians should be manifestly one, so that the world may believe in His divine mission (John 17:20-23).” (Thirty Nine Articles, 238)

Regardless of the parts of our church who believe this way or that way -- I believe in the Church that is one, holy, catholic, and apostolic.

I believe in the greater church’s witness to the Trinity, the uniqueness of Christ, the historic faith of our councils, the creeds, the scripture, the practice of apostolic worship and apostolic teaching.

No one person or council action may dilute or overturn the church catholic’s traditional and historic faith.

This is an important point because it means that for me, your bishop, the Church does not exist to have councils where it makes pronouncements that divide the body of Christ and weaken Christ’s mission to the world. Councils themselves exist to build the church catholic and universal. Councils exist to interpret that faith of Jesus crucified and resurrected to a world seeking divine intervention and to insure through stewardship that the Church does indeed undertake Christ’s mission and Gospel proclamation in word and in deed.

The church is one. It is unified. It is so by its nature. Such catholicity is a sacramental substance regardless of where we as individuals stand in relationship to it.

Our church exists because God makes it a gift to us by his own presence in the world and not by our own labors.

A great example of this is our vocational deacon Tracie Middleton who serves as chaplain to the volunteer fire department in Vidor. Through Christ’s sacramental presence in the community through Tracie, Bishop High baptized a child and several adults at the firehouse last week. The church is Christ in the world.

“The Church is an instrument for the realization of God’s eternal design, [the glory of God and] the salvation of humanity… It is within the Church, where the Holy Spirit gives and nurtures the new life of the kingdom, that the Gospel becomes a manifest reality. The church is therefore called to be, and by the power of the Spirit actually is, a sign, steward and instrument of God’s design. (ARCIC Statement, Salvation, 1987, 29)

The Episcopal Church in the Diocese of Texas exists as a unified church not out of our own work but the very work of Jesus Christ through the sacrament and through the presence of the Holy Spirit within it.

So we must pray faithfully:

Disturb us, Lord, when

We are too pleased with ourselves,

When our dreams have come true

Because we dreamed too little,

When we arrived safely

Because we sailed too close to the shore.

Disturb us, Lord, when

with the abundance of things we possess

We have lost our thirst

For the waters of life;

Having fallen in love with life,

We have ceased to dream of eternity

And in our efforts to build a new earth,

We have allowed our vision

Of the new Heaven to dim.

Disturb us, Lord, to dare more boldly,

To venture on wilder seas

Where storms will show Your mastery;

Where losing sight of land,

We shall find the stars.

We ask you to push back

The horizons of our hopes;

And to push back the future

In strength, courage, hope, and love.

This we ask in the name of our Captain,

Who is Jesus Christ. Amen.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Jesús nos llama a seguirle. Todo están invitados, algunos se convierten en seguidores, y otros cuantos dejan sus redes.

Jesús nos llama a seguirle. Todo están invitados, algunos se convierten en seguidores, y otros cuantos dejan sus redes.

Nací en la Iglesia Episcopal. Mi papá fue un sacerdote Episcopal. Mis padres crecieron en la Iglesia Episcopal. Asistieron en su escuela dominical. Estaban involucrados en ministerio con otros jóvenes. Fueron a la universidad donde estaban involucrados con otros que fueron episcopales. Estaban casados en la Iglesia Episcopal. Mis padres se enamoraron dentro de la Iglesia Episcopal y ellos aman la tradición de la iglesia también.

Mi madre me dio a luz y me dieron el regalo de bautismo y luego me nutrieron en la fe cristiana y me condujeron a confirmar mi fe. Fui un cristiano. Fui un episcopal.

Agradezco por siempre a mis padres por el regalo de amor, por el regalo de fe, y por el regalo de la iglesia Episcopal en mi vida.

Al fin fue Jesús haciendo trabajo en mí que abrió las puertas para el ministerio. Fue Cristo en mí que me condujo al ministerio. Y, fue mi voluntad dejar caer mis redes que llevaba delante de mí y al final rendirme para que Cristo agarre mi vida, mi corazón, y mi ministerio.

Hoy en el Evangelio de Lucas recibimos una vista de lo que nuestra respuesta podría ser cuando el reinado de Dios se acerca a de nosotros.

Muchos están invitados, algunos se convierten en seguidores, y unos cuantos dejarán sus redes.

Empezamos por ver a Jesús rodeado de personas. Éstas son personas ocupadas con sus vidas. Son personas con trabajos. Son: Los comerciantes, los cocineros, los limosneros, y toda clase de personas que a menudo sigue a las fuerzas armadas. Las personas le presionan a Jesús echarse adelante. Ellos escuchan lo que él dice. Oyen la invitación. Son movidos por la invitación dada a ellos para seguir la Palabra de Dios. La redención, la gracia, y la misión de Jesucristo son animadoras. Por eso que le presionan adelante. Todo está invitado.

Jesús se sienta entre algunos pescadores que han terminado el trabajo de su noche. Él se sienta y escucha y enseña. Jesús escucha y enseña. Finalmente, el pueblo continúa presionándole a él. Podemos suponer que su estilo de escuchar y enseñar hizo la invitación para acudir a la vida con él en el reino de Dios, y aún más atrayente.

Entonces, Jesús dice, vuélvanse a las aguas más profundas. Metan este bote a la fuerza y pon tus redes en ella.

¿Cuántas veces nos pide Jesús a nosotros que nos arriesguemos en lo profundo, y cambiemos de dirección y que no estemos contentos para permanecer en agua pacífica?

El modelo para el discipulado en Lucas no está sin la lucha para un seguidor, sin preguntar por qué. Simon ciertamente hace esto diciéndole a Jesús, respetuosamente, “no hay pez para pescar. Hemos trabajado toda la noche.”

¿Cuántas veces oímos esto? Cuántas veces oímos la invitación de Jesús y le hacemos caso - damos un paso adelante. Oiremos su invitación para ir más profundo, y pondremos un pretexto. Los seres humanos, usted y yo somos hábiles en dar disculpas.

Estos hombres fueron verdaderas personas de fe. Cada uno de ellos mira al otro fijadamente en los ojos y dirá que no podemos; ni modo, lo probamos.

Oh que queremos creer que nosotros somos diferente. Usted y yo, ambos, conocemos que somos mejores que Simon, pero tanto que admiramos también a Simon, al menos nuestros corazones heridos serán. Queremos creer que esa la llamada de Jesús entraría al fondo sin dificultad. Queremos creer que nosotros no volveríamos más resistentes, algo que nosotros en realidad queremos hacer. Nosotros muchísimo, adentro nuestra reconditez queremos que la fe sea más fácil, pero yendo más al fondo, cavando más profundo, viviendo más profundo, es realmente muy difícil.

“Boga mar adentro” señala Jesús. “Y, arroje esa red.” Por supuesto que recogen una red tan llena hasta que la red está por reventar. ¡La red en el Evangelio de Lucas se arriesga hasta quebrarse! El amo estaba en lo correcto, el maestro fue sabio.

Tan grande es la recogida que Simon llama a los otros para ayudarles. “Vengan, ayuda,” él grita. No sólo un bote es lleno sino dos botes están llenos. Éste es un hecho que pocos olvidarán.

Esto es lo que nos ocurre como individuos.

Descubrimos la abundancia de la gracia de Dios cuando vamos a fondo. Descubrimos el regalo abrumador de Dios cuando nos volvemos más confiados. Nuestro sentido de escasez se convierte en una comprensión de generosidad.

Haciendo frente a la gracia abundante, Simon cae de rodillas antes del Mesías. En este momento milagroso vemos la imagen de la gran reunión, la nube de testigos como Peter reconoce quizá el mensaje de la Palabra de Dios que ha venido a todas las naciones. Quizá en el mismo instante Simon reconoce el significado de lo que Isaías y Simeón nos profetizaron a nosotros – todas las naciones serán recogidas debajo de las alas del reinado de Dios a través del ministerio de Jesús.

La respuesta de Jesús es darle al ministerio a Simon y Santiago y Juan. Cuando la revelación de Cristo es discernida, y la respuesta de alabanza humilde y arrepentimiento es emprendida, Dios nos da ministerio. Aquí vemos el patrón muy antiguo que corre a todo lo largo de las Sagradas Escrituras, y se capta en este momento. El punto de vista de Jesús dice que no teman que ustedes irán conmigo y seremos una red para personas.

Aquí obtenemos lo que será el sello de los lingotes de oro de Evangelio de Lucas: Dejaron caer todo y entendieron. Pues para Lucas la imagen del discipulado del Mesías es claro: El reconocimiento y la realización del señorío de Cristo, una respuesta de humildad y arrepentimiento – un deseo de verdaderamente cambiar su vida y volverse la espalda a la vida antigua, sólo para Jesús. Es el don del ministerio por el Espíritu Santo y la inmediatez de entender.

Todo son invitados, algunos se convierten en seguidores, y los otros cuantos dejan sus redes.

Cuando nosotros, los episcopales, elegimos seguir a Jesús le hacemos a Dios una promesa que seguiremos Jesús en una forma particular. Prometemos:
  • Lear la Biblia regularmente
  • Rezar diariamente
  • Participar de la Cena de Señor
  • Trabajar para abstenerse de pecado, y arrepentirse cuando se encuentra en pecado
  • Proclamar por palabra y el amor el ejemplo de Jesús para el mundo
  • Intentar servirle a Cristo en todas las personas
  • Amar a otros como a si mismo
  • Luchar por justicia en sus comunidades
  • Buscar la paz en sus vecindades
  • Respetar a los demás, hombres y mujeres
  • Tratar otros con dignidad
Éste es trabajo arduo.
La red tiene que aferrarse para sus redes. Es trabajo arduo mantenerse enfocado en el ministerio de Jesús. El mundo querrá que usted enfoque la atención en otras cosas. El mundo le jalará.
El trabajo le jalará. Sus amigos le jalarán. Los poderes y las autoridades le jalarán.
Usted puede permanecer en agua de poca profundidad toda su vida entera, puesto que no le invita como Jesús los invitó. Pero uno confirmado está en las aguas profundas, el agua de discipulado donde la vida en Cristo es vivida.
Usted debe descartar la red de adicciones, comodidades, y una vida fácil y elegir arriba de la cruz y siguen a Jesús.
Deje caer las cosas que le entrampan y enreden. Deje caer sus redes.
Las voces de este mundo le dirán ya haya estado allí. “Usted ya ha probado eso. Usted ya se ha vuelto lo suficientemente profundo. No arriesgue nada. No juegue juegos de azar en Jesús. Él es simplemente otro profeta. Ésta es simplemente otra iglesia.” Éstas son las mentiras que le dirá a usted mismo para que usted no tenga que dejar caer sus redes y seguir Jesús.
¿Seremos usted y yo tan atraído para oír las palabras radicales de Jesús para seguirle en las aguas profundas?

¿O, nos quedaremos dentro de la seguridad de la costa?

Estaremos listos, cuándo nos es preguntado, alcanzarán lo profundo y oscuro para llegar a la gente, haremos eso?

Estaremos dispuestos a ir a esas personas a quienes Jesús nos envía?

Estaremos dispuestos para obedecer el señoría de Cristo?

¿Somos capaces verdaderamente arrepentirnos y nombrar las cosas que nos poseen?

Estaremos dispuestos apartarnos de ellos y seguir a Jesús?

Vacilar, demorarse, es perder la oportunidad de ministerio.

Debemos suplicar, Señor que me llamas, da me la fuerza para entrar en las aguas profundas contigo. Da me la fuerza para ir a fondo y ser tu misionero de las buenas noticias. Da me la fuerza Señor para dejar caer las cuerdas que me atan por el amor que me llama por señas a seguir.



  • "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