bon mots from Jo+

November 27, 2022

The annual visitation of Bishop Russell is the highlight of the celebration of our patronal feast at St. Andrew’s By-the-Sea this first Sunday of Advent. This Sunday is the confluence of many other reasons to celebrate. It is the first Sunday of the new Church year, the first Sunday of Advent, the first rite of Reception and Reaffirmation since Jim and I came to be your priests, the first Sunday after the conclusion of our “More Than Enough” stewardship program for the Year of the Lord 2023, and colloquial birthday celebration of all November birthdays, and the day we remember St. Andrew’s Day which is November 30th.

Most biographical notes on this Apostle begin “Andrew was Simon Peter’s brother” as he is described in the Gospels. Identifying Andrew as Peter’s brother makes it easy to know who he is, but it also makes it easy to overlook the fact of Andrew’s special gift to the company of Christ’s followers. The Gospel according to John tells how Andrew, a disciple of John the Baptist, was one of two disciples who followed Jesus after the Baptizer had pointed him out, saying of Jesus, “Behold the Lamb of God” (John 1:29). Andrew and the other disciple went with Jesus and stayed with him. Andrew’s first act afterward was to find his brother and bring him to Jesus. We might call Andrew the first missionary in the company of disciples.

I have always seen Andrew as the youngest of the closest of Jesus’s disciples. He epitomizes the definition of an apostle, as one who is sent. He was sent to gather more fishermen to be taught how to fish for people to follow Jesus. He was sent to go to find food among the thousands gathered to hear our Lord. Andrew found the boy with the two fishes and five small loaves of bread. And after Jesus took and blessed and broke the bread, Andrew helped with the sharing with the multitude. He helped distribute food to the hungry crowd. In my sanctified imagination, I see I see him encouraging those in the crowd to add their lunch to the basket, with the result being that all were fed well and many baskets of food being leftovers.

Though Andrew was not a part of the inner circle of disciples (Peter, James, and John), he is always named in the list of disciples, and appears prominently in several incidents. Andrew and Peter were fishermen, and Matthew’s Gospel records Jesus calling them from their work in their boat and their immediate response to his call. We hear little of Andrew as a prominent leader; he seems always to be in the shadow of Peter. Eusebius, the Church historian, records his going to Scythia, but there is no reliable information about the end of his life. Tradition has it that he was fastened to an X-shaped cross and suffered death at the hands of angry pagans.

Andrew is the patron saint of Scotland. November 30th is the day the church commemorates Saint Andrew, our patron saint. You may notice that my stole for this Sunday, the first Sunday of Advent, is a traditional blue plaid; this particular one is the tartan of the Lord of St. Andrew in Scotland. I ordered a number of yards of the wool from Scotland years ago while serving at my first church, St. Andrew’s in Calgary, Alberta, in Canada. I made three stoles of that lovely wool plaid, one for the church, one for the retired priest there, and one for me. I am proud to wear it this Sunday to honor Saint Andrew. To be good stewards of time this Sunday, we are not doing the “Kirkin’ of the Tartans” (Blessing of the Tartans), and we have no bagpipes. Sigh.

November 6, 2022

On All Saints a few years ago on the occasion of the Installation our Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, who often calls us the Episcopal Branch of the Jesus Movement, reminded us that in the midst of struggles and confusion that “God has not given up on the world, and God isn’t finished with The Episcopal Church yet. We are the Jesus Movement. So don’t worry; be happy!” as jazz musician Bobby McFerrin and reggae Bob Marley both sang.

Jim and I were blessed to be there at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., on that momentous day. We all had such hope that we were on the precipice of a new world.

We may be discouraged and disappointed and down-right apprehensive about our country these days, but we need to remember The Beatitudes that are always read for the Feast of All Saints. What the world called pitiful, Jesus called blessed, turning conventional wisdom upside down. He was always turning 1st century world and lives – even our lives in this 21st century – upside down, which is really right side up. And that should give us hope this November.

The Reading from the New Testament that All Saints Day was from the Revelation to John:

I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “See, the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them as their God; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them; he will wipe every tear from their eyes.  Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more.
                                                                                             Revelation 21:4

Bishop Curry reminded us that we need to envision a world where there would be:

No more war.

No more suffering.

No more injustice.

No more bigotry.

No more violence.

No more hatred.

Instead the world would be governed by:

The rule of love.

The way of God.

The Kingdom of God.

The realm of God.

The great Shalom.

The dream of God for us and all people is that love  – the love of God and the love of neighbor – will conquer all. Everything hangs on those two realities. We have hope because the Jesus Movement is alive. And we are the Episcopal branch of that movement.

God has not given up on the world.

And God is not finished with the Episcopal Church.

Don’t worry. Be happy.

(Many thanks to the PB for inspiration this All Saints Day and every day.)

October 23, 2022

The Feast of St. Luke was last Tuesday, October 18th. A young man of 17 [David Schwab] spoke of the of the miracles of modern medical technology “Computers, Mom, they’re doing God’s work!  They’re not Jesus, Mom, but they’re doing God’s work.”  In response, his mom [Betty Lynn Schwab] wrote this:

“Healing in Our Computer Age”

Surprising, life-giving God,

when Jesus walked among us

he cured the lame

made the blind to see

healed the wounded

and ended epileptic seizures in the young.

Today in Britain, a brilliant physicist writes and talks with a speech synthesizer.

Today in America a computer bypasses the optic nerve and eye and a blind teenager sees.

Today in Canada microsurgery repairs a fetal hernia before a baby boy’s birth into our world.

Today around the world focused radiation shrinks tumors

medical imaging reveals it’s just a cyst

an implanted electrode enables the brain-injured to walk

and delicate robotic surgery repairs an elderly man’s heart
with a piece of vein from his own leg.

Ours is not a perfect world.

Risk is part of every choice and act.

Not all tumors shrink.

A solution is found too late.

Life support must be shut off.

Unforeseen damage comes.

Yet we have much for which to give you thanks and praise:

our growing knowledge of the human body,

computer technology increasingly able to restore and give back life,

medical science pushing back frontiers of disease,

new medical procedures,

successful new drugs,

dedicated nurses, technicians, and doctors,

patients willing to try,

people living in hope,

people working hard.

Like Lazarus and the kneeling leper,

like the centurion’s servant and Tabitha,

we bow in gratitude before you.

Surprising, life-giving God, we pray for your Wisdom and your help:

help us in our sickness and our health,

in our living and our dying;

inspire those working on our frontiers.

Guide us all in all our hopes and fears.

May your vision of a healing world be born.

In the name of the One who healed

And whose Spirit heals today, Jesus Christ.

October 9, 2022

I carry a spent red plastic 12 gauge shotgun shell in the console of our RAV4. I picked it up from the ground right under my brother’s deer stand in Louisiana. It was from the last deer he shot the hunting season before he died. Sonny had a rare disease that caused disfigurement of his face. The tumor invaded all of his head, and, in spite of treatments and surgery we knew that eventually critical nerves and blood supply would be compromised and that would cause his death. Sitting in his yard talking about his boys, about our dad, about life and death, he told me that he had stopped going to church. Sonny was a strong Christian. He believed in miracles. He knew that he was being healed, just in a different way than we all wanted. Sonny stopped going to church not because of a crisis of faith, but because he was afraid his appearance would scare the children. He became a self-imposed social outcast.

In ancient times leprosy could cover all sorts of skin afflictions including seriously disfiguring disorders and simple psoriasis and seborrheic dermatitis, not only what we today call leprosy or Hansen’s disease. But those who had what was originally called leprosy were outcasts, unclean, those who wore bells to alert people to keep their distance, people on the margins, the ones who begged for help – but always just out of reach – and out of mind – of those who entered the beautiful gates of the holy city of Jerusalem.

Hawai’i established isolation settlements as early as 1865 in an attempt to control the spread of leprosy. People were relocated to Moloka’i. They became lost; many still suffer broken connections with their families and communities. In 1894 the Louisiana Leper Home was established in an abandoned sugar plantation on the eastern bank of the Mississippi River in Carrville, Louisiana. Many entered the gates under mandatory quarantine and never left the hospital again. Effective medications existed since the 1940’s, so isolating people with this disease in “leper colonies” is not needed. But some people who suffered from leprosy choose not to return to society. There are a few elderly former leprosy patients who remain in the leper colonies in Hawaii. The facility in Carrville, Louisiana, is still open for patients who want to remain even though mandatory quarantine ceased to be law in the late 1950’s

With proper diagnosis Hansen’s disease – leprosy – can be cured. And with early treatment it is not even contagious, although real leprosy never was highly contagious. 95% of people are naturally immune to leprosy. And on average, the cost to bring about the cure and the necessary after-cure treatment to one person affected by leprosy is only $350. This covers education, distribution of medication, ongoing support, including necessary surgery, rehabilitation, vocational training and assistance in community reintegration. But reintegration into society is not always possible. Once a person has been marked a social outcast, how can he or she again become part of a community that rejected them? Just by interacting with the ten lepers Jesus risked making himself ritually impure. Yet Jesus chose to become like the leper. He chose to be part of the socially outcast. He chose to be like my brother Sonny. Jesus can and does take on all our maladies, all of our sins, and he cures us. But we have to humble ourselves. We have to reach out and ask. Can we figuratively kneel before Jesus and beg to be healed? Do we even want to be healed?

September 25, 2022

Remember the story of the widow who was gathering wood to cook the last bit of her stores for herself and her son before they were going to lie down and die of starvation? Elijah happens upon her and asks her to cook him some bread. He gives her the promise of never-empty jars of oil and flour. But first the widow must take the risk. (See I Kings 17:10-16.)

When faced with diminished resources (like after damage from a hurricane or the restrictions of COVID) what do we at St. Andrew’s By-the-Sea do? We get creative. We roll up our sleeves and get to work. We stretch our funds to sustain our services and outreach ministries to feed and clothe the hungry and provide bikes for those without transportation and keep up the air conditioners and pay our staff and our bills, all with Vestry approval. Our Vestry has taken necessary steps so that we had enough. Indeed, we have had more than enough. Our Blue Door Ministry has expanded reaching more and more clients in the last two years and recently has added more care for our brothers and sisters. During COVID our Bike Ministry was able to provide for the needs of so many with what we had and could repair. God has been good to us. We have seen an abundance of goods and volunteers, enough to sustain the church and her ministries, and more than enough to share. But first we had to take a risk. We had to trust God to provide enough. And God has given us more than enough!

Trusting in God to continue to bless us, where do we go from here? The first draft of the 2023 Budget is being prepared. It will be approved by the Vestry and presented to the congregation at our Annual Meeting of the Parish on December 11th. Our “Next Steps” that came out of 20 weeks of intentional listening to the Holy Spirit and each other during the “Listen and Hear. Hear and Listen” discernment. The “Next Steps” that came directly from all of us, have been shared with the entire congregation twice recently, but I include them again here:

  1. The vestry will provide a detailed financial report to the parish twice a year.
  2. Provide a report to the parish on the cost of operating and maintaining our facilities, including the anticipated cost of unanticipated problems (e.g., failure of another air conditioning unit).
  3. The vestry, with the advice of the development task force and the consent of the rectors, will appoint a “property working group” to review and recommend workable options for management and possible disposition of one or more of our four plots encompassed in our property.
  4. The vestry will direct the property working group to evaluate and make recommendations to the vestry, parish, rectors, and bishop, prior to the next annual meeting.
  5. Clean out all buildings and dispose of unused and unnecessary items
  6. Finish painting the outside of the church
  7. Replace our antiquated sound system with a modest state-of-the art audiovisual system that will work both in the sanctuary and for streaming.
  8. Reformat the parish hall with round tables for fellowship (if the old sanctuary is used for Sunday services).
  9. In preparation of the 2023 budget, the vestry will consider
    1. establishing an endowment fund to be used for specified purposes
    2. conducting a capital campaign to fund renovations and maintenance of our facilities
    3. expanding our stewardship program
  10. Expand the development task force and task it to
    1. Orchestrate performing arts and other fundraising events in our sanctuary.
    2. Renew our efforts to gain media coverage of our ministries and activities
  11. Expand our coordination with other churches in providing for the needy
  12. Initiate discussions with other churches concerning providing housing and/or shelter for the homeless.
  13. Re-instate greeters for Sunday morning services
  14. Revise and reinvigorate use of name tags
  15. Task the development committee and ministry leaders with developing strategies to increase the number of committed volunteers at the Blue Door and Bike Hop.
  16. Offer an educational series on the liturgy and history of the Anglican/Episcopal Church.
  17. Have an “instructed Eucharist” occasionally
  18. Conduct our Sunday service in the old sanctuary (parlor) on a quarterly basis.

In March and September, we will review our progress and a report to the congregation after six months and then again after a year. At each review, we will discover which steps we have taken, which were, perhaps, unrealistic, and which should be modified or supplemented to conform to the new circumstances.

During our “More Than Enough” stewardship program, Don, our director of music will teach us a new theme hymn for our stewardship program that we will sing every Sunday for the month leading up to our dedication or commitment Sunday. We all will hear from our priests, then from the wardens, and finally from our stewardship committee with pledge cards, a copy of our budget, and our “Next Steps.” Our pledges – our promises to God and St. Andrew’s By-the-Sea – will be collected on Christ the King Sunday, which is the last Sunday of this church year, Sunday, November 20th. There will be a celebration after service that day in the parlor; it will be live and virtual. So let us mark our calendars and plan to come and thank everyone for pledging to support the church and the community, celebrating that we really do have more than enough.

September 11, 2022

While studying the Gospel for this Sunday, I was introduced to a new religious order, the Oratory of the Good Shepherd (OGS) that is a dispersed community of Anglicans, ordained and lay, bound by a common rule of celibate chastity, responsible spending, and direction of life. Daily they pray the Divine Office, attend Mass, and spend an hour in private prayer. There is an association of “companions” of OGS who support their aims and live by a simplified version of the Rule. There also are Sisters of the Good Shepherd (SGS), priests and lay people living in dispersion under religious vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience.

The Conference of Anglican Religious Orders in the Americas includes 23 Religious Orders and Christian Communities in the worldwide Anglican (Episcopal) Communion including the National Association of Episcopal Christian Communities organized under the Canons of The Episcopal Church. The worship practices and standards of living are quite diverse, but all embrace celibacy, community of goods, and obedience to a Rule and Constitution.

Communities of Women include:

Community of St. Francis

Community of St. John Baptist

Community of St. Mary, Eastern Province

Community of St. Mary, Southern Province

Community of the Holy Spirit

Community of the Sisters of the Church

Community of the Transfiguration

Order of Julian of Norwich

Order of St. Helena

Sisterhood of St. John the Divine

Sisterhood of the Holy Nativity (SHN)

Sisters of St. Anne – Bethany

Society of St. Margaret

Communities of Men

Order of the Holy Cross (Benedictine)

Society of St. Francis

Society of St. John the Evangelist (SSJE)

St. Gregory’s Abby (Benedictine)

The Society of St. Paul (SSP)

Communities of Men and Women

The Order of the Ascension

Canonically recognized ommunities

Anamchara Fellowship

Anglican Order of Preachers

Brotherhood of Saint Gregory

Community of Celebration

Community of the Gospel

Community of the Paraclete

Companions of St. Luke (Benedictine)

Little Sisters of St. Clare

Rivendell Community

Sisters of Saint Gregory

Society of St. Anna the Prophet

Third Order Society of St. Francis, Province of the Americas

Worker Brothers of the Holy Spirit

Worker Sisters of the Holy Spirit

Associates include those seeking canonical recognition

Community of Francis and Clare

Companions of Our Lady of Walsingham

The Communion of the Mystic Rose

The Community of the Mother of Jesus

August 28, 2022

August 28, 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. dreamed aloud of a day when “the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.”

In today’s Gospel reading Jesus shared his dream of a time when a person’s worth would not be defined by status in this mortal world. He dreamt of a place where the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind would all sit at table together with him that day – and with us – because they are our brothers and sisters in the Kingdom of God.

I was at the Library of Congress doing research for my then employer CBS who had made the very first and only recording of the “I have a dream” speech at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., at what was unmistakably the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation. Dr. King had delivered that speech many times with subtle and not so subtle changes. One copy is under glass in the main hallway of the Library of Congress. After I filled out the exhaustive request form (where I promised my first-born if I walked away with the document I was asking to study, but never to copy) the staff went into the vault, and then they handed me a legal file folder with pages of a yellow legal pad written in Dr. King’s own hand with marginal notes he had made for the August 28th march for freedom. I was afraid to touch the paper. I asked for gloves. Then I read the words that we all recall as a turning point in our lives in this country.

When the word of the Lord is read, I often get the same feeling of wonder and awe as I did at the Library of Congress that day so many years ago. Clearly in the Gospel according to Luke Jesus was speaking of radical hospitality when he spoke up at that dinner party, the sort of hospitality that defines all Christian virtues that the Letter to the Hebrews addresses. Jesus instructed the Pharisees – and us – to invite all people to the table where he presides as the host and head of the table. Jesus took his own commandment to “love your neighbor as you love yourself” one step further; he treated others better than himself. That is what radical hospitality means. The Greek word for hospitality is philoxenia, which literally means “love of the strange” that is love of those who are strange to us for whatever reason. Many ancients rarely strayed far from their places of birth. “Life was hard and mobility was limited. One way the world became “larger” was to open one’s home (however poor) to those that came from “outside.” (Commentary on Hebrews by Eric M. Heen, PhD) Hospitality was provided then, by those who had “love of the strange,” because they were more than curious about the wider world. And in caring for them, both the hosts and the guests were fed. So it is in the church. When we show love to others that we encounter Christ. Hospitality nourishes us as well as our guests, perhaps more.

A confluence of articles moved me to write about radical hospitality: the Gospel of the day and the Letter to the Hebrews, yes, but also articles that parishioners have shared with me this week, an article in the Friday, August 19th Destin Log about the New Life Church that began in the pastors home five years ago and then grew into a local warehouse (They move into their newly constructed church building at the beginning of 2023.) and the instructive bulletin from a mission church in the Episcopal Diocese of West Texas, Saint Elizabeth’s that welcomes all people – “single, married, divorced, gay, filthy rich, dirt poor, skinny as a rail or could afford to lose a few pounds, if you sing like Andrea Bocelli or sound like Texas grackles, if you are “church shopping”, if you just woke up, or if you just got out of jail, whether you are more Catholic than the Pope or haven’t been to church since Joey’s baptism. They welcome crying newborns, squirmy toddlers, those who are over 60 but are not grown up yet, and teenagers growing up too fast… soccer moms, NASCAR dads, starving artists, tree-huggers, veterans, latte-sippers, vegetarians, junk-foodies, those in recovery, folks who are still addicted… whether you are down in the dumps or don’t like organized religion… we welcome those blew all your offering money at the track… those who think the earth is flat, work too hard, don’t work, can’t spell, or just came because Grandma is in town…those who could use some prayers… those who are inked, pierced or both… those who have had religion shoved down their throats or who just got lost and ended up here by mistake… tourists, seekers, doubters, bleeding hearts, and you.”

Our bulletin reads “all are welcome wherever you are on your journey of faith.”

Our Lord said that the Pharisees were to treat others, even the despised in their society, not only as they would themselves, but better than they would treat one of their own. I wonder, would we have belonged to that large class of people who would have been excluded from the Pharisee’s banquet? Are we the poor? the crippled? the lame? the blind? When have I been poor in spirit? I have been, often. Is my faith crippled? Sometimes, yes! And am I lame, unable to get where I want in life? Recently, yes. And where is my blindness? To whom have I been blind? All in all, I am rather certain I would not have made it onto the invitation list for the Pharisee’s dinner.

Jesus teaches that all are welcome in the Kingdom of God, for surely the Pharisee’s dinner party is an allegory for the Lord’s heavenly banquet. In spite of our crippled faith and our blindness to the needs of others, we are welcome. All are invited – all those who are welcomed at Saint Elizabeth’s and at the New Life pastors’ home. But, I wonder if we might be surprised at who will be sitting at table with us in God’s house. I think we will see all “sorts and conditions” of people at the Lord’s table. And the Kingdom of God must be a place where the sons of former slaves and the daughters of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the Lord’s table. Dreams do come true. They do. But we have to make them come true.

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