Saturday, May 24, 2008

Andy wins! Another GenX Bishop!

Thirteen years ago, I graduated from Virginia Theological Seminary (Class of 1995) along with dozens of other folks who aspired to serve God in lay or ordained ministry. One of the fun games we used to play is "Who is going to be the first bishop from our class?" Well, looks like we have a winner! Our class president, C. Andrew Doyle ("Andy" to us) was just elected as Bishop Coadjutor of the Diocese of Texas. Though not quite as fresh-faced as we all were those many years ago, Andy is nevertheless to be the second-youngest bishop in the Episcopal Church (behind Sean Rowe, of Northwest Pennsylvania, also a VTS grad). That makes him one of only a handful of Generation X bishops.

Congratulations, Andy!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Ordinary Time

There is great anticipation here in Oregon, and across the country, of this coming Memorial Day Weekend, the official start of Summer. Summer brings to mind images of rest, relaxation, warm days and (in Oregon, at least) cooler nights. In the church there is the inevitable Summer slowdown as people take off for vacation, or sometimes just take a vacation from church!

Liturgically, we have just finished the season of Pentecost, dipped briefly into Trinity Sunday, and have now embarked on the long time period known as "Ordinary Time." I just ran across a great devotional piece on Episcopal Cafe, a portion of which reads:
Ordinary Time [the Seasons after Epiphany and Pentecost] is the time of the Church, of the daily life of every Christian community, and of each one of us. It is the time not of a brief effort during which one hurries or even runs in order to progress on the way, but the time when one goes at a measured pace in order to cover a long distance.

As a rule, it is not the time for great conversations, for decisive choices made at one time or another in one's life. But it is the time for a painstaking, though at times wavering, faithfulness; the time for an obscure faith that sustains daily life; the time for a self-effacing hope that holds us steadfast and keeps us from stopping at the first difficulty; the time for charity writ small.

At St. Alban's, the months of June and July will be a time of prayer and discernment leading up to our Program Planning Retreat in August. Perhaps for everyone, though, the arrival of Summer is a reminder that so-called "ordinary time" can be an extraordinary time to relax, re-focus, and re-create. As I mentioned in my sermon of last Sunday, the church is the ultimate re-creational vehicle!

Friday, May 09, 2008

Obama Reaches Albany

This won't be long, but I did want to note that presidential candidate Barack Obama stopped off in my little town of Albany, Oregon today and I was fortunate to be one of 2,500 people in a town-hall style meeting at the Linn County Fairgrounds. I was also fortunate to be one of the many to shake his hand as he entered the speaker's area. I didn't hear too much that was new, but it was a thrill to be there and to be in contact, literally, with someone who has an excellent chance of becoming President of the United States.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

It's all about Jesus

There is a great deal of material to be found across the web, in blog after blog, about the trials and travails of the Episcopal Church. People have dug into canonical processes, hierarchical charts, and accusations and counter-accusations. It sometimes seems as if this particular part of the Body of Christ is at war with itself. As I thought about that, a passage from St. Paul's letter to the Romans came to mind:
So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God's law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord! (Romans 7:21-25)
I certainly find this at work in my own life--even when I want to do good, even when my "inner being" delights in God's law, there is sometimes the sense of spiritual lethargy that sneaks up on me and the battle is joined between good and evil, right there in the choices I make each day. Might I submit that the same is true in the church? Certainly, as the Body of Christ, we do not have the same essence as the corporate, political, or social structures. The Body of Christ, like Christ himself, does not have a "sinful nature." Yet, to the extent that the Body of Christ is made up of flawed, human, and sinful "members," we do not function to our fullest or in perfect harmony. We are always subject to dis-ease, that is, anxiety and lack of focus and vision.

The only solution to this, it would seem to me, is the solution that St. Paul offers: God through Jesus Christ. After all, it really is all about Jesus. I ran across a great sermon by The Rev. Frank Logue, Rector of King of Peace Episcopal Church in Kingsland, Georgia, referenced in his blog regarding the scriptures appointed for tomorrow. The point of the sermon, and of the illustration contained within it, is that the members of the church are the only "plan" to spread the Gospel, the good news of God's plan of salvation. There isn't a Plan B. For that reason, it is all the more important for the church to focus on that message.

After all of the lawsuits, the accusations, the counter-accusations, the charges of heresy, apostasy, all of the name-calling and labeling, what really matters is our relationship with Christ. What really matters is Jesus. We are in a world that is changing every minute and that does not appear to be getting better in the changing. Nothing is solid, nothing stable. This is not unlike the first century church, where there was massive upheaval. Into that maelstrom of persecution, dis-ease, and anxiety, what does St. Peter say in tomorrow's Epistle?
Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, so that he may exalt you in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you. Discipline yourselves, keep alert. Like a roaring lion your adversary the devil prowls around, looking for someone to devour. (1 Peter 5:6-8)
It strikes me that the biggest temptation we face as a church in today's world is not the temptation to commit blatant sin, to rebel against God, or even to go off on our own and neglect our relationship with God. The greatest threat to the contemporary church may be the temptation towards complacency, despair, or lethargy. How many new ministries are we raising up? How many churches are we planting? How many disciples are we making? From all accounts, not nearly enough. We still have a death grip on what has gone before, on what we used to have, on what the world was like. We are often so afraid of losing what we have, we are not open enough to what God may yet have for us. That is the true danger--that, like the disciples, we are still looking up and waiting for God to save us rather than knowing that we are empowered by the Holy Spirit for mission and ministry.

If we use the analogy of the lion, the church's greatest difficulty is that we are not alert for the danger of that roaring lion, we are simply milling around, often oblivious, and sometimes disinclined to run anymore. If we keep our focus on the Lion of Judah, that is, Jesus, and a wary eye on that other lion, perhaps we will be a little less likely to mope around, whine, and complain, and more likely to get on with mission and ministry in the world. After all, the lion is still out there.