Saturday, September 15, 2012

Justice and Jesus -- An Anglican Approach

At tomorrow's Adult Christian Formation session (9 - 9:50 am in Schuyler Hall), I'll be leading us through a conversation on "Justice and Jesus." As Anglicans, we have a particular way of "doing theology" that places authority first in scripture then in tradition (which, as Jaroslav Pelikan notes is "the living faith of the dead not the dead faith of the living!") and in reason (our own thought, conversation and lots of room for the Holy Spirit). I hope you can be there, but if you can't (or in preparation for being there) ... here are our guiding prayers, vows, scriptures and wisdom from tradition ... as well as the questions we will be grappling with (that's the reason piece).

Go ahead and start the conversation in the comments section! All thoughts welcome!

Guiding Prayer
O God of unchangeable power and eternal light: Look favorably on your whole Church, that wonderful and sacred mystery; by the effectual working of your providence, carry out in tranquility the plan of salvation; let the whole world see and know that things which were being cast down are being raised up, and things which had grown old are being made new, and that all things are being brought to their perfection by him through whom all things were made, your Son Jesus Christ our Lord; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Guiding Vows
Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself?
I will with God’s help.
Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?
I will with God’s help.

Guiding Scriptures
Matthew 6:25-33
Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? Therefore do not worry, saying, “What will we eat?” or “What will we drink?” or “What will we wear?” For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But strive first for the kingdom of God and God’s righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

Questions for discussion (reason)
*What is God’s righteousness? How does it differ from self-righteousness?

*What is the choice that is being presented to us in this reading?

Monday, September 3, 2012

Gnaw on This ... The Gospel for This Sunday

The Gospel isn't meant to be gulped down on a Sunday morning, but gnawed on through the week so it really becomes a part of us.
You've got to work at it ... like a dog with a good bone!
Here's the Gospel for this Sunday ... with some notes and more "food for thought"

15th Sunday After Pentecost - Mark 7:24-37
From there Jesus set out and went away to the region of Tyre. He entered a house and did not want anyone to know he was there. Yet he could not escape notice, but a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit immediately heard about him, and she came and bowed down at his feet. Now the woman was a Gentile, of Syrophoenician origin. She begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter. He said to her, ‘Let the children be fed first, for it is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.’ But she answered him, ‘Sir, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.’ Then he said to her, ‘For saying that, you may go—the demon has left your daughter.’ So she went home, found the child lying on the bed, and the demon gone.

Then he returned from the region of Tyre, and went by way of Sidon towards the Sea of Galilee, in the region of the Decapolis. They brought to him a deaf man who had an impediment in his speech; and they begged him to lay his hand on him. He took him aside in private, away from the crowd, and put his fingers into his ears, and he spat and touched his tongue. Then looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, ‘Ephphatha’, that is, ‘Be opened.’ And immediately his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly. Then Jesus ordered them to tell no one; but the more he ordered them, the more zealously they proclaimed it. They were astounded beyond measure, saying, ‘He has done everything well; he even makes the deaf to hear and the mute to speak.’

The Backstory - What's Going On Here?
This section of Mark sees Jesus breaking barrier after barrier -- from the feeding of the 4,000 and walking on water to healings and casting out demons. Last week we saw Jesus tangle with the Pharisees about the barriers set up by the Law ... and reframe them in terms of what honors God best.

Immediately, we see Jesus take the conversation with the Pharisees and put it into action. And he keeps upping the ante. Not only does he go straight to Gentile territory. He has a conversation with a Gentile. And it's a woman. And he lets her touch him! And it's a woman with a demon-possessed daughter! And he is open to her changing his mind! And he heals the girl! And then with the deaf man, he even puts his fingers in his ears and touches his tongue. Jesus continues to break barrier after barrier. The reader must wonder ... where will it end?
A few things to chew on:
*The Syrophoenician woman argues with Jesus, comes back at him even after he insults her (he calls her a dog!). Sparring with God is nothing new in scripture - think of Jacob wrestling with the angel and Abraham bargaining with God in Genesis. All three examples lead to closer relationship with

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Souls to the Polls and Voter Registration -- What, Why, and How

One of the things your Chapter and clergy staff are trying to do is remove the mystery about how things work and how things happen at Christ Church Cathedral. Last week, I wrote this post (What is *Christian* Outreach at Christ Church Cathedral) and updated you on the work of our Outreach Visioning Team ... which (among other things) will be proposing to Chapter a process for discerning which outreach ministries we should embrace as an entire congregation.

In the meantime, I was approached by the Rev. Traci Blackmon of Christ the King United Church of Christ to see if Christ Church Cathedral would be a part of Souls to the Polls, an ecumenical movement afoot among 31 churches (so far) in the St. Louis metro area to help get out the vote on Election Day, Nov. 6.

Christ Church Cathedral is now a "Souls to the Polls" congregation. But I want to be clear how we got there ... and invite conversation and feedback as much about the process as the outcome. Remember, we're all in this together.

First, what is Souls to the Polls?
Souls to the Polls is Rev. Blackmon's idea (I know Traci from our work together on Magdalene St. Louis). It is a nonpartisan effort that I believe comes from two common principles:

1) As Christians, we believe faithful exercise of the vote for the greater good is part of loving one another as Christ has loved us (John 13:34)

2)As Americans, we believe nobody should have his or her right to vote taken away or discouraged.

Many of us (myself included), believe that voter suppression ... particularly among the poor, elderly and minorities ... is alive and well. But you do not have to share that opinion to be part of Souls to the Polls. You just have to recognize that the poor, homeless, disabled and elderly face many challenges accessing the vote ... and be willing to help.

For a congregation to participate, all they need is a congregational coordinator who can rally volunteers in the congregation and act as a liaison between the church and the citywide effort. All volunteers need is a vehicle (theirs or the church's), driver's license and valid insurance.

Second, how did Christ Church Cathedral become a "Souls to the Polls" congregation?
When Pastor Blackmon invited us to join, I asked her to put us in the "maybe" category and I attended an organizational breakfast at her church. There, I became convinced that this was truly a nonpartisan effort, and that the two principles above (which are my distillation of their mission) were ones that the vast majority of people not just in our Cathedral congregation but in the diocese whose cathedral we are could embrace.