The Ultimate Word

"The ultimate Word is not a paragraph but a person. If Jesus is the Word of God incarnate, then the heart of proclamation is personal and relational, not propositional."

Marjorie Hewitt Suchocki * God, Christ, Church, page 135

Thursday, December 24, 2009

A little Christmas Eve carol



Happy Christmas Eve!

Here's a little celebratory carol as interpreted by our friend, Stephen Torrence - perfect for a long night at church!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

What Gift Can We Bring?



The gifts that I received for my ordination were a bit overwhelming.  (That's a word that I've been using a lot lately when thinking about the ordination - overwhelming...  So much of it was.)

But the gifts, in particular, were overwhelming.

On one hand, it feels a little strange getting gifts on the occasion of an ordination - or it does to me, anyway.  This is mostly because the ordination itself is such a gift.  Being given the opportunity to be a priest is a gift.  So to receive gifts on top of that seems almost too much.

It's not that I'm not grateful - exactly the opposite, really.  I'm so grateful that I have a difficult time forming the words.

I received many gifts from so many people who have been a part of my life.  Some for a few years, some for longer than I can remember.  Each of the givers had given me so much over the years, and here they are - giving gifts again.

Three of those gifts in particular deserve some additional reflection.


The chasuble and stole, in which I was vested after being ordained, were designed by me.  My mother came to visit this summer for the sole purpose of going with me into the city to help me to find the right fabrics for the design that I had in mind.  She and my father purchased those fabrics and other adornments and we sent them to my Aunt Ginny who constructed the chasuble according to my specifications.

It really is quite remarkable.  Aunt Ginny, I am sure, had never even heard of a chasuble.  And yet, when I asked her to make it, she easily agreed.

She is, of course, an accomplished seamstress.  But she didn't do it for the love of sewing.  She did it out of love for me.  Whenever I wear it I will feel that love - worked into each stitch of the garment that was produced almost entirely by hand.

I have said from the beginning of thinking about this chasuble that my hope was that it would be "traditional, but not off the rack".  Eventually I began to realize why that was so important to me.  It's like the kind of priest that I hope to be: honoring and respecting the ancient traditions of the church - taking my share as a priest of those ancient traditions - but still new and unique in a way that honors the new work being done by God through me.

I will be forever grateful for this gift from Aunt Ginny.  The gift not just of a garment, but of a symbol for my dreams for my priesthood.


Another significant gift was my chalice and paten.  My cousin Robby had the idea of getting my cousins and aunts and uncles together to give the chalice, and my parents gave me the paten.  It was a gift from all of them on that side of the family.  And if that weren't special enough, they passed a card around between them - despite being scattered around the country! - and included that in the gift.  It was almost even more special.  Even those few who couldn't be with us for the ordination, were able to be there through their words.

It's amazing - the giving of a Eucharistic vessel.  I'm young, and I expect to be a priest for a long time.  I expect that I'll stand at many different altars and hold many different Eucharistic vessels as I preside at the Eucharist more times than I'll be able to count.  But these vessels will go with me.  They will hold the body and blood of Christ - as it is known to us in the breaking of bread and as it is known to me in the love of my family and community.  They are beautiful, but nowhere nearly as beautiful as the love that they represent.


Finally, I was given this pectoral cross.  It belonged to the Rt. Rev. Frederick Wolf, the Sixth Bishop of Maine.  Bishop Wolf was the bishop who ordained my friend and mentor, the Rev. Elizabeth Kaeton.

As I understand the story, +Fred was initially reluctant to ordain Elizabeth+ out of a fear that she would be "an embarrassment to the church".  To our great fortune, he eventually came around and ordained her.  But she took that calling seriously and has worked tirelessly for more than 23 years to prove him right - to embarrass the church everywhere that it needed it and to call it to repentance.

When +Fred died, his pectoral cross was given to Elizabeth+, along with his prayer book.

Elizabeth+ gave me that cross on the day of my ordination as a priest.

I am humbled.

I will treasure it for the rest of my life, and hold it as a symbol of the mark that Elizabeth+ has left on my own priesthood.

The common thread which runs through all of these gifts is that of love and community.  That community raised me, both in my family of origin and its extensions, and in the larger family of friends, colleagues, and mentors.  It continues to raise me and to love me.

That's the love and community to which Christ is calling us.

I know this.

I know about love and community and family and support.

But when I forget, I'll have some outward and visible signs to remind me.

Maybe it is all too much.

But so is the love of God.  I am so grateful for that abundance.

***UPDATE***

Here's a picture of +Fred - a scan of a photo of a portrait (hehehe...) given to me this morning by Elizabeth+.  I hope you'll enjoy it as much as I do.


 

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Bruce Springsteen endorses Marriage Equality



In the Garden State, this stuff is currency!

Give Bruce some lovin' at www.BruceSpringsteen.net

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Prepare ye the way of the Lord




6 December 2009
Advent 2C
Luke 3:1-6

Merciful God, give us grace to greet with joy the coming of Jesus Christ, our Redeemer. Amen.

“Prepare the way of the Lord.”

Or perhaps this is one of those instances where the King James Version fits a little better than the New Revised Standard Version that we read in The Episcopal Church: the King James would say, “Prepare ye the way of the Lord.”

Rather than focusing entirely on the way that is to be prepared, the King James Version puts a bit more emphasis on the preparer: Prepare ye the way of the Lord.

If you hear nothing else this Advent, I hope this is what you’ll hear and remember. It’s the central message of Advent. It is our primary task in Advent: for us to prepare the way of the Lord.

Earlier this week, as Rev’d Elizabeth and I were talking about this text, she said something that spurred my thinking. She asked why Jesus needed the way prepared. If Jesus really is Christ – the anointed one of God and God incarnate among us – would our meager efforts at preparing really be necessary? Can it be that this one who would overcome death, stands in need of our help in overcoming the powers of this world?

It seems unlikely.

But even so prophets both old and new call us to prepare the way of the Lord.

If you’ve ever prepared for something really big, you probably already know a piece of the answer. I’ve often heard people speak of their marriages or the birth of a first child as the kind of thing for which one is never really prepared. You read all the books. You set up the nursery, or seek the counsel of your priest. You plan the wedding. You schedule the baptism. You have showers and send announcements to your family and friends. You order your lives into a common home. You make changes that make that home safe for an infant.

But in spite of all of the preparations, are you ever truly prepared for the reality of being a spouse or a parent?

I am, right now, in the last days of my preparations for becoming a priest. This process of preparing has been ongoing literally for years. From the more general preparations of prayer and study, to the planning of endless details about the ordination liturgy and accompanying celebrations. In just a few days my family and friends will begin arriving and months and years of preparations will be set into motion.

But in spite of all of the preparations, can I ever truly be prepared for the reality of being a priest? [note: at this point, Elizabeth could be seen shaking her head to say "no"...]

This is where we find John, “the Baptist”, in the story of that first Advent of Christ.

God had been preparing us for as long as there had been God. From the Garden of Eden, to the enslavement in Egypt, to wandering lost in the desert, to kingdoms, to exile, to temples and their destruction – the arc of history had been long, but it had been bending toward the incarnation. And in these last days the preparations were happening at fever pitch.

But in spite of all of the preparations, could the people of God have ever been truly prepared for the reality of the incarnation?

It’s not an accident that these final preparations were happening in the midst of the wilderness. Just as John cried out the news of the incarnation from the snares of the wilderness, that’s how we always find it. The story of John’s wilderness was of a literal one – full of fear, danger and loneliness – but for the Jewish people it was the wilderness of living in an occupied land under oftentimes-oppressive foreign rule. And any time that we are unaware of the incarnation of God in our lives, we, too, are wandering in wildernesses of our own – equally full of fear, danger, and loneliness.

It’s in the midst of that wilderness that the prophet cries out, “Prepare ye the way of the Lord!”

It’s in the midst of that wilderness that we are given the impossible task of “preparing” for something that we can’t even fully imagine – the incarnation of God.

I don’t think God really needs us to prepare God’s way. I believe in the unimaginable power of God and I believe that God could make the paths straight without us. But I do think that we need to prepare the way of the Lord – not for God’s benefit, but for our own.

Can we ever really prepare for the really big changes of our lives? For being a parent or a spouse or a priest? Can we ever really prepare for the interceding of God into our wilderness?

Probably not.

But it is in the preparing that we are prepared. The preparations are much less important than is the preparing. That was the message of the prophet in the wilderness of that first Advent and it is still the message of the advents in our wildernesses today.

It has been observed that every “Good Friday” leads to resurrection. In the midst of the “Good Fridays” of our lives – the times of mourning and grief and sorrow – that truth can be hard to see. But in sure and certain hope our faith pushes us toward the pain’s complementary Easter, even when it seems beyond our field of vision.

So, too, every one of life’s wildernesses can be an advent of the incarnation.

We may never be really prepared to “greet with joy the coming of Jesus Christ”. It’s hard to remember in the wilderness what that even means. We can become so distracted by our mountains and valleys and crooked paths and rough ways that we forget what “joy” even can be. But even so we are called to prepare. We prepare in the sure and certain hope that our preparing will prepare us – that the rough places will, through the miracle of having encountered God, be made smooth.

Prepare ye the way of the Lord. Amen.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Party in the USA



So yeah...  following the New York Senate's massive failure on the Marriage Equality front today, I'm not much in the mood for a "Party in the USA"...

But this video of the song in sign language by Stephen Torrence has been making me smile all week.

I don't know ASL, but his expressions and obvious passion have taken this song, that I frankly don't care that much about, and turned it into something really cool and fun.

I hope it makes you smile as much as it keeps making me smile!

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

World AIDS Day



This video, by arguably the most influential of American theologians, is still one of the best sermons on subject of AIDS that I've ever encountered.

A few years ago, when Madonna's Confessions tour was live, the Evangelical and other neo-conservatives were up in arms.

"She's on a cross! She's wearing a crown of thorns!!", they cried.  As if that was enough to convict her of heresy.

Didn't they see why she was invoking the very powerful symbol of the cross?

Call me a heretic, but I'd argue that this pop star who wouldn't admit to being a Christian even if she was one, gets soteriology and Christology more than most clergy.

Just think about it...

12,000,000

children are orphaned by AIDS

20 million children will be without parents by 2010

without help these children will die before they're 2

  

If I ran away I'd never have the strength to go very far; how could they hear the beating of my heart; will it grow cold, the secret that I hide, will I grow old; HOW WILL THEY HEAR; WHEN WILL THEY LEARN; HOW WILL THEY KNOW?
 For I was hungry, and you gave me food.

I was naked and you gave me clothing.

I was sick and you took care of me.

And God replied,

"Whatever you did for one of the least of my brothers...

...you did it to me."

                        Matthew 25:35


At which point, she removes her crown of thorns and prostrates herself.

AIDS is still real.  It is not finished or a passed fad or yet controlled.  People are still suffering.  They are hungry, naked, and sick.

So our work is not yet done.