Wednesday, August 15, 2018

In memory of Chris Nunn, friend and fisherman

Dearly Beloved mother, children, and friends of my friend Chris Nunn. It grieves me not to be present with you as Chris was a friend who deserves the highest possible honors and the greatest measure of respect. He would understand, as I hope you do also, that my prior commitment to preside at a wedding has to be precedence.
Chris taught me a lot about fishing and hunting, and every time I wade into the Au Sable or some other stream I am listening in my head to his running commentary on water conditions, what bugs are hatching, or some fish he had caught in that particular spot at some time in the past. Sometimes I could barely believe what he was saying- like the time he took me on a back road somewhere Up North and stopped his truck at a place where a small stream ran under the road through a metal culvert about 8 feet in diameter. Chris put a night crawler on a small hook at the end of my line and told me to let it drift down stream into the darkness under the road. Of course, within a few seconds I had caught a 9” brook trout.
How had Chris discovered this unlikely fishing spot? It seems he spent every waking moment on the lookout for places where brook trout, or pheasants, or grouse, or steelhead might congregate, places no one else would ever dream of.
Another such place was on the Black River, where Chris took his Dad and I one winter day in search of steelhead. Chris parked by a sign that read, “No trespassing. No Fishing.” “Don’t worry,” Chris assured us before heading off through the woods, “I know the guy”. Larry and I set off on a different path, looking for a place to access the river. After we had walked awhile a stranger came running through the woods behind us. “You guys are under arrest for trespassing and resisting arrest.” Resisting arrest? Larry explained that his son “knew the guy”, and the man said, “I AM ‘the guy’, and I have given permission to no one.” I guess he realized we were harmless because all he did was walk us back to the truck and then drive away. When Chris emerged from the woods he said, “what was all that about?” We told him it was part of his plan to get his father and his priest locked up.
That wasn’t really a plan on his part, but he DID try to pull a trick on Larry and the other old time hunters on opening day of pheasant season a number of years ago. On the night before opening day he called to tell me that he had purchased some farm-raised pheasants and released them in the field where we would be hunting the next morning. “Don’t tell my dad,” he said, “I want to hear what they have to say about “the birds are coming back almost like they used to be in the 1940’s”. Sure enough, the next morning the dogs were flushing an unusual number of pheasants as we walked across the field, and Larry was commenting about it and making reference to 1941 or 1942 when a pheasant flushed right in front of us, but before either Larry or I could raise our guns the dog jumped up and caught the bird in his mouth! “That is not a wild bird, “ Larry announced, “Chris, did you put tame pheasants in this field”? So the truth was out.
So Chris taught me a lot about hunting and fishing, but he also taught me about heaven. I don’t mean a place up in the sky, but as in “thy kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven,” I mean when life is as it should be, and the walls that separate us are finally broken down. It seems Chris was always trying to organize the most epic of all fishing trips, an expedition to the most perfect fishing spot involving all the people he liked to fish with. One such place he talked about was a nameless stream somewhere in Canada where, he said, we would hitch a ride on a freight train through the wilderness and have them stop the train to let us off beside a bend in that stream, and we would camp there and fish for days until the train came back. “Jon”, he said with intense conviction, “those brook trout are 18” long!” That trip was too ambitious and too long for me to undertake, but I have formed a mental image of that place, where the brook trout are huge and a river runs through it. Now, of course, my mental image includes Chris, stirring up the campfire and watching for the rest of us to arrive. Larry is already there with him.
We don’t have to search for that place in the wilds of Canada because we are already there. In one place in his writings St. Paul wrote, “nothing can separate us from the love of God in Jesus Christ our Lord.” Neither height nor depth, time nor eternity, sickness nor even death can separate us from the love that Chris made known to us as a parent, a son, an outdoorsman, and a friend.
Thanks for letting me be a part of your gathering today. “Into your hands, O Lord, we commend your servant Chris. Acknowledge, we humbly beseech you, a sheep of your own fold, a lamb of your own flock, a sinner of your own redeeming. Receive him into the arms of your mercy, into the blessed rest of everlasting peace, and into the glorious company of the saints in light. Amen.”

Sent from my iPad

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Archbishop’s sermon to Anglicans in Zimbabwe

So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find.'
'When it happens, everyone will say, He is our God! We have put our trust in him, and he has rescued us.'
Jesus' parable of the great marriage feast is both one of the most joyful and one of the most challenging of his stories; and it speaks very directly to us as we gather here today. It begins with the picture of a great monarch who wants nothing but to invite people freely to feast with him. He has made all the preparations; there is enough for everyone to eat; he wants his guests to be joyful and fulfilled – in body and spirit!
And then the responses begin to arrive. One after another, the guests he wishes to honour find excuses for not accepting his generosity. They are too occupied with their own private interests to come and share a great public celebration. And so the king throws the doors open and invites anyone and everyone who is willing to come – anyone who is hungry enough to walk through the door, anyone who is eager enough for happiness and welcome to come and enjoy it. All the king wants is that his gifts should be received and that they should create joy.
Our God is a God who wants us to receive what he gives. He pours out his gifts in the world – the gifts of natural resources, the gifts of human skill, the gifts of human love and understanding – and he invites us to use them so that together we may find joy, together we may grow to maturity, together we may be glad and grateful for each other. His purpose is justice: not an abstract idea of fairness, but a situation where every person has the fulfilment God desires for them, without interference from others who want – in Jesus' own words – to shut up the Kingdom of Heaven against them. 'You lock the door to the Kingdom of Heaven in people's faces, and you yourselves don't go in, nor do you allow those who are trying to enter!' says Jesus to his enemies in Mt 23.12.
Because this is part of our problem. It is not only that some refuse the invitation of God to share his abundant love and generosity. It is all too easy for us human beings to try and block that love and prevent it from reaching others. You know very well, dear brothers and sisters, what it means to have doors locked in your faces by those who claim the name of Christians and Anglicans. You know how those who by their greed and violence have refused the grace of God try to silence your worship and frustrate your witness in the churches and schools and hospitals of this country. But you also know what Jesus' parable teaches us so powerfully – that the will of God to invite people to his feast is so strong that it can triumph even over these mindless and Godless assaults. Just as the Risen Jesus breaks through the locked doors of fear and suspicion, so he continues to call you and empower you in spite of all efforts to defeat you. And in the Revelation to John, the Lord proclaims that he has set before us an open door that no-one can shut. It is the door of his promise, the door of his mercy, the door into the feast of his Kingdom.
In your faith and endurance, you have kept your eyes on that open door when the doors of your own churches have been shut against you. You have discovered that it is not the buildings that make a true church but the spiritual foundations on which your lives are built. And as we together give thanks for the open door that God puts before us, we may even find the strength to say to our enemies and persecutors, 'The door is open for you! Accept what God offers and turn away from the death-dealing folly of violence.'
There is the message that the Church of God exists to announce. God has poured out his gifts in abundance: why must we human beings wreck and spoil these gifts by our sinfulness? God has given us the promise and hope of his mercy in Jesus Christ: why is it so hard to admit mistakes and sins? How strange it is that we so often behave – yes, even we who are Christians – as though we cannot survive unless we silence all voices of challenge or criticism. And God has given so many gifts to this land. It has the capacity to feed all its people and more. Its mineral wealth is great.
But we have seen years in which the land has not been used to feed people and lies idle; and we have begun to see how this mineral wealth can become a curse – as it so often has been in Africa, as people are killed and communities destroyed in the fight for diamonds that will forever be marked with the blood of the innocent. A few months ago I was in Congo and saw and heard some of the tragedies that arose out of a war fuelled by greed for minerals. Can we hear the voice of our Creator crying to us - like the blood of Abel 'out of the ground' itself – 'Why will you turn my gifts into an excuse for bloodshed? Why will you not use what you have for the good of a community, not for private gain or political advantage?'
Of course, to say this is at once to recognize that it was just this natural wealth that provoked the greed of colonists and imperialists in the past. No European can say these things without being aware of what one of my predecessors, Michael Ramsey, once said about 'the debt we owe to Africa' after generations of white rule. For a long period in this country, an anxious ruling class clung on to the power they had seized at the expense of the indigenous people and ignored their rights and their hopes for dignity and political freedom. How tragic that this should be replaced by another kind of lawlessness, where so many live in daily fear of attack if they fail to comply with what the powerful require of them. As we together give thanks for the gifts of nature that God has given us and the gifts of solidarity and the gift of freedom from foreign exploitation, can we stand together to say to all our political leaders and rulers, 'Listen! Not only to the voice of those who suffer but to the voice of God himself, grieving over the way we ruin his creation, the voice of Jesus weeping over Jerusalem, longing for his people to open their hearts to justice and peace and mercy.'
This Eucharist is the sign of God's purpose for all of us; it is a feast in which all are fed with Christ's new life, in which there is no distinction of race, tribe or party. In this community there can be no place for violence or for retaliation: we stand together, sinners in need of grace, proclaiming to the world that there is room at God's table for all people equally. What the Church has to say to the society around it, whether here or in Britain, is not to advance a political programme but to point to the fact of this new creation, this fellowship of justice and joy, this universal feast. It is on the basis of this vision that we urge all people to say no to violence, especially as the next election approaches in this country; to discover that deep reverence for each person that absolutely forbids us from treating them as if their welfare did not matter, from abusing and attacking them.
The message we want to send from this Eucharistic celebration is that we do not have to live like that – in terror, in bloodshed. God has given us another way. He has opened a door of possibility that no-one can shut. He has announced that he will welcome all to the marriage feast of his Son – and so we see that all, even our bitterest enemies, still have a place in his peace if they will only turn and be saved. Did you hear what St Paul said in today's epistle? 'Fill your minds with those things that are good and that deserve praise: things that are noble, right, pure, lovely and honourable.' We need to feed ourselves and most especially to feed our young people with such things, to hold before us that great new possibility opened up by God for our minds to be transformed, to be excited not by the false thrills of violence and bloody conflict, by the overheated language of party conflict, but by the hope of joy and reconciliation.
And this also lays upon us the duty to keep alive our own concern for those lest able to help themselves. The Church of God is – or should be – the great hope of the poor; not just as a source of material help, important as that is, but as a source of hope and a guarantee of human dignity. The Church could not exist with any integrity if it forgot that every person is of immeasurable value in God's eyes and so immeasurably worthy of our attention and service. In this country in recent years, you, our Anglican brothers and sisters, have been more and more active and courageous in this practical service, and in reminding the whole society of the universal dignity that the gospel implies. You have also been faithful to those who suffer from the HIV pandemic, which has ravaged a whole generation; and, like Christians elsewhere in Africa, you have been at the forefront of challenging the stigma that can make the suffering so much more bitter and can prevent people from facing the problem honestly. You know that the truth will make you free. To tell the truth about the sufferings and fears people endure, but also to tell the truth about their value in the sight of God – this is the most effective way of banishing stigma and prejudice and superstition.
Dear friend in Christ, you have given so much to the Church worldwide and to your neighbours in this great and troubled country. Day by day, you have to face injustice and the arrogance of 'false brethren' as St Paul would call them. You must often have prayed with the Psalmist, 'We have been treated with so much contempt. We have been mocked too long by the rich and scorned by proud oppressors' (Ps 123.3-4). Yet you must know that we give thanks to God for you – for your patience and generosity and endurance. Your life here is tortured by uncertainty and the constant risk of attack, yet it speaks to all of us in the worldwide Communion of the victory of Jesus Christ and the undefeated will of God to welcome people into his Kingdom and to seat them at the table of his Son so that we can celebrate the marriage of heaven and earth in the fleshly life and death and resurrection of the Lord. 'We have put our trust in him and he has rescued us.' Today we are able to enjoy a foretaste of that rescue and that heavenly feast in the Eucharist. And the free invitation of God to be reconciled and healed, to leave behind the paths of violence and injustice, is once again spoken out as we gather – spoken out to this country and to the whole world. What can we say or pray except to cry out with Our Lord, 'Whoever has ears, let them hear!'

Friday, March 30, 2018

Poem...Maundy Thursday, 2013

Maundy Thursday

Eucharistic night
Occasion of blessing
Upper Room
Impending doom.

Sacred meal
Washed feet
Word spoken
Circle broken.

You who with Jesus
Make anamnesis
Remember the future
Now is the past.

The Father’s humility
Jesus’ affinity
Body’s reality
Divine hospitality.

The Ark has been opened
The Commandments refined
Love is your mandate
Red is the wine.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Notes on Mike Kinman at “Epiphany Series”02/21/2018

Mike Kinman at “Epiphany Series” Feb 21 2018

“Capitalism is the dominant religion in America”. For churches and other organizations fixed costs go up, staffs shrink, and work loads expand to keep “production” at the same level. Looks a lot like enslavement. Require  church staff to observe a “sabbath”. Begin meetings w 2 minutes of silence. 

Richard Rohr: 4 evolutionary stages of organizations
Man-a visionary who draws others
Movement-inspires intense energy and commitment 
Machine-institutionalized supports intended to maintain the movement
Monument-energy shifts to maintaining the machine 

Added “M”- Mausoleum- the edifice is all that remains of the Movement

Examples of “returning to the Movement” - “Do we believe in a God who is continually breaking into history?”- 
Thistle Farms- “a combination of Benedictine norms and 12 Step spirituality”
Black Lives Matter- “I met Jesus there...”
Signs- “I wept more. I laughed more. I was more confused. I struggled more.”

The institutional church can discourage “movement” thinking because we are accountable to people w deep roots in the Machine.
Think of “church” as more than the institution... “The Beloved Community” does not reject the Machine...ideas of Josiah Royce, and WEB DuBois developed by Howard Thurmond and MLK in a theological direction...”the highest and common good... which calls forth an unshakable confidence because it is God who will ultimately accomplish it.” Trap of progressives in general: no theology/spirituality to sustain it.

Resistance from the Machine
Be sympathetic: you have been to “Ghana” while they stayed home in the Machine.
Use theology: creation...”you are made good/ in the image of God. Often “in disguise” (Hays Rockwell) nothing can deprive you of your essential goodness. Whites often react with shame. Adam and Eve were “naked and unashamed”. At The Fall they didn’t so much become bad as they did become ashamed.
Guilt= “I did something bad”
Shame= “I am bad.”  (Brene Brown)
No need. To wallow in guilt because of whiteness or work in a corrupt system. Trust your beloved ness. (Me-I am an idiot. But a beloved idiot.)
In Egypt the people forgot their belovedness. Exodus 3:7-8 “The Lord said “I have observed...”. What do we observe...?

Theology...creation/image of God/liberation from slavery/incarnation

In Ferguson interfaith Group did not “lead” or even attempt to “influence”. Took off clerical garb and went out “to meet Jesus”. 
Question ourselves: how are we Monuments? How are we Mausoleums? Cultivate courage to challenge our dependence on the Machine. Build a network of support...that’s what “keeps you off the streets”. To decline to do what you believe Jesus is calling you to do is soul killing.

“Despoil the Egyptians”. The Machine provides “cover” (my words). Outside users of church property are not “guests” they are part of the mission.  The church is not our possession. Reduce “us/them” and create just “us”. 

In a Theology of Abundance power is not in limited supply. In the Eucharistic model the power of Christ is limitless. Everyone contributes to the holy mess and everyone receives back a piece of everybody else transformed. 
It’s ok when people opt out. Continue in relationship/prayer. Reconciliation does not mean “they change and agree with me.” We are all transformed. 
Faith= “ voluntarily show up and do something incredibly difficult in the hope of transformation.” 
Church responds well to crises but not when it becomes chronic. (Me: the crises becomes chronic...all of ministry and theology tries to translate the chronic into the crises. “Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again”= “Christ is a crises. Christ is chronic. Now what?” Don’t blame Mike Kinman for that one. It’s mine, and a work in progress/dumb idea?

Stop defining The Church by avg. Sunday attendance! Church is the Movement, which needs “freedom fighters” not “allies”. 
Radical Reconciliation- book by Allan Boesak and Curtiss DeYoung ...reconciliation not being “nice” not an agreement to overlook difference. Means exchange places with the other. Establish commonality and solidarity with the other. Overcome alienation and replaces with identification. All are transformed.
We come to see the other’s dead children as our own. Feel it. Let the oppressed define what solidarity looks like. Radical welcome=your life is bound up in mine. “Recognize each new person changes us for the better.”
In church life “lift expectations/provide resources/accountability. “Everybody is struggling with something; everybody is beloved”...creates a bond.

“Create a space to receive belovedness”

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Christ Mass 2017

Those were unpromising times in the Promised Land. 
High taxes.
Incipient terror lurking, while
                 rampaging autocrats compete in the high halls of power.
No place for an expectant mother and her anxious spouse.

No place for a baby.
In Ethiopian icons (like the one above) the figures gaze obliquely at each other
                   with luminous eyes.
Even the animal onlookers watch, wide-eyed and wondering,
                   with eyes that see beyond Bethlehem, beyond Ethiopia, beyond us
                   and our own unpromising times.
The saintly glances, averted from the scene, seem drawn to some off-stage
As if to see all births, all refugees, tyrants and terrorists of other times, popes
                   and presidents of the future and the past.
Their eyes are large to behold a larger world,
A world including us as we are truly seen: awe-struck asses, ogling oxen,
                  nimbic babies basking in light
                  beaming from our mothers’ open eyes.
Christ Mass 2017

Monday, October 23, 2017

Blaqze Orange and Advent

In Pennsylvania Deer Season and Advent coincide on the calendar. Both seasons involve ancient rituals, observe time honored traditions, tell often-repeated stories, and encourage great expectations. Both involve the wearing of certain color-coded vestments: blue or purple for church; blaze orange for deer hunting. Both seasons have their origins in the wilderness. “The voice of one crying in the wilderness,” begins the Gospel of Mark, “Prepare the way of the Lord.” Advent calls for a return to the sources of faith and identity, to the darkness before  dawn where we can see through the eyes of our spiritual ancestors, who looked out upon the world in wonder and amazement and gratitude. As the first light dawns, it is as if we can witness the creation of the world, and the outrageous miracle of our being there to see it. Without wilderness, there is no Advent. 

 In Advent we are “hunting” for God, but, amazingly, God comes “hunting” for us. The

hunter becomes the hunted, stalked by a ghostly presence. Yet, despite our vulnerability, we find ourselves
without shame or fear, because this powerful being is the most

gentle of predators, the kindest of adversaries. To be swallowed by God is the happiest of fates.

To be ambushed by God is to cast out all fear. To be preyed upon by God is the epitome of

prayer. To die with God is to be reborn with Christ at Bethlehem, in Michigan, or in heaven.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

kenotic pleroma

“ Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself…” (Philippians 1:6)
Kenosis is the word in the Greek New Testament, meaning “to empty.” And so, coming to Jesus is to approach an emptiness, an empty tomb, an empty place at the table, an abandoned temple, a space  devoid of icons, symbols, or sacraments. Anything resembling divinity has escaped down the rabbit-hole, back into whatever wonderland it came from.
This is a familiar emptiness, as familiar as the chair in which my mother used to sit before she died, as familiar as the living silence of old forests, or the monastic pauses at the asterisks* in psalms.
In contrast, the Epistle to the Colossians speaks of “fullness”, in Greek, pleroma, stating, in 2:9 and 10,  “…in [Christ] all the fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have come to fullness in him.” This fullness is familiar also, from the births of my children, and experiences with music, rivers, liturgy, and love.
Between kenosis and pleroma there is a contrast, but no contradiction. Our coming to God is a sacred emptiness, a living silence, a “kenotic pleroma”, a powerless authority, an exalted humility, a crucified majesty.
“At the name of Jesus, every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth.” (Philippians 2:10)