A comprehended god is no god.

A comprehended god is no god.

A wise saying by saintly John Chrysostom

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop’s Christmas Message 2013

The following message is presented in English and Spanish
“May that royal inheritance and authority of the stable be born in you, enliven your heart, and rest on your shoulders.”
[December 12, 2013] Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, in her Christmas Message 2013 prays: “May you discover that humble authority born again on the edges of the world’s notice. May that royal inheritance and authority of the stable be born in you, enliven your heart, and rest on your shoulders.”
The following is the Presiding Bishop’s message:
Christmas message 2013
For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.    Isaiah 9:6
Isaiah pronounces these words to a people who remember the yoke of slavery laid on their shoulders.  They’ve been waiting for this child, whose birth transforms that yoke into a mantle of authority.  They are promised that this authority will continue to grow as the peaceable commonwealth is established – with justice and righteousness for all, and for ever.
This promise is spoken anew to people in every age, to those who have lived under oppression or in dark depression, to the hungry and ill and imprisoned.  The birth we celebrate offers hope, in Word made flesh, who comes among us to heal and walk this way with us.  The mantle of authority on his shoulders begins in the swaddling clothes of a child born in the humblest of circumstances.  Yet that authority is recognized even by foreigners from far away.  That mantle of authority does continue to grow, through a life offered for others, raised into new life, and passed on to new generations of fleshly God-bearers.  Wherever justice and righteousness is done, that authority is growing, borne on the shoulders of the Prince of Peace.
He comes again, bearing the grace of the One whose image he wears in flesh.  Seek him, sing his new song, declare his glory, and tell out the good news to all the nations:  God reigns, and he is coming bearing righteousness and truth on his shoulders.
May you discover that humble authority born again on the edges of the world’s notice.  May that royal inheritance and authority of the stable be born in you, enliven your heart, and rest on your shoulders.  Bear it abroad in peace, this year and throughout the ages.
The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori
Presiding Bishop and Primate
The Episcopal Church

Mensaje de Navidad del 2013 de la Obispa Presidente de la  Iglesia Episcopal
“Que la herencia real y dominio del estable nazca en usted, alegre su corazón, y permanezca sobre sus hombros”.
[12 de diciembre de 2013] La Obispa Presidente de la Iglesia Episcopal Katharine Jefferts Schori, en su Mensaje de Navidad del 2013 ora para: “Que usted descubra ese dominio humilde nacido de nuevo en los bordes de la conciencia del mundo. Que esa herencia real y dominio del estable, nazca en usted, alegre su corazón, y permanezca sobre sus hombros”.
A continuación el mensaje de la Obispa Presidente:
Mensaje de Navidad del 2013
Porque un niño nos es nacido, un hijo nos es dado, y el dominio estará sobre su hombro. Se llamará su nombre: Admirable Consejero, Dios Fuerte, Padre Eterno, Príncipe de Paz. Isaías 09:06
Isaías pronuncia estas palabras a un pueblo que recuerda el yugo de la esclavitud en sus hombros. Han estado esperando por este niño, cuyo nacimiento transforma ese yugo en un manto de autoridad. Se les promete que esta autoridad seguirá creciendo a medida que se establece un reino de paz – con justicia y rectitud para todos y para siempre.
Esta promesa es hablada de nuevo a la gente de todas las edades, a aquellos que han vivido bajo la opresión o en la depresión oscura, a los hambrientos y enfermos y encarcelados. El nacimiento que celebramos ofrece esperanza en la Palabra hecha carne, que viene entre nosotros para sanar y recorrer este camino con nosotros. El manto del dominio sobre sus hombros comienza en los pañales de un niño nacido en la más humilde de las circunstancias. Sin embargo, ese dominio es reconocido incluso por los extranjeros que vienen de lejos. Ese manto de la autoridad sigue creciendo, a través de una vida ofrecida para los demás, planteadas en una nueva vida, y se transmite a las nuevas generaciones portadora de la carne de Dios. Dondequiera que se haga justicia y rectitud, ese dominio está creciendo, llevada en hombros del Príncipe de la Paz.
Él viene otra vez, teniendo la gracia de Aquel cuya imagen Él lleva en carne. Búscalo, canta su nueva canción, declara su gloria, y habla de la buena nueva a todas las naciones: Dios reina, y Él viene trayendo  justicia y la verdad sobre sus hombros.
“Que usted descubra ese dominio humilde nacido de nuevo en los bordes de la conciencia del mundo. Que esa herencia real y dominio del estable, nazca en usted, alegre su corazón, y permanezca sobre sus hombros”. Llévela afuera en paz, este año y a lo largo de los siglos.
Reverendísima Katharine Jefferts Schori
Obispa Presidente y Primada
La Iglesia Episcopal

Monday, June 24, 2013

Gospel for the Gerasenes

Sermon for the Fifth Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 7
22 June 2013
Year C

On the morning I was going to be ordained my younger brother left this post on my facebook page:

Disappointed and concerned… my brother is being ordained today… he has no exorcism training… no anti-vampire or werewolf training. You can forget Zombie apocalypse training… Looks like I’ll be on point today identifying potential ‘Daywalker threats’!!!

Now to be sure he did end his post with “…In all seriousness though, I’m proud of you Steve.” He was joking. But he raises a good question, how does one know if they are ready for ministry? So when Father Mark asked if I’d like to preach today, on stories full of demons, I was glad for the opportunity to reflect on this question. In response I would like us to consider together three corresponding points. First, we need a strong foundation that readies us for action, second, we need to remember that ministry is a community effort, and third, our communities are called to be about kingdom work. First we will discuss our need of a strong foundation that readies us for action.

This is made clear in the Collect for today (a collect is a prayer that helps gather the people of God together):

O LORD, make us have perpetual love and reverence for your holy Name, for you never fail to help and govern those whom you have set upon the sure foundation of your loving-kindness; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

It is a simple truth but one that can evade us. “… you never fail to help and govern those whom you have set upon the sure foundation of your loving-kindness.” What is our foundation? We are set upon the sure foundation of God’s loving-kindness in Christ Jesus. In fact, Jesus is the loving-kindness of God in action. How is Jesus Christ our foundation and how are we readied for ministry? You are probably familiar with this great hymn of the Church:

The Church’s one foundation is Jesus Christ her Lord, she is His new creation by water and the Word. - Words by Samuel J. Stone, Music by Samuel S. Wesley

Jesus is made our sure foundation through belief in Jesus as the incarnate Word of God and through the waters of baptism. In baptism we are made members of Christ’s Body, the community of all faithful believers, and gifted by the Holy Spirit for ministry.

 Next, it is important to remember that ministry is a community effort. In the first reading, we hear about Elijah and some of the troubles he was facing. He had committed murder and rightly fears for his life. He pulls, what some would term, a ‘geographic’, thinking that he can leave his troubles behind. Unfortunately, our troubles have a tendency of following us. Eventually, we have to face them. Facing our difficulties can be made easier if we are part of a community.

Perhaps some of Elijah’s problems were due to his poor mental state. It is important for the Church to talk about mental health issues from time to time and help reduce the stigma and fear often associated with mental illness. Was Elijah suffering from severe depression or some other kind of mental distress or illness? The following early warning signs of mental illness are combined with what the text tells us about Elijah’s behavior and feelings:

·      Eating or sleeping too much or too little – Elijah had trouble sleeping under the broom tree, after the messenger brought him food he went back to sleep again; then he went without food for 40 days.

·      Pulling away from people and usual activities – he left the city, everyone he knew, and isolated in the wilderness.

·      Feeling numb or like nothing matters – Elijah wanted to die, saying, “It is enough; now, O LORD, take away my life, for I am no better than my ancestors.”

·      Having persistent thoughts and memories you can’t get out of your head – Elijah replayed the same tape in his head over and over again, he could not think of anything else.

·         Feeling helpless or hopeless – Elijah saw no solution to his problems. He felt abandoned.

Nb. Information gathered from Health and Human Services new website on mental health - MentalHealth.gov

 God did not abandon Elijah, but appeared to him in the sheer silence. Elijah was given a job to do for the good of the people and his own good. He later returns and anoints new and better King’s over Israel and Aram. He found a companion to share in his work and eventually to take up his mantle of leadership after he was gone. He learned that he was not alone. He learned that ministry is a community effort. He found improved mental health through connecting with others and helping others build up the kingdom.

We are also called to participate in building up of the kingdom. It is God’s desire that we live an abundant life, one of health and wholeness, which is what the Hebrew’s called shalom. Yet we know people that are troubled by demons, past trauma or abuse, face biological factors, or have a family history of mental health problems. The Gospel story is about healing and mental health.

Mark Allan Powell’s book, Introducing the New Testament, helps place stories about demons in perspective. Powell states, “Healing stories overlap considerably with accounts of exorcism. In the Bible, possession by an evil spirit does not cause a person to become sinful or immoral; rather, it causes the person to become blind or deaf, to have seizures or be crippled, or to experience some other sort of physical or emotional distress.”

There was a man who once lived in the city among family, friends, and neighbors. How he came to be plagued by demons we are not told. What we do know is that his poor mental health caused him to live in isolation. He became homeless. He may even have tried to hurt himself. He feared God was against him. When asked his name all he could talk about was the legion of problems in which he felt trapped.

Jesus healed him. The word Luke uses here for healing can also mean “salvation.” Healing is a sign of God’s salvation. Salvation is at the heart of Luke’s Gospel. After meeting Jesus the man was restored – to relationship with God, with himself, and with his community. Even though some in his community were a little uncomfortable with someone who had been plagued by mental health problems, Jesus asked him to return home. Now clothed in his right mind he was filled with gratitude and told everyone who would listen about what Jesus had done for him.

          Both Elijah and the man from the country of the Gerasenes had their share of problems. God’s loving-kindness served as their foundation. In community they found an end to their isolation. They found companionship. They found greater peace. They were asked to participate in the building up of the kingdom. May we also find our home, our foundation in God’s loving-kindness, and answer God’s call to participate in the building up of the kingdom, for our own good and the good of all people.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

The Twelfth Day of Christmas and Soteriology

In seminary we learn a lot of big words and confounding concepts. One of which is soteriology. It is more or less the study of what Christ's atonement means for humanity. Now we are stuck with another big word - atonement. Atonement, at least according to The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, has to do with "man's reconciliation with God through the sacrificial death of Christ." Though there are many theories of atonement, one stands out at this time of year, Christmastide, and shines light on what the presence of God among us means - Emmanuel!

One of my friends in seminary was trying to explain to me something about Relational Atonement. I'm pretty thick when it comes to theology and though I did not fully appreciate it at the time it did make an impression. Relational Atonement speaks of God sending his only son, Jesus Christ, to share, not only our experience as humans, but to take on our human nature. By taking on our nature, he has effected a change in human nature, and has brought our nature into communication/union with God. This idea was held by St. Athanasius and many theologians of the Eastern Orthodox tradition. Athanasius held that Jesus became man that we might be made divine (De Inc. 54). This divinization, enabled by God in Jesus Christ, focuses less on theories of satisfaction and substitution, and more on the incarnation. It is the nature of God that saves us! We are mystically embraced in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Relationship is restored with our heavenly Father. 

Another eastern theologian, St. Chrysostom, wrote a poem for Christmas that echoes this approach. I love this poem because it focuses on the mystery of atonement. The last two lines, "Because God is now on earth, and man in heaven; on every side all things commingle." also speak of the effect of the Babe of Bethlehem's presence among us. These are truly days of wonder and hope for all peoples!

God on Earth

Truly wondrous is the whole chronicle of the nativity.

For this day the ancient slavery is ended,

the devil confounded,

the demons take to flight,

the power of death is broken.

For this day paradise is unlocked,

the curse is taken away,

sin is removed,

error driven out,

truth has been brought back,

the speech of kindliness diffused

and spread on every side--

a heavenly way of life

has been implanted on the earth,

angels communicate with us

without fear.

Why is this?

Because God is now on earth,

and man in heaven;

on every side all things commingle.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Sermon for Advent IV - St. Thomas the Apostle

The Work of Christmas by Howard Thurman

When the song of the angels is stilled,

When the star in the sky is gone,

When the kings and princes are home,

When the shepherds are back with their flocks,

The work of Christmas begins:

To find the lost,

To heal the broken,

To feed the hungry,

To release the prisoner,

To rebuild the nations,

To bring peace among people,

To make music in the heart.

Source: The Mood of Christmas; by way of Church of Our Saviour, D. C.