Monday, October 30, 2006

Ministry Tips from a Three-Year-Old

Who needs seminary?

Wisdom I've learned so far from my three-year-old son about handling the ups and downs of parish ministry:

Sometimes when you're badly behaved and otherwise stubborn and difficult, all you really want is to be loved.

When you're hungry, eat. When you're full, stop. When you're tired, sleep. When you're awake, play. Everything else is for special holy days or else reason to complain.

Playing with water is enormous fun.

When confronted with babbling, all you need to do is listen. (And if you can't, at least pretend.)

Owies need band-aids. . .LOTS of band-aids.

Look folks in the eyes when you want their attention.

Keep it short and to the point. I'm BUSY.

Sometimes do it in a messy way. Order is overrated.

Never get between me and my mommy.

Sometimes it's better to go to your room and shut the door than to stay and say something mean.

The packaging is much more fun than what's inside.

Breaking routine takes herculean effort. Don't expect that to change.

If you want it to happen, keep pestering until it does.

The most fun about getting dressed is choosing your own clothes. . .

. . .the less fashionable, the better.

The fastest way to get nothing done is to try pushing harder.

Kicking and screaming are a form of honest communication. It's best not to kick or scream back, though.

Tears, smiles, and laughter matter more than words.

Music is great. Can we dance?

Blow bubbles.

Table manners are important. . .but only when the food is worth it.

If you aren't being heard, say it again LOUDER.

Read to each other. It's so much more fun than reading alone.

Put pillows down before jumping.

Take your favorite toys, just in case.

If a space is empty, fill it.

If things are put away, get them out.

If it belongs here, move it over there.

If somebody wants something, hide it.

Amen is a great response to every prayer. It's also a great way to stop a prayer that's too long (especially before a meal.)

If in doubt, sing.

Ignore what you don't like. If it persists, ignore it more.

Sometimes it's okay to approach the altar without reverencing (a.k.a. It's my altar, too!)

If you want something, lower your voice and turn on the charm.

Be wary of people who think they know what you want.

I want my bread!

Sharing is a great idea, especially when somebody else has something you want.

Playing with others is so much more fun than playing alone. So is getting into trouble.

No place is more boring than the Rector's Office.

I Reckon

I reckon it's about time.

News is brewing that the Presiding Bishop's Chancellor is calling for the cards of a handful of bishops who have brazenly led their dioceses to the brink of leaving the Episcopal Church.

I think they have left already, and I know I'm not alone.

While Bishop Iker of Fort Worth complains about being shocked by the decision calling him to account, I'm shocked that he doesn't seem to understand a call to all of us to be mindful of what it means to be in community. . .to be accountable to each other even when we disagree.

No matter how things get painted up in the coming days, it strikes me that this move coming from our new Presiding Bishop is not about evangelicals vs. progressives, conservatives vs. liberals, or any other vs. you can come up with. This is about community. This is about communion.

There is no righteousness in trying to cleverly write our way out of communion with each other, while splitting canonical, moral, and ethical hairs to retain our property and pensions. Or, on peril of our souls, to cloak our understanding of Christ's will for us with ongoing vitriol.

In the Episcopal Church, we've all had enough years of bearing the spiteful, patronizing actions and words far beyond thoughtful and courteous dissent. I sure have. And I've been around the block far fewer times than many.

With all the appalling advertising, mudslinging, and fractious rhetoric of an upcoming election in this country; with all the ongoing threats of divisive war, terrorism, and despair in the world. . .

Well, it sounds to me as though ++Katharine Jefferts Schori, after several attempts to appeal to the better side of Bishop Iker and others, has decided that it's about time for the Church to start behaving again like the Church. Like we are a community again: a community for a world that desperately needs community of the real kind.

We may not be a community of one mind, but we are committed to be a community honestly seeking a way forward in truth without rancor. . .perhaps even with a degree of humility -- something we all desperately need. . .perhaps even with some charity for each other -- and that we need even more.

Our bishops who don't behave as though they want to be in that kind of community. . .who can't seem to model this kind of Christian being for the rest of us, even if only officially. . .are finally put on notice. It's about time. . .

. . .at least I reckon.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

A Dancing Trinity

Bishop Marc Andrus brought the 157th Convention of the Diocese of California to our feet last Saturday with a rousing and profound address that anchors our action as Christians both in the historic call of Christ through the Church and the dynamic life of the Spirit.

We are indeed richly blessed by Bishop Marc's ministry with us!

From his address:

"The field for the divine dance is both here and on the whole earth. Our call today is to dance the joyful triumph with Christ, overcoming hatred, suspicion, and evil – combating global human suffering." Read more.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Podcasting Novice

Just set up podcasting of sermons at Church of Our Saviour. . .

You can download the recent casts here.

Or, here's the feed to subscribe to:

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Back Online

Coming up for a breath of air. . .

Getting my feet under me at Church of Our Saviour the past few months has been an all-consuming but rewarding journey. Mill Valley's a quiet town, but not without a great deal of culture -- from its film festival to the famous dipsea which trots brave runners up one side of Mt. Tam and down the other.

Things in the greater world have not stopped for my blog (thanks be to God), but the hiatus is over. The schismatics are now sending salvos, as can be seen at Meditatio and Preludium. I offered my own thoughts in today's sermon reflecting on Jesus' heavy-hitting teaching on divorce from the Gospel According to Mark.

I'm blessed that the feisty parish here wants to stay posted on events in the wider communion. There's no being disconnected here, so much work ahead!


It's good to rekindle the blog again.


Divorce in the Inbox

The Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 22

Year B (BCP Lectionary)

Sunday, October 8 th, 2006

Today’s gospel is one that any sensible preacher dreads – a short, pithy teaching about divorce that cuts in every direction. Coming right out of Mark’s Gospel, which tends not to mince words anyway, Jesus’ teaching sounds particularly pointed. And for any and all of us who have had to live through the pain of divorce – whether or own or someone we deeply care about – Jesus’ words can be more than just difficult. He seems to walk right into the midst of the pain and confront us with it. This is not the kind man of the beatitudes, or the warm shepherd leading his flock. These are the hard-edged words of an apocalyptic teacher caught up in a no-holds-barred debate with the religious authorities of his day. . .

And caught up in a debate with us, God’s People, about the very nature of human relationships – and how seriously we are called by God to take them.

In Jesus’ day, marriage was not as we in the West now view it – a contract between two individuals – but an agreement between families, the combining of blood lines and a public understanding between men: namely the groom and the father of the bride. The wife involved was a transaction of particular importance, most valued for her ability to bear a male heir for her husband. The transaction would be completed by her leaving her father’s household and entering that of her husband. But even then, she remained a stranger to her husband’s family – an outsider who would only gain status when her hoped-for son would arrive, at last bringing her esteem as mother of the heir.

With a narrow understanding of marriage like this, there was more than one reason around honor for a man to divorce his wife: she might not bear a son, she might not be able to bear any children at all, she might displease his family. And if he divorced her, he brought shame on her father’s household, who might exact revenge or otherwise start a bitter feud that could go on for generations. Divorce, you see, in Jesus’ time – while not beyond the power of women to initiate – was largely the man’s prerogative. And the divorced woman was only the property involved – if she were not reclaimed by her father, she would have to turn to begging. . .or worse. And even if she was taken back into the household of her birth, the rest of the society was likely to see her as nothing more than damaged goods.

So, Jesus stands up in today’s gospel for the women of his day, and for the fabric of the local community, which could be irreparably damaged by the fallout from a nasty dissolution of marriage. In our age we might be tempted to suppose this teaching is not so relevant to us, where no-fault divorce is pretty commonplace and – generally, at least – both parties and their families can move on without much stigma.

Yet words are easy. No matter what popular culture today tells us, divorce is not. Any of us who are survivors of divorce, however necessary it might have been, know even that in the most amicable ending of a marriage, the pain still touches our lives and the lives of those we care about most deeply. And no legal formula is prepared to address that.

This is the failure of the Pharisees’ question in today’s Gospel. It asks if divorce is lawful. Jesus takes a big and faithful step further. He sees marriage, in the narrow sense – and human relationships in the broad sense – as substantially more than legal contracts. . .much more, in fact. Appealing to the very heart of the Hebrew story of creation in Genesis, he talks about the one-fleshedness of humanity. Women and men are made of each other. So are sisters and brothers, parents and children, and friends and strangers. All of humanity is made of the same stuff. We belong to one another.

Jesus calls the Pharisees and us to view marriage and all covenanted human relationships not through legal eyes, but through God’s eyes. That we are all one flesh. And until we can most deeply embrace this as individuals and as God’s children, we are likely to continue the tragic cycles of divorce.

* * *

Arriving in my inbox Friday afternoon was an e-mail targeted, it seems, at all the rectors and vicars of The Episcopal Church across the country. It announced that the time for schism had come, and if I wanted to lead Church of Our Saviour out of the heretical Episcopal Church and join the “real” Anglican Communion, and the “real” Christian family, now was the time for me to start educating you all about it. A few clicks away were the usual list of suspects of disgruntled and highly vocal members of the church agitating for schism – a group now sporting the title “Lay Episcopalians for the Anglican Communion.” I gather the assumption is that the rest of us aren’t for the Anglican Communion, because we might think somewhat differently about human sexuality, the ordination of women, what biblical authority means, or the interpretation of scripture.

Insults aside, the e-mail was upsetting enough on its own merits that it gave me pause. In the name of Christ, the e-mail was self-righteously heralding a communal divorce – a spiritual-ecclesiastical surgery to further divide the Body of Christ. Baptism and sharing in the broken bread isn’t enough, it seems, to keep us together. The bitter question in my mind was what kind of Christian witness would this schism give to a world already in the throws of multiple divorces of its own on a grand scale?

But maybe that’s too small a worry. Since the potential for schism in the Anglican Communion made headlines for a brief time this past summer, the world media has had much bigger fish to fry. With the multiplicity of divisions growing in the Middle East, the rising sectarian violence in Iraq, and the nuclear ambitions of a paranoid regime in East Asia – well, 2,000 years after Jesus argued about it with the Pharisees, divorce on all scales is still clearly much a part of the pain of the human family.

Our common blood remains in crisis, both inside and outside the church. When Jesus accuses the Pharisees of being hard-hearted, he also indicts the entire human family for our continued cold treatment of each other. Whether it’s decades of neglect and exploitation of our brothers and sisters in the Middle East – by their own governments, by militants, and by our thirst for their treasure – the starvation of the North Korean people by a tyrant who claims divinity; or the ongoing threats of schism in the Anglican Communion, all in the name of being right with God.

Jesus’ teaching today is for all of us, married or not, divorced or not, trying to reconcile with our neighbors and our communities, or learn again to live with our families. Jesus raises up the story of people made in the image of God, crafted out of the stardust as one flesh, one bloodline: a reminder of a common heritage that not even our most painful divorces can deny. God in Christ wants the human family whole. And before us is a long and difficult journey into deeper love and true peace we have yet to make.

In response to our shared pain, Christ offers himself in the bread and the wine and calls us around the table, where we are no longer strangers; where all of us who are children of one or many divorces may find healing; where the nourishing breath of the Spirit re-enters our bodies and souls and calls us back into the family of God. Where we are called to pray for those who have hurt us and those we have hurt.

Divorce of all kinds may haunt us and the human family for a very long time to come. But here, today and every day, we are offered the heart of Christ: to begin again to be renewed as the Children of God, children of one blood, sisters and brothers in the great human family, and bring hope to a world thirsty for an end to strife.


Bruce J. Malina and Richard L. Rohrbaugh, Social-Science Commentary on the Synoptic Gospels. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1992. pp. 240-43